The test to see just where North Melbourne is at is only a few hours away at Etihad Stadium.
It’s a tall North side, with Majak Daw and Jarrad Waite in for Ed Vickers-Willis and Cam Zurhaar. Meanwhile Richmond has made just the one change, with Trent Cotchin in for Dion Prestia.
Thanks for all the kind words about the Richmond breakdown earlier in the week, especially from Richmond fans. If you missed it, you can catch up by reading here.
For those who haven’t read the game-day preview pieces yet, it’s light on analysis and intended to work as a primer for the key trends during the game. Think of it as a last-minute cheat sheet.
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Which style wins?
If you’re going to test yourself against the best, you might as well do it playing the way you want to play.
For North that means all of Robbie Tarrant, Scott Thompson and Majak Daw in the back six (or seven) despite Richmond’s mosquito fleet around Jack Riewoldt.
If the midfield pressure can force Richmond into rushed forward 50 entries, the tall trio will be able to use their advantage. But there’ll be no hope of North playing to its strengths if the Tigers are allowed time on the ball.
Does Etihad Stadium give North an advantage?
It’s Richmond’s first game at Etihad for the year, which will naturally require a minor adjustment.
The narrower dimensions in theory make it easier to defend, but perfect conditions counteract that and always makes for a fast game.
North’s first quarters have been top-notch this season, and if there is going to be any minute advantage gained from playing on Etihad, it’ll be in the initial burst where it will show.
Can North’s midfield rotations stand up all afternoon?
The trade-off you make for an aerial advantage is fewer rotations to use around the ball and at stoppages.
It’ll have a larger effect as the game goes on. In theory the marking power of Ben Brown, Jarrad Waite and co will allow North to slow the tempo if it wants to.
But if the game is quick and end-to-end, the midfield will be stretched to breaking point.
Will the game’s key period be defined by offence or defence?
The key period in the game isn’t necessarily won by what goes on the scoreboard; it’s often by what you prevent going on it.
A strong argument can be made that North’s most important moments against Sydney was in the opening stages of the final term. By only allowing two goals in the first 12 minutes – when it could easily have been double the amount – North stayed in the game and gave itself every chance to win it late.
Last season against Richmond, North lost the game in a 10-minute period of madness at the start of the third quarter. In what had been a grinding game up until that point, it gave away free kicks and 50 metre penalties everywhere, conceding four quick goals to gift Richmond a 25-point lead.
High-scoring or low-scoring?
The total game points are currently set at 170.5. If I had to guess, I’d say it’ll go over – what do you have?