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VFL: Round 10 Preview

Brock Ellis  June 8, 2018 5:00 PM

Geelong v North Melbourne
Saturday, June 9
GMHBA Stadium
First bounce: 10.00 am (AEST)

Storyline

North Melbourne’s VFL side will be on the big stage, facing the sixth-placed Geelong at GMHBA Stadium.

The high-stakes meet will be the third time that the Roos have taken part in a double-header, following earlier curtain-raisers against the AFL Academy and Richmond earlier in the season.

With both teams tied on 20 points after nine rounds, a win could be vital for a finals berth.

Formidable attack and defence meet

Geelong’s defence has been resilient in recent weeks, restricting the Northern Blues and Williamstown to a combined score of just 71.

At the heart of the Cats’ resolve in defence has been Timm House, who has stood out with seven marks in each of his last two appearances.

The key-position player has been named at full-back by Geelong VFL coach Shane O'Bree.

Given his form challenging for contested footy, the 23-year-old will likely line up against in-form talls Nick Larkey or Tristan Xerri, who have proven to be increasingly difficult to handle.

Larkey has booted 11 goals in three games, highlighting his efficiency in front of goal.

Meanwhile, North has averaged 102 points per game across its five wins in the season proper. The battle between North’s forwards and Geelong’s defence will likely go a long way to deciding the winner.
Clearance kings

North’s midfield was in fine form at Trevor Barker Beach Oval, running riot against Sandringham.

With Braydon Preuss dominating the ruck with 75 hit-outs to his name, North’s surrounding rovers were provided with first use of the footy for the majority of the afternoon.

North ended the game with an astonishing 87-8 advantage in total hit-outs.

This allowed the returning Ryan Clarke and tireless ball magnet Nick Rippon to tally 36 and 31 touches respectively, including a team-high nine clearances each.

Although Preuss, who will celebrate his 50th game in the VFL this weekend, is expecting greater resistance from Geelong ruckman Ryan Abbott, similar heroics on Saturday morning will hold the Roos in good stead.

Clarke has been retained and will slot into North’s midfield alongside co-captain Chris Jansen.

VFL engine-rooms

The midfield brigade of both sides is filled with an abundance of VFL-listed players.

As the engine rooms of North and Geelong continue to post impressive numbers across a variety of key areas, Saturday’s game is being billed by many as a battle between the two best VFL-listed midfields in the competition.

For the first time since facing Richmond, North’s roving pack will be challenged by an equally tenacious midfield.

Geelong’s continued good form has been built on the work-rate and presence of midfield quartet Tom Atkins, James Tsitas, Luke Kiel and Jordan Keras, rivalling North’s middle mainstay of Chris Jansen, Nick Rippon and Nash Holmes.

Keras was amongst the top ball-winners for the Cats against the Northern Blues, getting 29 disposals across the middle of the ground.

The 24-year-old also laid seven tackles, mirroring the aggressive playing style of North ball-winner Holmes in the past month.

After his late withdrawal against Sandringham, Holmes has been named by David Loader, providing a timely boost for North, who have also welcomed back co-captain Michael Close following a fortnight on the sidelines.

Geelong team

B: Z. Guthrie, House, Hayball
HB: C. Guthrie, O’Connor, Narkle
C: Henderson, Horlin-Smith, Thurlow
HF: Crameri, Parsons, Gregson
F: Miers, Gardner, Simpson
R: Abbott, Atkins, Selwood
Int: Dobson, Floyd, Keras, Kiel, McLachlan, Mitchell, Siggins, Tsitas
23P: Dowling


Burning questions

Are North the form side of the competition?
Three wins on the bounce has allowed North to break into the top eight.

Recent wins over reigning premiers Port Melbourne alongside Box Hill and Sandringham have the royal blue and white brimming with confidence.

If the Roos can secure a fourth consecutive win, including three successive wins on the road, a run towards an eventual top-four finish isn’t out of the question.

Will Taylor Garner make an immediate impact?
When the excitement machine is given space, the end result is almost always a goal scoring opportunity.

After kicking two majors from as many efforts against Box Hill, the 24-year-old will bolster North’s forward stocks, assisting key forward Nick Larkey with the goal scoring duties.

Can North make its mark in Geelong fortress?
Geelong has lost just once at GMHBA Stadium in 2018, falling by two points to Sandringham back in Round 2.

Since then, the Cats have been on a tear, ousting Footscray and Williamstown at home in authoritative displays. With North proving to be just as difficult to beat in recent weeks, something has to give on Saturday morning.

Fans are invited to attend Saturday’s VFL match against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium, with the first bounce at 10.00am.