NORTH Melbourne is hopeful of slowly integrating gun youngster Jacob Edwards into its VFL program later this year, after the No.1 pick at the recent NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft arrived at the club earlier this week.
Edwards, who is still just 18 years of age and is completing his year 12 education at Mentone Grammar, was finally welcomed to Arden Street for the first time on Monday as he enjoys school holidays.
He will spend the next three weeks at the club before returning to school, with the Kangaroos set to put the 202cm ruck-forward through a series of physical tests to determine his readiness to play at the next level.
North Melbourne will continue to prioritise Edwards' education for the remainder of the year, but remains hopeful he can get some VFL minutes under his belt having signed an 18-month contract when he arrived at the club.
There, he could join fellow mid-season draftee Charlie Ham, who made his debut for the Kangaroos' VFL team in its victory over Coburg last Saturday and finished with 11 disposals and five marks.
"First of all, there's a fair bit of assessment that we need to go through … where his body is, the technical pieces of what his core strength looks like, what he's like in the gym and his fitness levels," North Melbourne coach David Noble said of Edwards.
"We've been doing some work internally this week. We've been able to get him into the club, which has been hugely exciting … to see him sitting in the front row of the meetings with Charlie Ham.
"As a result of what those levels are, we'll then just take it fairly quietly with him. We've committed to his school, and that's fine, so we'll continue to obligate that.
"At the same time, if and when we can – and when it's appropriate and if he's at the right level – then we'd love to get him into our VFL structure."
North Melbourne is set to be further bolstered by the impending return of experienced duo Jared Polec and Jed Anderson, who will both make their comebacks from long-term injuries through the VFL over the next fortnight.
Polec will line up for the reserves side in its clash against Werribee on Saturday after three months out with a hamstring problem, while Anderson is likely to play a half of VFL football next week having also been sidelined for three months with an ankle injury.
Promising young key-position player Charlie Comben is also on the cusp of a long-awaited comeback, with the club revealing earlier this week that the 199cm teenager is around a month away from returning from a tibial stress fracture in his leg sustained in January.
However, the Kangaroos have warned that no senior players will be gifted opportunity following injury and must instead fight their way back into an improving side through the VFL.
"Part of it is going to be form," Noble said.
"I think we're at a point where we're not just going to throw our senior guys back in because they're there. They'll still need to deliver some performance at VFL level. The VFL guys had a really good performance last week, getting up against Coburg.
"There's some internal pressure now building on selection, which is what you need. I think that's something that we missed a bit earlier in the year.
"Certainly, if Jared plays really well this week then he'll come into contention because he's an experienced campaigner. At the same time, if guys in his spot are playing well then it's hard to just automatically shift them out.
"All of our guys are pretty clear that they're going to have to fight for their spots."