Spring in Stephenson’s step for Lion hunt
Murray Wenzel |
North Melbourne captain Jack Ziebell is hopeful a stint in the VFL has done the trick for Jaidyn Stephenson, who returns to the AFL against Brisbane.
The former Collingwood talent was dropped after collecting just 11 disposals in the Kangaroos’ 20-point loss to Hawthorn to open their season.
The 22-year-old responded as coach David Noble had hoped though, accruing 24 disposals in North’s defeat of Williamstown to earn an immediate recall as a replacement for the injured Tarryn Thomas.
Ziebell said the Roos needed Stephenson at his damaging best and that signs this week were promising.
“His attitude was outstanding; it’s never easy for a high-profile recruit to be omitted,” Ziebell said.
“You forget he’s only 22 … but he’ll tell you that he puts more pressure on himself than anyone on his own performances.
“When they aren’t up to scratch he’s very impatient about getting better, which we love to see.
“We know what he can do when he’s up and going; with the ball in his hand he can kick goals from just about anywhere, accumulate big numbers through the midfield.
“He got a lot of confidence out of last week, just going back and playing footy, enjoying it for what it is and (since then) he’s had a really good energy about him.”
Unbeaten Brisbane have been below their best in two hard-fought wins in 2022 but will still begin short-priced favourites at their Gabba fortress.
However, North (1-1), who beat a COVID-19 hit West Coast last weekend, pushed premiership contenders Brisbane in Tasmania last year and will be well-versed tactically under former Lions football boss David Noble.
“It’s a hell of a task and something we’re looking forward to,” Ziebell said.
Meanwhile, Lions captain Dayne Zorko said the pain in his calf stemming from pre-season achilles surgery was “100 times better than what it was last week” as he adjusted to his new half-back role.
“It’s an exciting new challenge, one I’ve really, really liked,” Zorko, who still had 33 disposals in last week’s win over Essendon, said.
“It’s sort of refreshing, there’s sense of excitement and being able to see the game that happens in front of you is something I’ve enjoyed.”AAP