LUKE Davies-Uniacke appears ready to step straight into North Melbourne's round one team, but coach Brad Scott says the Kangaroos have to be careful not to place unrealistic expectations on the prized recruit.
North selected Davies-Uniacke with pick No.4 in last year's NAB AFL Draft, the Roos' earliest draft selection since 2006 when they took Lachlan Hansen at pick No.3.
The former Dandenong Stingray has barely put a foot wrong in his first pre-season at Arden St and looked the part in the Roos' fiercely contested intraclub game last Friday.
However, Scott told AFL.com.au North would not rush Davies-Uniacke's development.
"Luke has had a really good pre-season. All of our senior players watch him move at training and they know that he's got some special traits," Scott said.
"He's quite tall for a midfielder, he's quite strong for his age and he's very strong marking above his head. I've been really impressed with how coachable Luke is too; he's very keen to learn and he's thriving in a full-time environment.
"So to look at him you would think he was ready but it takes a very, very rare player to go in and play right from the start – even Joel Selwood didn't play every game in his first year.
"I'm really conscious that he's 18. We would love Luke to push in and play a fair amount of footy for us this year but that will largely depend on the availability of our list and how Luke's handling the expectation.
"I think we've got to be careful with the expectation that we put on him."
North is hoping to unveil another former top-10 draft selection this season, in former Greater Western Sydney midfielder Paul Ahern.
Ahern was 2014's No.7 draft pick but has yet to play an AFL game after undergoing two reconstructions of his right knee in 2016.
The former Calder Cannon spent all of his first season at Arden St rehabbing his injured knee, but is poised to return for his first game in two years after a solid pre-season.
Scott was confident Ahern could become a valuable member of the Kangaroos' midfield in time, most likely as an inside ball-winner. But the North coach said the club would take a patient approach with Ahern in 2018.
"Our hope is just to get him out there playing again. We're not going to set really high expectations in terms of performance this season," Scott said.
"We just want to get him out there and get a bit of the ball, and play with some confidence and get some confidence in his body.
"He's already got through an intraclub game and played well. We think there is a hell of a lot of upside with Paul, but the priority is just to get him healthy and resilient."