North Melbourne has named a vastly different line-up from the team that played before the bye, with four AFL players to return just as five were called up to the seniors.
Key position forward Charlie Comben has been named for his first game in nine weeks, having gone under the knife in the wake of persistent knee soreness.
A highly-touted senior prospect, Comben has booted 15.11 in only seven VFL games this season.
He'll be joined by small forward Phoenix Spicer, who has been omitted from the senior team after a promising run of four senior games, and Tarryn Thomas who has returned to the club following a period of personal leave.
As a consequence of the COVID cases among the senior group, reserves coach Tom Lynch has lost access to defenders Josh Walker, Kayne Turner, Jackson Archer and Kallan Dawson.
Kyron Hayden will offer some respite having been named after a spell on the sidelines, while versatile VFL-listed defender Hamish Murphy rounds out the inclusions.
Small forward Jack Mahony has also been called up to the senior team in Spicer's place.
Last time at Windy Hill…
The Kangaroos will hold fond memories of their last trip to Windy Hill, with a narrow victory over the old enemy kickstarting a season that had seriously faltered to that date.
With club legends Glenn Archer and James Hird in attendance North Melbourne defeated the Bombers by 15 points to register its first win of the season.
Inaccurate kicking almost cost the Roos as the Bombers hit the front thanks to a Patrick Ambrose goal mid-way through the final term. There was nothing to worry about though as late majors to Mat Walker, Eddie Ford, Ben Speight and Josh Clayton would see North emerge victorious.
Tristan Xerri was immense with 36 disposals, 27 hitouts, nine marks, eight clearances and six tackles, while Clayton ran the midfield with 29 touches and three goals.
Will Phillips showcased his game-breaking quality with a classy 33 touches, and Eddie Ford displayed the best of his talents with 18 disposals and two goals.
Prior to the victory the Kangaroos had a season record of 0-5 and had suffered the ignominy of losing three consecutive games by over 100 points. After this victory they would go on to win three of their final four games for the season before the campaign was abandoned due to COVID.
With key position pair Comben and Mat Walker having been absent over recent weeks, the Kangaroos have at times struggled to convert forward entries into consistent scoring opportunities.
While the likes of Max Mitchell-Russell and Zach Monkhorst have capably stepped up in the key positions, and Bode Stevens has been amongst the goals as a small forward, the return of Charlie Comben to the line-up must be leaving interim coach Tom Lynch sighing with relief.
Comben has struggled with injury over the course of his AFL-career so far, but when he’s been fit he’s often been banging the door down for senior selection. Even impacted by the knee issues that would eventually sideline him he was an effective influence in the VFL.
Just two spots higher than North on the ladder, a win over the Bombers certainly isn’t out of the question. The return of the Kangaroos’ best forward marking target is a big tick in their pursuit of victory this weekend.
Sunday, July 31
Essendon v North Melbourne at Windy Hill, 12.05pm AEST
|B||15. A. Bosenavulagi||48. H. Murphy||53. M. Hore|
|HB||41. M. McGuinness||58. B. Stevens||33. P. Walker|
|C||32. J. Goater||26. T. Thomas||51. T. Williamson|
|HF||40. E.Ford||36. P. Spicer||49. H. Jones|
|F||30. C. Comben||54. K. Answerth||61. M. Mitchell-Russell|
|R||32. J. Edwards||46. D. Tyson||37. K. Hayden|
|INT||57. C. Smith||60. N. Beattie||62. S. Collins|
|66. Z. Monkhorst||70. J. Watkins|
|23rd Player||60. N. Beattie|
|EMG||50. H. Dick||59. J. Lipscombe||68. J. Guthrie|
|75. C. Weightman|
IN: 26. T Thomas, 30. C Comben, 36 P. Spicer, 37. K Hayden, 48. H Murphy
OUT: 1. J Mahony, 18. J Walker, 28. K Turner, 34. J Archer, 42. K Dawson