Fitness and AFL finals experience – they’re the two things North Melbourne coach Brad Scott says make his 2015 side a better one than the team bundled out of last year’s finals series by Sydney.
Exactly a year to the day, the Kangaroos head back to ANZ Stadium for a sudden-death encounter, hoping to avenge their 71-point preliminary final loss.
While their ladder position and win-loss ratio say the Kangaroos have gone slightly backwards since then, a confident Scott says his side have improved.
“Our preparation has always been geared towards being at our very best this time of year and we feel we’re very close to it,” he said on Thursday.
“We’re physically prepared better than we were this time last year.
“A lot of our players have now had good finals experience (and) they’ve had experience winning finals.”
Against the Swans, they’ll face a noticeably smaller side, with the absence of Lance Franklin (mental health) and Sam Reid (hamstring).
But Scott warned against writing the Swans off without two of their three-pronged attack line.
“Any time Lance is not playing, whether it’s with Hawthorn or Sydney, you’re not overly disappointed,” he said.
“He’s such a great player and takes up a lot of your time in planning.
“The strength of the Sydney Swans over a generation has been their ability to compete really hard regardless of the 22 that represents them each week.”
The Swans have more uncertainty about their line-up, including Reid’s replacement and the availability of gun midfielder Kieren Jack and defender Nick Smith.
Jack’s medial ligament strain suffered in round 23 had looked a season-ender, while Smith has not played since round 22 with a hamstring complaint.
Both have made stunning fitness returns and appear likely to take part in the semi-final.
For North, Scott ruled out midfielder Daniel Wells, but said young forward Kayne Turner would travel to Sydney.
Scott said he would be taking a look at the Swans’ named team before locking in his own 22.
“We’ve picked our 25 and we’ll finalise that probably (Friday) … we’ll maintain an element of flexibility with our line-up,” he said.
“The opposition have played quite tall in the past. With a few guys they might like to have available out, they might go a bit smaller.
“(What we do will) be a combination of weather and what the opposition do.”
Scott said he still wouldn’t declare the end of Wells’ season – even though he had not played since round two.
“Our aim is to still have him available in the event that we keep winning.”