AFTER his team's disappointing NAB Challenge losses to Carlton and Hawthorn, North Melbourne coach Brad Scott was relieved his team finally showed some spark in its nine-point practice match victory over Geelong at Simonds Stadium on Friday night.
Despite trailing for much of the game, the Kangaroos, who were missing injured skipper Andrew Swallow, midfielder Leigh Adams (rested) and gun youngster Luke McDonald (also rested), prevailed 11.10 (76) to 10.7 (67).
"I thought we looked up for the contest, whereas two weeks ago against Hawthorn, and even in the first half against Carlton, we looked like we were in the flat spot that our training program probably suggested we would be," Scott said after the match, which finished 10 minutes early after the coaches decided they'd seen enough.
Ben Cunnington (26 disposals), Jack Ziebell (25) and star recruit Nick Dal Santo (24) led the way for North Melbourne in the midfield, while youngsters Sam Wright and Brad McKenzie finished with two goals each.
Scott was also happy with the performance of defender Nathan Grima, who made his first appearance of the pre-season.
"I started to think he was going to be pushing it for round one, but he played today, got through a full game, and played well," he said.
Geelong's headline-grabber was ruckman Hamish McIntosh, who continued his promising comeback by gathering 14 possessions, 15 hit-outs and also kicking a goal.
The 203cm ruckman, who didn't play at all in his first season with the Cats, started the night in style, winning the opening hit-out, then crumbing the ball and booting it into attack.
Around 20 minutes later, McIntosh brought the crowd to life by tumbling a wobbly punt through the big sticks.
"He has missed a lot of footy and it is a great story," Geelong assistant coach Blake Caracella said.
"It is nearly two years of footy he has missed. He has come back and played OK last week (against Melbourne), and I think we all saw tonight that he is going to be a good player for us."
McIntosh and Dawson Simpson shared the ruck duties against the Kangaroos. Looking towards the home and away season, Caracella said: "They can certainly both play in the same game.
"There is Blicavs, McIntosh and Simpson. Blicavs is so versatile and mobile, we could potentially play all three."
In the absence of Joel Selwood (hamstring) and Jimmy Bartel (rested), midfielders Mathew Stokes (31 possessions), Mitch Duncan (28), Josh Caddy (27) and Steve Johnson (25) were in the thick of the action all night.
Johnson put on a typically entertaining show, which included a miraculous left-foot goal that he snapped over his shoulder early in the last quarter
Tom Hawkins looked fit and strong up forward, clunking some big grabs and booting three goals.
However, Billie Smedts was hobbling in the rooms, with an ice-pack on his calf, after copping a knock to his leg in the third quarter.
In his favour is the fact he has 13 days to recover in time for Geelong's clash against Adelaide.