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VFL: Round 6 preview

North Melbourne v Richmond  
Sunday, May 13
Etihad Stadium
First bounce: 9.35am (AEST)


North Melbourne’s VFL side will face 2017 VFL grand finalists Richmond in a curtain-raiser at Etihad Stadium on Sunday morning.

The Roos will be eager to execute on the big-stage after a disappointing performance last weekend.

North will welcome an equally determined Tigers outfit that is looking to bounce back from a last-gasp defeat against Footscray.

The curtain-raiser will be North’s second for the season, following the clash against the AFL Academy at the MCG in April.

Ruck collision

Braydon Preuss could be set for a gruelling ruck battle, going head-to-head with Richmond ruck pillar Ivan Soldo.

At 206cm, Preuss continues to provide first possession to surrounding midfielders, recording 47 hit-outs against the Bombers, despite starting the game at full forward.

His impressive sum was listed as the third highest for Round 5, just three shy of Williamstown big man Nick Meese.

The in-form Soldo accumulated 26 hit-outs against Footscray, continuing his growth under the guidance of lead man, Toby Nankervis.

After being rested, North will be boosted by the inclusion of Tristan Xerri, who will slot in at centre-half forward. Given his previous success working in tandem with P4 reuss, expect Xerri to share the ruck duties. 

Goalkicking accuracy 

Had it not been for more accurate goalkicking, Richmond would’ve maintained their unbeaten start to the season.

The Tigers had nine more scoring shots than their counterparts last weekend, but still managed to go down in a one-point thriller, which was decided in the final minute.

After initial difficulties in front of goal, North have kicked with far more efficiency in the past fortnight, with only two players kicking more than a single behind against Essendon.

The recent emergence of goal sneaks Nathan Hrovat and Oscar Junker, have provided more targets up forward, after relying heavily on Michael Close and Nick Larkey in previous efforts.

Inside-50s could also prove key at Etihad Stadium, with both sides offering contrasting figures in this category.

North had just 36 entries into their forward 50 in its last showing. Although its win streak was broken, Richmond entered the attacking arc 61 times.

Backs against the wall

Sunday’s curtain-raiser is a must-win as both teams look to recapture their early season form.

On the big-stage and with several AFL-listed players pushing for senior selection, spectators can expect high-intensity football.

The VFL has allowed many emerging players to establish themselves, while also providing a platform for those returning from injury to transition back, pick-up game time and ultimately gather momentum.

The recent returns to the senior side for Majak Daw, Sam Wright, Cameron Zurhaar, Mason Wood and Taylor Garner validate the significance of playing consistently across the two sides.

Richmond team 

B: C. Ellis, Garthwaite, Miller
HB: B. Ellis, Balta, Naish
C: Menadue, Miles, Silvestro
HF: Baker, Chol, Bolton
F: Stengle, Moore, Wood
R: Soldo, Ballard, Grewar
Int: Aarts, Bathie, Coates, Fletcher, Mannagh, Morris, Riley , Tanner
23P: Thompson

Burning questions

Which key forward will stand-out?
Dominant forwards Nick Larkey and Mabior Chol will look to bounce back from quiet outings last weekend, where both were restricted to just a single goal.

The attacking threats are the leading goalkickers for their respective teams, with Larkey booting 10 goals in four games. Meanwhile, fellow tall target Chol has secured nine goals of his own.

Both sides are boasting a slew of attacking options, which could afford Larkey and Chol the freedom to roam within their forward set-up.

Who will win the midfield battle?
North co-captain Chris Jansen, had arguably his best game in club colours last weekend.

The efforts of the rugged midfielder were confirmed statistically, where he polled equal second for tackles in Round 5. Jansen was also tied at second for handballs, highlighting the hard-working nature of his game.

Alongside relentless rover Nick Rippon and a resurgent Luke Davies-Uniacke, who got plenty of the footy last weekend with 20 and 18 touches each, North’s on-ball brigade could push key Richmond trio Anthony Miles, Blake Grewar and Liam Baker.

Despite suffering their first loss of the season against Footscray, the aforementioned Miles was amongst the best on ground with 32 disposals.

Will North’s aerial dominance continue?
Irrespective of result in previous rounds, the Roos’ have dominated under high balls.

This was again on display against Essendon at Windy Hill, with co-captain Michael Close and attacking stand-out Oscar Junker taking six marks each inside of North’s forward 50.

Consistent defensive pairing Ben McKay and Sam Durdin, who were singled out by David Loader for their resolve in defence, took seven and six marks respectively.

Their influence on the continued development of promising utility Fraser Cameron was apparent, taking six grabs, including several contested pack marks.

Fans are invited to attend Sunday’s VFL curtain-raiser against Richmond at Etihad Stadium, with the first bounce at 9.35am. Ticket-holders to North’s AFL match against Richmond will gain free admission to the VFL game.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs