Just nine games remain in the 2019 season, but for North Melbourne and its players, it looms as a big opportunity to finish strongly.
At five wins and eight losses, it’s been a tough year so far, although three wins from the last four games will certainly give the Roos some confidence after the break.
North Media previews the team’s run home.
Round 15 v Collingwood at Marvel Stadium
The second-placed Magpies are one of the top flag contenders, and after coach Nathan Buckley labelled their performance against the Bulldogs as one of their worst “for a long time”, it looms as a tough encounter for Rhyce Shaw and the Roos.
North will feel at home despite it officially being an away game at Marvel Stadium, although Collingwood has won its last seven games at the venue, so the task doesn’t get any easier.
The battle between Brodie Grundy and Todd Goldstein will be an intriguing one, while Jordan de Goey was the dominant player on the field when the teams last met, so will come in for plenty of attention.
The Magpies have won four of their last five against North.
It’s a big test, but one the Roos will be looking forward to coming off the bye.
Round 16 v St Kilda at Blundstone Arena
Despite somewhat of an up-and-down few weeks, the Saints have been one of the surprise packets of 2019, with six wins, when many predicted they’d find the going much tougher.
A disappointing loss against Brisbane will have Alan Richardson’s team breathing fire in Round 15, and for the final part of the season.
The Saints boast wins against the likes of Essendon, Hawthorn and Melbourne, and having regained the likes of Dan Hannebery and Jake Carlisle, loom as a difficult opponent.
The home ground advantage could come in handy for the Roos in Hobart.
Round 17 v Essendon at Marvel Stadium
The North players will have bad memories of the Good Friday loss in Round 5, but have looked a different team in the past month.
The Bombers’ small and tall forwards dominated when the teams last met, and the Roos will need to have a plan for the likes of Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.
Zach Merrett and Dylan Shiel were also key players through the midfield, and with Shaun Higgins missing, will provide another big challenge for North’s on-ballers.
North’s forward line has looked a lot more dynamic since a tough day back in April, and will look to stretch a Bombers’ defence full of experience.
Round 18 v Brisbane at The Gabba
Brisbane has been one of the big improvers and finished with a stunning late run when the teams met in Round 2 to leave Marvel Stadium with the four points.
On that day, Charlie Cameron was well held by Marley Williams for much of the game, before firing late with four goals.
Lachie Neale was unstoppable with 43 disposals and eight clearances.
Flash forward, and the Lions are 8-5 after 13 rounds and looking primed for their first finals campaign since 2009.
With five wins from their last six at the Gabba, Brisbane looms as a tough task for the travelling team, but having won their last four at the venue and six of the last seven against the Lions, the Roos will go in with confidence.
Ben Brown will have fond memories of his bag of seven goals back in 2017 in enemy territory.
Round 19 v West Coast at Optus Stadium
Having won 17 of their 21 games at Optus Stadium, the Eagles home ground advantage is clear.
The Roos have taken the points just twice against West Coast in Perth since 2001, and lost to Fremantle earlier in the year by 82 points.
Nevertheless, last year’s big win against the eventual premiers by 40 points, albeit at Blundstone Arena, will give the team plenty of reason to go in confident.
Ben Cunnington, Paul Ahern and Shaun Higgins ran rampant that day, and Rhyce Shaw will be hopeful the latter is pushing for selection as he recovers from an AC joint injury.
Like most teams travelling to Perth, North will go in as rank outsiders, but take plenty from last year’s win over the Eagles.
Round 20 v Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium
Playing their first home game at Marvel Stadium since Round 11, the Roos will be desperate to put on a good show for their fans.
The Hawks took the points when the teams met in Round 3, but have been inconsistent since, losing to the Bombers and Saints in two outings at the venue this year.
There is still plenty of quality in the Hawks’ outfit though, and with Alastair Clarkson at the helm, they are always a daunting task.
Round 21 v Geelong at GMHBA Stadium
If facing the Eagles in Perth isn’t the toughest away trip in the league, then it would be Geelong at GMBHA. The Cats have won 29 of their last 33 at home.
The Cats sit a game clear on top of the ladder after Round 13 and look primed for a premiership tilt, so this is bound to be a tough one.
Geelong came out on top when the sides met in Round 8, but the Roos will be buoyed by their performance, pushing their opponents all the way to the final siren.
Making more of its opportunities in front of goal will see North right in the mix again.
Round 22 v Port Adelaide at Marvel Stadium
In what looms as a vital fixture for both teams, North will look to break a five-game hoodoo against the Power.
Three of those games have been at Marvel Stadium.
North will take plenty from its strong finish when the teams last met in Round 6; a five-goal last term seeing the Roos fall short by just 16 points in enemy territory.
The Power are right in the mix for finals at the midway point, meaning it looms as a do-or-die clash for both teams, dependent on results in the coming weeks.
Round 23 v Melbourne at Blundstone Arena
The Demons finally broke a 17-game run of losses against North last year, but have found the going tougher in 2019.
While things haven’t clicked for Melbourne, there’s no doubting its talent all across the ground, and both sides will be hoping to finish the home and away season on a good note.
The Roos haven’t enjoyed their usual dominance at Blundstone Arena this year, but deep into winter, will hope they can make the most of the difficult conditions.