Age shall not weary older Kangaroos
THEY are often the unheralded members of a football club. But the work members of the fitness staff do behind the scenes should never be underestimated.
It's certainly not lost on North Melbourne players who are benefiting from a cutting-edge regimen at Arden Street - their very own fountain of youth.
When many thought the Kangaroos would be too old and too slow this season, they have shown themselves to one of the biggest threats to Hawthorn's reign.
They sit unbeaten after five rounds - a record built around a hell-for-leather attacking game. They've topped 100 points in each of those wins.
They brought their own heat to the Gold Coast on Saturday night, outrunning, out-hassling and outplaying a younger Suns side on their own deck to remain a game clear at the top of the ladder.
They had six 30-plus year olds, and another five who are at least 28, in their line-up, with 16 of them having played at least 100 games. In comparison, the hosts had five.
The average age of the Roos' side that will contest a blockbuster top-of-the-table clash with the neighbouring - and incredibly fleet-footed - Western Bulldogs at Docklands this Friday could be a tick over 28 years.
It will depend on whether late withdrawal Mason Wood, 22, returns in place of fellow 'baby' Kayne Turner, 20.
But, either way, North has the Richmond line-up of round 15, 1923, whose average age was 28 years, 76 days - the oldest in VFL-AFL history - well and truly in its sights.
Old Man Boomer, Brent Harvey, at 37, obviously bumps up the age, but Drew Petrie (33), Jarrad Waite (33), Michael Firrito (32), Daniel Wells (31) and Nick Dal Santo (32) are no spring chickens ... but in outstanding form.
Waite has been the pin-up boy for the Roos' fitness program, which is keeping them out on the park.
He's played 30 of a possible 32 games since arriving from Carlton after appearing in 78 out of 138 the previous six seasons with the Blues.
"North Melbourne do injury prevention better than I've ever seen," Waite said last week. "It's probably the one thing that I've found has really helped me and my footy and durability."
Also previously injury prone with the Bulldogs, Higgins, 28, has only missed one game since becoming a Roo. Petrie and Wells, meanwhile, both dropped about 5kg each during the summer, and it's paying off, especially for the latter who had only played 12 games between 2014-15 while battling foot and Achilles issues.
In addition, North has used a league-low 25 players this season, compared to Collingwood, which will run its 33rd and 34th out on to the MCG today.
So Dan Meehan, the club's chief strength and conditioning coach, take a bow ... or not, it's probably no good for the back.
Footscray 20y, 253d (R8 1959)
GWS Giants 20y, 267d (R12 2013)
Richmond 28y, 76d (R15 1923)
Fitzroy 28y, 61d (R4 1946)