THE EXCITEMENT levels went through the roof at Arden Street on Friday night, with North Melbourne's star No.1 pick Jason Horne-Francis lighting up its final intraclub clash of the summer.
Playing in front of his parents, who had flown over from South Australia for the tune-up match, Horne-Francis pulled down an incredible hanger and dazzled with his physicality and elite ball-winning abilities to emerge as one of the contest's standouts.
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After a slow start, having been trialled forward in the game's early stages, Horne-Francis went into the midfield after half-time and had an immediate impact with his terrific clearance work and presence around the contest.
He pulled down a fantastic grab midway through the third term, leaping over several teammates, before going back to slot the resulting set-shot in undoubtedly the game's most rousing highlight.
Horne-Francis teamed up brilliantly with fellow youngsters Luke Davies-Uniacke and Tarryn Thomas through the midfield, while key forward Nick Larkey kicked three first-half goals and was also impressive with his marking in attack.
The only concern for the Kangaroos came in the form of injuries to Tristan Xerri (concussion), Luke McDonald (concussion) and Aaron Hall (hamstring tightness), with all three forced to withdraw from the contest before half-time.
The loss of Xerri was a particular blow, given he had been named to start alongside recruit Callum Coleman-Jones in a much stronger 'blue' team. It meant veteran Todd Goldstein was picked to play in a 'pink' side made up largely of first-year players and VFL top-ups.
Former first-round pick Will Phillips was also named in the weaker 'pink' side, but was incredibly influential throughout the game and impressed with his attack on the contest to put his name forward for a round one inclusion.
Jack Mahony was prolific playing as a high half-forward and finished with two goals, while round one bolter Paul Curtis and fellow youngster Eddie Ford also showed flashes of brilliance as they compete for a small forward position.
Experienced wingman Jared Polec was another to impress, finishing with two goals – both from beyond 50m – and winning plenty of the footy after being chosen to start in the much stronger 'blue' side.
North Melbourne begins its pre-season campaign with a trip to Casey Fields to face reigning premiers Melbourne next Thursday, before facing Sydney at Giants Stadium in the AAMI Community Series on March 6 ahead of its round one clash with Hawthorn.