North Melbourne coach David Noble has a simple strategy in mind to prevent Port Adelaide’s tall forwards dominating Saturday’s AFL meeting in Hobart.
“Keep the ball off them,” he grinned this week.
Jeremy Finlayson, Todd Marshall and Mitch Georgiades were all influential in round eight as the Power trumped the Western Bulldogs for a third successive win.
And with North Melbourne losing key defender Ben McKay to a knee injury for at least one match, Noble has a key issue to address at Blundstone Arena.
Port face a defensive rejig with captain Tom Jonas sidelined by health and safety protocols, replaced by Martin Frederick.
And the Roos also will reshuffle their backline with versatile tall Josh Walker likely to revert to a defensive role while Luke McDonald can also add his experience at half-back.
But Noble, who has narrowed the focus of his game-plan around contested ball and defence, sees the Kangaroos’ defensive efforts starting further up the ground.
“I think there’s a balance between defence and attack,” he said.
“If we can attack better and move the ball in and try to keep it in that front half, then that denies the opposition a little bit.
“We’ve felt like if we get that right we can be in the game for a long period of time.
“We’ve got to adjust that and get our guys to work. We’ve got to win the contested ball, it starts there.”
On top of McKay’s injury, North Melbourne have also lost young star Jason Horne-Francis (hamstring) and fellow midfielder Hugh Greenwood (health and safety protocols).
It makes the task of combating a powerful Port Adelaide midfield, led by seasoned veteran Travis Boak and Brownlow medallist Ollie Wines, even tougher.
Leading goal-kicker Nick Larkey returns from suspension in a boost to the Kangaroos’ forward line.
The tall target has booted 17 goals from seven games this season, more than double North Melbourne’s next-most prolific goal-kicker Cameron Zurhaar, who has eight.
The rebuilding Kangaroos managed just three goals in a 78-point thumping from Fremantle last week – their sixth-straight loss – and are searching for greater consistency in their performances.
“The energy is really good, the players have got great awareness and their debrief this week was fantastic in regards to what we learnt from the (Fremantle) game,” Noble said.
“We’re hoping that it’s not too far away but the biggest thing for us is to do it quarter in, quarter out.
“That’s what you’ve got to drive for.”