BRISBANE is on red alert for North Melbourne's three-pronged tall forward line, but coach Chris Fagan says he has the men that can control the Kangaroos' trio on Sunday.
Ben Brown (33 goals), Jarrad Waite (22) and Mason Wood (10 in four matches) have been a huge reason for North's 6-4 win-loss record, taking full advantage of their team's strong midfield play.
But when the sides square off at Etihad Stadium, the Lions have defenders in fine form of their own, led by vice-captain Harris Andrews and rugged stopper Darcy Gardiner, both of whom Fagan says are having career years.
Andrews is fresh off an AFL-record 23 spoils against Sydney, while Gardiner kept Lance Franklin to one goal.
"They look forward to the challenges of playing on the good forwards," Fagan said.
"How well they can do their jobs depends very much on the assistance of their teammates.
"Those forwards are the responsibility of their individual opponent to a degree, but how well you do it depends on how well your team defends up the field and can make delivery inside 50 difficult."
Fagan said there was a number of factors why Gardiner had improved so much this season.
Before keeping Franklin quiet, the 22-year-old also lowered the colours of Jeremy Cameron.
"I just think he's into his fifth year of AFL footy and starting to believe he can play these guys and do a good job, and he's got some evidence of that now," Fagan said of Gardiner.
"He's improved his overall discipline.
"Early days his mind would wander a bit and he'd get a bit annoyed about things that would happen on the field.
"I think his self-control and confidence have got better."
Matt Eagles' unavailability through injury means the Lions will have to add a third tall to their mix, with Josh Walker the most likely option from the 26-man squad.