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Season preview: North Melbourne

Can Majak Daw rejuvenate his career as a defender? - AFL,North Melbourne Kangaroos,Season previews,Brad Scott
Can Majak Daw rejuvenate his career as a defender?

Best 22 – round one
B:  Marley Williams, Robbie Tarrant, Ed Vickers-Willis
HB: Jamie Macmillan, Scott Thompson, Luke McDonald
C: Billy Hartung, Ben Cunnington, Jy Simpkin
HF: Shaun Atley, Jarrad Waite, Mason Wood
F: Taylor Garner, Ben Brown, Kayne Turner
Foll: Todd Goldstein, Jack Ziebell, Shaun Higgins
I/C: Luke Davies-Uniacke, Ben Jacobs, Sam Durdin, Ryan Clarke
 

Emerg: Paul Ahern, Nathan Hrovat, Trent Dumont, Braydon Preuss

Fans' season preview: North Melbourne

2017 best and fairest top three
1. Shaun Higgins
2. Ben Cunnington
3. Ben Brown

Injury list
Vice-captain Robbie Tarrant is expected to be fit for round one despite suffering bruising to his kidney in the Roos' JLT Community Series game against Richmond. Sam Wright (ankle/foot) and Jed Anderson (thumb) are back in full training and nearing returns, while Declan Mountford (shoulder) is about to resume full-contact work. First-year midfielder Kyron Hayden (shoulder) is not expected back until April, while defender Declan Watson (knee) won't return until the middle of the season at the earliest.
 

The big questions

Who will emerge as Scott Thompson's successor?
The veteran key defender is almost certainly about to enter his final season and North will be keen to identify a replacement who can team with Robbie Tarrant from 2019. Majak Daw and emerging youngsters Sam Durdin, Ben McKay and Daniel Nielson are the logical contenders to fill Thompson's boots, and all should get opportunities – most likely in the third tall role – to press their claims this season.

How do you best manage Braydon Preuss?
Brad Scott seems resigned to the fact North can't regularly fit Todd Goldstein and Braydon Preuss into the same team, while Goldstein's stronger pre-season form should ensure he starts the season as the Roos' No.1 ruckman. If Goldstein's form and fitness holds, Preuss could face an extended stint in the VFL. North's challenge then will be to ensure Preuss continues to develop at the lower level, and can still see a long-term future for himself at Arden St.
 

Can Mason Wood deliver on his potential?
The 192cm forward has shown glimpses of star qualities over the past two seasons but regular injuries have halted his progress. Is 2018 the year when Wood finally enjoys an unbroken run of fitness and, if so, will he be able to step up and take some of the forward-line load off Ben Brown?

Check out every club's season preview

Look for...
Luke McDonald. The 23-year-old is slated to spend more time in the midfield this season and appears ready to become a key member of the Kangaroos' on-ball division. McDonald is a combative player who will thrive around stoppages, while his booming left foot and preparedness to take on the opposition should give North a more attacking look at centre bounces.
 

Who they play
North will fancy its chances of making a good start over the opening five rounds, when they play Gold Coast (in Cairns), St Kilda, Melbourne, Carlton (in Hobart) and Hawthorn. However, things get far tougher over the next nine rounds when their opponents include 2017 finalists Port Adelaide, Sydney, Richmond, Greater Western Sydney, Geelong and Essendon, and they travel to Perth to take on Fremantle at Optus Stadium. The Roos play developing Brisbane and Gold Coast teams twice, along with Sydney, St Kilda and Western Bulldogs sides that are all expected to challenge for the finals.
 

Fantasy cash cow
At just $264,000, Luke Davies-Uniacke should be a lock in every coach's AFL Fantasy team. Last year's No.4 draft pick looked comfortable at senior level in the JLT Community Series and should play most games for the rebuilding Roos this season. A complete midfielder with a good turn of speed, Davies-Uniacke is also strong overhead and can hit the scoreboard when resting forward.

Todd Goldstein imparts some knowledge to Luke Davies-Uniacke. Picture: AFL Photos

Sudden impact
Like Davies-Uniacke, former Hawk Billy Hartung is well placed to debut for North in round one after an encouraging JLT series. Hartung is supremely fit and will give the Kangaroos some much-needed run on the wing. At 22, former Bomber Alex Morgan is also ready to play senior football, but will likely have to press his claims in the VFL early in the season. 

It's crunch time for…
Jed Anderson. The former Hawk joined North in 2015's trade period via a deal in which the Roos parted with their first-round draft pick, a selection Hawthorn used to take emerging tall Ryan Burton. Anderson has been plagued by injury in his time at Arden St, but the midfielder/forward has struggled to have an impact in his 15 senior games for North. Out of contract at the end of this season, the 24-year-old faces a make-or-break year.

Pressure rating on the coach
'A cool change has arrived'. North has embarked on a youth-based rebuild and has identified Brad Scott as the man to guide it through that process. After re-signing last year until the end of 2020, the Roos coach will be given time to develop the club's next generation.

The heat has come off Jack Ziebell and Brad Scott this year. Picture: AFL Photos

The 2017 habit the Kangaroos must kick…
Dropping close games. North lost five of the six games it played last year that were decided by five points or fewer, several after it had led by five goals or more.
 

The Kangaroos will have a good year if…
Mason Wood, Trent Dumont and Taylor Garner step up to become key players, and Sam Durdin, Ben McKay, Jy Simpkin and Ed Vickers-Willis continue to develop.

They’re in trouble if …
They suffer multiple injuries to their senior core of Robbie Tarrant, Scott Thompson, Ben Brown, Jarrad Waite, Ben Cunnington, Jack Ziebell and Shaun Higgins.
 

Pass mark
This season will be a success if North can continue to blood its increasingly long list of youngsters while remaining competitive. Given the Roos' lack of experience, six to eight wins would be a reasonable return, especially if they can avoid blow-out losses against the competition's best teams.
 

AFL.com.au predicted ladder finish: 18th 

Player Ratings star
Todd Goldstein, 21st
. Having started 2017 at No.6 overall on the Schick AFL Player Ratings, the ruckman slid down the list on the back of a disappointing season.