SYDNEY young guns Callum Mills and Isaac Heeney showed their side should be able to fill the hole left by Tom Mitchell in the Swans' two-point loss to North Melbourne at Coffs Harbour on Sunday.
Despite the efforts of that pair, the Jack Ziebell-led Kangaroos were able to hold on for the win, 0.9.11 (65) to 0.8.15 (63).
Mills spent his Rising Star year in defence while Heeney was largely a forward, although he did spend more time as an onballer late in the season.
Mills racked up a game-high 29 disposals and was instrumental in Sydney's failed comeback in the last quarter, while Heeney's cleanliness was impressive. His sure hands both in the air and on the ground will be missed from the forward line.
The loss of Heeney will be mitigated by the return of Sam Reid. The big man did not play last year after hamstring and calf injuries but a couple of strong marks in the second quarter showed his value to the Swans.
Kayne Turner also showed he could be one to watch for Roos fans this year when he went up in a marking contest against four Swans defenders, brought the ball to ground and quickly kicked a goal before anyone had the chance to tackle him.
Ultimately though, North's experienced players showed why they will be so important this year.
The Roos worked their way back into the game as Ziebell and Ben Cunnington had an impact at stoppages while Shaun Higgins' class was obvious, save for a set shot that went out on the full in the third quarter.
Speedster Shaun Atley started brightly in his move to the midfield and showed in a couple of passages why he will be a valuable player, winning 24 disposals.
The Swans had the better of the first term, holding North Melbourne goalless. First-round draft selection Oliver Florent impressed with his classy kicking skills.
Stand-in coach Brett Kirk highlighted the performance of Florent and Darcy Cameron as prospects representing the Swans for the first time.
"They both handled themselves really well," Kirk said.
"Darcy competes well and Oliver's got some real speed and run and carry. He's really composed with the ball in his hand."
The Swans gave up the lead for the first time early in the last quarter when recruit Nathan Hrovat showed composure to edge his side ahead. The former Bulldog followed up the effort a couple of minutes later, with his small stature and nous around goal important as the Roos played their first game in many a year with Brent Harvey missing from the list.
Leigh Tudor, coaching in place of Brad Scott, said Hrovat's personality was a bright spark at the club.
"He's pretty polished. He's a smart player, he knows what to do. He's fitted in really well to the group. He's energetic and bubbly and I think we'll see a bit more of him," he said.
Sam Reid (right) attempts to lay a tackle on Sam Gibson. Picture: AFL Photos
WHAT WE LEARNED
Sydney: The Swans just keep on developing young guns. Callum Mills and Isaac Heeney were excellent while Zak Jones' hardness will make it tough for John Longmire not to pick him in the side every week. Darcy Cameron showed potential up forward and could get games early in the season. While Tom Mitchell will be missed, the Swans let him go because they knew they would be able to replace his output, and this game confirmed that view.
North Melbourne: Expectations aren't high for what the Kangaroos can deliver this year but they showed their leaders will need to stand up if they are to be competitive. Jack Ziebell and Ben Cunnington have to control stoppages if the Roos are to have a chance, while Shaun Higgins needs to stay on the park. His foot skills stood out in this game but with the incoming Nathan Hrovat and Shaun Atley moving to the midfield, there is room for a few others to step up at Arden Street.
Sydney: The Swans have found one in Oliver Florent. They selected him No. 11 last year and, after an early fumble, he showed excellent skills and booted a couple of goals, including one on the run from the 50m arc. A possible tall forward and back-up ruck option was found in Darcy Cameron. Robbie Fox was a little untidy with his kicking at times but showed composure in the contest. Essendon discard Shaun Edwards spent time in the midfield while Jack Maibaum was relatively quiet.
North Melbourne: After an injury-riddled 2016, Nathan Hrovat looks set to establish a spot with his new side after showing plenty. He will provide a goalkicking option and can also play through the middle. Marley Williams made a couple of errors but should be an effective stopper in the backline. Declan Watson, Nick Larkey and Matthew Taylor did not have a great impact on the game.
Sydney has a week off before it comes up against rival Greater Western Sydney in a rematch of last year's qualifying final. Arden Street will host a sold-out match between two top-tier sides for the first time since 1985, when the Kangaroos face Hawthorn.
SYDNEY 0.3.4 0.5.6 0.5.12 0.8.15 (63)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.0.2 0.3.6 0.5.8 0.9.11 (65)
North Melbourne: Nil
Sydney: Florent 2, Cameron, Kennedy, Robinson, Hannebery, Fox, Foote
North Melbourne: Wood 2, Hrovat 2, Higgins, McDonald, Turner, Mountford, Cunnington
Sydney: Mills, Heeney, Jones, Hannebery, Hewett
North Melbourne: Ziebell, Higgins, Hrovat, Cunnington, Macmillan, Atley, Preuss
North Melbourne: Nil
Umpires: Hay, B Ryan, S Ryan, Stephens
Official crowd: 3,040 at Coffs Harbour International Sports Stadium