BRAYDON Preuss says his partnership with Todd Goldstein remains a work in progress, but the North Melbourne ruck revelation believes they have complementary skill sets that can be deployed against opponents on a horses-for-courses basis.
After spending 2015 and 2016 on North's rookie list, Preuss' development this year has taken North and the 206cm Queenslander, himself, by surprise.
The 21-year-old was one of the standouts in the Roos' JLT Community Series campaign, playing all three games and impressing with three goals in the win against Hawthorn.
And after a quiet debut in round one against the Eagles – and a selection reprieve when Goldstein was a late withdrawal from the round two game against Geelong – Preuss has continued to make waves with his robust attack on the contest and opponents.
Playing as North's No.1 ruckman against the Cats, Preuss had 46 hit-outs to a combined 21 from Geelong big men Rhys Stanley and Mark Blicavs.
When Goldstein returned from an ankle injury last round against Greater Western Sydney, Preuss again shouldered most of the Roos' ruck load.
In a hard-fought battle against seasoned Giant Shane Mumford, Preuss was one of North's best players with 16 possessions, seven marks (four contested), 26 hit-outs and two goals, while Goldstein was relatively quiet in attack with 12 possessions, 10 hit-outs and a goal.
Preuss' rapid improvement could present some selection dilemmas for North this season, with both him and Goldstein clearly more at home in the ruck than attack.
But Preuss is confident the fledgling ruck partnership can flourish in time – and sooner rather than later.
"The good thing with us is that we're very different types of ruckmen. Goldy is more that athletic type and I'm just more of a big body," Preuss says.
"So we can probably change (who spends most of the game in the ruck) depending on our opponent.
"There will be opponents Todd is more suited to and there will be opponents I'm perhaps more suited to.
"We're still trying to learn how to change on the field. We tried it a bit in the JLT, which worked pretty well and I reckon every game we're playing together we're just getting better at it."
Preuss has relished the opportunity to train alongside Goldstein in the two-and-a-half years he's been at Arden Street, saying the 2015 All Australian ruckman had shown him how much he needed to improve his running – something he concedes remains a focus.
Now Preuss is enjoying playing alongside Goldstein just as much.
"It's awesome. Every time I run around with him it makes me a bit calmer," he says.
"If I was just running around by myself I would be a bit jittery, but having him there helps me. It's 10 times easier with him in the side."
Preuss is still getting his head around his sudden emergence at Arden Street, saying at the start of the year he would have been happy to play one game in the first half of the season.
Asked if he had changed anything in his preparation or approach to games in the lead-up to 2017, Preuss identified his marking.
"I've just been having a crack at my marks. I'm probably just jumping at it a bit more, using my height, instead of just trying to wrestle all the time," he says.
As impressive as his past two games have been, Preuss knows that to cement a regular senior spot he will have to prove he can have an impact when Goldstein is in the ruck and he is stationed inside North's forward 50.
"In the AFL these days you need to be able to play multiple positions and I think Goldy and I can both do that," Preuss says.
"We've got to do it week in week out and be consistent with it.
"But that's the good thing about two ruckmen – if one's not having much of an impact on the day, the other one can."