FORMER Kangaroo Braydon Preuss' sanity was questioned when stories first surfaced last year about his shock trade request to Melbourne.
Those same doubters will be questioning themselves after Preuss' first competitive hit-out – albeit an unofficial scratch match against Collingwood at the Holden Centre – alongside Max Gawn was an instant success.
The Demons won the game 11.6 (72) to 7.6 (48), recovering from a slow start that saw Jamie Elliott kick the first two goals to record a comfortable victory.
The disclaimer was the Magpies were without All Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy, leaving rookie-listed big man Max Lynch, Mason Cox and Jordan Roughead to face the Demons' 414cm combination.
Preuss started as Melbourne's deepest forward and was starved of possession early, but his height proved a nightmare to defend whenever he was one on one.
The first of his two goals was his best – a fine finish from barely inside the boundary about 40m out – but his second will likely be a bigger talking point.
It came after Preuss grabbed the ball out of the ruck in his forward 50, taking advantage of the new rule which enables ruckmen to take possession without being burdened by prior opportunity, and put a quick kick through the big sticks.
His physical impact was also profound, with his new ruck partner-in-crime Gawn, who was best afield with his tap dominance and contested marking, praising that part of his game.
"He'll get suspended this year," Gawn told reporters of Preuss, in his typical lighthearted manner.
"There were some genuine hits out there today (from) the big boy. That's how we want him to play.
"His strength is his strength and he's able to crack in and he took a couple of clunks (and) he can kick them a mile … he's started well and hopefully we can stay together."
The Demons play Port Adelaide in the opening round, so they will almost certainly come up against Paddy Ryder and recruit Scott Lycett, meaning unleashing Preuss makes sense.
Gawn's sole query for the ruck project was how it would work against a team such as Richmond, which has previously relied on just one big man in Toby Nankervis.
"It worked out well for us today, with three rucks for Collingwood and two for us. That sort of stuff works," he said.
"It will be interesting against a one-team ruck, which could be Richmond with Nankervis in the next JLT … (and) Tommy McDonald still has to fit in there as well, so we'll see how it all balances out.
"It didn't impact on my game time. I played mostly ruck and actually didn't go forward at all.
"A key element to the double ruck is that one of us can play forward, and what (Preuss) did today – it shows he can."
The Gawn-Preuss show overshadowed everyone else, but there was still plenty of interest elsewhere ahead of the JLT Community Series and round one.
Petracca was used in the midfield for stretches (Photo: Scott Barbour)
Midfielder-forward Christian Petracca had an extended centre-bounce opportunity in the first half, while rookie Tim Smith proved a valuable foil in attack.
Smith is likely in a three-way race with Charlie Spargo and Jeff Garlett for the same small forward spot, but all were given a shot on Friday.
James Harmes and Angus Brayshaw both enjoyed breakout campaigns last season that coincided with the Demons' belated finals return and were the side's most damaging midfielders.
That was important, with co-captains Jack Viney (foot) and Nathan Jones (hamstring) and All Australian Clayton Oliver (shoulders) on the sidelines.
There were also eyes on Sam Frost and Oscar McDonald down back, with star newcomer Steven May (hamstring) and Jake Lever (knee) out, but they held up well.
Their intercept marking was a feature and they kept Mason Cox and Ben Reid, who slotted a pair of final-quarter goals, relatively quiet.
Mature-age draftee defender Marty Hore continues to firm for a round one debut and looks set to be a big part of Melbourne's kick-in plans if that eventuates.
Joel Smith, who is in the process of transitioning into a forward, kicked a goal and provided one of the highlights when he took a hanger over young Pie Nathan Murphy at half-forward.
His father, ex-Demon Shaun Smith, is best remembered for his incredible aerial ability, including his 1995 Mark of the Year when he soared over teammate Garry Lyon for a remarkable grab.
There were promising signs, too, for key forward Sam Weideman and sweet-kicking half-back Christian Salem, who punctuated his silk by putting his body on the line for one crucial spoil.
MELBOURNE 4.1 5.4 8.6 11.6 (72)
COLLINGWOOD 2.1 3.5 4.5 7.6 (48)
BEST: Gawn, Preuss, Harmes, Salem, Brayshaw, O.McDonald
GOALS: Preuss 2, Weideman, Stretch, Kennedy Harris, T. Smith, Harmes, Neal-Bullen, Garlett, Sparrow