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Key North duo set to prove their fitness

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Shaun Higgins has recovered from minor knee surgery - ${keywords}
Shaun Higgins has recovered from minor knee surgery

KEY NORTH Melbourne players Shaun Higgins and Robbie Tarrant are expected to be available for the round one clash against Adelaide on Saturday night after overcoming niggling injuries.

Higgins had minor knee surgery following the round one NAB Challenge win over St Kilda, while Tarrant sat out the Roos' final pre-season game with back soreness.

North ruckman Todd Goldstein told reporters on Tuesday that Higgins and Tarrant could have played last weekend if required, and only had to get through the remaining training sessions this week to play against the Crows.

"We've got two or three more training sessions to get through. Like all of us, they're hoping to get through all good," Goldstein said.

"They could have played last week. I think the strength and conditioning staff decided that one more week off just getting that strength up was best for them.

"I think they're ready to go and hopefully Thursday night they'll both be named."

Higgins finished third in North's 2015 best and fairest award and will bring some much-needed class to its midfield and forward line, while key defender Tarrant will be a key part of the Roos' plans try to blanket the Crows' three-pronged forward line of Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins and Tom Lynch.

North will be bidding to win its first round one game since 2009, and its first under coach Brad Scott.

Goldstein is set to play his 150th game on Saturday night and is coming off a dominant 2015 season that saw him named in his first All Australian team.

North coach Brad Scott said last month that the reduction in interchange rotations from 120 to 90 this season was likely to play into Goldstein's hands, saying the ruckman could be "a scary prospect" for opponents given his elite endurance.

Goldstein said it had been nice to hear Scott's comments but stressed it was too early to tell whether the rule change would work in his favour.

"I think if you see all the stuff in the media most of the rucks have been working on their fitness and are feeling as fit as ever," he said.

"It's one of those wait-and-see things, but it's definitely not going to hurt me, I don't think.

"Whether I come off two times or three times (during a game) it's not really going to make too much difference to me.

"[Endurance] is a strength of mine which I'm going to try to use, and try to exploit."

Goldstein has largely shouldered North's ruck duties on his own since 2011, with occasional support from the Roos' tall forwards.

If – as seems highly likely – North elects not to play a second ruckman in 2016, Goldstein expects Ben Brown will provide his primary relief, with veteran Drew Petrie also happy to chip in at ruck contests when needed.

Since a Dean Laidley-coached North opened its 2009 season with a 34-point win over Melbourne, the Roos have suffered the following round one defeats:

  • 2010: a 14-point loss to Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium
  • 2011: a four-point loss to West Coast at Domain Stadium
  • 2012: a two-point loss to Essendon at Etihad Stadium, when North ruckman Hamish McIntosh missed a set shot after the siren
  • 2013: a 16-point loss to Collingwood at Etihad Stadium
  • 2014: a 39-point loss to Essendon at Etihad Stadium
  • 2015: a 77-point loss to Adelaide at Adelaide Oval