NORTH Melbourne is scouring state leagues across the country as it considers bolstering its severely depleted backline ahead of a round-one clash with Fremantle and its newly assembled raft of tall forwards.
The Kangaroos are facing the daunting prospect of taking on a Dockers’ forward line likely to consist of Rory Lobb (207cm), Matt Taberner (199cm) and, injury permitting, Jesse Hogan (195cm) without their three best key defenders.
The Roos entered the pre-season knowing Scott Thompson would be unavailable against Fremantle because of suspension, but Majak Daw (hips and pelvis) and Robbie Tarrant (shoulder) have since gone down with injury.
KICK-IN KINGS Who takes the responsibility at your club?
Tarrant had been on track to play in the JLT Community Series before he was injured in Wednesday’s intraclub game at Arden St, but North is confident he will be fit for round one after undergoing surgery.
Nonetheless, North coach Brad Scott told AFL.com.au the club was seriously considering recruiting a state league player to strengthen its key defensive stocks in the AFL’s new pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP).
To do so, they would have to place Daw on the long-term injury list for the season, a decision Scott said the Roos would not rush into as they focus on the intercept defender’s recovery from his fall from the Bolte Bridge in December.
CASE FOR THE DEFENCE We rank every club’s backline
“We’ve got (the SSP) as an option open to us. We’re discussing that almost daily at the moment,” Scott said.
“A lot of it will depend on who’s available and how we see them as a fit for our team.
“We’re certainly scouring the second-tier competitions across the country at the moment. We’ve got our own VFL team as well so we get a really close look at certain players.
“But we’re not going to rush that decision. We would need to integrate them into our team and the way we play, so it won’t be on the eve of round one I wouldn’t have thought.
“But if we decide to go that way we’ll wait as long as possible.”
Scott said Daw’s return to the club in recent weeks had been “uplifting for everyone”, while he marveled at the 27-year-old’s remarkable healing powers, saying his physical recovery was “way ahead” of what the club had envisaged six weeks ago.
FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game
However, Scott said North had not turned its mind to whether Daw could return to the field this year.
“Football, to be honest, is the furthest thing from our mind at the moment with Maj. It’s purely around his short-term physical recovery and his long-term mental recovery, but both of those things are looking really positive,” Scott said.
“I think the best way to approach it is simply to look at achieving certain milestones in terms of his recovery.”
North’s other key defensive options for round one include Ben McKay, Sam Durdin and Declan Watson, who has been training with the forwards group this summer, while Scott also notes players such as Ed Vickers-Willis (190cm) and Sam Wright (188cm) can man taller opponents.
Scott said Durdin remains “touch and go” for round one as he continues his recovery from a broken leg, but McKay has enjoyed a solid summer on the training track and the Roos coach believes he is a “readymade AFL key defender”.
“This time last year a lot of sides would have been thinking if we lose a couple of key defenders we’re going to be in trouble,” Scott said.
“But I don’t think anyone would have thought last year Jeremy Howe would be rated as an elite key defender 12 months later, and that’s where he sits now.
“Sometimes it’s not until you’re forced into that position and you actually play those guys that you can get some pleasant surprises.”
Source: AFL FOOTBALL NEWS