North Melbourne captain Jack Ziebell needs to complete a full week of training to get back for Saturday’s clash with Richmond but a return date for Ben Cunnington remains unclear.
As the Kangaroos try to end a four-game losing streak Ziebell needs to overcome a hamstring issue while a plan for best and fairest Cunnington, who has a back issue, just to get back to training is to yet to be formalised.
The Roos have slipped to 16th on the ladder and the heat has turned on out of sorts forward Ben Brown who has kicked just seven goals in six games this season, and only two in the past three weeks.
But coach Rhyce Shaw said Brown’s failings had more to do with how North was playing than the forward’s own efforts.
“Ben’s competing really hard, he’s working really hard and I think we haven’t really helped our forward a lot in terms of our (forward) entries,” Shaw said on Monday.
“He’s a bit dictated by what happens up the ground and we are a work in progress in that.
“With Ben, he’s giving us an option and bringing the ball to the deck. He’s playing his role but we have to help him out.”
Shaw dismissed any suggestion Brown, who has kicked 125 goals in the past two seasons, was struggling as a lone tall target with Nick Larkey sidelined.
But Larkey could soon be back to help Brown out, having taken part in a scratch-match last weekend.
Shaw said the club did have a “significant” injury list but was adamant that taking Essendon to within two goals last week was a sign his team was on the right track.
“We are going through a bit of a lean patch at the moment,” he said.
“But there is a strong belief within the group that we will get going sooner rather than later and our brand will stack up. I know it will.”
Rising star nominee Curtis Taylor was cleared of any facial damage following the bump from Dylan Shiel who resulted in a two-week ban for the Bomber.