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Season Preview: Forwards

Ricky Mangidis  March 20, 2017 4:38 PM

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Leigh Tudor is using Mason Wood's 2016 as an example for his forwards this season.

“Take your opportunity”; that’s the message from Leigh Tudor to his forwards with the 2017 season just a matter of days away.

The departure of two of North’s top five goal-kickers in 2016 – Brent Harvey and Drew Petrie – means there’s plenty of opportunity for those keen to make their mark.

“There’s no limit on who can play, how many games and how many goals, it’s up to you,” Tudor told NMFC.com.au while discussing the upcoming campaign.

“It’s going to be opportunities for blokes to stand up and take their chance.

“You’re going to have guys who thought they should have been in the side before, and they’re going to get opportunities this year.

“Someone’s going to stand up. There’s a lot of new players that can come in there.”

Over the last three to four years, North’s traditional setup has consisted of three key-position players, then surrounded by mid-sized and smaller forwards.

However, that changed slightly in 2016. And with competition for spots so fierce in 2017, the forward line could shift regularly depending on which Roos are in form.

“We’ve got no set structure that we think works all the time,” Tudor said.

“If someone’s playing really good football, normally they force themselves into the side – if you’re playing well, you’re playing well.

“Mason (Wood) proved that last year. We had the three talls and he came in and you couldn’t stop him.

“If guys are knocking the door down in the VFL to get in, they’ll play. You end up finding a way for them.”

Given Harvey’s absence and the likelihood Shaun Higgins will spend more time in the midfield this season, the natural assumption would be that fewer goals will come from North’s smaller forwards.

But according to Tudor, it’s the work from the smaller types that will be most important.

“As a forward group we concentrate on the three aspects of the game; the structures, how we attack and how we defend,” Tudor said.

“It’s as simple as that. We don’t really care who kicks the goal, we don’t plan on talls or smalls, it’s just what happens.

“There’s no expectation on who kicks the goals, but working together is going to be the key.”

A feature of North’s attacking group during the pre-season has been pressure.

Across the entire JLT Series, it was the likes of Kayne Turner, Lindsay Thomas and Nathan Hrovat leading the way.

Measuring pressure is vital to North’s success.

“Champion Data have specific stats on tackles, effective tackles, chases and all that sort of stuff. We can get numbers off that and we also look at a few other things like how they work together as a team,” Tudor said.

“We’ve got a defensive method that the forwards know and that’s what we’ll be watching as well, how the method is going.”

The progress of the forwards will be put to the test against a quality West Coast defensive unit on Sunday.

The Eagles’ key additions over the off-season are in other areas of the field (Sam Mitchell, Nathan Vardy, Drew Petrie), which means their back six has remained relatively unchanged.

“They’re still pretty pro-active defenders and really aggressive in the way they defend,” Tudor added.

“It’s a big challenge first up because they work really well as a back six.

“You’ve got to be very organised in your forward structure because their work-rate is high and they work for each other really well.”