North Melbourne co-captain Jy Simpkin has been amazed by how the club's next generation have immediately stamped their mark at the Kangaroos.
Now one of the older players at Arden St at just age 25 following the departures of Todd Goldstein, Jack Ziebell, Ben Cunnington and Ben McKay, Simpkin is buzzing.
Talented teenagers Colby McKercher, Zane Duursma and Will Dawson are already wowing on the training track despite only being drafted nine days ago.
"Over the last few days, the young boys haven't been here for long, but you see 'Colbs' (McKercher) and 'Zano' (Duursma), their skills on the track it's like 's***, I wasn't doing that when I first come into the club'," Simpkin said on Wednesday.
"Big Will Dawson in a bit of matchplay the other day, he really caught my eye the way he just floated across the halfback and then was hitting kicks up the middle, I was like 's***, these boys can play."
But it isn't just the Kangaroos' fresh faces setting the standard, Rising Star winner Harry Sheezel looks set to take his game to another level after a stunning debut season.
"He's (Sheezel) dropped five or six kilos (of weight), knocked off about 15 seconds off his time trial," Simpkin said.
"The same with 'LDU' (star midfielder Luke Davies-Uniacke) - watch out everyone, if he's knocking off 15 seconds off his time trial. He's looking unbelievable out on the track."
North will enter 2024 better placed than they have for years.
Simpkin is under no illusion about the challenge facing the Kangaroos after four-straight seasons finishing in the bottom two.
But years of topping up at the draft and coach Alastair Clarkson no longer having the spectre of the Hawthorn racism saga hanging over his head means North can truly focus on building towards their next period of success.
Clarkson's first season in charge of the Kangaroos was marred by the AFL investigation into historical claims at the Hawks.
The AFL in May announced no adverse findings against Clarkson, Chris Fagan or Jason Burt over the racism allegations.
All three men have always denied any wrongdoing.
But the saga took its toll on Clarkson and he was absent from North for most of the second half of the 2023 season to try and look after his mental health.
"Clarko's the same old, cracking the same old, not funny jokes and tries to get everyone to laugh and he ends up the only one laughing," Simpkin said with a grin.
"Not only that but we've got some new (assistant) coaches, Jed Adcock, Mickey Barlow, 'Patchy' (Leigh Adams), who's doing our midfield now, and Xavier Clarke running the forwards.
"The energy and experience they've brought from their teams ... it's a great feeling.
"We've got a great chance now to lead these young boys and show them the way."
Australian Associated Press