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Roos' chance to impress

Nick Bowen - AFL.com.au  March 17, 2017 8:35 AM

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Ben Brown is set to make his return on Saturday.

North Melbourne hopes to field more than 20 AFL-listed players in a VFL practice match on Saturday as it tries to settle on its best team ahead of next Sunday's round one clash against West Coast.

Key forward Ben Brown, who missed the entire JLT Community Series with a knee injury, is among the Roos set to play for Werribee against Sandringham at Trevor Barker Oval.

North needs the AFL's permission for its players to take part in Saturday's game, but the Roos hope to play senior players such as Scott Thompson, Lachy Hansen and Sam Wright, who all missed JLT games with injury.

Jed Anderson (shoulder), Taylor Garner (hips) and Aaron Mullett (chest infection) are also set to return for their first games of the season, while youngsters such as Sam Durdin, Mitchell Hibberd, Declan Mountford and Braydon Preuss are expected to press their claims for round one berths.

North captain Jack Ziebell told AFL.com.au he was confident Brown would prove his fitness for round one.

"Barring any issues, I think he'll be fit to play round one. Fingers crossed, he gets through (Saturday's practice game) and kicks about 10 goals," Ziebell said at the AFL captains' day on Thursday.

"I think we've only got two or three guys now who will miss round one through injury.

"A lot of guys have put their hands up through the pre-season and have done everything asked of them. That's giving the coaches a lot of selection headaches, which is exactly where we want to be heading into round one."

Asked who he envisaged would debut for North in round one, Ziebell nominated former Bulldog Nathan Hrovat – "He's had an exceptional pre-season" – and said former Magpie Marley Williams and last year's No.12 draft pick, Jy Simpkin, would "go very close".

Ziebell was also buoyed that Garner finally looked to be on top of the hip problems that restricted him to three senior games last season after a promising 2015.

Garner, pick No.15 in the 2012 draft, has played just 16 games in four seasons at Arden St – 13 of them in 2015 – with a severe hamstring tear in the 2014 pre-season kick-starting his injury woes.

Ziebell is confident the 186cm forward can be an important player for the Roos if he can get his body right for an extended period.

"Garns has had a horror time the last few years, he's really struggled with injury. But the last month he's got back on the track and is training really well," Ziebell said.

"A couple of times (in match practice) he's come out of the forward line and really put pressure on our guys and you can just tell he's an absolute star in the making, he's going to be a great player for us.

"Hopefully he can put all his injuries behind him and have a decent crack at it this time and show us what he's made of."

Werribee v Sandringham
2:00pm, Saturday March 18
Trevor Barker Oval

Likely North-listed players

- Jed Anderson
- Lachlan Hansen
- Scott Thompson
- Aaron Mullett
- Sam Wright
- Ben McKay
- Sam Durdin
- Taylor Garner
- Braydon Preuss
- Will Fordham
- Majak Daw
- Mitchell Hibberd
- Corey Wagner
- Declan Mountford
- Ben Brown

Werribee v Sandringham
Development League, 11:00am, Saturday March 18
Trevor Barker Oval

Likely North-listed players

- Daniel Nielson
- Declan Watson
- Josh Williams
- Nick Larkey
- Cameron Zurhaar
- Matthew Taylor