NORTH Melbourne has defended out-of-form key forward Ben Brown as the Kangaroos spearhead's struggles continued against Essendon.
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Brown kicked one goal from eight disposals in the Roos' 14-point loss to the Bombers at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night, seeing his tally sit at seven goals from six appearances so far this year.
It's a significant drop-off from his career-best 64-goal season last year, and points to the issues the Roos are having inside 50. Coach Rhyce Shaw backed in the out-of-contract 27-year-old to turn things around.
"We're doing a lot of work and tonight was a really good example of that, but we're just not getting the reward yet," Shaw said post-game.
"But if we continue to do that we'll get those rewards as we go, and I was really pleased with the guys' efforts again.
"'Browny' in particular again competed and tried really hard but we just didn't get the result."
After a promising start to the season which saw the Roos claim wins in the opening two rounds, the loss to the Bombers was North Melbourne's fourth in a row. The Kangaroos have averaged seven goals in those four losses and Shaw said the scoring problem was a whole team issue.
"Our delivery in there isn't great at the moment," Shaw said.
"We won the inside 50s again (47 to 43) so we're giving ourselves a chance, it's just that we need to make the most of those chances and also go in a bit cleaner as well. That will help our forwards."
Shaw said young forward Curtis Taylor had cleared a concussion test and was fine after the game following being crunched by Essendon midfielder Dylan Shiel with a heavy bump.
The Match Review Officer is set to assess the incident, after Shiel made high contact that floored last week's NAB AFL Rising Star nominee. Essendon coach John Worsfold didn't comment on his star ball-getter's bump.
It was an otherwise strong performance from the Bombers, who overcame the absence of key goalkickers Jake Stringer (ankle) and Joe Daniher (groin) to outclass the Roos in the midfield battle.
The win lifted Essendon into the top four on the ladder despite having a game in hand after their clash with Melbourne was postponed last month.
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Worsfold heaped praise on emerging star Andrew McGrath, who was close to best afield with 25 disposals and eight tackles as he continued his excellent season.
"He's playing his role for the team and we're certainly happy with how he's developing," he said.
"He obviously started as a defender in his first year and then played a fair bit of wing time in the next year or so and now as an inside midfielder he's grabbed the role really quickly and is having a big impact for us."