Round 1 of the 2017 AFL season is done and dusted and, as is no surprise, there were a handful of surprise results. Essendon announced their return with a commanding win over the recently mighty Hawks, Brisbane silenced the critics who thought they may not win a game and Richmond may be more effective if Dustin Martin just kicks the ball three quarters of the length of the field every time, bypassing everyone else.
Like a citizen of Gloucester taking their first hesitant steps towards a rapidly departing cheese before the chaos of gravity takes its hold, let us tentatively venture into a season of suspect analysis with the first of 2017’s weekly AFL wraps.
RICHMOND (20.12.132) DEFEATED CARLTON (14.5.89) BY 43 POINTS
The previously mentioned Martin was dominant over the Blues, collecting 33 disposals and kicking four goals as part of a much more aggressive and attacking Richmond outfit. Gold Coast recruit Dion Prestia supported him strongly with 28 touches through the middle while for Carlton Marc Murphy led the way with 35.
Without wishing to resort to the number one cliché in only the second paragraph of a long year, Richmond’s attack on the ball and the player was a major difference, evidenced by a lopsided tackle count of 88-67 in their favour. Nick Vlastuin laid 12 tackles on his own, while the most internally maligned Brownlow medallist in known history, Trent Cotchin, laid eight.
“A pressure rating of 1.91 which our footy club hasn’t seen for a long time,” said Richmond coach Damien Hardwick, with absolutely no indication as to what metric is used to quantify pressure to three significant figures.
“That’ll be our primary focus going forward. If we get that right we’re going to be in games.”
Carlton coach Brendon Bolton agreed that the pressure was a major factor but reiterated that he has a young side.
"We had five teenagers, about seven under 21, and three debutants.
"You saw our future and they weren't totally intimidated,” he gushed, in the same way that the passengers on the Titanic’s manifest weren’t totally drowned.
WESTERN BULLDOGS (15.10.100) DEFEATED COLLINGWOOD (12.14.86) BY 14 POINTS
The Western Bulldogs have proven that they can win even with Bob Murphy playing, defeating Collingwood by 14 points.
Collingwood had more possessions, clearances and inside-50s than the reigning premiers but were unable to execute on the scoreboard through great defensive pressure from the Bulldogs. If only Collingwood had a tall marking forward that could have provided a focal point for their midfielders…
…just kidding. Travis Cloke only kicked one goal so he wouldn’t have made any difference.
"There was a lot to like," Buckley said.
"Our use inside forward 50 was not ideal and they were able to get it out of our forward line and score a little too easily as well."
So while Collingwood’s forwards weren’t effective, and the use of the ball from the midfielders in delivering up forward was disappointing, and the defense let the Bulldogs in too easily, all the other seven parts of the ground worked wonders.
Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom led the disposal count with 35 each, but it was Lin Jong and Tom Liberatore’s 14 tackles each that meant the Collingwood runners had little time and space to use it effectively.
MELBOURNE (18.12.120) DEFEATED ST KILDA (13.12.90) BY 30 POINTS
Somehow Melbourne had managed to generate a 14-game losing streak against the Saints coming into this match and the first quarter suggested it would be 15 with St Kilda kicking six goals to two. The next two quarters saw Melbourne lay on 13 goals to three to claim only their second victory at Etihad Stadium and my first incorrect tip on what I’m calling ‘Tipping Sa-turd-ay’.
Max Gawn gave Melbourne first use of the ball at nearly every stoppage, and the Demons midfielders did the rest. Oliver, Jones, Lewis and Vince all collected 30+ possessions while St Kilda’s top possession getter, Jack Steven, could only manage 27.
"We were poor at clearance early, we were beaten around the ball and that's something we want to pride ourselves on in building our style of play," Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said.
"As I said to the boys at quarter time it was just about getting back to what we trained for all summer,” he continued, seemingly less concerned with the fact that the players had forgotten four months worth of training at the very first moment they were supposed to put it in to practice.
"They were just too good for us and that's really disappointing. We won't accept that the opposition are too good for us and we need to learn from that,” offered Alan Richardson, the subtext of which suggests that he won’t accept anything other than St Kilda being the best side this season, setting himself for a long lesson in tolerance.
Nick Riewoldt got injured, but his injury wasn’t as injured as people thought the injury was.
PORT ADELAIDE (17.8.110) DEFEATED SYDNEY (12.10.82) BY 28 POINTS
0/2 after this match on ‘Tipping Satur-dick’ as the Power claimed an upset victory away from home against last year’s grand finalists, Sydney.
Power captain Travis Boak rallied his side in his 200th match in slippery conditions, with Port Adelaide pulling back three goal deficits twice to eventually outlast a wasteful Swans outfit.
Ollie Wines was brilliant through the midfield, with 33 touches, while Brad Ebert not only collected 28 but was instrumental with 11 tackles. Paddy Ryder, in his first game back since 2015, had 28 hit outs while the official AFL statistics listed Tom Jones as performing nine ‘1%’ers, which equals 9%.
“Probably after half time they got a couple of really simple ones that they shouldn’t have been able to get,” said Sydney coach John Longmire, which ASW can officially upgrade to a ‘definitely’.
“Maybe some of the younger kids struggled a bit,” he continued.
“Perhaps we lost?” he may have thought.
ESSENDON (17.14.116) DEFEATED HAWTHORN (12.19.91) BY 25 POINTS
The incorrect tips kept coming on “Tipping Shat-urday” with a spirited and uplifting victory from the Bombers after a season of turmoil.
37 touches from Zach Merrett and 34 from returning player and newly appointed captain Dyson Heppell led the way, with Jobe Watson picking up 27 touches in his comeback.
More disposals and tackles is a deadly combination that Essendon used to great effect, although not as deadly as bleach and vinegar which, when combined, can create a toxic chlorine gas that’s not only potentially fatal but also mainly irrelevant.
Hawthorn led at half time and it was a testament to the Bombers that they were able to rally and apply superior pressure in the final quarters.
"Our boys just kept coming at them, which was great, and then to work back into the lead and run away with that was awesome,” said Essendon coach John Worsfold.
“Heppell was totally tubular and you’ve got to hand it to Merrett, he was right on! Cowabunga, dude!”
For the Hawks, new inclusion Tom Mitchell showed what he’s capable of with 37 touches while Ty Vickery showed what he’s capable of with zero goals.
BRISBANE (15.8.98) DEFEATED GOLD COAST (14.12.96) BY 2 POINTS
The opening round QClash (pronounced Kwklash) lived up to the expectation of local state rivalry matches with the closest game of the round at Metricon Stadium.
Coming from eight goals down at half-time, Gold Coast were within minutes of overtaking Brisbane’s lead after at one point managing to draw level in the final term.
"There wasn't anything special we tried to do. We were probably saying Hail Marys up in the box to tell you the truth,” said debutant coach Chris Fagan, revealing his game plan of asking the almighty God in His infinite wisdom to guide his side to victories with divine intervention, a controversial tactic.
"In the end it comes down to heart."
Brisbane supporters may hope that future games will be won on more than just ghosts and emotions but, for now, they are celebrating the first win of what many predicted would be a joyless season. On a personal note it capped off a joyless day with it being the fourth incorrect tip out of four on ‘Tipping Piece-of-shit-I-hate-this-game-Saturday’.
Tom Rockliff had 37 touches, Dayne Beams 28 in his first game as skipper and Ryan Bastinac kicked three goals. For the Suns, Gary Ablett topped with 28 disposals which is good because he will be there for them forever.
"You get what you deserve in footy and even though we probably dominated a lot of stats, they deserved to win,” mused Suns coach Rodney Eade.
Gold Coast had more disposals, clearances, inside-50s, tackles, hit-outs, marks, scoring shots and players named ‘Jack’. It can only be assumed that getting ‘what you deserve’ must be inextricably tied to the final score, in which case Eade has summed up football perfectly.
WEST COAST (21.10.136) DEFEATED NORTH MELBOURNE (13.15.93)
At the end of last season North Melbourne famously delisted four of their club’s most experienced players who, at that point, looked willing to play on. West Coast picked up one of North’s offcuts and also one of the league’s most experienced players and Brownlow medallist, Sam Mitchell, and added him to the midfield.
While Drew Petrie had an interrupted game with a hand injury and only managed one goal, Sam Mitchell had 38 touches and Brent Harvey had a nice sandwich and a lie down.
Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy started his 2017 campaign with seven goals while Mark LeCras kicked four.
For the Kangaroos, Jack Ziebell had 31 disposals and Todd Goldstein kicked three goals.
"It's too simplistic to say, 'Gee, if we had have kicked straight we would've won', because I don't believe that's the case, but it would have made the game a lot more competitive," North Melbourne coach Brad Scott said.
Expanding on that notion, if they had have kicked straight, and stopped West Coast from kicking at all, and all their players had rocket launchers on their arms, they would have absolutely dominated.
Jarrad Waite kicked 1.7 which was the opposite of what Scott wanted, and he didn’t have advanced weaponry anywhere on his person.
ADELAIDE (22.15.147) DEFEATED GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (14.7.91) BY 56 POINTS
GWS came into this game with the ‘flag favourite’ banner waving above their heads and so, while not an upset equal to a couple the day before, Adelaide’s dominance without captain Taylor Walker was a surprise to many.
The Giants led at quarter time but from that point on it was a steady stream of goals from Adelaide, led by Eddie Betts’ four, that sees them sit top of the ladder after one round.
Rory Laird dominated with 42 touches (or 40, depending on your statistics provider), while Rory Atkins contributed with three goals. Rory Sloane had 24 disposals in his first game back after a heavily interrupted pre-season. Rory Enrique Conde is a Colombian serial killer and Rory O’Tunny was a 16th century sculptor but both are being considered for the next match.
"There will be some players disappointed in their performance, and I'm not just talking about our kids," Giants coach Leon Cameron said after the match.
“The adults too.”
GEELONG (18.7.115) DEFEATED FREMANTLE (10.13.73) BY 42 POINTS
The Fyfe-Dangerfield battle was something at the forefront of everyone’s minds with Fyfe finishing with 28 touches to Dangerfield’s 24 and seven clangers. Luckily for Geelong, there was also 42 other players involved in the match and most of the Geelong ones were better at doing football.
Tom Hawkins kicked three goals and while Sandilands tried valiantly with 48 hit outs, Fremantle’s supporters have been made all too aware that a fit Fyfe and Sandilands pairing is not enough to carry the side.
Geelong were much more disciplined and their ability to push back into Fremantle’s forward line to limit Fremantle’s scoring effectiveness and rebounding to score was Ross Lyon’s main concern, above the frustrating skill errors that also peppered the Dockers’ game.
"They (turnovers from skill errors) happened early and they are not ideal. But that wasn’t the issue," Lyon said.
"We could have had those and won the game if we had have fixed those things (Geelong’s rebounding ability) I spoke about.
"So I walk out of here with a clear direction of what I need to coach and deliver in the review and the players know that."
It’s comforting for Fremantle fans to know that Ross Lyon has a clear idea of what needs to change tactically and will be able to implement that immediately, like he did all last year.