North Melbourne and Hawthorn face the same question from different angles in Friday night’s AFL blockbuster.
Are they the real deal this season?
Doubts persist about North, despite their 9-0 start to the season.
Losses to fellow top-four contenders Sydney and Geelong in the last three weeks mean the jury remains out about league’s top side.
While the Kangaroos try to maintain their hot start, Hawthorn are fifth and by their own admission are yet to find top form this season.
Still, they are only game plus percentage away from top spot and no one dares underestimate the three-time defending premiers.
“We’ve played six games against fellow top-eight aspirants and I think we’re 3-3,” Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said.
“That record probably stacks up with most in the competition.
“North have only lost twice, but they haven’t played the same amount of sides in the eight as some of the others.”
Hawthorn have beaten Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs and West Coast, but lost to Geelong, GWS and Sydney
North are 2-2 against fellow top-eight sides, with wins over Adelaide and the Bulldogs.
“Everyone has lost their games here and there and that’s what happens – it’s a little bit like the top tennis players in the world playing against each other,” Clarkson said.
“It’s not six-zip, usually it’s 4-2 or 3-3 or something like that.
“You just want to make sure it is six-zip when you’re coming through finals and that’s pretty hard to do, too.”
Hawthorn would obviously be better with captain Luke Hodge and Jarryd Roughead playing.
Hodge has only managed four games so far because of injuries and is another week or two from resuming.
Roughead will not play this season, first because of a knee injury and now he is undergoing cancer treatment.
“We’re tracking okay, but without a doubt we’ve missed the leadership of Hodge throughout the first part of the year and also the direction and leadership of Roughead,” Clarkson said.
“They’re significant outs for us.
“In light of those two outs – not only what they can bring as players, but their leadership – it’s been pretty significant for us and we’ve been able to cope pretty well.”