Drew Petrie is losing the support of his fellow key forwards, with Jonathan Brown agreeing the North Melbourne star should be dropped from the AFL.
Brown’s comments come after Kangaroos legend Wayne Carey, Petrie’s predecessor at Arden St, said it was time for coach Brad Scott to make a big call.
North have lost their last five matches and remarkably could miss the finals after opening the season with a nine-game winning streak.
They are now eighth, just two wins ahead of Port Adelaide and St Kilda.
“It is a little bit controversial, but `Duck’s’ right,” Brown, the former Brisbane captain, said on Nova 100.
“Drew Petrie’s form has been horrible.
“He hasn’t been able to hit the scoreboard this year and they’re saying now he’s in the side for defensive pressure.
“He’s struggling to lay a tackle.”
Carey’s former North teammate David King was the first to suggest last week that Petrie should be dropped and the numbers support the growing clamour.
Petrie has kicked at least 42 goals per season for the last five years, but after 17 rounds he only has 19.
He has kicked no goals in the last two matches.
Petrie only laid two tackles in Saturday’s upset loss to Port Adelaide and none the week before.
He has 35 for the season, whereas the 33-year-old has laid at least 61 in the previous three years.
But North are also arguing that the numbers do not tell the full story.
They point out that with Petrie in the side, it frees up fellow key forward Ben Brown, who is enjoying a big season.
North’s third key forward Jarrad Waite finally returned from a hip injury against Port and clearly needed the run.
Their other main tall forward option Mason Wood is injured.
Whatever the solution, North badly need to find more firepower in attack – they have not scored more than 84 points in a match during their five-game losing streak.
And Brown added North are now a very good chance to miss the finals, given their tough draw.
“It is a realistic possibility,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, umpires coach Hayden Kennedy has backed Justin Schmitt for his controversial free against North defender Michael Firrito.
In the opening minute of the Port game, Jay Schulz was tackling Firrito when the North backman handballed through a behind.
Schmitt controversially penalised Firrito for a deliberate rushed behind and Schulz kicked an easy goal.
“He thought Michael then had an opportunity to dispose of the ball,” Kennedy told the AFL website.
“He doesn’t and once he gets tackled, he handballs it with force well over the (goal) line.
“Justin weighed up those two particular items and because of the distance away from the (goal) line and from where it (the handball) landed, he thought it was a deliberate rushed behind.”
Kennedy conceded Firrito was under pressure, but said the rushed behind was intentional and could have been avoided.