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VFL: Round 21 preview

North Melbourne v Werribee
Saturday, August 25
Avalon Airport Oval
First bounce: 1.00pm (AEST)


North Melbourne will close out the season against Werribee at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday afternoon.

Despite being tenth, the Roos are still in finals calculations, although a finals berth is heavily dependent on favourable results.

Given the loaded schedule of games on Saturday, including games featuring the surrounding placed Essendon and Footscray taking place earlier in the day, North could head to Werribee with one eye on September.

Larkey's goal

Nick Larkey is in pole position to earn his first ‘Frosty’ Miller Medal, which is awarded to the VFL leading goalkicker each year.

Larkey has been a stand-out in the season proper, booting 39 goals in just 16 games.

The 20-year-old leads Port Melbourne’s Jordan Lisle, who topped the competition last year, by just two goals. The thrilling race for outright position atop the goal-kicking charts will be a narrative to watch this weekend.

With last year’s premiers taking the field against Footscray at 11.00am on Saturday morning, Larkey will head to Avalon Airport Oval looking to cement his place and extend his existing lead.

Although Mitchell Lewis and Danny Younan are also within reach with 31 goals respectively, it appears unlikely that the pair will surpass Larkey or Lisle.

Tall ask

If history is anything to go by, an aerial approach could be favoured on both ends of the ground.

Going into the final round of the season, Werribee and North are ranked second and third statistically for contested marks per game.

Having named key talls Larkey and Tristan Xerri inside of its forward six, North will likely look to these taller options, given their ability to continually get under high balls in contested marking situations.

The return of bulldozing big man Braydon Preuss could also result in an alternating ruck/forward role.

Preuss and Xerri have worked in tandem throughout the season, often providing a different look for North’s forward line, which has experimented with various talls throughout the year, including Ben McKay and Oscar Junker.

Leading Werribee goal threat Andrew Hooper will spearhead the hosts attack with a probable match-up against the aforementioned McKay or in-form defensive pillar Dan Nielson.

AFL contingent on show

A strong side has been named by David Loader for North’s final home and away game.

As many as 18 AFL-listed players have been listed to feature on Saturday afternoon, offering a healthy mix of experience and youth in the royal blue and white.

Among the returning brigade are ball magnets Paul Ahern and Alex Morgan, with the latter successfully rehabbing a calf complaint which has kept him on the sidelines.

Pacey midfielder Josh Williams is also expected to return from a back complaint.

Werribee team

B: Henderson, Collins, McFarlane
HB: Brett, Coughlan, Pinnuck
C: Barrack, Sharp, Maishman
HF: Brew, Aylett, Petterwood
F: Buykx, Hooper, Moloney
R: Berry, Sodomaco, Gribble
Int: Bennett, Boyd, Declase, Gray, King, Laracy, McNamara, Munro
23P: Carlin

Burning questions

Will North earn a finals berth?
A series of favourable results will need to fall North’s way for the Roos to secure a finals berth.

North will need to be victorious over Werribee, while also relying on losses for both Footscray and Essendon, which currently occupy eighth and ninth positions.

Can North farewell its temporary home with a win?
Due to the redevelopment of Arden Street, North has played its home games at Avalon Airport Oval. 

Despite being labelled as the visitors, the ground will be familiar to North having played its home games at the venue.

Which key tall will make their mark?
Between Nick Larkey and Andrew Hooper, the opposing pair have booted an imposing 68 goals.

Although Hooper is unlikely to catch Larkey in the goal-kickers chart, it could be an afternoon for forwards, with clear skies forecasted in Werribee, favouring the aerial route to goal.

Fans are invited to attend Saturday’s VFL match against Werribee at Avalon Airport Oval, with the first bounce at 1.00pm.

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