NORTH Melbourne will be without reigning club champion Ben Cunnington for the second straight week. 

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The star onballer failed to overcome a back injury in time for Sunday's clash with Hawthorn, after also sitting out last week's loss to Sydney with the same issue. 

Paul Ahern, who was initially dropped, earns a reprieve in Cunnington's stead.

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Match Preview: Hawthorn v North Melbourne

Sportsbet's Nathan Brown and Matthew Richardson preview the game between the Hawks and Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium

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The Hawks also swung a change, with Mitch Lewis coming in for his first game of the season in place of fellow key forward Jon Patton (foot). 

Hawthorn football boss Graham Wright said Patton suffered the injury at Saturday's training session. 

Hawk Jonathon Patton launches a shot at goal against Geelong in round two. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

"Jonny's been working hard and learning our systems, so it's unfortunate timing to have a setback, albeit minor," Wright said. 

"He'll train through the week and we're hopeful he'll be available for selection ahead of round five. 

"We're lucky that we have Mitch as a ready replacement. He's, perhaps, been a bit unlucky to not have been selected yet this season.

"We saw last year what he's capable of up forward, and we're confident he'll provide a strong target for us." 

The Hawks also made a late change last week, when Paul Puopolo (calf) came out for Jack Scrimshaw. Puopolo is an emergency for the Roos match.