WHERE AND WHEN: Etihad Stadium, Saturday April 28, 4.40pm

TV & RADIO: SEN, ABC 774, Triple M

BETTING: North Melbourne $1.01, Gold Coast $17. Line North -81.5 points

It feels like only yesterday that North Melbourne, or Kangaroos supporters as they were known then, were divided on the prospect of relocating to become the Gold Coast Kangaroos. Just a few short years later, and North Melbourne host the Gold Coast under the dome at Etihad for the first time.

Lindsay Thomas is beaten by the boundary - http://www.flickr.com/photos/natalietracy/

So far this year North have shown promising, yet inconsistent form, having followed their much-hyped win against Geelong with a disappointing loss in wet conditions against Sydney last week.

For the fledgling Gold Coast, results have been secondary to player development, although they would have been hoping for a better result last week in the “Q Clash” against Brisbane.

If things weren’t hard enough for the 0-4 Suns coming into this game, they have lost Gary Ablett for a few weeks with a knee injury. Touted as the best player in the game, Ablett is the straw stirring the drink in the Gold Coast midfield.

Make no mistake, his leadership and tireless work ethic will be near impossible to cover. The big change in structure for the Kangaroos is the omission of out-of-form ruckman Todd Goldstein.

Match-ups and Tactics:

On face value it would seem that North Melbourne is taking the opportunity against the Suns to mix things up in the ruck and forward-line.

Robbie Tarrant has been recalled and will play at least some of the match as a forward, which allows the Kangaroos the flexibility needed to play Drew Petrie in the ruck when Hamish McIntosh is resting.

North Melbourne’s mixed success has been largely dependent on their record breaking handball numbers. Running from half-back and handballing their way through the corridor has been the hallmark of their game-plan to date, a strategy that relies heavily on link men Brent Harvey and Daniel Wells finding space and running to receive.

Geelong for reasons unknown to the wider footy community allowed these two to run free and do as they pleased a fortnight ago, with Harvey spending large portions of the match playing loose across half-back.

A week later the Swans were much more accountable and successfully assigned Rhyce Shaw to Harvey, whilst also curbing the influence of Wells, and it resulted in a commanding victory.

The one key area the Suns have had reasonable success in has been their clearance work.

However, Ablett’s absence creates a massive hole, and the Suns will need each of Michael Rischitelli, David Swallow, Harley Bennell, Dion Prestia, Jared Brennen and Josh Caddy to contribute a little bit extra through the middle. Crowd favourite Karmichael Hunt is progressing nicely, and after his best performance to date last week, he will also be challenged to lift another gear.

Final Say:

The simple reality is that North Melbourne will be hoping to challenge for a spot in the finals, and the Suns will be hoping to win a handful of games. Without Ablett and the run of Jarrod Harbrow, the Suns have very little chance to challenge for a victory against the Kangaroos.

In perfect conditions under the roof, it’s just a question of how much North can win by.

North Melbourne by 75 points.

North Melbourne

B: Jamie Macmillan, Scott Thompson, Shaun Atley
HB: Daniel Wells, Michael Firrito, Luke Delaney
C: Leigh Adams, Andrew Swallow, Samuel Wright
HF: Ben Cunnington, Aaron Edwards, Brent Harvey
F: Kieran Harper, Drew Petrie, Lindsay Thomas
Foll: Hamish McIntosh, Jack Ziebell, Ryan Bastinac
I/C: Liam Anthony, Aaron Mullett, Robbie Tarrant, Levi Greenwood
Emg: Cruize Garlett, Brad McKenzie, Cameron Pederson
In: Aaron Mullett, Robbie Tarrant, Levi Greenwood
Out: Scott McMahon (Illness), Todd Goldstein, Matt Campbell

Gold Coast Suns
Jared Brennan, Nathan Bock, Seb Tape
HB: Matt Shaw, Matthew Warnock, Joel Wilkinson
C: Michael Rischitelli, Karmichael Hunt, Trent McKenzie
HF: Harley Bennell, Tom Lynch, Brandon Matera
F: Campbell Brown, Sam Day, Luke Russell
Foll: Zac Smith, Josh Caddy, Dion Prestia
I/C: Charlie Dixon, Sam Iles, David Swallow, Kyal Horsley
Emg: Maverick Weller, Josh Toy, Aaron Hall
In: Charlie Dixon, Sam Iles, Joel Wilkinson, Kyal Horsley
Out: Jarrod Harbrow (Elbow), Gary Ablett (Knee), Josh Fraser, Aaron Hall
New: Kyal Horsley (Subiaco/Kalgoorlie City)

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