NORTH Melbourne coach David Noble has launched a staunch backing of the club's ability to retain the Good Friday game, calling on the AFL to once again make the occasion a standalone fixture.
For the second straight time, the Kangaroos will share Good Friday with a later match, with Adelaide to face Gold Coast in a double-header on the public holiday that begins the Easter weekend.
West Coast also hosted Port Adelaide after North Melbourne's last Good Friday fixture in 2019, before the match was unfortunately cancelled last year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
A rebuilding Kangaroos side enters Friday's clash with the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium following a winless start to the season and is coming off a demoralising defeat to the Suns last Saturday night.
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However, despite the club's on-field position as it begins a new era under first-year coach Noble, North Melbourne hopes the game will soon return to being a standalone fixture as it was created as in 2017.
"We'd have to work with the AFL," Noble said.
"The club does a lot of work in the back-end, because it's such a significant and important game and the message is great in regard to financially supporting families who have got children that are unwell. We would have to go back to the AFL and say that we'd like to have this game on our own.
"We understand that if we were playing better, or if we were in a better position, that gives you more bargaining power. It gives you the ability to negotiate harder with the AFL. I don't think that should (be the case).
"If you go back to the start of the season, it's Carlton against Richmond. A few years ago, the Blues were struggling a bit. But it didn't move. I'm not sure why that narrative is now just focused on us because we've got a young group coming through.
"It's great exposure for our young guys, to have that opportunity to play in those types of games."
Former Brisbane champion Jonathan Brown led the calls for the AFL to reconsider whether North Melbourne retains the Good Friday fixture, saying on Monday that the club must "earn the right" to keep the contest or risk being "banished" from the day.
It's a sentiment the Kangaroos coach doesn't agree with, saying the clash holds as much weight as Showdowns and Q-Clashes held during his former stints with both Adelaide and Brisbane.
"I don't understand them," Noble said.
"The club fought really hard to get that. It's now not a standalone game, as it was when it was initially established. If that's the case, then all marquee games should be opened up … Anzac Day, Good Friday, Dreamtime.
"If you're going to just single out us, then I think that's unfair. I've heard some of the reports in the media. But we cherish this game, we respect this game and we'll fight to keep this game."
North Melbourne will regain experienced midfielder Ben Cunnington from concussion for Friday's clash with the Bulldogs, while Kyron Hayden (hamstring) and Jack Mahony (ankle) are also expected to feature.
The club will also hand an AFL debut to last year's No.3 draft pick Will Phillips, with the midfielder performing strongly in his first full VFL practice match against Casey over the weekend.
It's going to be a very Good Friday for our number 29 ?? pic.twitter.com/TbTzFdRn8F— North Melbourne (@NMFCOfficial) March 31, 2021
North Melbourne will continue its strong support for the Royal Children's Hospital's Good Friday Appeal this week, with the playing group to donate a further $50 to the appeal for every Kangaroos membership sold before the 4.20pm AEDT bounce.