Harding enjoying new challenges - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Harding enjoying new challenges

By Leonard Siragusa 26/04/2008 10:16:40 AM Comments (0)

North Melbourne's Leigh Harding has been thrown more than his fair share of challenges this year and that's just the way he wants it.

He returned from a knee reconstruction last year only to be put on notice by coach Dean Laidley to perform or face the chop.

As a half-forward flanker, Harding topped the club's goalkicking list in 2003 with 33 goals, but was told he would have to re-invent himself as a creative half-back if he was to keep his spot in the team each week.

And while he had a shaky start - he was dropped for the Kangaroos' round four game against Melbourne - Harding is now in favour at the club following his 26-possession game against Collingwood last Saturday night.

"It's been a new challenge, playing in defence but it's been really refreshing for me," Harding said.

"I've enjoyed it, I learn something every week about how the opposition forward leads, how they crumb the ball and what they're thinking at certain times in games.

"It never stops, in a learning sense."

While Harding said his main focus was to shut down his direct opponent, he said he would happily zone off and help his teammates when it was his time to go.

Harding, who provided plenty of rebound from defence against the Magpies, made just one glaring turnover.

And although his kicking has been a bone of contention in previous years when playing in front of goal, Harding said he was satisfied with the effectiveness of his disposal, which was at 73 per cent last Saturday night.

"My disposal efficiency has been good," Harding said.

"It helps playing in the backline because you probably don't have the same spotlight on you.

"I feel like I'm going well, the numbers are stacking up."

The challenge for Harding will be even greater Sunday against Sydney at Telstra Dome.

North Melbourne will be without regular defenders Josh Gibson (knee) and Daniel Pratt (suspension) and swing-man Leigh Brown (hand) and the Swans are renowned for playing an uncompromising and relentless brand of football.

"We've been pretty lucky to have our first six matches in Melbourne but the Swans are a pretty good team," Harding said.

"They always give a contest - you always know you're in for a fight and that's what they love and that's what we love so I reckon it will be a ripper game on the weekend."

Sydney will again need to cover suspended spearhead Barry Hall's absence for the clash against the Roos but will welcome back running half-back Tadhg Kennelly, who has overcome his hamstring problems.

Swans coach Paul Roos will be hoping dual Brownlow Medallist Adam Goodes responds well to his scathing criticism following another below-par performance last week against Geelong.

And he will be expecting more from his ageing forward Michael O'Loughlin after Geelong's Matthew Scarlett held the veteran Swan goalless last Saturday.

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