North Melbourne travels to Perth on Saturday night still aiming for its first win of the season. Their opponents, Fremantle, will be looking to win three consecutive games for the first time since Round 13 last year. While every game is a must-win, this one shapes as extra important for both teams as it has the potential to shape the approach for the rest of the season. A win for Fremantle puts them firmly in finals contention while a loss for North all but condemns 2017 as a write-off.
The clash will be the 28th between the sides with North holding the head-to-head advantage 17-10.
Last Time We Met
North emerged victorious over Fremantle, and with it, the club finished a round at the top of the ladder for the first time since 1998. Despite a perhaps flattering winning margin of 31, North didn't have it all their own way. Fremantle led briefly twice in the third quarter and only trailed by seven points at three-quarter time before North were finally able to kick away in the last.
Nat Fyfe was best on ground with 27 disposals, four goals, seven tackles, and seven marks.
In: Mason Wood, Ed Vickers-Willis
Out: Braydon Preuss (rest), Nathan Hrovat (omitted)
To say North has been unlucky at points this year would be an understatement. North has been genuinely competitive in all four games so far including holding five-goal leads against Geelong and the Western Bulldogs but have lacked the killer instinct required to close out games. This is not something new, even in the 9-0 run to start last season.
But the idea a loss can be 'honourable' is not something to be proud of, and I'm sure Brad Scott and the coaching panel will be reminding the players there is no such thing as an honourable loss. A loss is a loss.
Fremantle will be brimming with confidence after beating the reigning premiers and recording a stunning away win over Melbourne in consecutive weeks. Fremantle is now only percentage outside the eight, thanks largely to performances from Lachie Neale and recruit Cam McCarthy.
With Nat Fyfe and Aaron Sandilands having returned to Fremantle's line-up, their midfield now boasts a Brownlow Medallist and a four-time All-Australian ruckman alongside the likes of Lachie Neale and David Mundy. With Ben Jacobs still several weeks away, North will have work to do to just breakeven in the midfield contest.
North's record in the west is poor. While they have been competitive in every match so far, playing well in Perth is much easier said than done. The extra day break should equalise the teams somewhat, but the Dockers should still have more than enough on the expanses of Domain Stadium to send the Roos to 0-5. Fremantle by 26 points.
Where And When
Saturday, 22 April 2017, 5:40 PM AWST (7:40 PM AEST) @ Domain Stadium, Perth.