An interesting opening weekend of AFL Posted on 7 Apr 22:10 , 0 comments
Thanks to the Cricket World Cup the AFL season got underway a little bit later this year.
The wait certainly felt like it was worth it.
In a crafty piece of scheduling the AFL sought to match teams off evenly based on their ladder positions last year.
So Fremantle and Port Adelaide matched up in a blockbuster showdown in Perth. This was a last man standing game with the defensive pressure of Freo up against the running power of Port. Freo grabbed the honours on the night but I think both sides walked away with a lot to like.
Meanwhile Hawthorn faced off against its modern day rival Geelong in an Easter Monday blockbuster at the MCG.
In recent years these two teams have delivered some absolute classics, however the last couple of meetings and this one have seen Hawthorn establish a clear dominance.
Whilst it is easy to see where Hawthorn sit in the scheme of things that is not so easy with Geelong. There were a lot of worrying signs in this game, however it was against the competition best. So we may have to wait a little while longer to form a definite view on the Cats.
Elsewhere Melbourne caused a minor boil over with a win over Gold Coast, whilst GWS took the expected win against Saint Kilda though not by the margin many would have thought.
Gold Coast has been touted by many as the next big thing and a lock on the finals this year. That may not be the case after the weekend. Once again with Ablett down on his best, with no preseason games, the Suns struggled for most of the day. It was no coincidence that a strong last quarter from Ablett saw them get back in the game. I am just not sure the next level of players is ready to step up with the Suns and Rodney Eade is likely making the same point behind closed doors. It will be interesting to see how they respond to some home truths.
The down games were the Thursday night season opener between Richmond and Carlton, which the Tigers ended up taking convincingly in front of over 80,000 at the MCG.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the Brisbane Lions who were well beaten for most of the night by Collingwood before a last quarter charge made the score respectable. The effort by the Lions particularly in the third quarter was way below what was expected.
The unlucky team of the round award goes to Essendon, who haven gotten 41 points up against Sydney appeared to run out of legs and were overrun in the final quarter to suffer a heartbreaking loss. Of course all was not lost for the Bombers, with their players finally being cleared of the anti-doping charges during the week. So whilst the loss will hurt, they are now able to set their sights on the rest of the season and no doubt their pre-season suspended players will be better for the run.
Perhaps thought the biggest surprise, on both sides, was the Adelaide Crows and their demolition of North Melbourne. As a top four side last season, many had North moving forward this season. That may still prove to be the case but the big losing margin to the Crows says they still have a long way to go.
The other side of that of course is the Crows, who after missing the finals in 2014 have sent a warning out to the rest of the league that they will be right amongst it this season. Tex Walker seemed to embrace the captaincy and rather than being weighed down he seemed to revel in the extra responsibility.
Meanwhile the Western Bulldogs held on for a stirring win, backing up some good pre-season form. Their opponent West Coast remains a hard team to fathom and whilst I suspect there is a good side there, I am not convinced we see it enough and it may be another middling year for them.
For the Dogs on the other hand, they may be in the race for the finals until very late and it wouldn't be a shock on their recent form if they sneaked in.
Of course all that now needs to be weighed up agains the fact it is was only round 1 and a long season awaits. Still on the evidence of the opening weekend, hawthorn still look on track to defend their title, Port and Fremantle should be nipping a their heels and there may then be a gap to the rest.
Bring on round 2!