North Melbourne’s high-stakes AFL clash with Sydney in Hobart is shaping as a battle of the boots between Ben Brown and Lance Franklin.
The Kangaroos welcome back Brown, their season’s leading goal-scorer, from a knee injury on Saturday and hope the Tasmanian-born forward can help cement the side’s place in the top eight.
“He trained this morning and is ready to go,” assistant coach Leigh Tudor said on Friday after the team landed in Hobart, where they boast eight wins on the trot.
“He loves playing down here, he loves getting home and seeing his family … he gets really excited, so for us it’s a bonus that we’re playing down here.”
The Kangaroos also welcome back veteran defender Scott Thompson and Tudor says it will take all the experience and talent they can muster to combat Swans star Franklin.
“Eighteen blokes, team defence, he’s too hard on one bloke so the forwards put pressure on, the mids put pressure and it helps the defenders – a really simple philosophy,” the assistant coach said.
Tudor admitted there had been whispers this week about then-Hawthorn player Franklin’s legendary 2013 13-goal haul against the Kangaroos at Bellerive Oval.
“That’s a long time ago now – we’d like to think we’re defensively a lot better now,” he said.
Sydney’s line-up will be bolstered by the return of ruckman Kurt Tippett (hamstring), who hasn’t played since mid-June, but co-captain Kieren Jack has missed the round-22 fixture due to a foot injury.
“We’d like to think we have the advantage this week playing down here,” Tudor said.
“We’re in control at the moment and have a good side with two good ins – Brown and Thompson – so we’ve come over here looking for a really good result.”
North haven’t lost a game at Bellerive Oval since they last met the Swans in Hobart in round three in 2013.