Geelong’s hopes of signing midfielder Shaun Higgins have been dashed after the 31-year old decided to accept an offer to remain at the Kangaroos. With his previous deal running out next year, the Cats had been hoping to tempt the Geelong native back home to a club where his sister Danielle Orr plays. Those plans came unstuck, though, when North Melbourne agreed a one-year deal for a player who was one of their most important in 2019. 

Higgins proved he is still one of the best midfielders in the league this season, averaging 28 disposals from 17 matches, earning a place on the AFL All Australian team last year. With 220 games under his belt across a 14 year career, Higgins boasts the sort of experience that makes him so important to a team. When you combine that with his incredible form at this point in his career, it’s no surprise North were so keen to keep Higgins at Arden Street for at least another couple of years.

Higgins is the second North Melbourne player in little over a week to turn down Geelong in order to stay a Kangaroo. Despite reaching the finals again this year, currently 10/1 with the latest Aussie Rules betting odds to win the Grand Final, Geelong have clear holes that need filling, especially in the ruck. Todd Goldstein ticked plenty of boxes for the Cats, and Geelong appeared confident of signing the 31-year old, only for the ruckman to sign an improved deal with the Kangaroos. 

Geelong coach Chris Scott has struggled to find a regular ruckman this season, with Rhys Stanley, Zac Smith, Darcy Fort and Ryan Abbott all failing to cement themselves in the position when given the chance to impress. This was why the Cats were so keen on unrestricted free agent Goldstein, waving a four-year deal and the promise of becoming the club’s number-one ruckman spot.

North knew they had to pull out all the stops to keep their man, eventually coming back with an improved three-year deal that Goldstein has now signed. Like Higgins, Goldstein is coming off a brilliant 2019 season, in which he averaged a career-high 16.8 disposals and 3.7 clearances, and showed he remains as effective as ever despite being the wrong side of 30.

The prospect of having to replace Higgins and Goldstein wasn’t an attractive one for the Kangaroos, and the club will be delighted to have tied down two of their most influential players from 2019. The task for the duo now will be helped the club end their three-year absence from the finals. A lack of consistency was what brought them down in 2019 and if they can solve that problem then this is a team capable of making an impact in the finals. That’s a big if, however. 

Geelong, meanwhile, will need to be active during the offseason and try to find a ruckman that can really plug the current gap.