In-form Roo a key ahead of Hawks AFL clash

Jason Phelan
In-form Ben Brown looms as a key factor for North Melbourne in their AFL clash with Hawthorn

In-form North Melbourne spearhead Ben Brown would be a deserving leader in the race for the Coleman Medal leader after five AFL rounds.

Sydney superstar Lance Franklin managed just one major in his side's shock loss to Adelaide on Friday night to lead with 18 goals, with Brown third on 15.

The big Roo will have the chance to continue a superb run of form in front of goal when his side takes on a resurgent Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Brown, North's leading goalkicker for the past two seasons, has bags of six, four and five goals to his name during the past three rounds.

His form has been a key reason why the Roos find themselves in the eight with a 2-2 record heading into the clash.

"It's great for Ben ... he works hard on the track and he's coming up against the opposition's No.1 defender a lot of the time," North assistant Leigh Tudor said.

"That probably only started to happen last year but he's worked through that and he has a more complete game.

"There was a game earlier in the year when he had seven spoils so he brings other forwards into the game as well if he can't mark it.

"He's doing a lot of things well at the moment and he works really hard so he deserves everything he gets."

The 3-1 Hawks will be out to cut off supply to the 200cm forward.

Led by prolific onballer Tom Mitchell, Hawthorn are the leading clearance side after four rounds.

North tagger Ben Jacobs appears the likely match-up for Mitchell but the Roos won't make the mistake of fixating on the key Hawk.

"Players like that are really hard to tag," Tudor said of Mitchell.

"He's one that we'll have to watch but they have a deep midfield at the minute with (Jaeger) O'Meara, (Liam) Shiels and (Isaac) Smith playing good footy.

"There's plenty to worry about.

"(But Jacobs) is a really disciplined player ... whatever role he has he just gets it done."

The wounded Hawks will be without forward dynamos Cyril Rioli (knee) and Paul Puopolo (hamstring) after the pair were injured in the 67-point thumping of Melbourne.

Ryan Burton and James Cousins went in for the duo.

The Roos have made one change to the side that embarrassed Carlton by 86 points - Cameron Zurhaar goes in for Luke Davies-Uniacke, who's being rested.