A SAM Mitchell master class and a seven-goal haul from Josh Kennedy steered West Coast to a 43-point win over North Melbourne as the Eagles started their 2017 campaign in perfect fashion.
Mitchell gathered 38 disposals in the 21.10 (136) to 13.15 (93) victory at Etihad Stadium and was clearly the most influential player on the ground in his Eagles debut.
Only a week earlier at the Docklands venue, British megastar Adele graced the centre of the Etihad Stadium surface and opened her record-breaking show with hit song Hello.
But Sunday was Mitchell's turn to greet the football world following his shock exit from Hawthorn during last year's trade period after four premierships and five best and fairests with the club. And he did it in style with a typically controlling performance.
It was a less influential West Coast debut for former North forward Drew Petrie, who was forced off the ground early in the game with a hand injury. He returned to the field with it bandaged and was limited, but kicked a sealing goal in the final term.
Coach Adam Simpson revealed after the game that Petrie had fractured his hand and will require surgery, but praised the recruit for his courage in playing on under duress.
Petrie's quiet day didn't make much of a difference for the Eagles, however, as they showed their firepower in attack. Reigning Coleman medallist Kennedy was superb throughout, kicking goals from all angles and distances, while fellow forwards Mark LeCras (four goals) and Jamie Cripps (three goals) also did their bit.
Mitchell's new midfield partner – fellow Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis – was excellent with 29 disposals, while Andrew Gaff (35 disposals), Luke Shuey (31) and Elliot Yeo (26 and two goals) were also important and too dynamic for the North onballers.
Despite the win, Simpson lamented how the Eagles allowed rebound off the half forward line and conceded 93 points despite the Roos' inaccuracies in front of goal.
"We're definitely not completely satisfied," he said.
"The fact we ground out a hard-fought win … both teams looked pretty tired towards the end but I think maybe our maturity got us over the line."
The Roos entered the game with a new-look outfit, but it was mainly their most familiar names who had the biggest say in keeping North in the game until half-time.
New skipper Jack Ziebell led the way with 31 disposals, while former captain Andrew Swallow was dogged with 23 touches and eight tackles. More midfield time made for a productive performance from Trent Dumont (25 disposals) and Shaun Higgins (25 touches) showed his skill after an injury-impacted season last year.
The Roos' four debutants, plus recruits Nathan Hrovat and Marley Williams, were all relatively quiet for the blue and white but ruckman Braydon Preuss did impress at times in combination with important big man Todd Goldstein.
But their inaccuracy was costly, and coach Brad Scott lamented the fact his side had given away so many chances.
"It's too simplistic to say, 'Gee, if we had have kicked straight we would've won', because I don't believe that's the case, but it would have made the game a lot more competitive," he said.
North had the better of the start, posting the first two goals in the opening three minutes and continuing to dominate play for the quarter.
Their nine-point advantage at the first change didn't quite reflect the level of their control, however, after recording 18 inside-50s to 11 and peppering the goals without making the most of their chances.
It didn't take long for their misses to prove costly. The Eagles booted three goals in the opening three minutes of the second term to grab back the lead, and they held a six-point advantage by the main break.
LeCras booted three for the term – and had a hand in another – to prove his class in West Coast's forward line and highlight his unique qualities as a medium forward and ever-present danger.
The Eagles kicked six goals for the second term but were unable to break the Roos, who returned fire whenever West Coast looked like pulling away. Ben Brown's aerial ability in attack, alongside the courageous and crafty Kayne Turner and imposing Jarrad Waite offered some presence to their forward set up.
But West Coast stepped up its game in the third term to stamp itself on the contest by converting seven goals to three and opening up a 28-point lead at the final change.
North had its chances again early in the fourth term, but Waite's wastefulness (he finished with 1.7) continued with two early misses. Moments later, Petrie booted a goal from outside 50 for the Eagles to extend his new team's lead to 31 points and all but end the contest, starting his career at his new club in a winning way.
Jarrad Waite's radar was off-target, kicking 1.7 for the afternoon. Picture: AFL Photos
North Melbourne: Lots was new about North in terms of personnel. First-round pick Jy Simpkin picked up nine touches and put his body on the line in attack, while former Bulldog Nathan Hrovat tried hard in attack and kicked a nice goal. Mitchell Hibberd, Braydon Preuss and Declan Mountford were quiet on debut, while former Pie Marley Williams (11 disposals) struggled to get involved.
West Coast: Sam Mitchell will get plenty of attention, and deservedly so, for his brilliant first game at the Eagles. But Nathan Vardy, with West Coast's ruck division decimated by injury, also needs to stand up this year, and he started well on Sunday. The former Cat had 10 disposals and 16 hit-outs and was competitive around the ground.
North Melbourne: The Roos appeared to get through without any real injury concerns ahead of next week, but Waite did end the game with his shoulder being iced after a contest late in the match.
West Coast: It was a dire start for Drew Petrie in West Coast colours, with the former Roo leaving the field early in the first term with a hand injury. He returned to the field after receiving treatment and played out the game, but will doubtless face scans during the week to check the severity of the problem.
West Coast head home to host St Kilda at Domain Stadium next Saturday, with Saints champion Nick Riewoldt to miss the clash with his knee injury. North takes on Geelong at Etihad Stadium next Sunday.
NORTH MELBOURNE 4.6 8.8 11.10 13.15 (93)
WEST COAST 3.3 9.8 16.8 21.10 (136)
North Melbourne: Goldstein 3, Brown 2, Turner 2, Atley, Ziebell, Waite, Preuss, Hrovat, Tarrant
West Coast: Kennedy 7, LeCras 4, Cripps 3, Yeo 2, Darling 2, Jetta, Hill, Petrie
North Melbourne: Ziebell, Dumont, Higgins, Swallow, Goldstein
West Coast: Mitchell, Kennedy, Priddis, LeCras, Gaff, Yeo
North Melbourne: Nil
West Coast: Petrie (hand)
Umpires: Margetts, Nicholls, Mitchell
Official crowd: 21,997 at Etihad Stadium