AFL Front & Centre: Kangaroos 'now a vanilla environment' with no soul

The appearance of legendary North Melbourne administrator Ron Joseph on Fox Footy's 'Open Mike' program has served only to highlight the divisions currently bedevilling the Kangaroos.

Joseph, the long-time secretary at the Kangas who helped to assemble the drought-breaking 1975 premiership team, told Mike Sheahan he felt the spirit of the club had been allowed to evaporate over the past decade. He said the Shinboner Spirit, the working-class moniker which came to define the club, had been allowed to wither on the vine. Now, he said, the club lacked an identity.

Joseph, it should be said, represents the old North Melbourne, where deals got done, star players were recruited and success was achieved -- in spite of the club's always parlous financial state.

Brad Scott arrived at the club at the end of 2009, when the coach, among the first things he did, tried to rid the club of its 'Shinboner' image that, he said, had negative, downtrodden connotations.

"It's battling against the odds," he said at the time. "And we can't have that because our players, our new draftees, come into the club thinking that and we are starting behind the eight-ball. We have to change that."

But in dismantling that working-class ethos, many fear the club has lost its link to its battlers' support base in the inner north and west.

Joseph's views were echoed this week by another old-time and much-respected Kangaroos identity, who told ESPN: "The soul of the club is disappearing. It is now a vanilla environment full of professional people who don't have the same love and connection with the club as we had when Ron, and Albert Mantello and Allen Aylett and Barry Cheatley ran the place."

As ESPN indicated last month, there is a split at board level about the merits of retaining Scott for another season. He is contracted to the club till the end of 2018.

Scott undoubtedly has his supporters and can point to successive preliminary finals appearances -- with less-than-stellar line-ups -- as testament to his coaching ability.

But new president Ben Buckley (who succeeded James Brayshaw, an avowed Scott fan) and prominent board member Glenn Archer are believed to be among those who would not be unhappy to see Scott accept a senior job elsewhere, if one happened to be offered to him - by Gold Coast, for example.

But they don't want to have to sack the coach, and pay him out $700,000 or so, money the club can ill afford to lose.

Archer is believed to have opposed the recent contract extension offered to Scott, threatening all sorts of dire consequences to his fellow directors (they weren't sure if he was joking or not) if the club had to pay Scott out of his contract.

Watching this situation play out at Arden St will be one of the most fascinating off-field stories of the coming months.