NORTH Melbourne will enter round one with supreme confidence after a polished performance against a full-strength Richmond in Saturday's NAB Challenge clash at Etihad Stadium.

The Kangaroos, who also took close to their best team into their final pre-season hit-out, led from start to finish and controlled the match for long periods, winning by 14 points. 

The only hiccup for the 2014 preliminary finalists was a head knock to Jack Ziebell, who left the ground on a stretcher after an accidental collision with Tiger Alex Rance in the second quarter.

Roos to tackle Jack's attack

The courageous Kangaroo took no further part in the match but returned to the bench in the second half, and his place in the round one side to take on Adelaide does not appear in any doubt.

Richmond captain Trent Cotchin returned from hamstring soreness to play his first pre-season game and the midfielder's class was on display for three quarters before he was substituted as planned.

The 24-year-old finished with 20 possessions (14 contested) and eight clearances in an ideal hit-out before the Tigers' round one clash against Carlton on April 2.     

Brad Scott was pleased with the way North Melbourne's pre-season finished, but said his players had been distracted by the prospect of round one at times on Saturday.

"I think there was a little bit where our guys ... you're thinking two weeks ahead for sure," Scott said.

"There was an element of looking at the scoreboard, seeing you're 40-odd points in front, so let's just do what we've got to do.

"But we reset at half-time and I was pleased with the response."

After beating Hawthorn by 13 points in their second NAB Challenge match, North Melbourne would be pleased with the way it's pre-season has been built.

There was plenty of feeling in Saturday's clash and the Kangaroos certainly weren't handed the win, with Richmond mounting a late fightback as a small delegation of the Tiger army found their voice.  

Under an adjusted roof, which was half closed to control glare, the Kangaroos built a 38-point lead in the second quarter, catching the Tigers' backline off guard with their rapid transition.

Ruckman Todd Goldstein (29 hit-outs) gave them a handy advantage in the middle, taking the points against Ivan Maric and allowing midfielders Daniel Wells (26 possessions), Andrew Swallow (22 and five clearances) and Ben Cunnington (21 and five) to shine. 

Recruit Shaun Higgins impressed and provided a highlight when he took on Kamdyn McIntosh across half-forward and burst away to kick a super-goal, finishing with three goals.  

Star Tiger Dustin Martin ran out the match in outstanding style, finishing with 28 possessions and a goal as the Tigers' best player. 

Coach Damien Hardwick said the match had been an ideal hit-out for his team, despite the result.

"Overall it is a tick … if you take the scoreboard out of it, a lot of our KPIs were green," he said.

"Obviously Port Adelaide put in an undermanned squad and that was a game that was pretty much on our terms the whole way.

"But this was a game that was round one intensity. It was a high quality game and I was really happy with what we got out of it."


Richmond: Ben Griffiths is the Tigers' best option as a second tall forward in round one. The 200cm Tiger had 10 possessions in the first half and was constantly involved, but he faded to finish with 1.3. Still, he looks in outstanding condition after a strong pre-season and overshadowed teammate Ty Vickery, who had just two possessions in the first half and finished with four touches and 0.1.  

North Melbourne: Defender Joel Tippett is ready to give North Melbourne the tall reinforcements it needs to take the next step in 2015. After piling on 6kg in the off-season, Tippett looks a new player and he spent long periods on Ty Vickery, holding him goalless.


Richmond: Mature-age rookie Kane Lambert probably didn't do enough to lock down a round one berth, failing to win a possession in the opening term. The midfielder, who has played every pre-season game, was often rushed when he won the ball, finishing with 10 touches and a goal. Former Cat Taylor Hunt (11 possessions)also finished an impressive pre-season in quiet fashion, but still looks likely to line up in the seniors for the season opener against Carlton. 

North Melbourne: Free agency recruit Shaun Higgins was the only new face, returning to the team and kicking three goals in a half-forward role. The former Bulldog looks fit and won plenty of hard ball to complement his outside game, racking up eight contested possessions. 

 Jack Ziebell was down and out against the Tigers but looks to be OK for round one.  Picture: AFL Media

RICHMOND:                                 1.2.2   2.6.8   2.9.12   2.12.16 (106)
NORTH MELBOURNE:                3.4.3   3.8.4   3.12.6   3.13.15 (120)


Richmond: Deledio, Martin   
North Melbourne: Swallow, Higgins, Ziebell,  


Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Martin, Ellis, Edwards, McIntosh, Griffiths, Lambert, Morris, Lloyd   
North Melbourne: Thomas 3, Harvey 2, Higgins 2, Brown 2, Wood 2, Cunnington, Petrie


Richmond: Martin, Cotchin, Deledio, Houli, Riewoldt, McIntosh
North Melbourne: Wells, Goldstein, Higgins, Harvey, Swallow, Cunnington


Richmond: Nil
North Melbourne: Ziebell (concussion)


Richmond: Jake Batchelor replaced Dylan Grimes at half-time; Sam Lloyd replaced Trent Cotchin at three-quarter time
North Melbourne: Sam Gibson replaced Jack Ziebell in the second quarter; Robbie Tarrant replaced Jamie MacMillan in the third quarter

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Armstrong, Chamberlain, Dalgleish, O'Gorman

Official crowd: 9327 at Etihad Stadium