With a misfiring forward line and the toughest run-in of any likely AFL finalist, North Melbourne’s 2016 hopes are shot, right?
Not so, according to coach Brad Scott, despite the Kangaroos’ latest setback against the Western Bulldogs.
At Etihad Stadium on Saturday night North looked second best all evening, losing by 14 points in a low-scoring affair.
Worse, key forward Ben Brown sustained a knee complaint that could see him join fellow spearhead Jarrad Waite (hip) in their treatment room.
On the night, Scott wouldn’t be drawn on his diagnosis, saying only team doctors were “cautiously optimistic” he had avoided a major injury.
The forward told the Sunday Footy Show he was hopeful of avoiding a stretch out of the team.
“The first signs are pretty good. Nothing major I don’t think,” he said.
“In the marking contest, I landed and thought I was fine and took off to run and realised I couldn’t push off.
“Got to go in and have the scans and see what happens.”
The Kangaroos can ill-afford another missing senior player, with 10 first-teamers already on their injury list.
Scott Thompson also didn’t play the last quarter as he received treatment for a groin issue, which Scott said was purely precautionary.
Given what’s up next the Kangaroos would want to have their physios working overtime.
They face reigning premiers Hawthorn at the MCG next weekend, second-placed Sydney in Hobart and then fourth-placed GWS Giants at Etihad in round 23.
Rather than be daunted by the fixture list, Scott said playing four top-eight sides in their final month was exactly the preparation for finals he wanted.
“We’ll learn a fair bit out of tonight. What we need to improve on,” he said.
“Win, lose or draw the next three weeks we’re going to get some really good evidence where we need to improve and what we’re doing well.
“Sometimes there’s a bit of fools gold when you have a big win.
“Tonight I thought we were outplayed. We’ll go back and look at that. We’re going to get that sort of thing the next three weeks.”