New AFL era begins for Kangaroos, Saints

Oliver Caffrey
St Kilda will debut talented forward Max King (2R) in their AFL season-opener with North Melbourne

North Melbourne's Majak Daw will make an uplifting AFL comeback, while St Kilda gets to blood talented forward Max King when the teams clash in round one.

A new era for both sides begins on Sunday at Marvel Stadium, with the Kangaroos (Rhyce Shaw) and the Saints (Brett Ratten) sticking with the caretaker coaches who had guided them at the end of last year.

Shaw has given North supporters some good early-season news, picking Daw for his first game since 2018.

The defender's 50-game career appeared over after suffering serious hip and pelvic injuries in December 2018 in a fall from the Bolte Bridge.

Former Brisbane swingman Josh Walker has been included for his first game with the Roos after an off-season switch.

Star forward Ben Brown has proved his fitness after overcoming a calf injury suffered last month.

Despite North's promising end to last year under Shaw, the Saints will go in as slight favourites after being the major player during October's trade period.

St Kilda's 22 has been transformed drastically over the summer, with recruits Bradley Hill (Fremantle), Zak Jones (Sydney), Dan Butler (Richmond) and Paddy Ryder and Dougal Howard (Port Adelaide) all confirmed starters against the Roos.

Three-time Hawthorn premiership player Hill will run out for his 150th AFL game when he debuts for the Saints.

Almost forgotten in the hype surrounding the recruits is defender Dylan Roberton who will play his first game in more than 700 days.

Roberton has been sidelined because of a heart condition since collapsing on-field in round four, 2018 against Geelong.

But it's a player who is yet to feature at senior level who is exciting Saints' faithful the most.

Life-long St Kilda supporter King is finally being unleashed after his debut season last year was ruined by knee and hamstring injuries.

If he makes an impact similar to twin brother Ben's last year at Gold Coast, the Saints might shoot up the ladder.

"He's very exciting. His wait to play an AFL game has been a while and it's a dream, like any kid," Ratten said.

North haven't played finals since 2016, but the wait has been even longer for the Saints, last featuring nine years ago in the post-season.

The teams will battle behind closed doors due to coronavirus.