The last time North Melbourne got to the AFL finals, the players were shot - mentally and physically.

This time, they hope, things will be very different against Essendon at the MCG on Saturday night.

North hasn't won a final since 2007.

Since then the Roos have been beaten in elimination finals against Sydney in 2008 and West Coast in 2012 - the latter a 96-point demolition job at the hands of the Eagles in Perth.

Full-back Scott Thompson recalls the day in chilling detail.

"It was my first AFL final," the 2013 All-Australian said.

"For a lot of the team it was our first final, at Subi, nice day, pretty hot.

"We were all pretty excited. But they jumped us and kept it going.

"They were running all over us all around the ground.

"Seven goals to nil in the first quarter.

"It was extremely disappointing."

Back then, the Kangaroos entered the finals in eighth place.

This year they were sixth at the end of the home and away season, albeit with an identical win-loss record of 14-8.

"Last time, in the second half of the year we had to win a lot of games to make the finals," Thompson said.

"Pretty much every game was a final for us running into that 2012 series.

"I wouldn't say everyone was done, but we'd used a lot of energy just to make the finals.

"There were a lot of sore bodies out there. This year we got a few more earlier wins on the board.

"We've had a steadier run up to the finals, so we've been able to manage our players a bit more.

"It was both mentally and physically demanding. Mentally getting yourself up for every game."

North triumphed in seven of its last eight games before the 2012 finals series, including a six-game winning streak from rounds 16 to 21.

"I think there were only five or six who had played finals before," Thompson said.

"So everyone has learnt from that experience and they know what an elimination final is like.

"I've watched that game a few times, just to see where we stuffed up.

"I was playing on Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui. I watched the ball sail over my head a bit. We all did.

"It was an experience, playing that final in Perth. You learn from it. We don't want that to happen to us again."

While North's star small forward Brent Harvey will miss the Essendon clash because of suspension, the Kangaroos feel they are in a far better position this time around.

Lindsay Thomas, Luke McDonald, Michael Firrito, Todd Goldstein and Levi Greenwood were all rested last week against Melbourne.

Assistant coach Darren Crocker also says the 2014 side has a better handle on finals football.

"To be playing on the edge for a large portion towards the end of that 2012 season, just trying to ensure that we played finals, there's no doubt that would have taken its toll mentally and physically on the group," Crocker said.

"We basically just got there and felt 'oh wow, we've got there now'.

"Whereas this year the guys feel like the football we're playing, it's not about just getting into finals.

"The football we're playing is about winning finals games.

"So that's a real contrast between the two years."

AAP