NORTH Melbourne defender Michael Firrito says the switch from hard-running summer training sessions to “game mode” had come quick.
The Kangaroos have their first NAB Challenge hit-out hosting Carlton at Eureka Stadium next week – and the Roos have the added advantage of spending quality time in Ballarat today and tomorrow.
A heavy training session at home yesterday means the Kangaroos will focus solely on meeting and working with Ballarat football fans in their AFL community camp.
Firrito hoped a full-strength roster on school and community group visits and training sessions with the region’s football clubs might draw a little extra support for their pre-season showdown with the Blues.
“There will be a lot of blue out there – hopefully a little more of our blue-and-white than their navy blue,” Firrito said.
“Normally we get good support when we play (in Ballarat).
“It does feel like a home base, especially because of our affiliation with Ballarat’s VFL team and the great success our players have had there.”
This is the sixth consecutive year North Melbourne has scheduled a Ballarat camp on the eve of pre-season matches.
The Roos have a packed schedule in Ballarat, starting with a civic reception and welcome at the town hall this morning, then players will take the weekend off before launching into full match preparations to return to town for the televised match against Carlton on February 15.
They will bring a full roster to camp, including captain Andrew Swallow in his continued comeback from an Achilles tendon injury, fan favourite Majak Daw, who is a chance to play NAB Challenge matches after post-season knee surgery, and high-profile recruit Nick Dal Santo.
“We’ve put in a fair bit of extra work this pre-season. There seems to be a bit more pressure and expectations on us – last year was frustrating with so many narrow losses,” Firrito said.
“Unfortunately (Swallow) is not going to play NAB Cup but he’s determined to be back early in the (AFL) season ... I wouldn’t like to stand in Andrew Swallow’s way once he’s made his mind up.
“(Daw) is back on deck in full training and he’s a player who’s pretty hard to stop. He knows he’s still got a lot of improvement to make himself the best player he can be.
“Dal Santo’s been fine and embraced the North Melbourne way quickly. He brings a wealth of experience to our young midfield and it’s nice to have a new perspective with experience and thoughts, coming from such a quality
There are plenty of new and emerging Kangaroos to meet, including improving midfielders Shaun Atley and Ben Cunnington or young guns Taylor Garner and Mason Wood.
Towering forward recruit Ben Brown is tipped to be a favourite about school clinics.
Brown, who sports a powerful mark and impressive goal kicking, has an iconic mane likened to The Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob.