Alastair Clarkson looks on during the R3 match between North Melbourne and Carlton at Marvel Stadium on March 29, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

ALASTAIR Clarkson can see the headlines already.

A doomsday scenario awaits the loser of the clash between his winless North Melbourne and fellow battlers Hawthorn on Sunday.

But the master coach – a four-time flag-winning mentor at the Hawks before changing his stripes – has his eyes on a bigger picture.

"For the loser it will be mothballs and disastrous and all that sort of stuff. The narrative, you can read it three or four days out," Clarkson told reporters on Friday.

"But for both of our clubs it's all about the exposure to the young guys and where we're going to be in two or three years' time, rather than necessarily where we'll be after the result of Sunday's game."

Clarkson is excited by the prospect of a true litmus test for North Melbourne after a tough start to the season.


The Kangaroos faced three of last year's preliminary finalists over the opening month of the campaign and were then battered to the tune of 75 points by Geelong last week.

"We're disappointed we're 0-5, but probably to the wider footy world there's no great surprise," Clarkson said.

"We've come up against some really, really good sides ... so what we're looking to over the next five or six weeks is playing against some sides that will give us a better indication of where we're at.

"One of those sides is Hawthorn, who are also 0-5 and in the same sort of phase as us with trying to get a lot of time and exposure into their younger players.

"This probably represents our first chance to play against a like-minded side in terms of age profile and experience, so it will be a really good challenge."

Tom Powell looks dejected after North Melbourne's loss to Geelong in round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Bullocking forward Cam Zurhaar is set to return from a calf injury to bolster North's attack, while Clarkson tipped Colby McKercher to play despite being sent to hospital for scans on his ribs last week.

No.2 draft pick McKercher was crunched in a collision with Geelong's Jeremy Cameron but was cleared of significant damage and returned to contact training in recent days.

"He got rattled in a pretty solid collision and it just affected his breathing more than anything, which is a bit frightening for him and us," Clarkson said.

"That's why he needed to get checked, but there's no real structural damage ... that all settled and he was right to go by Tuesday."