NORTH Melbourne is set to explore the lower reaches of its playing list ahead of a likely major end-of-season cleanout after a season-worst loss to Melbourne on Sunday night.
Second-year coach Rhyce Shaw slammed the Kangaroos' performance in the 57-point defeat – which was flattering – and conceded "we're not good enough at the moment".
They've lost eight of their past nine matches, with the only win in that period coming against a winless Adelaide that is in the first season of a major rebuild.
"Our display tonight, for the majority of the game, wasn't acceptable. It's not up to standard, or befitting of our football club," Shaw said post-match.
"I thought the first quarter we had the game on our terms and played a good brand of footy. The pressure was up, we were able to pick apart Melbourne – (but) then we decided to go a different path.
"Melbourne took full advantage of that and it's just not up to standard. It's not acceptable and it's really disappointing."
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Making matters worse, North Melbourne, which has lost more games to injury than any other club this season, resembled the walking wounded by the final siren.
Aiden Bonar (AC joint), Jed Anderson (eye), Josh Walker (corked thigh), Robbie Tarrant (corked calf) and Majak Daw (corked calf) all suffered setbacks and are in doubt to face Brisbane on Saturday.
Ben Brown (knee) missed Sunday's game and isn't certain to return against the Lions, either.
Emerging players Nick Larkey (four goals) and Luke Davies-Uniacke (24 disposals) were among the Roos' few contributors against the Demons and more of the club's youth are likely to be exposed.
"I think with six games to go, we're going to find out a lot about our players and our list," Shaw said.
"We're at that stage now – it's just the reality of it. I don't think I'm saying anything that's going to be a shock to anyone now, but, in saying that, I don't give up.
"That's not me, that's not this football club and that's not what we're about, so … we'll keep fighting and look to produce good football over this period of time, but we'll certainly find out about a few players."
Shaw also admitted he had undergone an intense period of self-reflection during this losing run, in what's the first serious obstacle in his early coaching career.
As for Melbourne, coach Simon Goodwin was thrilled with his side's "maturity" in the absence of leaders Max Gawn (shoulder) and Jack Viney (concussion).
Viney will be fit to face Collingwood in what could be an early elimination final, and the Demons are hopeful Gawn will also be ready to tackle star Magpie Brodie Grundy.
Melbourne's young crop showed plenty, with 2019 draftees Kysaiah Pickett and Luke Jackson – who led the ruck division sans Gawn – impressing, in particular.
Another positive was midfielder Angus Brayshaw (29 disposals), who continues to emerge from his form slump.
"I gave (Brayshaw) added responsibility last week and I thought he stood up last week, and (he had) even more leadership stuff today," Goodwin said.
"He continues to improve and grow his game. He's an outstanding footballer, he's a smart footballer and he continues to get better.
"He's, obviously, much talked about, Angus, but he's also much-loved by us and he's going to be a really strong player for our footy club for a long time."