North Melbourne face uncertainty over their best lineup after their pre-season AFL loss to Hawthorn.
North Melbourne have lost both their AFL pre-season games and they’re no closer to solving the puzzle over their key forwards.
After going down to Carlton by seven points last weekend, the team picked by many observers to be the big improvers in 2014 received a 65-point thrashing from Hawthorn on Friday night in Launceston.
The defending premiers won 18.10 (118) to 7.11 (53) after booting six goals to North’s one in the opening term.
Liam Shiels, Tim O’Brien and young midfielder Will Langford finished with three goals each while Sam Mitchell was also dominant.
Shiels had a game-high 30 possessions while Langford gathered 19 disposals and performed a valuable shut-down role on North’s gun midfielder Jack Ziebell.
Big forward Aaron Black kicked three of North’s seven goals while Ben Cunnington and Daniel Wells were busy in midfield.
Key defender Nathan Grima is a possible inclusion for North’s final practice game against Geelong at Simonds Stadium on March 7.
North coach Brad Scott is yet to settle on a forward set-up, which will be built around big men Black and Drew Petrie.
“We played even game time between (ruck/forwards) Daniel Currie and Majak Daw and a mix of smalls, and we have Robbie Tarrant to come back,” Scott said.
“Whether you use three talls, a pinch-hitting ruck, whether it’s two key forwards and four smalls, I would’ve hoped to have the answer by now.
“But I don’t.”
North were off the pace in midfield.
“No matter what level you’re at, or what stage of the season it is, if it’s match simulation at training or practice game or regular season, when you’re getting beaten around the ball that’s never a good sign,” Scott said.
“It’s disappointing for me because I consider that it be one of the strengths, in particular with a lot of our inside players.
“To get horribly beaten in that area is disappointing.”
Taylor Garner limped off with a hamstring injury while the Hawks reported no injuries and claimed their second big win after beating Brisbane by 131 points on February 13.
Hawthorn assistant coach Brendon Bolton said it was exciting to see Langford, O’Brien and Shiels among the multiple goalscorers.
“We’re really pleased with our youngsters,” Bolton said as the Hawks rebuild their forward line without spearhead Lance Franklin who has crossed to Sydney.
Bradley Hill, 20, was also a stand-out.
“We know he’s got really good speed and endurance,” Bolton said of the 2013 premiership player.
“He’s starting to really work hard on his contested game as well now.”
Small forward Cyril Rioli starred in defence for the second successive game.
“It is exciting to see,” Bolton said.
“It has opened up our eyes that he can play there if needed.”
The Hawks will play Melbourne in a practice game on March 8.