North ice Eagles in chilly Hobart
FORMER No.7 pick Paul Ahern had to wait 1285 days from the day he was drafted by GWS in 2014 to make his AFL debut for North Melbourne earlier this year.
The Roos handed over pick 65 in last year's draft for the talented midfielder in what was a low risk, high reward opportunity at the time following Ahern's two knee reconstructions in 2016.
On Sunday, the 21-year-old showed why North was so keen to secure his services with a starring role in the win over West Coast at Blundstone Arena which revived the club's finals aspirations.
North's 12.9 (81) to 6.5 (41) victory was built on a complete midfield domination which resulted in finishing the match with 26 more contested possessions and a lopsided 61-46 inside 50m count.
Ahern, playing just his eighth match, was the spark early for the Roos, picking up nine first quarter disposals (seven contested) and having five clearances as the home side did everything but put the Eagles away on the scoreboard.
By half-time 13 of Ahern's 18 disposals were contested, he had half of his side's centre clearances (four) and eight of 23 clearances in total.
West Coast - missing key forward Josh Kennedy and midfield star Luke Shuey - hung tough under an avalanche of pressure and despite being pinned in its back half for long periods, skipped 16 points clear halfway through the second quarter.
Three goals in time-on saw the Roos snatch a three-point advantage at the main break and after Elliot Yeo put the Eagles ahead early in the third, it looked like North would be left to rue an inability to convert on their forward forays.
However, Jack Ziebell quickly responded to Yeo's goal by outpointing Jeremy McGovern in a one-on-one contest 20m out and after a 12-minute arm wrestle the dam walls finally burst.
The Roos slammed through three goals in five minutes via Ben Cunnington - who vied for best afield honours with Ahern - Mason Wood and 200-gamer Shaun Higgins to open up a game high 23-point buffer by three-quarter time.
Another three goals to nil in the final term capped the rout, which saw the Roos bounce back from consecutive losses to Sydney and Collingwood and stay in touch with the top eight.
Ahern and Cunnington finished with 44 contested touches between them and 76 in total, as well as 19 clearances and 12 tackles.
Todd Goldstein beat Scott Lycett in the ruck dual while Majak Daw clunked four contested marks in a superb defensive display.
Yeo (28 possessions, 11 tackles) was West Coast's best performer, skipper Shannon Hurn was solid in defence and Mark Hutchings curbed Higgins' influence in his run-with role.
North Melbourne: P.Ahern, B.Cunnington, M.Daw, T.Goldstein, R.Tarrant, J.Simpkin
West Coast: E.Yeo, S.Hurn, J.Cripps, M.Hutchings, J.McGovern
3: Paul Ahern (NM), 2: Ben Cunnington (NM), 1: Majak Daw (NM)