THE RUCK battle between North Melbourne big man Todd Goldstein and Fremantle giant Aaron Sandilands will be crucial to the outcome of Sunday's game at Etihad Stadium, according to Kangaroos coach Brad Scott.
The competition's two best ruckmen will go head-to-head on Sunday, as North Melbourne aims to continue its six-game winning streak.
Goldstein is ranked No.1 in the league for hit-outs, averaging 45 per game, while Sandilands is ranked second with 43.6.
Scott said midfield dominance was the key to getting the four points against the ladder leaders.
"The stoppages are going to be a really important part of the game," Scott said on Saturday morning.
"When you’re playing against the best midfield combination in the competition you’ve got to at least break even in there.
"Fremantle have dominated in tight all year and Sandilands versus Goldstein is going to be critical to the outcome as well as our other midfielders against theirs."
Roos midfielder Ben Jacobs is likely to get the job on Fremantle star and Brownlow favourite Nat Fyfe, although Scott acknowledged that David Mundy and Stephen Hill were also threats in the midfield.
The Kangaroos head into the clash with a 12-7 record, sitting in seventh place on the ladder but just four points outside the top four.
North Melbourne has only beaten two of the seven other sides currently in the top eight, with victories against Richmond and West Coast.
In their last three home and away games, the Roos face Fremantle, Western Bulldogs and Richmond and Scott said it was a chance for his side to see where they were placed heading into finals.
"We get a real test and we'll see exactly where we're at," Scott said.
"All you want in this competition is to be able to get there and be good enough – not get there by default or worry about opposition games. Everything is in our control now so if we get the job done we'll have given ourselves a legitimate opportunity.
"Now we get an absolute genuine test against a side that's proven themselves to be the best team in the comp all year."
Scott said the evenness of the competition this year showed just how tight a finals race it would be in September.
"People have been talking about the possibility of a team making a charge from outside the top four and I think that's a legitimate chance this year," he said.
"If you're a little bit off, and the opposition are good then you can get beaten."
Meanwhile, forward Jarrad Waite says North's fitness staff are to credit for his most consistent season.
The 32-year-old has missed just one match this year and is writing a new chapter in a career previously defined by injuries.
Waite said he has the fitness staff at the Kangaroos to thank.
"It's the leg work," he said.
"I'm strong in the legs, got a great fitness base and it's given me that continuity.
"Different exercises I've been taught, it's helped my back out and other areas of the body.
"They way they managed me here is really really good and I'm in the best shape I've been in for a long, long while."