Is Ponting good for North?

IT'S become somewhat of an annual headline, one almost as common as a Ricky Ponting century when the retired champion batsman was in his pomp.

Ponting has again said he is open to joining the North Melbourne board, something he has admitted ''has been spoken about a lot the last five or six years''.

In these tough economic times, when all clubs except a handful of heavyweights are finding it increasingly difficult to attract the substantial dollars required to fund ever-expanding football departments, would Ponting really be the right fit for the Kangaroos?

The quality of an AFL club's board is taking on increasing importance. Player agents and their blue-chip players, whether they are thinking about re-signing or heading elsewhere through free agency, want to know who is on a club's board, what business acumen it has, what advice it can give in terms of investments and how it can help in securing a post-football career.

That's why the likes of Collingwood, Hawthorn and Geelong - regardless of their on-field performance - are so appealing to players.

Yes, Ponting brings cachet in terms of elite sporting performance and this could help open doors. Perhaps his network of sponsors and relationships established during his distinguished cricket career could be parlayed into the football world but the bottom line is this: Will he really be able to provide ideas and generate revenue, which, fundamentally, is what the board is all about?

There is no doubt he is a passionate Kangaroos supporter. When possible, he has spent time in the North dressing room on match day but the seven-member North board, yet to appoint a full-time chief executive, knows passion gets you only so far in the turbulent AFL world. It's expertise that is required.

Chairman James Brayshaw brings mainstream media appeal, Geoff Lewis runs a business with a market capitalisation of $200 million, Brady Scanlon is an executive director of a private investment company, Julie Laycock is a marketing expert, William Houghton is a QC, former player Carl Dilena brings football knowledge and is a partner at KPMG while Mark Brayshaw, also a former Kangaroos player and an ex-chief executive of Richmond, has business acumen.

Ponting could join the board at the club's general meeting in March.

''I'm surprised that [James] Brayshaw hasn't been on the phone already to tell you the truth,'' Ponting said on Triple M.

Ponting's comments caught one senior North official by surprise. The club has yet to comment publicly. If North feels Ponting is the right fit, it's more than likely he will do a fine job now he has the time to invest.

However, as most clubs admit, there is little room for even champion former footballers to join the board these days on their playing reputation alone. Times have changed.

The financial divide between the elite and not-so-well-off clubs could continue to expand, as Andrew Demetriou recently noted. Ponting needs to show he can help raise funds, otherwise he may be best suited to being a club ambassador or a mentor to the players - an area he is truly equipped to handle.


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