Kangaroos start slow, finish fast to down Hawks

North Melbourne's Cameron Zurhaar [R] celebrates a goal during the Kangaroos' victory over Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium, August 2, 2019 Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

North Melbourne have celebrated their 150th anniversary and Rhyce Shaw's first AFL game as their permanent senior coach with a gutsy 22-point win over Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium.

The Roos conceded the first four goals on Friday night, but they dug deep to hit the lead for the first time early in the second half and weren't headed again in a 12.14 (86) to 9.10 (64) win in front of 33,226 fans.

"We just didn't have our sea legs there for a little bit and Hawthorn's credit they came out firing," Shaw said.

"They made us look a bit silly there for a bit, but the boys fought back really hard and we played our brand of footy again, which was really pleasing.

"I felt like we wanted to perform well, it was a big occasion and I was up for it and I know the boys were up for it. "The sense before the game was really upbeat ... I felt like they were right on and I read it wrong."

Shaun Higgins was quiet early with just two touches in the first term, but finished with 28 possessions, seven clearances and two goals in a match-turning display.

The star veteran had plenty of willing helpers after a sputtering start to the contest, Paul Ahern (26 disposals), Ben Cunnington (21) and Jared Polec (23) all influential.

Ben Brown booted four goals and skipper Jack Ziebell three in a win that improved North's record to 8-11, while the Hawks slipped to an 8-11 record that most likely ends their slim finals hopes.

James Worpel was the best player on the ground with 37 possessions and 11 clearances, with Chad Wingard (29) and Jaeger O'Meara (26) also important.

In his 373rd AFL match, Shaun Burgoyne set a new mark for the most games played by an indigenous player, passing Sydney champion Adam Goodes.

The four-time premiership star amassed 23 touches in his milestone game.

Further souring the loss, Grant Birchall's comeback after missing all of 2018 through injury stalled in the third quarter when he limped down the race clutching his right hamstring.

Mitchell Lewis booted two goals as the Hawks leapt out to a 27-point lead in a blistering start.

Isaac Smith and Worpel had 11 touches each with the stunned Roos only able to hit back late with the last goal of the first term.

Paul Puopolo sharked the first major of the second quarter, but North's midfielders, led by Ahern, got on top around the stoppages.

The rampant Roos slashed the margin to five points at halftime and kept that momentum going in the third quarter, Brown adding two goals to his tally to help his side to a 10-point three-quarter time lead.

Hawthorn were still right in the contest when Jack Gunston's superb long-range effort split the middle but in a show of determination that will surely thrill Shaw, the Roos would not be denied, booting the last two goals of the match.

"We just lost the footy in the second quarter ... they won the clearances and the contested ball," Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said.

"We were doing really well in that space in the first quarter ... but we just didn't get the type of scoreboard pressure that we would've liked."