There’ll be no easing into the 2019 season for North Melbourne, with the Roos expecting to face a red-hot Fremantle side in Perth this Sunday.
While the Dockers will be boosted by the inclusion of Nat Fyfe, who is considered a near-certain starter for the Round 1 clash, North forward Shaun Atley believes the test will come in his side’s defensive 50.
“They’re a high-pressure team,” Atley told North Media.
“We’re expecting a high level pressure from them, particularly from some of their blokes up forward such as Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters.”
Despite 2018 being a below-standard year for Ballantyne, in recent years he’s been widely considered as one of the best pressure forwards in the competition.
In 2017, Champion Data ranked Ballantyne as ‘above average’ for tackles and forward half pressure acts.
The 31-year-old was ranked eighth for tackles inside 50 amongst general forwards that same year.
As a team last season, the Dockers worked together to apply pressure to the opposition defenders, considered as the best in the competition for limiting opponents’ rebound 50s.
Atley will be hoping to play a similar role to Ballantyne again this season, after what was a consistent year as a forward in 2018.
“I’m hoping just to play that half-forward role and kick a few more goals up forward, which would be nice,” he said.
“Getting up and back across the ground with a high work rate, something that Kayne Turner is pretty good at as well.”