North hope Sheezel enjoys debut without extra pressure

North Melbourne captain Jy Simpkin hopes No.3 draft pick Harry Sheezel can make his AFL debut without feeling undue pressure, despite being the club's new beacon of hope after Jason Horne-Francis' messy exit.

Horne-Francis, the 2021 No.1 draft pick, quit the club after just one season to head to Port Adelaide after a controversial 2022 campaign where his professionalism and commitment were questioned.

It's left the Roos looking for a new shining light amid their on-field struggles, with 18-year-old forward Sheezel their best bet to fill that void.

But Simpkin believes Sheezel is ready to ply his trade without considering the lofty expectations as he begins his AFL journey against West Coast on Saturday.

"Sheez is a great kid, coming into the club him along with the other first-year guys have just been so impressive, not only on the field but off it as well," he said.

"There's no pressure for Harry in his first game, but hopefully he just enjoys it and lives out his childhood dream.

"As a professional athlete you always feel the pressure to perform on the big stage but we're going to get around him and make sure he doesn't feel it too much."

Sheezel could be joined in the side by important forward Cam Zurhaar, Simpkin confirming he was available for selection after training well despite a calf strain from a practice match earlier this month.

They won't have key back Ben McKay with a foot issue, while troubled youngster Tarryn Thomas will play a VFL practice match as he continues to face legal challenges.

Simpkin, 25, has a tough gig as a first-year captain along with defender Luke McDonald, looking to lead a side that's won nine games in three years through its first baby steps up the ladder.

He said there wasn't extra motivation to beat the Eagles in round one, given both 2022 bottom-two sides seemingly have a golden opportunity to bank an early win.

"We go out to win every single game we play, that's no different," Simpkin said.

"We've all forgotten about last year and put that behind us, we'll go into this year fresh, but definitely when you start the season off with a W it definitely helps.

"(I'm) definitely a lot more excited being co-captain with Lukey (but) not too much has changed in terms of how we go about it and prepare.

"But the excitement levels around the club, the players, coaching staff, the whole club in general has an exciting feel."