Confidence is building at North Melbourne regarding Jarrad Waite’s fitness as the key forward ramps up his bid to return in week one of the AFL finals.
Waite has played just two games since round 12 because of a troublesome hip injury.
The 33-year-old underwent surgery last month in a bid to be cherry ripe for finals.
Waite was one of North’s best players in a season-opening win over Adelaide and would boost their hopes of upsetting the Crows in next Saturday’s elimination final at Adelaide Oval.
The Kangaroos will learn more about Waite’s fitness at training next week but the early signs are positive.
“Jarrad is pretty confident that he’ll be right,” North ruckman Todd Goldstein told AAP.
“If we really needed him to, I think he said he might have been able to get up last week.
“So that’s a good sign.”
Speedster Jed Anderson also expected Waite would prove his fitness next week.
“He’s had a good rehab after some minor hip surgery. He’s preparing himself to play,” Anderson said.
“The boys are excited that we’re getting some boys back.”
Key defender Scott Thompson is set to return from injury against the Crows, while Ben Jacobs and Sam Wright will be racing the clock to prove their fitness for the elimination final.
Waite’s return looms as the most challenging selection call that coach Brad Scott must make.
It is unlikely big forwards Waite, Drew Petrie, Ben Brown and Majak Daw will feature in the same forward line.
“That’s up to the match committee. They’ve got two weeks to make those decisions,” Brown said.
“We’d love to have Jarrad back.
“Majak has come in and done some really good things for us … whatever team we go in with, we know we’ve got good depth.”
Vice-captain Jack Ziebell noted the pre-finals bye had come at a good time for Waite and plenty of other players at North.
“It’s worked in our favour,” Ziebell said.
“It gives everyone a chance to freshen up. A couple of the guys were a little bit sore.”
Eighth-placed North are fully expected to exit the finals in week one, having won just three of their past 13 games.
Ziebell pointed to their September form in recent years as cause for confidence.
“Playing pretty deep into the last couple of years will hold us in really good stead,” Ziebell said.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve shown some pretty good signs, we’ve improved.
“A new season starts in September and we understand where we’re at and where we need to improve.”