MASON Wood bagged four goals and Jack Higgins dazzled as St Kilda's new-look forward line passed its first test in Thursday's 91-point belting of a lacklustre North Melbourne.
Higgins (two goals) looked sharp across half-forward in his first outing as a Saint, combining brilliantly in attack with ex-Roo Wood, Josh Battle (three), Max King (two) and Tim Membrey (two).
The Saints' exquisite ball use proved too much for the Roos to handle, David Noble's side beaten comprehensively 22.8 (140) to 6.13 (49) in their opening scratch match at Arden Street Oval.
Former Pie Jaidyn Stephenson played predominantly as a forward and kicked two goals but had little other impact as the Roos struggled for potency.
Todd Goldstein (bruised ribs) and Ben Cunnington (concussion) sat out for the Roos, but the Saints were also missing a host of stars underlining their new-found depth under Brett Ratten.
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The Saints had 11 individual goalkickers for the afternoon, with King pulling in several contested marks and Dan Butler (two goals) and Jack Lonie (two) busy at his feet.
Paddy Ryder also stood tall in the absence of No.1 ruck Rowan Marshall (foot), coming on and off the bench rotating with recent list addition and ex-Crow Paul Hunter.
Ryder was spotted running extra laps post-game as he builds his fitness to a level to carry more of the ruck load for the start of the season.
James Frawley hasn't lost it. The premiership Hawk, who was pulled out of retirement by the Saints, played a commanding role in the back half alongside Dougal Howard and Callum Wilkie as Jake Carlisle watched on. Higgins and Wood shone, while Brad Crouch looks fitter and played the entire match as an inside midfielder. Stephenson had his moments, while Aidan Corr was left with his hands full and gave away a senseless 50m penalty that gifted the Saints an easy goal in the opening term. Roos list hopeful Sam Skinner was given few chances in attack, while ex-Dog Lachie Young and former Tiger Connor Menadue had little impact. Former Pie Flynn Appleby was given game time late as he, like Skinner, pushes for a SSP berth.
With Crouch to miss the opening two rounds through his drug suspension, Jack Bytel put his hand up for early midfield minutes. The third-year Saint pushed forward to kick two goals in the first half and was used as a starting midfielder after the main break. First-year defender Tom Highmore was used only in the second half. Roos first-round pick Tom Powell looked comfortable at the level, while fellow draftee Charlie Lazzaro was busy after half-time as a midfielder. Roos youngster Tarryn Thomas delivered some flashes of brilliance in an otherwise quiet performance.
Round one bolters
It's hard to see Wood not getting a round one berth off Thursday's performance. While he slotted four goals, his hit-up work across half-forward was just as impressive as he gave his former side the run-around. Forgotten defender Dan McKenzie was one of three Saints – along with Highmore and Luke Dunstan – used only after half-time and will be in the selection conversation to replace Ben Paton (broken leg).
Saint Jack Sinclair looked sharp in his fresh role across half-back as the Saints look for extra options to replace Paton. Previously a midfielder/forward, Sinclair broke the lines and was used in a rotation that included Jimmy Webster, Ben Long, Nick Coffield and later McKenzie. Roos skipper Jack Ziebell was steady and assured in his new half-back role, while Kyron Hayden was used almost exclusively as an inside midfielder in the absence of Jed Anderson (calf) and Cunnington.
Round one will mark almost two years since Dom Tyson played at the highest level and the former Demon was given ample opportunity on Thursday. Tyson started at the first centre bounce for the Roos alongside Aaron Hall, Jy Simpkin and Tom Campbell.
Hunter should come under consideration for a bench spot with Marshall (foot) to sit out the opening rounds and ruck/forward option Shaun McKernan missing on Thursday. Bytel's second pre-season hitout will be one to track should he be given more opportunity. Ziebell should get more footy across half-back but you'll need more convincing in the AAMI Community Series clash next week.
Goldstein and Luke Davies-Uniacke (soreness) missed for the Roos but both are expected to play in next week's AAMI Community Series clash. Anderson, Cunnington and Trent Dumont (calf) watched on along with Jared Polec. The Saints gave McKernan (rolled ankle) an extra week off, with Marshall, Dan Hannebery (calf), Dean Kent (bone bruising), Jarryn Geary (fractured leg) and Zak Jones (hamstring) also not out there. Jade Gresham missed but has been in full training.