North Melbourne caretaker coach Darren Crocker is set to guide the Kangaroos through a critical stage of their season.
With Brad Scott sidelined for four matches as he recovers from urgent back surgery, Crocker was given the nod ahead of senior coaching hopeful Leigh Tudor.
It will be his second stint as stand-in coach having guided the Kangaroos to three wins, six losses and a draw in 2009 after the departure of Dean Laidley.
On the back of Sunday’s disappointing capitulation to Collingwood and with their season delicately poised at four wins and five losses, director of football Geoff Walsh admitted the timing of Scott’s surgery wasn’t great.
The next month could prove pivotal with North set to play West Coast, Sydney and Greater Western Sydney, who are currently ranked second, third and fifth respectively, before taking on Gold Coast after their bye.
Walsh said that Crocker was well suited to take on the role but added that all at the club, assistant coaches and the leadership group in particular, would need to do their bit.
“You just hope that in this sort of situation, which is fairly unusual … that everyone puts the shoulder to the wheel and takes some responsibility,” Walsh said on Monday.
“We hope the team approach will get it done.”
Further complicating the issue is that three of those matches are interstate, with Scott set to return in the week leading up to the Suns’ game but unable to make the trip to Metricon Stadium.
While the timing is unfortunate, Walsh said it was unavoidable.
“It was something we had hoped that he could deal with through medication and treatment,” he said of the issue Scott has battled since the start of the year.
“Unfortunately the last two weeks, in particular, it has deteriorated to the extent that really surgery is now the only option and that has to be done, on the advice of our surgeon, as soon as possible.
“Obviously it’s not great timing … Brad was hopeful and we were hopeful that this was something that he could deal with in the off-season, but the symptoms and the pain levels now have become such that he requires immediate surgery.”
The players were told on Monday morning that Scott would be handing the reins to Crocker on a temporary basis.
“They were quite concerned, obviously, for their coach,” Walsh said.
“But apart from the concern for Brad as a person and as a coach, they see it as an opportunity to step up.”
Hawthorn had a similar situation last year, when Alastair Clarkson was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Brendon Bolton successfully replaced Clarkson at the helm for five weeks.