Crunch game looms as pressure builds on North Melbourne


North Melbourne defender Luke McDonald is also a chance to be available for next Sunday’s game after pulling up relatively well from a minor MCL strain.

The 24-year-old played out the game after being treated at half-time, and although slightly inhibited he performed well to keep Port Adelaide star Robbie Gray relatively quiet.

Ben Cunnington tries to fight his way through, but is facing match review scrutiny.Credit:AAP

More concerning for the Kangaroos is the possibility that prime mover Ben Cunnington will receive a penalty from the match review officer Michael Christian when he assesses the game.

Cunnington’s elbow connected with Port Adelaide midfielder Brad Ebert’s head during the match in an incident certain to be scrutinised.

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North Melbourne coach Brad Scott said he saw signs of improvement in the performance against Port Adelaide with the club improving their ability to defend centre bounces however their polish moving forward cost them.

With the Kangaroos now having won just one game in the first six rounds, pressure is mounting on the club to beat Carlton who have near the bottom for the past two seasons as they rebuild.

Scott said he accepted that was inevitable when a team loses five of their first six seasons however if the opinions coming from outside the club about what was needed weren’t assessed sensibly than it could be a distraction.

“Criticism and accountability is a good thing. You are not immune and you shouldn’t shy away from it but you do have to decipher what is important,” Scott said.

Last Sunday club chairman Ben Buckley brought North Melbourne’s leadership together after their loss to Essendon on Good Friday, telling the group he supported them but they needed to challenge each other to determine whether things were being done as well as they could be done.

Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.

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