THAT Matthew Kreuzer will spend most if not all of tonight playing in the ruck for a Carlton side bolstered by the return of Marc Murphy is of little comfort to North Melbourne coach Brad Scott.
The Blues last night recalled Murphy and Lachie Henderson from injury and named no obvious support for Kreuzer, meaning back-up ruck duties will likely fall to second-year defender Matthew Watson.
Murphy was named seven rounds after fracturing his shoulder, while Henderson has missed just two matches with a groin injury. Midfielder Kane Lucas and forward Bret Thornton were named alongside Jordan Russell as the three emergencies.
Watson has been given a crash-course tutorial in ruck work this week, following Shaun Hampson's season-ending knee injury and the one-week, VFL-imposed suspension of Robert Warnock, who will miss two senior matches due to the Northern Blues' bye.
Watson stepped in for Kreuzer for moments during last week's win over Collingwood, but pointed out afterwards to his coaches that he hadn't been involved at any stoppages.
Scott said that Kreuzer spending more time in the ruck, rather than less, meant North Melbourne had more to worry about than they might have, particularly given how capably he had coped when Hampson was injured early in the first quarter last week.
Kreuzer had 21 hit-outs when forced to go it alone, but was perhaps even more influential when the ball hit the ground, clearing it six times, creating paths for his onballers and notching 17 possessions.
''It depends which way you look at it. Kreuzer played probably his best game for the year last week, so players like that, of that calibre, tend to step up under pressure and he was magnificent last week,'' Scott said.
North made just one change to the side narrowly overcome by West Coast last week, recalling defender Scott Thompson for Luke Delaney.
''So you can look at it as a weakness - not having a back-up for him - or you can say, well Kreuzer's going to spend most of the time in the ruck and if he's doing that he's going to be pretty influential,'' he said. ''We're going to have a look at how we can possibly get an advantage, but we've got Todd Goldstein in really good form. He got double
teamed last week by Dean Cox and Nic Natainui which wore him down a little bit, but he's a very resilient player.
''I look forward to seeing a great battle between two young ruckmen who can hopefully forge a real rivalry for the next decade or so.''
Murphy underwent a second solid fitness test during Carlton's training session yesterday morning, with teammates Ed Curnow and Andrew Carrazzo paying plenty of attention to his shoulder during stoppage work.
''He went through a fitness test the other day, pulled up OK. He's doing another one now,'' said assistant coach Mark Riley. ''He has full range [of movement] so it will just be the physical elements. If there's any doubts, he won't be risked.''
The Roos haves sacrificed early leads more than once this year but, while the coach did not feel the Roos' fast-paced game was wearing them down by the end of matches, he said the slack finishes had become a concern.
''I suppose the evidence would be starting to mount that that's the case. I certainly don't think it's an issue but the facts are on the table that we haven't finished off games as well as we would like,'' he said.