Majak Daw took a significant step towards an AFL return when he got through North Melbourne's pre-season series defeat to the Western Bulldogs on Friday night.
But it was Brownlow Medal fancy Marcus Bontempelli who stole the show with a scintillating display to steer the Dogs to a 44-point win at Marvel Stadium.
Daw had not played a senior match since suffering serious hip and pelvis injuries when he fell from the Bolte Bridge 14 months ago.
The 28-year-old had a quiet night on return, but looms as a potentially valuable addition to the Kangaroos' back line this season as they look to replace retired stopper Scott Thompson.
Teammate Marley Williams could be the first player suspended in 2020 after his clumsy second-quarter bump caught Ed Richards high.
Richards was slow to get up and taken from the field before being ruled out with concussion at half-time.
The Bulldogs suffered another injury blow pre-match when emerging star Aaron Naughton was sidelined with a right knee injury.
Naughton will undergo arthroscopic surgery to assess a cartilage issue in the opposite knee to the one he injured during last year's finals series.
Replacement Lewis Young (three goals) took advantage of his late call-up as the Dogs' forward line was able to capitalise on midfield ascendancy in the 15.11 (101) to 9.3 (57) win.
It was led by new captain Bontempelli, who had 37 disposals, 10 clearances and eight tackles ahead of his appearance for Victoria in next week's bushfire relief match.
Bontempelli capped his performance two goals in the final term.
Lachie Hunter and Jack Macrae were busy in the engine room as Hayden Crozier, Jason Johannisen and new recruit Alex Keath provided rebound out of defence.
Sam Lloyd finished with three goals and Josh Schache two.
For North Melbourne, Jye Simpkin and Ben Cunnington worked hard and ruckman Todd Goldstein got the better of his battle with inexperienced Bulldog Jordon Sweet.
Cunnington finished the game on the bench, seemingly with concern over a hip or groin injury.
Two-game youngster Curtis Taylor provided a highlight with a huge grab over two opponents and a goal to finish during the third term.
Both sides were missing some big names that are expected to be available for round one.