Eddie McGuire's damning North Melbourne call amid intense debate over AFL's 19th team

The former Collingwood president believes North Melbourne could be cut from the AFL.

Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has declared North Melbourne must "stand for something" or face being cut from the AFL. The looming introduction of the Tasmania Devils in 2028 will see the Kangaroos lose their link to the Apple Isle and their Next Generation Academy.

And McGuire believes the club needs to focus on northern Victoria, up the Hume Highway and into the outer sprawl suburbs of Melbourne to establish itself as more than just a lowly Melbourne club. North are one of the smaller Melbourne-based teams in the AFL and with the calls from AFL presidents, including McGuire, to keep the competition at 18 teams, they could be facing the axe prior to the Devils joining the comp in 2028.

Pictured left Eddie McGuire and right North Melbourne
Eddie McGuire believes North Melbourne must evolve their own AFL identity or face being cut from the league. Image: Getty

McGuire fears the club doesn't have a strong enough identity and says they are the prime candidate to make way if the AFL opts to keep the competition at 18 teams. "If North don’t (expand their influence to northern Victoria), I can tell you - non-Victorian presidents and some of the Victorian presidents, don’t want to have 19 teams," McGuire said on Nine's Eddie and Jimmy podcast on Monday.

"There’s an easy solution for this. One will go. And it wasn’t that long ago that St Kilda were right under the microscope on this."

The former long-term Collingwood boss has long been critical of adding a 19th team. Before Tasmania were confirmed as a new side in the league, McGuire urged the AFL to merge North Melbourne with the Tasmanian side and share its schedule between Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium and the proposed $750 million Hobart Stadium.

The proposal sparked immediate backlash in Tasmania, as Sports Minister Nic Street and former premier Peter Gutwein slapped down his remarks. Now McGuire has come to terms with the introduction of the new franchise but believes one team still may need to make way.

Axing a club from the AFL would be a massive call to make but it is also clear that the Melbourne footy market is crowded. The current setup leaves sides like North Melbourne, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs well short of the numbers of historic powerhouse clubs Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon, Richmond and Hawthorn.

And McGuire argued clubs like the Kangaroos need to find a niche or risk losing their spot. "If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing in this game,” he said. "Big clubs fill the MCG, get the ratings, your expansion clubs get up there, get in the community, get them excited about football."


Ahead of the first Tasmanian team entering the AFL, the Kangaroos agreed to play some of their games in the state before the Devils' introduction. But with North attracting poor crowds as they languish winless at the bottom of the AFL ladder, Maguire believes the AFL need to scrap that move and bring some of the powerhouse AFL teams to Tasmania.

"I think the AFL should move North out of there, pay them the money and start bulking up those games in Tasmania and send some of the big clubs down once a year to get the Tasmania people lined up and excited (for their team in 2028)," McGuire said. "They weren’t excited by the weekend, I can promise you. Send the good teams down there."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 04: Alastair Clarkson, North Melbourne Senior coach gives instruction on the training track before a North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL Media Opportunity at Arden Street Ground on August 04, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Kangaroos coach Alistair Clarkson says North's club rebuild will take time.

Kangaroos coach Alistair Clarkson says there is no short-term fix for the winless club, stating he is working on rebuilding the team the right way. "As a footy club … (we) stay the course and hang in there," North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson said.

"The whole footy world was up in arms about where Adelaide were two or three years ago, and we're in a very similar boat. We're prepared to be patient. The football world and our supporters want results quicker than this ... but you've got to do the tough yards."