North Melbourne coach Brad Scott says his side now has the fortitude they lacked in 2014 to make an AFL grand final.
The Kangaroos returned to the last four with a stirring 26-point win over Sydney on Saturday night against the same team and at the same venue where they were unceremoniously bounced out of the finals last year.
Scott’s side will start as rank outsiders against premiership favourites West Coast, who they play in Perth on Saturday night.
But Scott doesn’t believe his team are underdogs and can see the improvement in his playing group that could see them leaping from eighth in the ladder to a place in the decider.
The sixth-season coach said there was a noticeable change in the attitude from last year’s group that unexpectedly found themselves in a preliminary final against the Swans, which Scott said the group treated a bit like a “free hit”.
“Subconsciously, last year I think there was an element of that,” he said.
“We came up to Sydney hoping a little bit … we were a little bit happy with the achievement.
“We’re not happy with the achievement this year.
“We’re striving on the back of some really good performances to keep going (and) we’re going over there on a mission.”
The Kangaroos are already record-breakers.
They are the first side to finish eighth in the home-and-away season and qualify for a preliminary final, and the first North side to win an interstate final.
Scott was sure to mention the side’s good recent record at Domain Stadium; last year the Kangaroos beat both Fremantle and West Coast there.
Attacking midfielder Shaun Higgins joined his coach in saying the club didn’t consider themselves underdogs despite starting as such against now-eliminated rivals Richmond and Sydney.
“We were really confident coming into this week,” he told AAP.
“We’ll plan for the Eagles, see what we need to do to counter their ball movement, which has been impressive all year.
“We’ll get to work on Monday, plan, hopefully go there and put a good performance in and get the win.”
Scott conceded his side would need to improve against the Eagles, but he believed a grand final date was well within their grasp.
“West Coast have shown they’re a dominant side all year, they’ve got a lot of strengths all over the ground,” he said.
“But we feel we’ve got some strengths too.
“We’re not going into a preliminary final hoping, we feel we’ve got a method that stacks up in the heat of September and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”