Brad Scott hopeful elusive winning streak

North Melbourne coach Brad Scott says there is no need for him to remind his players of the importance of notching consecutive wins for only the third time this season when the team faces St Kilda in Hobart on Saturday.

The seventh-placed Kangaroos’ bid to snare a top-four birth were boosted last weekend when three teams above them lost, one of them (Hawthorn) beaten by the Roos.

The club’s consistency has criticised because its winning streaks this year have been limited to three matches between rounds two and four and back-to-back wins in rounds 11 and 12.

Of the Kangaroos’ last seven opponents, only one, Geelong, is in the top eight.

Scott acknowledged expectations of North may have risen after it knocked over reigning premier Hawthorn and Port Adelaide and Collingwood lost, but downplayed the significance of its improved standing in the eight.

“Top four is going to be talked about for the next seven games I imagine, but we can only hold up our end of the bargain and try to gather some momentum in the back half of the year – and certainly search for the consistency that’s so far eluded us this year. That’s our primary focus,” he said on Wednesday, before the club trained at its Aegis Park headquarters.

“As soon as we start looking at potential ladder positions, I think we take our eye off what’s really important.

“I still don’t regard us as a genuine top-four side, one, because we’re not there, and two, because top-four sides consistently back up good performances, and we haven’t done that yet.”

The coach said his players were “well aware of” their inability to string victories together regularly this season, and as such did not need to be reminded of the importance of doing so in the final third of the season.

While last-placed St Kilda has endured an awful run of form and injury this season – influential midfielder Jack Steven has ruled out for a month – Scott insisted the club would do its “usual [level of] due diligence” on the Saints.

“Lenny Hayes is probably likely to come back in, and he’s still playing at an elite level in my view. (David) Armitage runs through their midfield, (Leigh) Montagna [too], (Nick) Riewoldt is still probably in the top one, two or three key forwards in the competition, so we’ve got respect for what they’re capable of doing.”

Scott said Jack Ziebell, who missed the Hawks’ match with a knee injury, “ran really well” on Monday and he was optimistic he would return against the Saints, provided he passed a fitness test likely to be held on Thursday.

The match on Saturday will be North’s first at Blundstone Arena since round six last year, and its first there against a Victorian team. While a single-figure temperature is forecast, Scott disagreed the cold, drizzly training conditions on Wednesday were an fitting preparation.

“We’ve played four games in Hobart since the deal was struck and the weather’s been pristine every time we’ve been down there. In the middle of July, you expect some pretty average weather in the southern states,” he said.

Scott said untried draftees Trent Dumont, 19, and Mason Wood, 20, were “closer” to senior selection based on VFL form. He said Dumont, a midfielder from Norwood taken with North’s second pick in last year’s draft, was in contention to debut as early as this weekend, depending on Ziebell’s availability.

Defender Aaron Mullett was also rated a chance to play after a good showing in the VFL.

Scott said long-term injury victims Daniel Wells (foot) and Nathan Grima (foot) were “closer” to returning, but was unable to give a more precise indication of when that was likely to occur.

“They’ve still got some hurdles to jump, but both [are] improving week by week,” he said.

“I feel a bit for our medical guys because everyone in this industry wants a return date and a lot of the time they’ve got to guess. Once they’re in full training we can put a return date on them.”

He said Wells, who has not played since round five, had been “very frustrated, but he sees light at the end of the tunnel now … feels like he’s in the home stretch and not far away from joining full training”.

Scott welcomed the tribunal’s decision on Tuesday night. It wiped the 125 carry-over points levied on Drew Petrie by the match review panel, for contact to the face of Hawthorn’s Brian Lake as the pair scuffled last weekend.

“I think it was pretty important in the whole context of the incident,” he said. “We wanted to defend Drew at the tribunal and make sure that he went into the back half of the year without points hanging over his head, so the result was good for us.”

Asked about the four-match penalty given to Lake for grabbing Petrie’s throat, Scott replied: “I’ll reserve my opinion – for once, keep it to myself.”

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