The Kangaroos are back in action in Round 15 after experiencing the bye last week. This weekend it's the Crows who take on a refreshed and revamped North Melbourne outfit.
Adelaide come into the clash fresh off a disappointing defeat to Gold Coast. Their midfield performed well in the 43-point loss, but the Suns' forward group proved far too strong for the Crows' backline.
While they started the season with three wins in their first six games, Adelaide's form has slipped drastically and the club has won just one of its last eight fixtures.
A season-defining clash?
Whether they like it or not, both North Melbourne and Adelaide are not in the positions they’d have hoped to be at the start of the year. Finishing as the bottom two sides in 2021, neither team has seen the strong push up the ladder they would have been aiming for.
The Kangaroos currently sit 17th, and the Crows 15th. Both teams will be hoping to register a much-needed win to not only please the fans, but enter the second half of the season with a bit of positive momentum.
Last season the bye proved to be a shot in the arm for the Kangaroos. They won three of their next seven games as well as registering a draw against the Giants. Last year’s uptick in form will certainly be on the mind of this determined North side.
Who will lead from the front?
Jack Ziebell is the captain of North Melbourne for a reason. Both on and off the field he’s a fearless leader who represents so many values the club holds dear. In his absence the baton of leadership will be passed on the weekend.
As co-vice captains, Jy Simpkin and Luke McDonald will take on the brunt of the leadership responsibilities in Ziebell’s absence.
A true North Melbourne man, McDonald’s association with the Kangaroos goes back to when his father Donald played for the club, while Simpkin represents the emerging generation of young players coming through the ranks. Both bring entirely different skillsets and qualities to the table.
In a team that will be sorely lacking in veteran talent - it can be expected that the only Kangaroo to have played more than 200 senior games on the weekend will be Todd Goldstein - the opportunity for the next generation to stand up and lead will be well and truly present.
Can the potential inclusions be the difference?
Much like the Kangaroos, Adelaide’s issues in 2022 haven’t come at the contest in the midfield, but rather they’ve struggled at either end of the ground.
The Crows rank 14th in the AFL in goals per game this year with 10.7, and they’ve conceded the fifth most points at 93.3 per game. The strengths and weaknesses of either side run almost parallel to each other.
Should each team’s midfield continue to fire, the game will be won or lost at the weakest areas of the ground. Not the strongest. Whoever can use the ball most efficiently and tighten the screws on the opposition will be on the front foot.
The potential returns of Cam Zurhaar and Tarryn Thomas should help the Kangaroos forward of the ball, while Ben McKay can help shore up what’s been a leaky defence in recent weeks.
While football is a team game, the inclusion of these three immensely talented individuals at each end of the ground could prove pivotal to the Kangaroos’ fortunes.
Can Greenwood fire against his former side?
For the first time since joining forces at North Melbourne, Hugh Greenwood and David Noble are set to come up against their former side.
While both took detours to Arden Street via Queensland, Greenwood through the Suns and Noble through the Lions, the pair’s association with the Crows was a successful one.
After turning his back on a potential professional basketball career at the end of 2016, Greenwood made an immediate impact at the Crows and was included in their 2017 Grand Final side. Noble, who had been a long-time admirer of Greenwood, had departed from the Crows just 12 months earlier.
Players and coaches coming up against the former sides always adds an extra element of spice to a game. The fortunes of the Crows have somewhat changed since Greenwood and Noble’s tenures there, and the pair will be hoping to add to the pain of their former side on Sunday.