North bracing for test of AFL squad depth

Rhyce Shaw expects to make multiple changes to his team every week as injury-ravaged North Melbourne face a bigger test than any of their AFL rivals during the compressed stage of the season.

The Kangaroos have lost five straight matches amid a mounting injury toll ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Carlton at the Gabba.

Captain Jack Ziebell has been confirmed as a one-month prospect with his latest hamstring setback and was one of four players left out this week.

But there is some relief with key forward Nick Larkey (foot) and midfielder Cameron Zurhaar (calf) back to face the Blues.

After that, North will play four games in 15 days from rounds 9 to 12 as the AFL attempts to squeeze in as many matches as possible in a short time frame.

“We’re going to have to change the team every week throughout that period,” Shaw said.

“We’ve got two four-day breaks back-to-back and we’ve got to make sure we’re at full capacity.

“If that means we have to rest one or two blokes then we have to do so.”

Shaw conceded his hands had been tied when it came to dropping underperforming players during the current losing streak because of the long injury list.

Senior players Ben Cunnington, Dom Tyson, Paul Ahern, Kayne Turner and Taylor Garner are all among those unavailable, as is young star Tarryn Thomas, who had surgery on his ankle this week.

But Shaw stopped short of declaring a need for a sweeping review on injury prevention and rehabilitation.

“We’re going through what’s happened and how we can get better and we ask questions all the time,” Shaw said.

“Our staff have been great and the open honesty that we’ve shown throughout this period I’m really comfortable with.

“I don’t think we’ll be jumping to conclusions or anything like that.

“We just want to get the best result and hopefully over the next couple of weeks we start seeing the fruits of those conversations.”

Jed Anderson and Luke Davies-Uniacke have been recalled alongside Zurhaar and Larkey to take on Carlton, with Larkey’s inclusion expected to help ease pressure on out-of-form key forward Ben Brown.

“He’ll provide some really good support for Ben,” Shaw said.

“In saying that, Ben’s owned his performances and we’ve had some really good conversations about it.

“He’s someone that works as hard as anyone on his game and leaves no stone unturned, so I’m really comfortable with where he’s at in terms of his work rate.

“Like the rest of the team, if we keep sticking in there and working on our game, I think it will turn for us.”

Shaw said the Kangaroos’ key focus against Carlton will be to lift their intensity after falling short in that area in recent weeks.

In contrast to the North Melbourne line-up’s state of flux, the Blues have named the same 22 for a third consecutive week.





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