JAIDYN Stephenson has made his case for a senior return but North Melbourne coach David Noble says the VFL's standard made it difficult for the dasher to show he'd lifted his intensity and pressure.
Former Magpie Stephenson has been dropped twice this season, with the Kangaroos keen to see more intensity from the speedster.
Stephenson impressed with 24 disposals, five tackles and four clearances in the VFL on the weekend while being tagged and is in the frame to face Gold Coast in Darwin.
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But Noble indicated the "awkward" standard of the VFL made it hard for Stephenson to prove he'd lifted where the Kangaroos required.
"He did (manage to bring intensity) to a degree," Noble said.
"It's difficult to generate that intensity and pressure at times with VFL, the standard is difficult and awkward at times.
"We saw a fair bit of his run from back to forward through the midfield, so he's certainly put himself back in contention."
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The Kangaroos expect to welcome back key defender Ben McKay from a knee injury, but may have to go small considering Darwin's humid conditions, as well as needing to replace forward dynamo Cam Zurhaar (foot) who is out for at least two weeks.
Callum Coleman-Jones' poorly-timed quad injury and Charlie Comben's knee surgery, which rules him out for six weeks, limit the Kangaroos' tall options.
"With the game being a bit slippery, it might allow us to go a bit smaller up there," Noble said.
"Cam (Zurhaar) is a good ground-level player, but it's unlikely for us to bring another tall in, so we'll have to reshape the forward end."
Noble put the onus on his midfielders to deliver against the Suns.
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"Our mids have got to go to work. That's where the game starts and restarts," he said.
"You'd like to think that's where we can get a bit of an advantage, not overuse the ball, it's going to be slippery, be a bit more direct with it."