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The Preview: Round 9

Ricky Mangidis  May 18, 2017 6:32 PM

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Who: Melbourne v North Melbourne
Where and when: Sunday May 21, MCG, 3:20pm EST
TV and radio: Broadcast guide
Tickets: Purchase tickets

Storyline

For the first and only time in 2017, North will play at the MCG.

Its opponent, Melbourne, is coming off its best performance of the season after dismantling Adelaide by 41 points at Adelaide Oval.

The two sides had an instant classic the last time they met back in Round 3 last season at Blundstone Arena.

With a strong wind blowing to one side of the ground, North quickly jumped out to a 42-point lead before Melbourne reeled it all in before half time.

North led by just five points with seconds remaining as Melbourne streamed forward, and it was only a desperation effort from Lindsay Thomas right on the siren which prevented the Demons kicking the winning goal.

Hot topics

One important quarter

Both North and Melbourne have had moments this season where one quarter has cost it matches.

The Roos can point to lapses against Geelong, the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle, while the Demons had similar terms against Fremantle, Richmond and Hawthorn.

But on the other side of things, each side has the capability to blow the opposition away with a quarter. North did it against Adelaide a fortnight ago, while Melbourne has kicked at least seven goals in a term on four separate occasions this season.

It sets Sunday up as a match which could have wild momentum swings.

Winning the contest

Contested possessions are an area of focus for North this week after being beaten convincingly against the Swans.

In last Sunday’s first half against Sydney, the Roos had 32 fewer contested possessions and from there it was unable to control the tempo of the game.

Melbourne has a formidable inside midfield group for North to contend with, and if it can’t do so, leaving the MCG with four points will be a tough ask.

Starting from the back

The recent return of Michael Hibberd from injury has given Melbourne a trio of half-backs capable of kick starting Melbourne’s forward movements.

Hibberd and 21-year-old Christian Salem, had more than 30 disposals each against the Crows.

Salem’s 31 disposals equalled a career high set only six weeks prior, and is part of his breakout season so far.

Hibberd and Salem, both adept by foot, complement Jayden Hunt’s skill set quite well.

Hunt’s blistering pace has been a feature of Melbourne’s play in the defensive half of the ground. It’s no coincidence Hunt, Hibberd and Salem regularly sit close to the top of the metres gained board for their club.

The burning questions

Can North equal a club record?

If North defeats Melbourne on Sunday, it’ll be for a 16th consecutive time – equalling its longest winning streak against any club in its history.

How will North fare on the MCG?

It’s the only game the club will play at the home of football for the season, and the scene of memorable recent finals victories.

Will North’s forward structure change?

Jarrad Waite’s likely return and Jy Simpkin’s absence may mean another reshuffle close to goal.

Squads

Melbourne

B: Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta
HB: Jayden Hunt, Sam Frost, Bernie Vince
C: Nathan Jones, Clayton Oliver, Tom Bugg
HF: Christian Petracca, Jack Watts, Mitch Hannan
F: Jeff Garlett, Cam Pedersen, Dom Tyson
Fol: Tom McDonald, Jordan Lewis, Jack Viney
Int From: Christian Salem, Dean Kent, Jake Melksham, Sam Weideman, Alex Neal-Bullen, Josh Wagner, James Harmes

In: Jake Melksham, Alex Neal-Bullen, James Harmes
Out: -

North Melbourne

B: Marley Williams, Robbie Tarrant, Ed Vickers-Willis
HB: Aaron Mullett, Scott Thompson, Jamie Macmillan
C: Sam Gibson, Ben Cunnington, Mason Wood
HF: Kayne Turner, Jarrad Waite, Luke McDonald
F: Nathan Hrovat, Ben Brown, Shaun Higgins
Fol: Todd Goldstein, Jack Ziebell, Ryan Clarke
Int From: Jed Anderson, Lachlan Hansen, Andrew Swallow, Shaun Atley, Sam Durdin, Taylor Garner, Declan Mountford

In: Jarrad Waite, Andrew Swallow, Aaron Mullett, Taylor Garner, Declan Mountford
Out: Trent Dumont (concussion), Jy Simpkin (shoulder)