A trip down the highway awaits the North Melbourne Kangaroos this week, with the team in royal blue and white hitting the road to take on Geelong.
David Noble and the match committee will be forced into making at least one change with the in-form Bailey Scott suffering a hip injury last week against Adelaide. There are a number of key candidates who could come in and shore up the back half in the absence of the number eight.
North Media looks at who is in the mix.
Lachie Young is once again available for selection this week after enduring the one-match suspension picked up against GWS. While he’s played predominantly on the wing this season, he’s more than capable of playing in defence.
Should Young be a required influence on the wing Luke McDonald could drop back into his traditional position in the backline.
If some extra height is required to combat the threatening forward duo of Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron, the strong form of Matt McGuinness could be rewarded with an AFL debut.
The young Tasmanian has been a near ever-present in the Kangaroos’ backline at VFL level this season and has taken his game to a new level in 2022.
A strong intercept mark and good decision-maker with the ball in hand, he particularly impressed with his offensive output in last week’s VFL win over the Northern Bullants, consistently finding teammates high up the field with accurate kicking.
First-year player Josh Goater put in his best performance of the year against the Bullants and could be the most like-for-like replacement for Scott.
He flew back with courage for a number of high-quality intercept marks, while the intent he showed with his tackling left nothing to be desired. He was a bull in the back half of the ground and was crucial in a defence that restricted the opposition to just six goals.
Kyron Hayden is also available after being named as an emergency for the clash with Adelaide, while Atu Bosenavulagi was another solid performer at VFL-level.
Midfield pair Charlie Lazzaro and Callum Coleman-Jones are absolutely banging the door down for a recall to the senior side, with the pair once again amongst North’s top performers at VFL-level.
Coleman-Jones has been dominant in the ruck for the reserves, and he finished Sunday’s clash with the Bullants with 28 disposals, 12 clearances and a goal. Should Ben McKay return to defence ‘CJ’s’ best route back into the senior side could be as a makeshift key forward.
He’s proved his quality as a marking target inside 50 before, notably kicking three goals against the Kangaroos while playing for Richmond last season.
Lazzaro had no trouble finding space in a wet and muddy contest at Arden Street on Sunday, and he was especially effective when running into open space down the right-hand side of the ground.
He’s been playing as an inside midfielder in recent weeks to help improve his decision-making and defensive side of the game, but his ability to play almost any small position in the midfield or forward line could help his case for a recall.
Jack Mahony and Phoenix Spicer played their pressure forward roles to perfection against the Northern Bullants, with the pair combining for four goals and 14 tackles.
Mahony has been a force in the VFL since his omission from the senior set up, and his defensive nous forward of the ball could be a key component to stopping Geelong’s notoriously patient build-up play.
Should Spicer earn a recall it will be his first senior game since his Round 23 debut last season.
His recovery from a hamstring injury was slow going over the first half of the season but he’s been a dangerous forward and wing option since he made his return, and he’ll provide some serious X-factor should he be included.
Eddie Ford opened the game against the Bullants with a wonderful goal on Sunday, but this weekend’s game might be too soon for a recall after his ankle injury.
Pat Walker was also strong in the VFL. He was a good offensive threat from the wing but just couldn’t find the big sticks - he had two behinds for the day.
Mid-season draftee Kallan Dawson will more than likely build on his maiden VFL performance for the club with at least one more game at reserve level after coming back from an ankle injury.