North Melbourne has reluctantly ruled out star midfielder Nick Dal Santo for Saturday night's crunch game against the Sydney Swans at Etihad Stadium.

Dal Santo has not played since round two after having hamstring surgery in mid April but has been pushing his case for senior selection in recent weeks.

The 31-year-old completed much of North's training session at Arden Street on Thursday, but stand-in coach Darren Crocker said the club had decided to treat his comeback cautiously.

"He's got another important session today (Thursday) but we feel at this stage he hasn't done enough game sense training to be up for selection," Crocker said.

"He'll try to convince us today at training that he is (ready to play), but we're going to err on the conservative side at this stage."

PRESS PLAY above to watch the Dal Santo media conference | YouTube

Crocker said Dal Santo would almost certainly return before the club's bye in round 13.

The coach expects his players to back up their efforts from last weekend's crucial 10-point win over West Coast, particularly in light of North's struggles against the top-four contenders.

The Kangaroos have been well beaten by Hawthorn (60 points) and Fremantle (73), with the second-placed Swans to present a similar challenge.

"Last year we were able to compete and beat some of the competition's better teams. It's something we haven't done to this point of the season," Crocker said.

"To become the side you want to become you've got to be able to and want to be able to beat the best.

"It's another great challenge for us against Sydney on Saturday night. We know that they're going to be a really hard team to beat, because that's the way Sydney are."

Crocker said he doesn't expect injured coach Brad Scott to be phoning in with strategies from home at every juncture of the game.

The AFL gave permission for Scott to be in contact with North's list manager, Cameron Joyce, in the coach's box in Hobart last week.

While he may have thrown up some suggestions, Crocker was adamant Scott did not overstep the mark.

"The one reassurance Brad gave me was that the coaches are the ones coaching the team," Crocker said.

"He's only there as a fresh set of eyes to throw different things at us and for myself to go with my gut feel."

Injured midfielder Daniel Wells trained to the side of the main group on Thursday, completing a kicking drill as he continues his recovery from an ongoing Achilles problem.

The veteran has been sidelined indefinitely since the round two win over the Lions.