North Melbourne could be boosted by the return of star pair Shaun Higgins and Mason Wood for their crunch AFL clash with the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba on Saturday night.
Higgins has been sidelined for six weeks with an AC joint injury which required surgery while Wood was a late withdrawal ahead of the Kangaroos' agonising five-point loss to Essendon last round due to a quad injury.
In a further boost, caretaker coach Rhyce Shaw expected recent Rising Star nominee Nick Larkey to face the Lions despite the youngster experiencing heart palpitations against the Bombers.
"Shaun has trained the last couple weeks, he'll train again today and we'll make a decision on that at the end of training but he's got to get through today - it's a really important session for him," Shaw said at Arden Street on Wednesday.
"(Wood is) very similar. I think guys who are coming back from injury, they have to provide a good reason for them to come back in the side and that's to train really well."
Shaw said Larkey had been dealing with heart issues all year.
"Our medical staff is fully across that and we've spoken to all the right people and he seems fine," Shaw said.
"He seems comfortable, the docs are really comfortable, the cardiologist is really comfortable ... he trains alright today, he'll be available to play."
In a heartening development, Shaw wouldn't rule out Majak Daw making a return to senior ranks this year after playing a couple of games in the VFL, although Shaw conceded he had "no idea" if the 28-year-old would actually be able to make the jump to AFL level in 2019.
Sitting two games outside the top eight with six games to go, the Kangaroos' finals hopes are on the line this week against the Lions.
But Shaw wasn't deterred by Port Adelaide's attempts to rough up star Lion Lachie Neale on the weekend backfiring spectacularly, insisting his players would bring the same physical aggression which has come to define his stint as caretaker coach.
"We just want to play our brand of football and I think we've made that really clear over the last six weeks that we've got certain standards and certain ways we want to go about things," he said.
"We are hard at the contest and hard at the ball and that's what we're about, there's no other way we want to play the game."
Star North midfielder Ben Cunnington came close to being suspended again last week with a hit on Essendon's Zach Merrett, but Shaw backed his charge to keep playing on the edge.
"We can't afford him to be out and he knows that and I've made that very clear but I want him to play his brand of football," Shaw said.
Australian Associated Press