North Melbourne v Geelong
Blundstone Arena
Saturday July 31, 1.15pm AEST

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It’s a rare occasion when 18th versus second is seen as a meeting of two of the most in-form teams in the competition, but Saturday’s clash between North Melbourne and Geelong will be just that.

The bottom-placed Roos enter the clash having won three of their last five games, including a 39-point demolition of Carlton last time out.

Nick Larkey was the star of the show, capitalising on some much-improved ball movement to boot a career-high 7 goals.

Fellow young star Tarryn Thomas kicked 4 goals from 23 disposals, but North will be without their brilliant number 26, after he suffered a delayed concussion.

The Cats have won four on the bounce and sent a warning to the rest of the competition in Round 19, as they trounced premiers Richmond by 38 points at the MCG.

Tom Hawkins and Esava Ratugolea were in fine form, kicking 4 goals each, and will provide a stern test for the Roos’ backline.

Former North Melbourne star and two-time Syd Barker Medallist Shaun Higgins will line-up for his 250th AFL game.

Last time we met
Round 5, 2021

The Roos looked like they might spring one of the upsets of the season when the two sides last met at GMBHA Stadium, leading the Cats up until the midway through the second term.

But Geelong proved too strong at home, running out 30-point winners.

Jack Ziebell was in imperious form in the backline, setting a career-best for kicks (33), and a club record for metres gained (946).

Ben Cunnington was at his brilliant best with 29 disposals and 7 clearances.

For the hosts, Tom Stewart starred with 30 disposals and 11 marks in the backline.

09:54 Mins
Published on

David Noble media conference (July 29, 2021)

David Noble speaks with the media before our main training session.

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The match-up
Ben McKay and Robbie Tarrant v Tom Hawkins and Esava Ratugolea

When the two sides last met, it was a battle of youth versus experience, as Ben McKay took on Tom Hawkins.

McKay performed admirably on the reigning Coleman Medallist, restricting him to just a single goal.

For this clash however, the addition of the experienced Robbie Tarrant to the Roos’ defence and the in-form Esava Ratugolea to the Cats’ attack adds another layer of intrigue.

Will McKay take on Hawkins again, who he held so well in Round 5, or will the two experienced heads in Tarrant and Hawkins do battle once more?

If it does go the way of the latter, the clash of the two 23-year-olds in Ratugolea v McKay will be a preview of what’s to come between the two clubs for the next decade.

Whatever the matchups, keeping Geelong’s potent forward line quiet will be critical to any chance of a famous North Melbourne win.

The key men
Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Stewart

Jaidyn Stephenson has been a revelation since crossing from Collingwood, averaging 19.9 disposals and 1.1 goals a game, playing as a midfielder and forward.

His excellent form since returning from a wrist injury has coincided with the Roos’ late-season surge, playing a significant role in the wins over Gold Coast, West Coast and Carlton.

With fellow young star Tarryn Thomas set to miss Saturday’s clash, the emphasis will be placed on Stephenson to provide the link between the midfield and forward line and to provide a goal threat.

Tom Stewart has gone from strength to strength for the Cats and looks set to claim a third All-Australian blazer in just his fifth season in the AFL.

Stewart’s average of 24.1 disposals is the highest of his career to date, while he leads the competition for total marks, and he sits fifth for intercept marks, the only general defender in the top 10.

Restricting Stewart’s influence will be key to the Roos’ chances.

The stat

Saturday’s clash will be the first time the two sides have faced off at Blundstone Arena, and just the second time the Hawks have played for premiership points in Tasmania, having met the Hawks in Launceston in 2007.