Alastair Clarkson before the match between St Kilda and North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium in round eight, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

NORTH Melbourne won't have any extra motivation to beat Essendon recruits Ben McKay and Todd Goldstein when the Roos face their former teammates for the first time, coach Alastair Clarkson says.

McKay and Goldstein joined Essendon via free agency over the off-season and have been crucial to the Bombers' rise this year.

When asked if that added extra motivation to Sunday's clash at Marvel Stadium, Clarkson said: "No, no, not really.

"Both of them effectively took advantage of the free agency they were both entitled to and right to this point, their decisions have been really, really good ones.

"We're really pleased for both those lads, they made contributions at our footy club and they did the professional thing in a sense, and that's assess their careers, took advantage of the free agency clause that's available to them and opted to go to another club.

"So whilst we'll be competitors tomorrow, they've been great servants of our footy club and we wish them well."

Ben McKay and Todd Goldstein sing the team song after the match between Essendon and Hawthorn at the MCG in round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Clarkson won't lean into the rivalry between 18th-placed North and third-placed Essendon.

"Perhaps you would if the two sides were really a lot closer on the ladder," he said.

"But we want to be strong competitors against any opposition that we play and I don't think there's anything that's in this game that will needle our players to perform any better than what they've been trying over the last nine rounds.

"So yeah, there might be a little bit in it. But we're not going to be driving it too much."

After being named in the extended squad on Thursday night, the Kangaroos confirmed co-captain Jy Simpkin won't play after failing to fully recover from a quad complaint that kept him out of last weekend's trip to Darwin to play Gold Coast, while an ankle injury has ruled young defender Jackson Archer.

"He's got a really low-grade strain in a deep muscle in the quad," Clarkson said of Simpkin.

"It doesn't stop you from being able to run and do most things but to kick full length is the concern for him.

"We've got a bye coming up, so that's also in our mind with young (Colby) McKercher as well, he's got a bit of stress in his foot and he's got a history with that from last year. So we just don't want to take a risk with that.

"We'll just see how he is as well, but with two games before the bye we'll probably look at both he and Jy - if they're no certainty, we'll just hopefully get them right for the second half of the year."

Colby McKercher in action during North Melbourne's clash against St Kilda in round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

After playing higher up the ground recently, Harry Sheezel is likely to return to half-back to replace McKercher.

Wil Dawson and Eddie Ford have been added to the Kangaroos' extended squad to replace Simpkin and Archer.

Still searching for a breakthrough win in 2024, Clarkson says the Kangaroos are hoping to recruit senior players from other clubs to bolster their youthful list but has also lamented the League's "very constrained, regulated" player movement system.

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan notably recruited ex-Hawks Luke Hodge and Grant Birchall to help direct their younger players, while Melbourne turned to the likes of Bernie Vince, Chris Dawes, Daniel Cross, Jordan Lewis and Dom Tyson to add experience and big bodies to their list before their current stars broke through.


Sydney's Luke Parker and Essendon's Dylan Shiel were used as examples of senior players currently unable to break into high-flying teams.

When asked if he would be interested in attracting those types of senior players, Clarkson said: "Yeah, I think so.

"We've seen that model before, particularly at Brisbane. Fages did that with Hodgey and Grant Birchall. 

"And we need that sort of leadership and direction too that will assist us as well ... that bracket of probably 25-to-30-year-olds in our club is probably a little bit less than the depth in that area at other clubs. So we'll look at that.

"But they need to be the right fit. We need to feel like they can come in and make a contribution on field. It's not just bringing them in because they're good fellas, or historically they've been good leaders at their previous clubs. 

"But we'll look at any mechanism possible that can help fast-track these players through our system."