Harry Sheezel celebrates North Melbourne's win over West Coast in R1, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

BOOM draftee Harry Sheezel appears poised for a run of games at half-back after his exceptional debut helped steer North Melbourne to a five-point victory over West Coast in Alastair Clarkson's first game as Kangaroos coach.

No.3 draft pick Sheezel (34 disposals, 625 metres gained) was drafted as a forward-midfielder but stole the show on debut off half-back, delivering a performance reminiscent of Rising Star Nick Daicos' 2022 at Collingwood.

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His 34 touches are the most by a debutant since Greg Williams picked up 38 in his first game in 1984.

"He is a pretty special talent for us," Clarkson said.

"We just really lacked some polish in our back half ... he did give us a little bit of that class.


"Where he actually settles we're not too sure but he might be starting at half-back for us next week."

Clarkson admitted the gamble to leave out Todd Goldstein for Tristan Xerri to ruck solo "didn't look too flash" when Xerri went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter and was substituted for Will Phillips.

But makeshift ruck duo Hugh Greenwood and Charlie Comben battled manfully while midfield bull Luke Davies-Uniacke (32 disposals, 11 clearances) and co-captain Jy Simpkin got to work in the middle.


"In this caper you need to learn how to win and I think there was a fair few North supporters who ... thought we could somehow find a way to lose that game of footy," Clarkson said.

"I'm just so pleased that we hung in there and found ourselves a win and just know that we can work our way through tough periods of the game.


"For them to get that belief that they can get a win, particularly under a bit of adversity, young group, we did tire a bit late. But to do it without our recognised ruckman was a pretty special effort."

Xerri will have scans but appears likely to spend several weeks on the sidelines.

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Clarkson said he was "excited to be back involved" at AFL level but played down the emotion involved with his return to coaching, which has started amidst an investigation into racism allegations at Hawthorn during his time at the helm. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The Eagles were reeling after a dire second quarter, during which they lacked impetus around the contest, moved the ball slowly and looked scattered when the Kangaroos surged forward.


"I think it was pretty obvious to everyone the second quarter was a really disappointing quarter," Simpson said post-match.

"In particular, around the midfield and stoppages and the scramble of the game I thought we got dominated. That's the game in a nutshell.

Eagles players react after North Melbourne's win over West Coast in R1, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"It's probably happened a little bit in recent times where we do have a quarter like that, but to have a bit of resilience, the boys look fit – they've worked really hard on that – and to start to see some players gel in the second half, we'll take some positives from that.

"It is about the journey. Four debutants, probably four players who didn't play (much) last year. Getting that synergy, we know it's going to take time, but we can't accept that second quarter."