THE BATTLE between Narrm and North Melbourne on Saturday night will see 2023's best attack come face to face with the stingiest defence.
The Roos have conceded just 126 points, ahead of Adelaide's 189 (with Narrm third), while the Demons are not only one of just two teams to have topped 400, but have streaked ahead to record 527 points. The Roos are fourth with 371.
But Narrm's deadly forward line will be missing one familiar face, with spearhead Tayla Harris sidelined for a second week (and third this season) with a hamstring issue.
The Demons will be boosted by the return of Paxy Paxman (concussion), Maddi Gay (managed) and Lauren Pearce (shoulder), who all sat out last week's trip to Perth to play West Coast.
"She [Harris] was close this week, but just not quite ready to be tested to the full capacity of the game. Hopefully we'll see her next week," Narrm's Lily Mithen said.
"They're a very good side, North Melbourne, as we know and have quite a similar brand, so I think that's why it's always been quite a tight tussle in previous years.
"I think our contest game on both sides is quite strong, so it's going to be a really crucial part of the game, but it'll be our offence and attack that'll hopefully set us apart and get some high scores on the board.
"But there's obviously a tricky defence we're up against, so we'll have to bring our A game. There'll be real momentum swings in this game. Both teams are pretty well equipped across the ground, so really looking forward to what this game will bring."
These two sides met in a preliminary final last year, where North Melbourne pressed hard in the third term before a Daisy Pearce-inspired Narrm kicked clear to win by 17.
"Any game is always driving us, let alone a loss," North Melbourne forward Tahlia Randall said.
"We took quite a few key learnings out of that game, things not to do again. But we're able to improve, whether it's our entries, our efficiency inside forward 50, we had so many opportunities last year, especially in that third quarter – we attacked that 50 but weren't able to put it on the scoreboard.
"I feel like each year we're improving, it's never an easy game, that's for sure. But it's always good to test yourself against a foundation side or a top-four side, just to see where we really stand in the hierarchy of the League. It'll be a good test.
"That's a nice title to have, stingiest defence. But it's not just about defending, it's also about scoring against good teams and scoring quite highly, so we're not just winning by a couple of points."
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Both sides have only lost one game for the season thus far, with Narrm's coming against the rampaging Adelaide a fortnight ago, while North Melbourne lost to Brisbane.
"When we got tested, we shut down on our offence a little bit and lost our connection. It's something that's a really pivotal part of how we win games, our bold offence and how we transition the ball from D50 to our offensive half and scoring quickly," Mithen said.
"Losing that for a large period of the game meant we were on the back foot. You saw in that last quarter we did come back, but we left it all a little bit too late.
"I think our offence … bringing that same level of intensity round the footy, then making the most of our opportunities is something we've definitely worked on in more recent weeks.
"We had a good step forward in that last week against West Coast Eagles, and hopefully we build on that again on Saturday night."