North Melbourne’s imposing three-pronged tall attack has brought Richmond undone in the past, but coach Damien Hardwick is banking on his midfield to continue the Tigers’ resurgence.
Hardwick’s men are looking for their fourth win in a row when they take on the Kangaroos in Hobart on Friday night.
North’s unbeaten run stopped at nine last week when they were defeated by Sydney, but they enjoy a good record against Richmond, having won six of their last seven encounters.
“The big one for us is their key forwards have probably been dominant at various stages,” Hardwick said of a Roos’ attack featuring Jarrad Waite, Drew Petrie and Ben Brown.
“Not all of them (together) but one has probably grabbed hold of us at different stages.
“If we can keep those guys under wraps (great) but the reality is it’s going to be won or lost in the midfield.
“Contested ball is going to be big this week, as are clearances.”
The Tigers, who are 14th on the ladder with a 4-6 record after last week’s win over Essendon, have been well served in those areas by skipper Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin, who is in career-best form.
Intrigue surrounds the make-up of both sides with each club taking extra players to Tasmania with some carrying injury concerns.
All Australian ruckman Todd Goldstein is one of those in doubt with a knee injury suffered against the Swans.
“He’s a significant player … he’s the best ruckman, in my opinion, in the league,” Hardwick said.
“It probably does change their prep but the fact of the matter is they’re sitting on top of the ladder for a reason and it’s not just because of one player.
“They’re an incredible outfit.”
The Roos’ most recent win against the Tigers came in last year’s elimination final.
It was Richmond’s third elimination final loss in a row, but spearhead Jack Riewoldt said his side wouldn’t be looking to that galling defeat for motivation on Friday.
“That’s the way it went,” Riewoldt said.
“We’re solely focused on 2016 and getting ourselves back in the race. They’re a different side and we’re a different side to last year in the finals.
“They play a very strong brand of defensive football … we just need to continually have good movement from our forwards and our mids and try and find as many avenues to goal as possible.”