North Melbourne coach Brad Scott is backing the Kangaroos' youth movement to confound critics predicting a fall from grace for his team this season.
After losing preliminary finals in 2014 and 2015, North scraped into the finals in eighth place last year and were soundly beaten by Adelaide in an elimination final.
Scott also sensationally moved on stalwarts Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Michael Firrito towards the end of that failed campaign, leading many to believe finals are out of the Kangaroos' reach in 2017.
"We let everyone else externally set those predictions," Scott said.
"I haven't really bought into that much.
"We have pretty clear expectations of the way that we want to play and that's what we're going to measure ourselves against.
"We just focus on improving ourselves ... I think there's going to be some genuine excitement from some of the opportunities that young guys are going to get.
"When you have that in a team enthusiasm can carry you a long way."
North will be looking to kick their AFL season off with a win against West Coast at Etihad Stadium.
Their chances of doing that are set to be boosted by the return of important forward Ben Brown, who is nearing a full recovery from knee surgery.
"He probably could've played this week but we chose to give him another week," Scott said.
"But he'll play next week in the VFL.
"He's trained really well, really strongly, and we think he'll be ready for round one but we've just got to make a choice based on the other guys available.
"We've been pretty conservative getting back out into games because we'd prefer to prioritise training and he's done a fair bit of that."
Brown, the Roos' leading goal kicker last year with 41, required surgery after injuring his knee in a training mishap in January.
North have endured a difficult pre-season, with injuries to key talls Todd Goldstein, Majak Daw and Mason Wood as well as Jed Anderson, Ben Jacobs, Aaron Mullett, Taylor Garner, Sam Wright and others.
However, all bar Jacobs and Wood are a chance to play against the Eagles.