SHAUN Atley's long-touted move into North Melbourne's midfield finally looks likely to happen this season.
Atley has been a mainstay of North's defence since his second season, 2012, with the Roos utilising his explosive speed for rebound and to quell dangerous opposition small forwards.
The former Murray Bushranger spent considerable time in the midfield during his junior days, prompting speculation over recent years that his AFL future ultimately lied there.
As Atley prepares for his seventh season, that mooted move looks set to become a reality.
The 24-year-old has trained with the Kangaroos' midfield group for most of this pre-season and impressed on a wing in full-ground match practice at Arden St on Monday.
North's defence looks well placed to cope if Atley moves up the ground. Former Magpie small defender Marley Williams has enjoyed a strong first pre-season with the Roos, while medium backmen Ed Vickers-Willis and Mitch Hibberd are expected to press hard for regular senior opportunities in 2017.
The Kangaroos can also call on experienced backmen Luke McDonald, Jamie Macmillan, Sam Wright and Aaron Mullett, meaning competition for spots among North's small and medium defenders is set to be fierce.
The Roos trained for nearly three hours on Monday, with players rotating between skills work and interval running after completing their match practice.
Former Western Bulldog Nathan Hrovat was lively in attack during game simulation and looks a strong chance to make his North debut in round one against West Coast.
Although he was competing against category B rookie Tom Jeffries in the absence of No.1 ruckman Todd Goldstein, Braydon Preuss impressed in the ruck.
Preuss finished the 2016 VFL season in strong form and has carried that momentum into the pre-season, with the 206cm Queenslander keeping Goldstein honest on the training track this summer.
Third-year tall Sam Durdin looked composed in defence on Monday and has taken significant strides this summer as he eyes a senior debut.
Others to impress in match practice included new captain Jack Ziebell, Shaun Higgins, Kayne Turner, Mason Wood, Lindsay Thomas and Ryan Clarke.
First-year key defender Declan Watson was handed the tough job on veteran spearhead Jarrad Waite and competed hard.
Scott Thompson, Goldstein, Macmillan, Wright, Majak Daw, Ben Brown, Ben Jacobs, Ben McKay and Taylor Garner were among those who trained away from North's main group on Monday.
Mason Wood has looked sharp this morning pic.twitter.com/04gtUdNwMN— Nick Bowen (@Nick_Bowen) January 23, 2017