TWIN towers Drew Petrie and Jarrad Waite signalled they are still forces to be reckoned with and young teammate Mason Wood had a breakout game as North Melbourne's forwards carried it to a 44-point over St Kilda at Norm Minns Oval in Wangaratta on Saturday.
Petrie and Wood each kicked four goals and Waite three as the Roos' attack overpowered the Saints' defence in the 18.9 (117) to 1.9.10 (73) win.
Wood's performance was significant and could be a sign he is finally ready to cement a senior spot in his fourth AFL season.
Both teams had injury scares in the first quarter when Saints forward Paddy McCartin and North small Kayne Turner went off with hamstring injuries.
Neither played any further part in the match but both injuries appear to be minor.
St Kilda coach Alan Richardson told Fox Footy at half-time that McCartin had "given his hamstring a bit of a tweak" but said the Saints had taken a "pretty cautious and conservative" approach by resting him.
North tweeted that Turner had suffered no more than "minor hamstring tightness".
Roos fans would have been buoyed by the promising debuts of 2015 draftee Ryan Clarke and former Hawk Jed Anderson, while first-year forward Corey Wagner was good in patches.
The Saints have high hopes for Jade Gresham, their first pick in last year's national draft at No.18 overall, and the speedy midfielder did not look out of place at the elite level, even if he was pushed off the ball too easily at times.
St Kilda got out to a 13-point lead midway through the second term after a run of three straight goals that included a brilliant 55m supergoal from Jack Billings.
With their young midfield purring, the Saints looked like they could run the more seasoned Roos off their feet on a day when the temperature nudged 30 degrees.
However, the Roos hit back with the last three goals of the term to go to the main break with a six-point lead, and then powered away with a seven-goal-to-one third term that effectively killed the contest.
North coach Brad Scott said post-match that Saturday's game had been an ideal first hit-out for his team.
"I thought it was (played at a) really good intensity and I think you're looking for your team to bring intensity in the contest but if the opposition don't, then you probably don't get the hit-out that you want," Scott said.
"I thought the Saints were really impressive particularly early with their pressure, some of their youngsters looked really keen to get out there and play after a long pre-season.
"That gave us a really good contest, so I thought both teams would be happy."
St Kilda assistant coach Danny Sexton, who was in charge in the Saints' coach's box on Saturday, was relatively happy with his team's performance save for the third term.
"I thought it was good for the first half. North Melbourne are a really good team. They won two finals last year, so for our young and inexperienced team to go in a goal down at half-time we thought was positive," Sexton said.
"We were disappointed with our third quarter. We lost the quarter by six goals, but we thought we gutsed it out pretty well in the last quarter."
WHAT WE LEARNED
St Kilda: Former No.2 draft pick Jack Billings is set to spend more time in the midfield in his third season and showed in a second-quarter purple match just how damaging he could be. Billings was instrumental in the Saints' three-goal burst that put them 13 points up midway through the second term, the highlight a 55m super goal that went through post high. Seb Ross accumulated a lot of ball through the midfield in a sign St Kilda's on-ball depth is on the rise.
North Melbourne: North's biggest injury fear would be ruckman Todd Goldstein going down with injury and the Roos got a good look at life without the 2015 All Australian on Saturday with understudies Majak Daw and Braydon Preuss handling the ruck duties. Daw, in particular, was impressive, particularly in the ruck contests, most memorably setting up the game's opening goal with a clever tap to Shaun Higgins. Second-year rookie Preuss also competed well enough to suggest North has enough ruck depth if Goldstein is sidelined at any point in 2016. Third forward Mason Wood also showed with three goals that he might be ready to cement a regular senior spot in his fourth season.
St Kilda: Jade Gresham was the only one of the Saints' 2015 draftees to make his debut on Saturday and the midfielder gave glimpses of why St Kilda is so excited by the outside run and class he can add to their on-ball division, although at times he was brushed off the ball by North's hardened bodies. Key-position rookie Nick Coughlan took just one mark from eight touches.
North Melbourne: Ryan Clarke was the most impressive of the Roos' debutant, showcasing his ability to mix it on the inside and in the open through the midfield. North's second pick in last year's national draft burst through the centre late in the first term and set up a Drew Petrie major on the goal-line with a long bomb. Clarke then won the next centre clearance, prompting commentator Terry Wallace to tell Croc Media listeners: "North Melbourne you've found one already." Former Hawk Jed Anderson gave glimpses of why North chased him so hard in last October's trade period, taking a strong contested mark in the second term and coolly converting a set shot from 35m. First-year forward Corey Wagner had a quiet first outing for the Roos, but set up a Brent Harvey goal with a well-weighted long pass late in the third term.
St Kilda: The Saints have a week's break before they venture to Mackay to take on the Brisbane Lions on Sunday, March 6. Key players Nick Riewoldt, Leigh Montagna, David Armitage and Sam Fisher were rested against North and could return against the Lions.
North Melbourne: The Roos also have next weekend off, with their next clash against Collingwood in Wagga Wagga on Saturday, March 5. Stars Todd Goldstein, Daniel Wells and Nick Dal Santo should return against the Pies after being rested against St Kilda, while North is likely to rest other stars before playing a near full-strength team against Hawthorn in their final pre-reason clash.
ST KILDA 0.3.3 1.5.6 1.6.10 1.9.10 (73)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.5.2 0.8.3 0.15.5 0.18.9 (117)
St Kilda: Billings
North Melbourne: Nil
St Kilda: Bruce 2, Saunders, Acres, Savage, Lee, Sinclair, Shenton, Curren
North Melbourne: Petrie 4, Wood 4, Thomas 3, Waite 3, Higgins 2, Anderson, Harvey
St Kilda: Ross, Currey, Newnes, Acres, Billings, Savage
North Melbourne: Petrie, Wood, Higgins, Atley, McDonald, Daw
St Kilda: McCartin (hamstring)
North Melbourne: Turner (hamstring)
Umpires: Harris, Pannell, B. Ryan
Official crowd: 6216 at Norm Minns Oval.