Harry Sheezel (left) and Luke McDonald celebrate during round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

NORTH Melbourne has hung on for a dramatic five-point victory over West Coast to kick off the Alastair Clarkson era in winning fashion and set off early alarm bells for the Eagles.

Last season's wooden-spooners seized control of Saturday afternoon's clash with an unanswered six-goal burst in the first half and withstood a late Eagles surge to seal a 12.15 (87) to 12.10 (82) win in front of 21,274 fans at Marvel Stadium.

Spearhead Nick Larkey booted six goals while midfield bull Luke Davies-Uniacke (32 disposals, 11 clearances) set the tone around the ground.


No.3 draft pick Harry Sheezel impressed off half-back with 34 disposals, the most by a VFL/AFL debutant in almost four decades, while recruit Griffin Logue and veteran Jack Ziebell marshalled the Kangaroos' defence admirably.

KANGAROOS v EAGLES Full match coverage and stats

Makeshift ruck duo Hugh Greenwood and Charlie Comben battled well in the ruck against Bailey Williams after Tristan Xerri was substituted out with an ankle injury late in the first quarter.

The Eagles left themselves with plenty of work to do after a dire first half during which they lacked impetus around the contest, moved the ball slowly and at times looked scattered when the Kangaroos surged forward.


Were it not for key defensive duo Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass, the situation could have been far worse.

The pair somewhat limited the damage down back while Liam Ryan (three goals), Luke Shuey (27 disposals) and Dom Sheed (25 touches) were crucial to their third-quarter resurgence.

'PRETTY SPECIAL TALENT' Sheezel achieves 39-year first on debut

Larkey booted the game's first goal but it was the Eagles who took the early ascendancy, with Jack Darling threading a wonderful goal from the boundary to give West Coast a 12-point lead.

But it only seemed to spur the Kangaroos on and they booted the next six goals, with only North's inefficiency around goal, plus McGovern and Barrass, keeping the lacklustre Eagles in the game.


West Coast trailed by 21 at the main break and the Kangaroos then booted the first two goals of the third quarter to take a 33-point lead.

It sparked the Eagles into action and they kicked three of the next four goals to cut the three-quarter time deficit to just 15 points, before adding the first of the final quarter.

Cam Zurhaar's second goal and Larkey's sixth steadied the ship midway through the last term but the Eagles would not go away.

Ryan and Noah Long struck in quick succession before skipper Shuey won a high free kick to cut the deficit to three points.

Curtis Taylor spurned a late chance to ice the game but the Kangaroos held on.


Sheez the man
There have been high expectations placed on North's prized top draft selection Harry Sheezel, but the 18-year-old wasted no time in exceeding them. The No.3 pick had three touches in the opening minutes of the match, and was crucial in setting up the Kangaroos' first goal. Playing off half-back, Sheezel looked composed and unaffected by the enormity of the occasion to finish with 34 disposals, the most by a debutant since Greg Williams picked up 38 in his first game in 1984.


Roos' ruck gamble backfires
With veteran ruck Todd Goldstein not selected, all eyes were on Tristan Xerri on Saturday afternoon. And Clarko's big plan appeared to be working - until Xerri's leg got caught beneath him during a tackle in the first quarter. Xerri was in obvious pain before being escorted off the field by North's medical staff, and was subsequently subbed out of the match. Hugh Greenwood and Charlie Comben divided the ruck work between them for the rest of the match. While the extent of Xerri's injury isn't yet known, Goldstein could be back in the side next week.


Welcome back, Oscar
After missing all of 2022 due to a foot injury, the return of the prodigiously talented Oscar Allen was hotly anticipated. The key forward started strong, booting the Eagles' opening goal of the match before his influence waxed and waned along with the Eagles' momentum. He made it through the match unscathed however, finishing with two goals from 89 per cent game time.


NORTH MELBOURNE        3.4     7.7    10.9    12.15 (87)
WEST COAST                    3.3     4.4     8.6    12.10 (82)

North Melbourne: Larkey 6, Curtis 2, Zurhaar 2, Davies-Uniacke, Comben
West Coast: Ryan 3, Jones 2, Allen 2, Darling, Kelly, Cripps, Long, Shuey

North Melbourne: Sheezel, Larkey, Zurhaar, Davies-Uniacke
West Coast: Sheed, Shuey, Ryan, McGovern

North Melbourne: Tristan Xerri (ankle)
West Coast: Nil 

North Melbourne
: Will Phillips (replaced Tristan Xerri at quarter-time)
West Coast: Jack Petruccelle (replaced Callum Jamieson during the third quarter)

Crowd: 21,274 at Marvel Stadium