WHERE: Visy Park,
WHEN: Sunday March 18, 1pm AEST
The final game of the pre-season competition sees Carlton face North Melbourne in a contest which will see two sides desperate to take the next step in 2012.
For North Melbourne, anything but a finals appearance will be viewed as a disappointment. The form of Daniel Wells, Brent Harvey and Drew Petrie in 2011 gives the Kangaroos the building blocks for a successful September stint, and with their young stars gaining another year of experience, they appear primed for the top eight.
Carlton, on the other hand, will be looking to cement a spot in the top four and have a serious attempt at the flag in 2012.
No longer does this side rely solely upon Chris Judd – Marc Murphy, Heath Scotland, Bryce Gibbs and Kade Simpson have proved themselves as legitimate game-winning midfield options, and with several goal kicking targets, Carlton should be contending for the premiership.
Although the Kangaroos have shown promising signs throughout the NAB Cup, Carlton would be concerned having lost every contest thus far. Being the last match of the pre-season, Carlton would love to get a win to kick-start their 2012 campaign.
Daniel Wells, North Melbourne: Last week saw the return of 2011’s Best and Fairest Daniel Wells after a lengthy lay-off due to a life threatening illness.
Wells was subbed on in the second-half against the Bulldogs and had an immediate impact, finding 11 possessions – including a supergoal – in a strong display. North Melbourne needs Wells to be fit and firing, and so his minutes in the last match will be closely monitored.
Chris Judd, Carlton: The two-time Brownlow medallist also returned last week, but found proceedings a little more difficult as the Blues were thumped by Brisbane by 64 points.
The Blues failed to score in the second-half and as captain, Judd will be looking to lift his side this week. He did look rusty against the Lions, so expect Judd to look better this week as he returns to the weekly routine of AFL footy.
Hamish Macintosh, North Melbourne: Macintosh’s injury-plagued 2011 came as a blessing in disguise for the Kangaroos, as it allowed Dean Goldstein to flourish as the side’s number one ruckman.
A fit Macintosh gives the Kangaroos flexibility through the middle of the ground, a huge asset for the clearances and a resting ruckman up forward can only help Petrie handle defenders.
Matthew Kreuzer, Carlton: Another big man who had injury problems in 2011 and is looking to get back to his best. Possessing a rare combination of height and speed, Kreuzer is undeniably vital to the structure of the Blues. If Carlton is struggling, it is likely Kreuzer will be moved around the ground in order to solve the problems, as he has proven himself comfortable in several positions.
What Carlton Want to See:
Although there is much debate over the meaning of the NAB Cup results, Carlton will be looking to see a much more committed effort from all players. It is always a concern when you’re held scoreless for a half, so there are definite issues coach Brett Ratten needs to address.
Carlton will publicly state that the losses are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, and whilst that may be the case, they would love a win here just to ease the pressure coming into the season.
The stars get another chance to prepare for round one, and after Judd’s shaky start last week you would expect him to be champing at the bit to get the first strong performance of 2012 out of the way.
With this the last chance for an inconsequential match, you would expect Ratten to select a line-up close to their expected 22 for round one and any fringe players selected will be using this as a chance to consolidate their spots.
What North Melbourne Want to See:
North Melbourne’s pre-season has been relatively successful, so one expects that they will just be hoping to get through the contest without any injuries to any of their key players.
Wells will likely see more game time than last week as he gets himself closer to full fitness, and like Carlton, North Melbourne will be playing a strong side in order to fully prepare their list for the premiership season.
The Kangaroos will specifically be looking for the younger players like Shaun Atley, Ryan Bastinac and Ben Cunnington to continually improve and provide further support to their captain Andrew Swallow and the ageless Harvey as they head into season 2012.
On paper, Carlton seems like the stronger side, but that is largely irrelevant in the pre-season competition as history indicates.
Expect the Kangaroos to be competitive right until the end, but Carlton appears to have the edge.
Carlton by 9 points.
2. Jordan Russell, 3. Marc Murphy, 4. Bryce Gibbs, 5. Chris Judd, 6. Kade Simpson, 8. Matthew Kreuzer, 9. Kane Lucas, 10. Matthew Watson, 12. Mitch Robinson, 13. Chris Yarran, 14. Brock McLean, 18. Paul Bower, 19. Eddie Betts, 22. Shaun Hampson, 23. Lachie Henderson, 27. Dennis Armfield, 29. Heath Scotland, 30. Jarrad Waite, 31. Marcus Davies, 32. Bret Thornton, 35. Ed Curnow, 38. Jeffrey Garlett, 42. Zach Tuohy, 44. Andrew Carrazzo, 45. Aaron Joseph
1. Hamish McIntosh, 3. Ryan Bastinac, 4. Liam Anthony, 6. Lachie Hansen, 8. Daniel Wells, 9. Andrew Swallow, 10. Ben Cunnington, 11. Michael Firrito, 12. Lindsay Thomas, 13. Leigh Adams, 16. Scott Thompson, 18. Shaun Atley, 19. Sam Wright, 20. Drew Petrie, 22. Todd Goldstein, 23. Kieran Harper, 25. Robbie Tarrant, 27. Aaron Edwards, 29. Brent Harvey, 31. Cameron Delaney, 33. Matt Campbell, 34. Jamie Macmillan, 41. Aaron Mullett, 42. Scott McMahon, 43. Sam Gibson
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