North Melbourne enters Round 2 coming off a humbling 43-point loss to the Eagles and now face a rampant Geelong side who impressed in the west. After half-time last week, North were comfortably outplayed by one of the early premiership favourites in a game which left several more questions than it answered. It goes without saying that North will be eager to make amends for last week, but that will be made tougher with the absence of Jarrad Waite and likely, Todd Goldstein.
Last time we met
Geelong’s star-studded midfield ran amok, with Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield putting on a clinic, amassing 48 disposals and two goals while his captain Joel Selwood chimed in with 38 disposals of his own. North played much of that game with only two interchange players when Andrew Swallow and Ben Cunnington went down early.
It's all change at Arden Street this week. Three of the four first-gamers have been demoted to emergency for this clash, with only Jy Simpkin assured of his place in the team. But Todd Goldstein’s reported injury at training on Saturday morning will likely see the man-mountain Braydon Preuss called up.
Preuss will share rucking duties with Majak Daw, who has been recalled after Waite’s injury.
Cunnington will also play his first game of the season after serving his suspension last week. His return will be welcome news for all North fans hoping he has not lost any of the form he showed in the JLT Series. North will lose some midfield run in Declan Mountford’s absence but will hope to make up for it with Cunnington’s extra inside presence.
Aaron Mullett has earned his place in the squad after impressing for Werribee in the VFL last week. He will provide some much needed run off half-back, but there are question marks over his fitness after he was one of a number at the club with an injury-interrupted preseason.
Taylor Garner plays his first game in almost a year after a succession of injuries cut his season short last year.
What to work on
Had it not been for North Melbourne’s putrid accuracy in front of goal last week, things may well have turned out differently (or slightly less bad). Hopefully, North Melbourne has spent most of this week working on its accuracy. It’s simple maths. A goal is worth six points, a behind is worth one.
In this fixture last year, North saw first-hand exactly why Patrick Dangerfield is arguably the best player in the league at the moment. He dominated the contest and was only a touch shy of a half-century of disposals. It’s fair to say Brad Scott was reactive rather than proactive in their tactical approach to Dangerfield last year only throwing the tag on him in the third quarter, but Scott and his coaching team have vowed to not make the same mistake again. In Ben Jacobs’ absence, Trent Dumont will likely get the run-with role on Dangerfield.
Even as the most optimistic North fan, it’s hard to see any way North can come out of this game with the four points. It will be even more challenging, especially since now they will be missing their number one ruckman and goalkicker (last week notwithstanding). Meanwhile, the Cats are going from strength to strength with a freshly minted Brownlow medallist and a captain who earned “good bloke” status over the summer. They are a long way from the predictions of their demise and should win without too much fuss. Geelong by 36 points.
Where and when
Sunday, 2 April 2017, 1:10PM AEST @ Etihad Stadium