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Oliver Caffrey

Clarkson challenges Zurhaar to step up for North

The Kangaroos believe an improved Cam Zurhaar can help them to lofty heights in 2024. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson has challenged Cam Zurhaar to deliver his best AFL season yet as the explosive forward weighs up his future.

Zurhaar, who will play his 100th game in the Kangaroos' clash with Greater Western Sydney on Saturday, is off-contract at season's end.

The 25-year-old has stopped short of committing to North, previously saying he was focusing on this season and would "take it from there".

After four successive bottom-two finishes, the Kangaroos are desperate to start working their way back up the ladder.

Clarkson hopes Zurhaar views North as the club "where he can play his best footy".

"We're hopeful that he could start playing his best footy, he's been in the system now for the best part of six or seven years," Clarkson said on Tuesday.

"He's a pretty influential player, plays in a pretty unique type of way.

"But we are yet to see a full season of the best of Cam Zurhaar.

"If we see that then we think we're going to have a pretty special player."

Cam Zurhaar.
Cam Zurhaar in action during a pre-season clash against Collingwood. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Clarkson put Zurhaar in a bracket of players in their mid-20s who can help lift North out of the doldrums.

Forward Nick Larkey emerged as a genuine AFL star in 2023 after kicking 71 goals for the Kangaroos, who won just three games.

Clarkson has hopes players including Zurhaar, Jaidyn Stephenson, Luke Davies-Uniacke and ruckman Tristan Xerri can join Larkey in performing consistently.

"If we're waiting for the younger players like the (Zane) Duursmas, the (Colby) McKerchers and the (Harry) Sheezels and others, if that's going to be the future of the football club, we're going to be waiting a fair period of time before we actually climb ourselves back up the ladder," Clarkson said.

"We need this tier through the Cam Zurhaar bracket to actually take a step forward and we think they've all got that capability.

"He could be a really, really influential player and if he is, we get better, he gets better and everything sorts itself out in terms of contract."

Drafted as a rookie in 2016, Zurhaar has kicked 133 goals in his 99 games.

Nicknamed 'Bull', Zurhaar was not shy about slamming Jason Horne-Francis after the former No.1 draft pick wanted a trade to Port Adelaide after just one season with the Kangaroos at the end of 2022.

On Instagram, Zurhaar posted a photo of Horne-Francis with the caption: "Full north kit..... still.....".

Zurhaar also hit out at Horne-Francis after advertising discounts for tote bags when using the code 'Hornetgone'. Hornet is Horne-Francis' nickname.

On Tuesday afternoon, North confirmed highly talented youngsters Duursma and McKercher would debut against the Giants at Engie Stadium.

Midfielder McKercher (pick two) and forward Duursma (four) were snapped up by the Kangaroos early in last year's draft, joining fellow young guns Sheezel and Wardlaw in an exciting line-up.

Announcing McKercher's debut was his fellow Tasmanian, Hugh Greenwood. 

The Kangaroos veteran shared a message McKercher had sent him via Instagram back in 2021, when the then-15-year-old had expressed his love and respect for Greenwood.

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