NORTH Melbourne will be sweating on the fitness of experienced stars Jed Anderson and Todd Goldstein, after both failed to finish a bruising intraclub match at Arden Street on Friday afternoon.
Anderson limped from the field in the game's opening stages with a calf injury and never returned, while Goldstein hobbled off clutching his ribs in the third quarter after being crunched in a heavy contest.
Both will likely head for scans to determine the extent of the injuries, with a round one clash against Port Adelaide at Marvel Stadium just 30 days away.
The respective blows came as gun new recruit Jaidyn Stephenson starred in a new inside midfield role, producing an impressive performance in front of his former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley.
Buckley was an interested onlooker during the gruelling hitout, watching with a throng of Magpie officials that also included list manager Ned Guy, recruiting manager Derek Hine and assistant coach Robert Harvey.
Stephenson played predominantly through the midfield in the sweltering 34-degree conditions, joining a promising young onball group that also featured Luke Davies-Uniacke, Jy Simpkin and Tarryn Thomas.
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Diminutive youngster Charlie Lazzaro was also one of the game's standouts, angling for a surprise early-season debut after starting alongside the aforementioned midfield group in a significantly stronger 'white' team.
Lazzaro won plenty of the footy and was clean with his skills, with fellow first-year midfielder Tom Powell also joining his teammate in the stronger side. Last year's No.3 pick, midfielder Will Phillips, was on the weaker 'blue' team.
Jack Ziebell impressed in his new role across half-back, taking plenty of intercept marks and rebounding with his penetrating right-foot having played as the third defensive tall alongside Aidan Corr and Robbie Tarrant.
Q2 ?— North Melbourne (@NMFCOfficial) February 19, 2021
Davies-Uniacke, Stephenson, Ford, Ziebell, and McKay among the best in the first half. pic.twitter.com/m6IZVB1l4c
The Kangaroos had started the match with two ruckmen in the stronger 'white' side, with Goldstein spending extended periods forward before his injury as Tom Campbell shouldered the brunt of the ruck load.
Davies-Uniacke also spent large stints playing out of the goalsquare, using his strong frame to act as a dangerous deep target, with Stephenson then managing to hit the scoreboard late in the game as he rotated out of the midfield.
Cam Zurhaar was the pick of the forwards in a lively performance to finish with four goals, while small forward Phoenix Spicer was also exciting and provided plenty of forward pressure through his repeat efforts in the 'blue' team.
New recruit Atu Bosenavulagi played across half-back for the weaker side but was held relatively quiet, with the Kangaroos managing to get most of their senior squad on the park for the tune-up.
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Ben Cunnington was one of few absentees as he continues his return from concussion, with Taylor Garner, Jared Polec, Aiden Bonar, Trent Dumont and Charlie Comben also still recovering from respective injury setbacks.
North Melbourne continues its preparations for round one with a practice match against St Kilda next Thursday, before meeting Hawthorn in the AAMI Community Series on March 6.