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VFL: Round 14 preview

North Melbourne v Casey
Saturday, July 7
Casey Fields
First bounce: 2.10pm (AEST)


North Melbourne’s VFL side has been granted a televised game for one its biggest challenges of the season.

On the back of a 57-point win over Coburg, an upset-minded North will hit the road, looking to flip the script on the Casey Demons away from home.

Having returned to the winners’ circle, all eyes will be on the Channel 7 broadcast to witness a game that promises to be one of the best on offer in Round 14.

Tackling tenacity

The hard-nosed approach of North’s engine room has become a staple of the Roos attack-minded mentality.

Statistically speaking, Casey is the form side when it comes to tackling, ranked second for average tackles per game.

The Demons boast three players that were amongst the best in this category last week, with Jay Kennedy Harris, Corey Wagner and Billy Stretch all posting impressive figures against Essendon.

A return to winning ways for the royal blue and white was assisted by the tireless pursuit of first use from on-balling brigade Nash Holmes, Chris Jansen and Nick Rippon.

The much-needed win also signalled the tenacious tacking abilities of powerfully-built prospect Kyron Hayden, who topped North for tackles laid with six, one ahead of Rippon.

In-form defence on display

Casey’s impressive rise to second on the VFL ladder has been built on the back off a stringent defence.

Having won seven consecutive games, the Demons’ defence has leaked an impressive average of 52 points, including just 46 and 31 points against Essendon and Coburg in back-to-back efforts.

Meanwhile, North restricted a fast-starting Coburg to 51 points, highlighting the buoyant defensive marshalling of key pair Sam Durdin and Ben McKay, who proved their worth in a consistent four-quarter display.

With the tough and uncompromising Dan Nielson continuing to be a shining light in North’s defensive third, the handling of Casey’s leading goal threat Cameron Pedersen will be one of many talking points.

The former Kangaroo, who has booted 20 goals in the season proper, is likely to be paired with Durdin, who has proven to be equal to the task of challenging the best forwards in the competition.

Tall approach favoured

David Loader has opted for a taller forward line, favouring Braydon Preuss as a target in North’s spine, alongside the in-form Nick Larkey.

The second-year forward continues to make a compelling case for senior selection, having secured an outright place atop the VFL goal-scoring charts with 29 goals this season.

Despite the perceived aerial approach, North looks equipped with an alternate route to goal if opposition defences continue to circle its tall targets.

Speedy pair Will Walker and Gordon Narrier will operate down the forward flanks, looking to repeat their imposing display against Coburg, where they combined for the best goal of the game.

Preuss’ move forward means versatile tall Tristan Xerri will once again start in the ruck, before alternating throughout.

Casey team

B: Lockhart, Keilty, Wagner
HB: McKenna, Petty, Vince
C: Baker, Bugg, Hannan
HF: Balic, Pedersen, Kent
F: Filipovic, Weideman, Smith
R: King, Tyson, Wagner
Int: Hutchins, Kennedy-Harris, Lok, MacHaya, Morrison, Munro, Scott, Vandenberg
23P: Stockdale

Burning questions

Will North secure another big scalp?
When previously faced with an uphill challenge, North’s emerging list has responded with resolve.

The Roos have already acquired the scalps of reigning premiers Port Melbourne and the heavily favoured Box Hill this season, while looking to complete the hat-trick against Casey on Saturday.

Who will shine on the big stage?
The last time North featured on the ‘Match of the Day’ broadcast on Channel 7, it kicked six unanswered goals in a dominant first quarter that provided an authoritative opening to the game.

It was an afternoon for North’s forwards with Nick Larkey and Cameron Zurhaar combining for ten goals. Although Larkey will be without his forward partner, a repeat effort would boost his chances for a senior call-up.

Which forward will push for senior selection?
A host of AFL-listed players will look to use the televised platform as an opportunity to showcase their skills to a wider audience at Casey Fields.

An impressive performance against the in-form side would prove to be a timely boost for those on the cusp of senior selection. With an abundance of talent on display, it’s anyone’s guess who will stand tall.

Fans are invited to attend Saturday’s VFL match against Casey Demons at Casey Fields, with the first bounce at 2.10pm. The game will be broadcast live on Channel 7.

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