It came as a surprise to many when Paul Ahern wasn’t included North’s side early in the season, but the midfielder admits he had things to work on to win back his spot.

Several games at VFL level have allowed the Roos’ number 15 to fine-tune his already impressive skill set.

“There were a few things the coaches said I needed to work on, and one of those was the defensive side of my game,” Ahern told North Media.

“I think my strengths come when I have the ball in my hands, but I’ve been looking to add that defensive element to my game and develop in that area.

“Offence will come naturally to me, but that defensive stuff isn’t as natural.

“I think I took some good strides in that area that will definitely help me going forward.”

Ahern has been recalled for North’s clash against Adelaide on Saturday night.

“It’s good to be back,” he said.

“I was a little bit disappointed not to get a call-up earlier, but it was important that I went back (to the VFL) with the right attitude, so that was one of my biggest focuses.”

The emerging on-baller was a prominent feature throughout his VFL stint, highlighted by a 27-disposal outing against the Northern Blues.

In 11 AFL matches last season, he proved his ability to win the ball, averaging more than 21 possessions a game.

This weekend’s match will allow the midfielder little time to ease into AFL football, as he and his teammates prepare to go toe-to-toe with the Crows’ experienced on-ball brigade.

Despite the talents of Rory Sloane and the Crouch brothers, Ahern says North can get the upper hand at the coal-face.

“It’s going to be tough in there because they’ve got really good players, but we’ve got really good players too, in Ben Cunnington and Shaun Higgins,” he added.  

“I think it’s going to be a good match-up and I’m looking forward to the challenge, but I think we’ll come out on top.”