NORTH MELBOURNE 3.4 4.7 7.10 13.13 (91) SYDNEY 2.1 3.7 4.9 6.12 (48)
GOALS North Melbourne: Black, 3, Wells 3, Mullett 2, Petrie, Adams, Thomas, Nahas, Goldstein. Sydney: Laidler 2, Grundy, McVeigh, Jack, O’Keefe.
BEST North Melbourne: Thompson, Wells, Black, Cunnington, Dal Santo, Adams. Sydney: Kennedy, Smith, Malceski, Laidler, McVeigh.
REPORTS L Franklin (Sydney)
CROWD 25,505 at SCG.
On the day Sydney farewelled Jude Bolton, the team he left behind could have benefited from having the retired warrior on the other side of the boundary line.
Instead, Bolton, a renowned mudlark, was in a commentary box lamenting another disconcertingly substandard performance by the Swans, who sank to a sobering defeat - this time by 43 points to a North Melbourne team that outran and out-tackled the hosts.
The Swans' credentials as a premiership fancy are edging closer to oblivion after their latest abject failure, and their woes run deeper than the underwhelming form of prized recruit Lance Franklin, who was held goalless and comprehensively beaten by Scott Thompson.
His dirty day was capped off by being booked for striking Thompson in the last quarter, though the hit was of negligible impact.
There was a time when the Swans were almost unbeatable in the wet but, it appears, not so this year. Their performance left the 25,505 fans who braved the rains for the club's first game of the season at the SCG with little to cheer about.
The loss was Sydney's first to North since 2007, when that club was officially known as the Kangaroos, and leaves it perilously placed at 1-3 with a tough match to come next week at home against Fremantle.
But even more worrying for the club was its inability to produce what it describes as its trademark football, beaten in close by North and smashed when the ball spilt free.
Seldom have the Swans produced such a stinker at the SCG - their return of 6.12 (48) was their fourth-lowest at the venue.
And they were not without their opportunities either, given the Swans had 66 inside-50s compared with North's 48, though Sydney's long bombs were generally more advantageous to North's extra man in defence.
''We didn't use the ball to the level we know we can and should, but that gets back to general pressure and hardness,'' said Sydney coach John Longmire.
''It's amazing how well we use the ball when we get it up to the level we needed to.''
Bolton is too modest to think he could have made a difference, but each Swan could have done worse than channel the spirit of the former No. 24 in the trying conditions.
Instead, it was the side that calls the indoor Etihad Stadium home that adapted better to the wet. With the ball as slippery as a cake of soap, seldom was there an easy possession, unless you were a North Melbourne defender in the first quarter and, in particular, wearing the No. 16.
Thompson has endured some dark moments next to Franklin, not least a 13-goal bag two years ago, but his last two outings have produced happier memories.
For the second consecutive occasion, Franklin was rendered ineffective by Thompson.
Not only did Thompson keep Franklin to just one behind, he set up many of his team's rebounds with his ability to intercept Sydney's forward thrusts.
Thompson was instrumental in North Melbourne gaining the ascendancy in the first half, as Sydney repeatedly broke down across half-forward.
That it took a defender, Jeremy Laidler, to kick two of the Swans' first three goals underlined their forwards' struggles. That they produced four goals in three quarters provided the exclamation mark.
Worse still for the Swans, North's extra number in defence allowed the likes of Thompson, Nathan Grima and Nick Dal Santo to ferry the ball out of danger with surprising ease in the conditions.
Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker held their own in the clinches but North won through weight of numbers, with Ben Cunnington, Leigh Adams and Daniel Wells all playing key roles.
This told in the second half when North drew away with goals in the final quarter to Aaron Mullett, Adams and Wells ensuring another dark day for one of the pre-season premiership fancies.