AARON Hall will have to wait at least another week to continue his push for a senior return, with back spasms to sideline him from North Melbourne's pre-season opener on Friday night.
The ex-Suns ball-winner hasn't been sighted at AFL level since round six last year, after which the Roos dropped him to the VFL.
Hall spent the next five games playing for North's state league side, including twice gathering 30 or more possessions, before taking an indefinite break to focus on his mental health.
He was a solid performer in the Kangaroos' intraclub game on Friday but emerged from that with the back issue.
Mason Wood also developed back soreness out of that match but should face the Western Bulldogs in both clubs' first Marsh Community Series match at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.
Other key North Melbourne footballers set to miss the Dogs clash are Ben Brown (calf), Robbie Tarrant (foot), captain Jack Ziebell (calf), Jared Polec (foot), Luke Davies-Uniacke (groin) and Ben Jacobs (concussion-related symptoms).
Shaun Higgins, who is likely to earn selection for the Victorian team in the State of Origin game on February 28, also won't take on the Bulldogs.
Ziebell and Polec are the only two star Roos racing the clock to be ready for round one but both are confident of being fit.
Polec, who underwent surgery to fix a stress fracture in his left foot while he was at Port Adelaide, recognised early soreness similar to what he's felt previously and has reduced his training loads.
The 27-year-old has missed just one match across the past three seasons and is understood to be aiming to play in North's second Marsh game against Sydney on March 9.
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Friday night's hitout is set to present a significant opportunity for a number of North players to step up.
Nick Larkey will be the go-to man in attack in Brown's absence, while Tarrant being out offers another chance for Majak Daw, Josh Walker, Sam Durdin and Ben McKay as they jostle for defensive spots.
Paul Ahern and Aiden Bonar should also be able to log more midfield minutes, as they did in the intraclub contest, with Higgins, Davies-Uniacke, Polec, Hall and Jacobs not playing.