ANY worries that Grant Birchall would be underdone heading into season 2014 following a preseason that was light on competitive matches were blown away at Aurora Stadium on Saturday.
Despite being forced to play on taller forwards such as Marco Paparone, the Hawthorn defender from Devonport was still able to provide plenty of drive out of defence with a 31-possession outing in the Hawks' win over the Lions.
Birchall had nine score involvements (with one goal assist), took eight marks and went at a disposal efficiency rate of 81 per cent.
It was just his second serious hitout this year after being managed through the summer due to the knee injury he sustained last season.
However, his performance on Saturday should not have come as a surprise, considering he finished among the best in Hawthorn's final practice match.
But while Birchall's performance was the type that we are used to, Clarence's Josh Green took another positive step forward in his AFL journey.
The Brisbane small forward had a career-best 21 disposals (which included 16 kicks) and laid seven tackles, also a personal best, in his first game in his home state.
Green also applied an amazing 33 pressure acts (acts of implied or physical pressure on an opponent), the most on the ground (ahead of Hawk Jordan Lewis's 31), and he had four clearances, kicked 1.0, had five score involvements and two goal assists.
While Green did not use the ball that impressively (only going at a 48 per cent efficiency rate), he looked as comfortable as he ever has at the level.
It was a much quieter afternoon for teammate Ryan Harwood, with the Glenorchy defender finishing with just six disposals.
At Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, Burnie's Eli Templeton started his AFL life in an energetic fashion, providing St Kilda's forward line with some much-needed excitement playing a small-forward role as the Saints defeated Melbourne.
The lightly framed 18-year-old with his distinctive mop of blond hair, kicked 1.1 from 10 touches (at 80 per cent disposal efficiency) took four marks, had two clearances and applied five pressure acts.
Teammate Jimmy Webster played on Jimmy Toumpas in defence for the Saints, collecting 14 possessions.
The Glenorchy product was subbed off at three quarter-time.
Dodges Ferry's Jeremey Howe was ineffective for the Demons, going goalless and collecting 10 touches and taking just two marks on Sam Gilbert.
Friday night saw Evandale's Nathan Grima line up for North Melbourne after a preseason disrupted by his back problems.
Grima spent time on both Jake Carlisle and Patrick Ambrose (who both finished without a goal) and also went forward briefly in the second half.
He finished with 10 touches (at a disposal efficiency rate of 70 per cent), two marks, three tackles and applied eight pressure acts.