BRAD Scott believes North Melbourne's defence will be better equipped to handle whatever is thrown at it this season, following the development of tall backmen Robbie Tarrant and Joel Tippett.
The Roos went in with an undermanned defence against round one opponent Adelaide in last Saturday's 10-point NAB Challenge loss in Port Lincoln.
But despite All Australian Scott Thompson (knee), Lachlan Hansen (hips), Nathan Grima (back) and Michael Firrito being out of the side, the Roos held Crows spearhead Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins and James Podsiadly to a solitary major.
"It gives me confidence as to the number of options we've got," Scott said.
"We'll certainly filter players back in over the next couple of weeks – Thompson, Firrito, Hansen. That means we've got a variety of players that can play and that's all a coach wants is to be able to cover what the opposition throw at you.
"We've still definitely got work to do, but the options are starting to spread a little bit."
Hansen had surgery on both hips this off-season and is in a race against time to be available by round one.
"He's going well. I mean, he's a little bit frustrated because he's been held back. We tend to be aggressive in-season in terms of trying to get players back, but very conservative in the off-season," Scott said.
"So we're just conservatively managing him at the moment, but I think he's on track."
The Roos made eight changes to the side to face the Hawks – notably bringing in skipper Andrew Swallow, ruckman Todd Goldstein, key forward Aaron Black, Thompson and Firrito.
Nick Dal Santo and recruit Shaun Higgins, who booted three goals in an impressive display against the Crows, are among those left out.
"We've got to get game time into everyone, so it's a mixture of balancing overall game time for all our list," Scott said.
"Looking at some young players, looking at players who didn't play a lot of footy last year for us, and also trying to work on some things we've been practicing in the pre-season.
"We were very rusty (last weekend) but we made a very conscious decision as a coaching group that we wouldn't play any intra-club matches.
"We just feel like it's a risk we're not prepared to take when we don't feel like we get full competitive match practice out of it anyway.
"So we probably played early like we expected, but by the end of the game we certainly looked to hit our straps a bit better.
"We'll need to put in a better performance this weekend against a really good side."
Scott, who confirmed Higgins and ex-Blue Jarrad Waite were "ready to play now" and would be managed before round one, also weighed into the debate about the length of pre-seasons following season-ending knee injuries to Tom Liberatore (Western Bulldogs) and Eric Mackenzie (West Coast).
"All I now is that if we didn't have a pre-season and we didn't have pre-season games, round one would have been last week and two guys would have had ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments," he said.
"Then everyone would have been in an uproar saying we need to have pre-season games.
"So, good luck, whatever happens, someone's always got an answer."