Jared Polec has battled soreness and scrutiny in his start to life at North Melbourne but the Kangaroos are confident their prized AFL recruit is building towards his best.
Polec will get his first taste of playing in Hobart on Saturday night when the Kangaroos host fellow bottom-four side Sydney at Blundstone Arena.
The wingman was coming off a career-best season when he departed Port Adelaide to sign a lucrative five-year contract with the Roos.
Eight rounds in, Polec has been solid but not spectacular while the Roos have performed well below expectations to sit on just two wins.
North remain comfortable Polec will deliver a strong return on investment, having been restricted at training over the past month.
"He's been a little bit stiff the last few weeks," assistant coach Leigh Tudor said.
"He hasn't been able to train a lot. He's had a few little niggles that have held him back a little bit.
"But he puts his hand up every week, he wants to get out there and he's trying to improve himself.
"He's done some really good things for us so we're happy with the way he's going."
Polec was one of several off-season recruits expected to help lift North back into finals contention.
The 26-year-old was panned by Kangaroos great Wayne Carey for his uncontested style of play - a criticism also levelled at fellow recruit Aaron Hall, who was dropped after round six and has been unable to crack back into the senior side.
"You need a mix of everything in your team," Tudor said.
"Probably the outside run is something that we've targeted, and those guys are really good at that stuff.
"They win enough of their own ball but they're in the side for specific reasons ... which is their great ball use and their running power."
Tudor has been buoyed by his side's improved centre clearance work over the past few weeks, while the likes of Cam Zurhaar, Nick Larkey, Taylor Garner and Mason Wood have provided strong support to forward linchpin Ben Brown.
North were impressive last week against ladder-leaders Geelong, although the Cats' class ultimately prevailed.
The Roos will start firm favourites in Hobart, where they hold an imposing 14-4 record, although Sydney are coming off a last-gasp win over Essendon.
"At their best, they're a really hard side to play against," Tudor said of the Swans.
"(Luke) Parker and (Josh) Kennedy are two of the better midfielders going around so if they're winning the ball, they just set up the whole team."