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Harvey a boom signing for Bulldogs

SIGNINGS don’t come much bigger than landing the AFL games record-holder.

North Melbourne great Brent Harvey, who kicked 518 goals in 432 games, will join brother Shane at North Heidelberg in 2017 after announcing his retirement from the AFL at the Kangaroos’ best and fairest earlier this month.

Speaking to NFL.org.au, North Heidelberg senior coach Steve Saddington said he was elated to have the five-time Syd Barker medallist at Shelley Reserve.

“It’s huge for the club,” Saddington said.

“Everyone’s been pretty excited over the last couple of weeks to get it done.

“Once the announcement came through (on Monday), it’s gone pretty crazy with excitement.”

With Harvey still playing quality footy at 38 years of age, the question-mark had often been how long he would continue playing at AFL level.

After the shock news out of Arden Street in August that Harvey, along with Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo wouldn’t be offered contracts for 2017, the future of the North Melbourne Team of the Century member became unclear.

While Saddington had been in constant contact with the four-time All Australian, he admits he was surprised Harvey’s time in the top flight had come to an end after a strong 2016 campaign.

“We’d always been speaking over the last couple of years,” Saddington said.

“We thought we’ll wait and see what happens as being friends with him, more than anything else, I was hoping he’d get another shot (at another AFL club) to be honest.

“With the way it’s panned out, it’s worked out really well for us and the buzz it’s given the league.”

North Heidelberg was runner-up to Hurstbridge in this year’s Division 2 grand final at Preston City Oval, defeated by 11 points after bolting into premiership contention in the second half of the year.

Saddington says the club must take the next step in 2017 with the addition of Harvey, a premiership player with North Melbourne in 1999.

Opposition clubs have often struggled to contain just the one Harvey in Shane, who has often run amok up forward and through the midfield.

But with two Harveys taking the field next year, along with the likes of Michael Florance, Daniel Bramich, Kyle McDonald, Kyle Green and Jesse Tardio, the coach says the expectations are clear.

“Anything less than the ultimate is probably going to be a disappointing year from our behalf,” Saddington said.

“That’s the plan. (Brent’s) not there to just muck around and come and have a kick.

“He knew how disappointed we were when we got beat. I think the whole club is and hopefully he’s there to help us go that extra step.”

Brent has long supported North Heidelberg. His father played for the Bulldogs and in recent years he has often attended matches to watch Shane.

With his family connection at the club, he knows the inner-workings and the playing list at Shelley Reserve, which will enable a seamless transition into the side, according to Saddington.

“He’s there whenever (North Melbourne) hasn’t been playing, he’s been out at the games all the time,” Saddington said.

“He’s taken a night of training once or twice a year over the last couple of years since I’ve been coach as well.

“He knows the club, he knows everything and how it’s run there, his input has been massive around the place. There are positives everywhere to be honest.”

And now that Boomer is locked in for 2017, the list again looks promising for the coming season, with Saddington confident of keeping this year’s playing group intact.

“We haven’t lost anybody of note as yet. There’s probably one or two that haven’t re-signed but we’re pretty happy with what’s gone on,” he said.

“We have spoken to a few people and we had to wait until a few cards fell into place to get Boomer.

“Once that’s done now we’re hoping to make another two announcements over the next week or two.”