AFL

Andrew Swallow no certainty as North Melbourne ponder captaincy

North Melbourne have all but completed an "extensive" review of their on-field leadership, with skipper Andrew Swallow no guarantee of retaining the coveted role.

While coach Brad Scott on Friday anointed Jack Ziebell a future captain – as club chairman James Brayshaw had done in June last year – the Kangaroos may hold off over-burdening the hard-nut midfielder.

"The process has been really extensive ... with all stakeholders within the club," Scott said. "It's not just players but the footy department, board of directors and all of those people.

"Everyone is going to have a say and we are pretty close to finalising it.

"We are at the pointy end of our process now, so it [the announcement] will be any time over the next couple of weeks.

"The captaincy will be the final piece of the puzzle – we are looking to finalise our leadership group first."

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Swallow, 29 in June, is recovering from post-season surgery on both knees and ran laps away from the main group in the rain at Arden Street on Friday. He has been captain since 2012, with the Roos keen for a smooth handover before the midfielder retires.

Ziebell, his joint deputy, has dropped weight this summer to better deal with the demands of the modern game.

"Jack Ziebell, we think, is certainly a captain in waiting. It's just a matter of when we make that move," Scott said.

The Roos will reveal their decision before their opening NAB Challenge clash against St Kilda on February 20.

The captaincy review comes as the Roos work to improve on their preliminary final defeats of the past two years. They have fallen to Sydney at ANZ Stadium and, last year, to West Coast in Perth, having started September in eighth spot.

The clear message for the Roos is that a top-two finish – with its potential benefit of two home finals – is the desired route to a flag.

Scott hopes having more players able to complete this pre-season than could last year will ultimately boost the team.

"This time last year we probably had half the numbers we had on the track that we have now," he said. "All that does is give us an opportunity to train really hard and build a good base, but we won't really know until we test ourselves against the opposition."

While he has a fit squad, the challenge is to finally usurp a Hawthorn side aiming for a fourth straight flag.

The Hawks' ability to hold possession by hitting targets has defined their premiership era, with rivals too often butchering the ball.

"The benchmark is clear and I don't see too much changing there," Scott said. "Hawthorn is the standout contender and everyone else is chasing them down. They probably stand head and shoulders above everyone else.

"The chasing pack is pretty significant. It bodes for a really even competition."

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