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Preview: Sydney v North Melbourne

Marc McGowan  July 11, 2018 9:57 AM

The rucking battle between Sydney's Callum Sinclair and North Melbourne's Todd Goldstein is highly anticipated.

The rucking battle between Sydney's Callum Sinclair and North Melbourne's Todd Goldstein is highly anticipated.

SUMMARY

It's crunch time for the Roos. They've exceeded all external expectations, but still find themselves outside the top eight – and with Sydney, Collingwood and West Coast to come in the next three weeks. Mason Wood booted four goals, including the match-winner, in a two-point triumph over the Swans in round seven, but a hamstring injury will prevent a repeat of those heroics. With Jarrad Waite (calf) also expected to miss, much will be left to Ben Brown to kick a winning score for North, although coach Brad Scott might again employ Majak Daw up forward. This match means plenty to Sydney, too, given John Longmire's men have dropped back-to-back games to slip outside the top four. The Swans also lose veterans Jarrad McVeigh, Dan Hannebery and Kieren Jack to injury, meaning more heavy lifting for Josh Kennedy, Jake Lloyd, Luke Parker and Zak Jones. Brown and Lance Franklin are one-two in the Coleman Medal race with 46 and 39 goals, respectively.

WHERE AND WHEN: Etihad Stadium, Sunday, July 15, 3.20pm AEST

LAST FIVE TIMES

R7, 2018, North Melbourne 9.14 (68) d Sydney 9.12 (66) at SCG
R8, 2017, Sydney 18.12 (120) d North Melbourne 11.12 (78) at Etihad Stadium
R22, 2016, Sydney 12.13 (75) d North Melbourne 10.16 (76) at Blundstone Arena
R10, 2016, Sydney 14.7 (91) d North Melbourne 9.11 (65) at SCG
1SF, 2015, North Melbourne 11.11 (77) d Sydney 7.9 (51) at ANZ Stadium

THE SIX POINTS

1. The Kangaroos had more disposals and took more marks in the clubs' round seven meeting, while the Swans had the edge in inside 50s and clearances. Mason Wood booted four goals for the winners.

2. Sydney's advantage could come in the centre clearances, where it ranks equal sixth, averaging 12.3 per game, well ahead of North in equal 14th with 11.7.

3. Despite the result earlier this season, Sydney has had the better of North Melbourne recently, winning six of nine contests since 2013. The Roos haven't won consecutive clashes with the Swans since 2004-05.

4. North is a low disposal team, ranked 15th with an average of 364 per game. The Swans, on the other hand, are 10th with 377.2. The Kangas are equal fifth for contested possessions and Sydney eighth.

5. The Swans have dominated North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, winning four games to one, on top of a draw. Sydney has won 10 of its last 12 matches at the venue.

6. Kangaroos jet Shaun Higgins has had the ninth biggest relative rise in the Schick AFL Player Ratings this year, surging from No.127 to No.36. The Swans have three in the overall top 20:  Lance Franklin (seven), Josh Kennedy (17) and Luke Parker (20).

IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR …

The ruck battle will be pivotal. Sydney big man Callum Sinclair is down on midfield soldiers, so even more will be expected of the influential Swan. It won't be an easy task, given Todd Goldstein is in his best form in two years.

AFL.com.au PREDICTION: Sydney by 11 points.