AFL | Round 1 | 2022
Melbourne (97) vs Western Bulldogs (71)
And the year started, as it tends to do, on a Wednesday.
Hang on, is that right? Yes, no, I’m told we are indeed starting the football season on a Wednesday.
The season opened with a grand final rematch, with the first game being taken away from Carlton and Richmond for the first time in fourteen years, but instead of simply playing this game on the now-traditional Thursday timeslot, the AFL decided that they would just plop it in front of the Carlton Richmond game.
This game played out exactly how a grand final rematch should be expected to. By this, I don’t mean a cracking contest between the two best teams in the competition, I mean a diet version of the grand final. With less atmosphere and less intensity, this game went according to script: Melbourne made a strong start, before being pegged back by the Bulldogs who took a slim lead into half time, before they let Christian Petracca take the game away from them relatively uncontested. Petracca had 38 disposals and 2 goals 1 to open the season, after finishing the last one with 39 disposals and 2 goals 1. Talk about consistency.
There were no signs of a hangover (other than the one I watched the game with) as the Dees coolly dismantled the Dogs, with their midfield machine of Petracca, Oliver, Viney and Brayshaw controlling the game yet again. The only player who didn’t live up to their lofty standards was Gawn, but he has on par with his last three season openers – in all of which he went on to be named All Australian Ruckman.
Luke Beveridge (1) vs Tom Morris (0)
The result of the game was quickly overshadowed by a firey press conference, and the fallout that came from it, as Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge opened fire at reporter Tom Morris regarding the leaking of team news throughout the week before promptly leaving the room. Terms such as “muckraking trash” “gutter journalism” and “you’re an embarrassment” were thrown around.
The next day, Beveridge – and possibly rightly so – issued an apology for going maybe a little bit hard on Morris. Simultaneously a member of a WhatsApp group leaked some completely out of line misogynistic and homophobic sentiments from Morris, and an anonymous user tweeted a video of Morris saying some more bigoted nonsense in public (and possibly drunk).
Tom Morris was stood down, and subsequently sacked by his employer, and rightly so. The AFL has been a boys club for far too long and there is no need for that kind of behaviour.
In the end, it is probably fitting that a man who made his career off of leaking sensitive information, was done in by a leak of his own sensitive information. Good riddance.
Carlton (101) vs Richmond (76)
I want to say that if the Carlton Richmond games had been like this in recent years they would have been worthy of being season openers, but the truth is it was simply a role reversal.
Despite the scoreboard reflecting a four and a smidge goal margin, Carlton bullied Richmond for much of this game, ending an eleven game losing streak, and bringing the ledger to 12-12 from the last 24.
Cripps was dominant, and so was the midfield – even without Sam Walsh, which is an incredible statement – with Carlton dominating the clearances and contested possessions, and even trying a novel new tactic called running both ways.
The true highlight of this game was Sam Docherty kicking a superb goal at the end of a momentum swing for the Blues, amidst a brilliant return from one of the worst runs of luck an AFL footballer has ever experienced. This kind of stuff is what footy is all about.
It was only very recently Carlton couldn’t reach 100 points to save their life - certainly not the lives of their coaches - but after cracking the milestone three times last season, they made it there in round one this year.
What does this mean? Are Carlton the real deal? Is Richmond’s Dynasty over? Is it simply round one and form lines can’t be judged from performances this early in the season? Can dogs look up?
Whatever the answer, Richmond got the last laugh with Carlton being struck by a Covid Crisis post-match, with cases amongst both the playing group and coaching staff, with Voss set to miss just his second game in charge.
St Kilda (85) vs Collingwood (102)
There were simply too many Daicoses… Daicos’… Daicos… Daicice… Daicoose… for St Kilda to handle, whatever the plural may be. This game featured two exceptional debuts in Nick Daicos and Jack Hayes. Unluckily for St Kilda, Lipinski was also playing his first game at a new club, and the club debut ratio of 2:1 was too strong.
This game certainly featured excitement, as much like in the previous two games of the round, the sides traded blows of momentum, the Saints beginning a run of five unanswered goals from midway through the third term to hit the lead, before Collingwood wrested momentum back.
The debut of Jack Hayes shows that it is never too late to reach your dreams. As long as you’re athletically gifted and have been dedicated to them in the meantime. For you and I, however, it is certainly best to sit back and watch these dreams come true for others on the television, and living vicariously through them.
You would have been forgiven for thinking these debuts were going to easily be the best of the weekend, however, you also would have been sorely mistaken.
In the end, Collingwood ran away with this one, with a momentum chain starting from one of the worst deliberate out of bounds calls you’ll see this year. Even the umpires are rusty when the season restarts it seems.
The one thing that took away from the joy of seeing the Daicos brothers together, and the brilliant debut of Jack Hayes, was remembering that Jordan DeGoey is somehow still allowed to play AFL football.
Geelong (138) vs Essendon (72)
With Geelong too old and too slow, and Essendon up and coming after surging into the finals last season, this was expected to be an exciting matchup that gave us a good indication of where these teams were at in season 2022.
However, Essendon simply forgot to show up, allowing Geelong – and in particular Patrick Dangerfield – to surge out of the midfield relatively uncontested time and time again as the cats took a 60 point lead to the main break.
After half time, both sides seemingly agreed that it was far too hot to be playing football, and applied practically no defence, with a whopping sixteen goals – 8 apiece – kicked after half time, as the ball moved from end to end with ease.
The main beneficiary of this was debutant Nick Martin, who finished the game with a cool five goals and 27 touches.
Coming into this season, one of Geelong's biggest issues was how their backline was going to look after the back to back departures of lumbering and awkward looking, yet incredibly effective defenders Lachie Henderson and Harry Taylor.
With Essendon hardly firing a spark, this question, however, was not answered, as Geelong were allowed another warm-up match and a free win before their first game against Sydney next week.
GWS Giants (92) vs Sydney (112)
Every party needs a pooper, that’s why they invited Phil. Davis that is. After one of the most worn-out talking points of the pre-season being “when would Buddy’s thousandth” goal arrive, and many tipping that - due to the showman he is - it would arrive in round one, Davis went out of his way to ensure that didn’t happen.
In one of the best defensive displays in recent memory, Davis wore Franklin like a glove, keeping him to just one goal and all but negating his influence on the game.
Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Davis’ fellow defenders, who had rings run around them by the Sydney forwards, who had far too much firepower for the Giants to handle.
In a memorable, fast and high scoring shootout, that gave the 25 thousand strong crowd more than their moneys worth, Sydney got their season off to a great start against a side they’ll likely be battling for positioning later in the season.
They say it’s always Greener on the other side, and GWS showed that while Tom Green is developing into a genuine talent, the more divisive Toby Greene was sorely missed.
In another combo of names, as if having two Daicos’ on Friday wasn’t confusing enough, this game sported two McCartins in defence, with Paddy returning from a run of concussion issues, both himself and the ones he caused Aaron Black due to Diabetes based violence.
Brisbane (80) vs Port Adelaide (69)
The fun always has to end doesn’t it? After four games that saw the winning team crack the 100 mark, one that saw the losing team crack 90, and a fifth game where the victors fell three points short of the ton, we got this.
Brisbane and Port Adelaide, two sides who have continuously made it to the pointy end of the season in recent times, with not even a runners up medal to show for it, locked in a dour defensive contest to start the season off.
Defenders for both sides starred in this game with Houston finally providing long-promised run off the back flank, and Adams repelling every forward thrust Port Adelaide made, alongside an incredible 8 spoils from Lachie Jones at the other end.
Forwards? Didn’t get the memo. Outside of Daniher’s bag of four, this was not their night. However it did prove to be a great metaphor for recent Port Adelaide seasons; just as they looked like they were running away with it, they stopped and got run over.
Brisbane’s H&A record at home in recent years is impeccable, so they were the obvious tip here, but likely gave some fans heart palpitations when they were trailing by four goals deep in the third term.
Despite the lack of a spectacle here, I expect to see these sides come September, it’s just a case of if they can withstand a challenge when the pressure is truly on.
Hawthorn (78) vs North Melbourne (58)
Okay. I’m sorry.
I didn’t mean to complain about the last game. It was fine. Just get the quality up to that level for the love of god.
I’m not really sure what to say about this game. Two sides expected to finish in the bottom third of the ladder struggled against each other for four quarters on a Sunday morning, and Hawthorn came out on top.
Horne-Francis looked up to the level without starring. Chad Wingard is allowed to wear sleeves again (which he made up for with a questionable hair choice). A young Hawks side was seemingly carried by their ageing veterans.
Nobody even yelled at a journalist.
Adelaide (82) vs Fremantle (83)
If you’re interested in this match, I would recommend turning it on at half time and enjoying it from there (or simply watching a mini followed by the last five minutes).
The first half of this game was slow, marred by error and involved much shaking off rust by both sides, before the beast was unleashed.
Enter Josh Rachele.
After a quiet first half where the much-hyped debutant registered two impressive goals from four touches, a momentum-changing, and near on match-winning 3.1 from ten disposals after half time truly announced him to the footy world.
This burst from Rachele launched Adelaide to a three goal lead, before the Fremantle players seemed to remember that the 40 minutes of play since the half time break had in fact counted, and they were probably going to lose if they didn’t do something in a hurry.
Fremantle piled on three quick goals, hitting the front with five minutes to go, and setting the stage for some frantic final stages footy.
With mere second remaining, Ben Keays launched a long bomb, straight and true, looking like there were one of two options: a goal and an Adelaide win, or touched on the line and a draw.
Heath Chapman had other ideas, pulling off one of the greatest spoils on the goalline you will ever see, and keeping the ball in play resulting in a tense and hard fought one point win.
If you google Heath Chapman’s name this week - and probably for weeks to come - you will see articles and videos of his last minute heroics, making no mention of the fact that he played on Rachele for much of the day, and had five kicked on him,
Funny game footy.
West Coast (80) vs Gold Coast (107)
Ah the fabled* battle of the Coasts.
A depleted West Coast against a team who had won only one game in Western Australia, and none at Perth Stadium.
Clearly the West Coast fans knew something the rest of us didn’t, providing the only crowd of less than 25 thousand for the weekend.
What they knew may have been that Sunday afternoon is an awful timeslot for a state as large as Western Australia, designed purely for television purposes, and that with school the next day, Covid growing and a depleted Eagles list, this game probably wasn’t worth the hassle. But lets pretend what they knew was the result of this game.
*probably never before discussed, however I recently learned they played round one last year! The beginnings of a new and disappointing tradition!
As was the flavour of the round, this game featured wild momentum changes, and an eighth game for the weekend where there was a lead change after half time.
Twice in this game it seemed the old heads at West Coast had taken control of the match, and that Gold Coast were going to fade out of the contest, but the opposite ended up happening.
With Matt Rowell - hair spectacularly clashing with the Red and Gold jumper - collecting a whopping 22 contested possessions of a total 33, alongside 18 contested from Touk Miller of his total 29, West Coast were out muscled and out fought. The 40 contested possessions from the two midfield bulls equal to a third of West Coast’s team total.
In the end, it was Gold Coast who ran away with the game, kicking eight goals to two in the final term, to become the fifth team for the round to break the 100 point barrier.
Here’s hoping Gold Coast can last longer than Round 7 this year (watch this space) and make it into the finals for the first time in club history.