North Melbourne coach Brad Scott says his team is "primed" for next Saturday night's final against Essendon and in better shape than ever, with a number of key players set to return.
Scott suggested that all the players who were left out of the final round game against the Demons would resume. The Roos entered the Saturday night game at Etihad Stadium without Todd Goldstein, Lindsay Thomas, Luke McDonald, Levi Greenwood and Michael Firrito.
While Brent Harvey's suspension rules the veteran champion out, the Roos could also be without defender Lachie Hansen, who was subbed off at half-time with a hip injury. "I'd say he's in doubt, I mean it's something he's managed throughout the year...So we'll just see how he pulls up."
Scott said of his team's finals prospects: "I think we're in better shape than we've been all year..the guys that we've left out will be cherry ripe and the guys that came in, you know, the guys that came in, some of them are going to give us real selection headaches. Mason Wood looks like a real AFL player...Kane Turner continues to impress."
Scott explained that Nick Dal Santo had started as the substitute, in a compromise after he resisted a push to sit the game out. "So that was the compromise." Chris Dawes collected Andrew Swallow, the North captain, with a late hit high that could see the Melbourne forward suspended by the match review panel.
Leigh Adams was subbed out with concussion, prompting Scott to confront the club doctor, who seemingly overlooked the fact that Hansen had already been subbed and that the concussion sub rule - in which there is a 20-minute assessment period - did not apply, since a substitution had been made.
"Had zero annoyance with our players," said Scott of the irritation he showed at three-quarter time. "Some staff members copped it."
Scott added, when asked about his words with the club doctor. "You've got to know the rules of the game. I'll talk to him in private."
Scott also expressed admiration for Essendon's players and their capacity to endure off-field trauma again this year. "They're a good side, they've earned their way into the finals. And you know I've got a lot of admiration for the way they've, the players, have acquitted themselves this year under some duress off-field. You can't help but have that seep, off-field seep into on-field issues at times, but they've weathered that storm really well. They're a good outfit.
"We're primed and ready to go. You know, we'll play a side full of really fit, fresh players who are more resilient, more hardened and ready for what's coming."
Melbourne coach Paul Roos said his team's first priority would be to improve the playing list and reiterated his longstanding view that "every player is tradeable in my view".
Roos suggested the Demons would continue to focus on midfielders in the post-season draft and trading period, in which the Demons will have no worse than the second pick in the national draft, and potentially could receive another for James Frawley.
Roos said he did not know if James Frawley had played his last game for the club this weekend. "I really don't know if it was his last game to be honest. He's certainly been engaged with the group, and there's been no signs...that he's put his cue in the rack.
"If he does leave, we wish him well. If he doesn't, we'll be rapt for him to stay. We'll continue to have discussions with him."