Top Eight Await Victor

WHERE AND WHEN: Etihad Stadium, Friday July 13, 7.50pm
LAST TIME: Carlton 11.14 (80) d North Melbourne 9.8 (62), round 19, 2011 at Etihad Stadium

One of the great aspects of football is how quickly a team can change its fortunes, and tonight, Carlton and North Melbourne will battle against one another in a semi-elimination contest for the last spot in the final eight.

They will be battling against several other clubs in what will become a test of attrition, of course, but when you consider how precariously the respective seasons of these two clubs were placed only a few weeks ago, it’s a remarkable achievement.

Carlton were gone and were simply making up numbers in the bottom half of the ladder. A successful start to the year had been squandered after crucial and a disastrous lack of form.

To be honest, both sides exhibited the signs that to the average viewer sitting at home would signal ageing sides on the slide – their stars’ output had declined, there were too few avenues to goal and a midfield that looked a one-paced.

The previous few weeks have begun to make those assumptions look a little like myths.

Carlton’s victory last week remarkably made it two from two against premiership fancies Collingwood – who had won 10 games on the trot but question marks undeniably still remain due to the poor form shown by the Navy Blues for the six weeks prior.

The Kangaroos have successfully emerged from the rut that saw the ability of their youngsters questioned. They’ve comfortably accounted for two favoured opponents in Adelaide and St Kilda, and can probably feel aggrieved after a narrow loss to the Eagles.

Considering these two sides are locked on seven wins, it’s do or die tonight. A win will set up the side for a real crack at September footy, whilst a loss could doom the team to an off-season filled with regret.

Key Players

Drew Petrie – In many ways, he is the barometer of the side – if he’s up and about, there is not much defenders can do to stop him.

His presence allows other forwards like Lindsay Thomas to feed off his supply and cause havoc with their crumbing skills. Carlton have recalled Lachie Henderson and he is likely to spend some time minding the Kangaroos’ power forward.

Marc Murphy – It has been a while but finally Carlton can recall another elite midfielder back into their side to assist Chris Judd.

Murphy injured his shoulder blade in a hard collision with Patrick Dangerfield and has been missing since round 8. His run, spread and goal-kicking has been sorely missed and the Carlton faithful will be praying he doesn’t miss a step in his return.

He has had a lengthy lay-off, so a little rust is to be expected and he may even be substituted if he is struggling to adapt to the pace of the game. But his return to the field is a welcome sight.

Final Say

This presents a genuinely interesting contest between two sides desperate to cement a berth for finals. Was Carlton’s performance last week a sign that the corner had been turned, or just a special effort against a hated rival?

In many ways, the Kangaroos present the perfect opportunity for the Blues to complete their form turnaround.

Both sides are more than capable of matching it with the better teams in the competition and due to their inconsistencies throughout the year, predicting this contest is a roll of the dice.

But, with Carlton hoping for two of their key players to return from injury hitch-free against a side that has unquestionable talent across the park, coupled with the dangerous tall forward combination that the Kangaroos possess, North Melbourne should be able to win this one.

North Melbourne by 9

North Melbourne

B: Scott McMahon, Scott Thompson, Michael Firrito
HB: Shaun Atley, Nathan Grima, Jamie Macmillan
C: Ryan Bastinac, Daniel Wells, Liam Anthony
HF: Lindsay Thomas, Robert Tarrant, Brent Harvey
F: Lachlan Hansen, Drew Petrie, Matt Campbell
Foll: Todd Goldstein, Andrew Swallow, Jack Ziebell
I/C: Leigh Adams, Samuel Wright, Kieran Harper, Sam Gibson
Emg: Ben Cunnington, Cameron Pedersen, Will Sierakowski

In: Scott Thompson
Out: Luke Delaney

Milestones: Nathan Grima – 50 games

Carlton

B: Lachlan Henderson, Michael Jamison, Andrew McInnes
HB: Christopher Yarran, Matthew Watson, Aaron Joseph
C: Andrew Collins, Brock McLean, Bryce Gibbs
HF: Mitch Robinson, Andrew Walker, Marc Murphy
F: Jeffrey Garlett, Nick Duigan, Eddie Betts
Foll: Matthew Kreuzer, Chris Judd, Andrew Carrazzo
I/C: Heath Scotland, Dennis Armfield, Zach Tuohy, Edward Curnow
Emg: Jordan Russell, Bret Thornton, Kane Lucas

In: Marc Murphy, Lachlan Henderson
Out: Kade Simpson (Jaw), Shaun Hampson (Knee)

BigFooty Team Board Previews

North Melbourne

Carlton

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