Alastair Clarkson talks to his players during a North Melbourne training session at Arden Street on March 21, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

NORTH Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson will resist the urge to tag Fremantle ball magnet Caleb Serong - at least initially - as he backs his inexperienced midfielders to stand up in their round two clash.

Serong had a Dockers club-record 46 disposals in last week's upset of Brisbane and looms as a huge threat to the Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.

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But Clarkson is eager to test the likes of George Wardlaw and No.2 draft pick Colby McKercher against Serong and Andrew Brayshaw, who are "three or four years ahead" in their development.

"If you run the tag (on Serong) they sort of dictate play a little bit, so we'll probably start just going head-to-head and see how we go," Clarkson said.

George Wardlaw in action during the R1 match between North Melbourne and GWS at Engie Stadium on March 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"Hopefully our guys can at least acquit themselves pretty well in there, but if it gets out of control we're going to have to put some sort of stamp on him.

"(Serong) had well over 40 touches last week but he's not the only one.

"You can't afford to snooze on (Nat Fyfe) and these guys are outstanding players.

"But we'd like to think that we can cause a little bit of damage ourselves in there if we can get ourselves going."

North suffered a 39-point defeat to GWS in round one but has been bolstered by the return of co-captains Jy Simpkin (concussion) and Luke McDonald (hamstring) from injuries.

Clarkson expects to use the versatile Simpkin on a wing and across half-forward at times as he exposes his less-experienced midfielders.

"We'll probably use him in a number of roles but it's where we can get best bang for buck with the contribution he can make," Clarkson said.

Jy Simpkin at North Melbourne training at Arden Street on March 21, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

"That will depend on whether younger guys like George (Wardlaw) are going OK in the middle of the ground, then we might be able to afford to play Jy more on the periphery."

Wardlaw was one of at least five North Melbourne players "quarantined" this week after illness swept through the club.

The group trained away from their Kangaroos teammates on Thursday but have all been cleared to play against Fremantle.

Simpkin and McDonald return in place of veteran Liam Shiels (dropped) and unlucky youngster Josh Goater, who has been sidelined for the rest of the season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon.


The Dockers have made four changes to their side, recalling Matt Taberner, Brandon Walker and Jaeger O'Meara.

Key defender Josh Draper will debut, while Brennan Cox (hamstring), Oscar McDonald (knee) and Karl Worner (concussion) are out injured and Neil Erasmus was dropped.

North will honour Denis Pagan by renaming the southern end of Marvel Stadium after the former player and two-time premiership coach this season.

Denis Pagan looks on at Marvel Stadium on March 22, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos