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 the Kangaroos looked second best all night, 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.
The Kangaroos can ill-afford another missing senior player, with 10 first-teamers already on their injury list.
Scott wouldn’t be drawn on Brown’s diagnosis, saying only team doctors were “cautiously optimistic” on his availability.
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 theres 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.”
While outplayed, the low-scoring nature of the contest meant two quick goals in the last quarter gave North a chance to nick it.
When Todd Goldstein goalled, North were 14 points down and had all the momentum with seven minutes to go.
“When the margin’s that tight we always feel like you’re a chance … we certainly felt that way,” he said.
“We had our opportunities.”