Interim coach Ratten buoyant about North's youth
Brett Ratten is buoyant about North Melbourne's future as Harry Sheezel and George Wardlaw play together for the first time in what promises to be an emotion-charged affair against Sydney.
North will host the Swans at Marvel Stadium on Saturday without Alastair Clarkson at the helm after the four-time premiership coach indefinitely stepped away from the club to deal with the mental toll of the ongoing Hawthorn racism saga.
Ratten was only a part-time assistant coach at Arden St up until Wednesday, but stepped up to help his long-time friend during a time of crisis.
North enter the clash on a seven-game losing streak and without several key players, including star midfielder Luke Davies-Uniacke and explosive forward Cameron Zurhaar.
But injuries have paved the way for the Kangaroos to debut George Wardlaw with Rising Star contender Harry Sheezel.
The pair were picked third and fourth in last year's draft, with Ratten hopeful Wardlaw and Sheezel could play together for more than a decade.
"Harry's come in and performed at a really high standard and George it's his first game" Ratten said on Friday.
"It's exciting for the footy club to see these young fellas doing what they do best and the opportunity for them to gel together and get some continuity of playing together.
"You see some of the great teams of the past that have had players come through together the youth have played together for a long time and I think we're seeing this for the first time and they'll be building something together."
Wardlaw was one of six inclusions for North after they were belted by Port Adelaide in Hobart last Saturday by 70 points.
Aidan Corr is out suspended, Zurhaar underwent jaw surgery, while Jack Mahony (shoulder), Flynn Perez (concussion), Luke Davies-Uniacke and Darcy Tucker (both hamstring) are also unavailable.
Aaron Hall, Will Phillips, Tom Powell, Callum Coleman-Jones and Eddie Ford have all been recalled.
But Sydney, last year's beaten grand finalists, are experiencing their own injury crisis and have tumbled to 15th following four-straight defeats.
Swans ruckman Peter Ladhams returns from an arm injury in place of Tom Hickey (concussion), with Logan McDonald (ankle), Callum Mills (calf) and Marc Sheather (foot) also out.
Lance Franklin struggled badly in last week's loss against Fremantle, but coach John Longmire later revealed the veteran forward was ill in the lead-up to the match and wouldn't have played if the Swans had more fit players to choose from.