Welcome back to another season of AFL. After enduring AFLX, off field drama's, teams trying to self destruct during trade period (looking at you Gold Coast), football is finally back. No more being forced to talk to friends and family about your goals and dreams, now you can just change every discussion topic to football, and avoid talking about the fact that you're spending the golden years of your life writing a satirical weekly football column, and actively avoid having a social life in order to watch the football. At least I assume that's how it is for everyone else.
Carlton vs Richmond
After almost six football free months, we were ready for action again. A heavyweight clash at the MCG... Sorry, that's tomorrow night's game? We're starting the season with last team's top team playing last year's bottom team? Oh. Oh okay no worries.
After almost six football free months, we were ready for action again. With over 85000 fans showing up to the MCG on a perfect Thursday night to see hopeful big improvers Carlton take on Richmond. All people were hoping for was a contest, and thankfully for all bar the first and last ten minutes of the game, we got a very exciting one. Unfortunately in those 20 minutes Richmond kicked eight goals to one, rendering the excitement of the rest of the game somewhat underwhelming. But Carlton fans will at least take heart from the rest of the game, showing why many are excited by the kids coming through.
Collingwood vs Geelong Cats
I'd been having nightmares since mid September last year, and it was finally time for me to face my fears - Geelong playing football at the MCG. To make things worse it was against last year's runner's up in Collingwood. What the game lacked in polish, it made up for in intensity, with the Friday night blockbuster living up to the hype of two teams that should be contenders this year trying to get their season off on the right foot. I had moved house only a week earlier, and if the people in the surrounding apartments weren't aware I'd moved in yet, they certainly are now. Collingwood were wasteful all night, but nothing really summed it up better than De Goey giving off a handball to a man under pressure after taking the ball 15 meters out directly in front. I can only be grateful that when I make one mistake during my workday, there aren't 80 000 people to watch me do it live, and several hundred thousand more on the TV. In the end Geelong got away with a hard fought win, and I can finally sleep soundly again.
Melbourne vs Port Adelaide
Many people had Melbourne as flag fancies going into this year, after a strong season last year (if we forget about them accidentally sending their under twelves team to Perth for the Prelim), and they started beautifully, kicking four of the first five goals, with things beginning to look ugly - though not quite as ugly as Port's new jumpers, which seam to have taken a leaf out of Carlton's book: What if our Perfectly Good White Jumper, Was Instead an Ugly Gray (available now at all bookstores). Unfortunately for Melbourne, however, at around this point of the game Port Adelaide remembered how to play football, with Westhoff starring up forward with five goals, and Tom Rockliff back to his Brisbane form that had him admitted to hospital every second Monday with leather poisoning. Ken Hinkley even labeled it their best win in his time at the club.
Adelaide Crows vs Hawthorn
It's time for 2019's first Battle of the Birds. This isn't a particularly remarkable event, as there are five teams in the AFL named after birds. There are 898 recorded bird species in Australia, which includes Crows, who are apparently amongst the most intelligent birds on the planet. Interestingly so are Magpies, which indicates that there is little link between the intelligence of a mascot to the intelligence of a team's fans. Sorry where was I? Oh yes, the football.
Adelaide went into this season without too many off season hiccups, if you forget about the fact that someone left them for Carlton, and even managed to do get through the pre season without going on a team trip to visit a cult Collected Mind, and thanks to this many people had them rising back up the ladder. Hawthorn however, with their ageing list, and the loss of Tom Mitchell, were expected to fall. You can imagine, then, everyone's surprise when Hawthorn went on to win this game by five goals. However as I have developed a hardened hatred for Hawthorn ever since 2008, I will always be wary of their - and especially Alastair Clarkson's - ability to find ways to win. Especially when everyone's adapting to widespread rule changes. To add injury to insult for the Crows, they also lost Doedee (pronounced Doo-Day for those wanting to seem smart at water cooler conversations) and Richie Douglas to injuries that look to keep them out for good chunks of the season.
Western Bulldogs vs Sydney
It's incredible to think that only three years ago these two teams played in a Grand Final, yet this season most people have neither of them featuring in finals, and the team that won that Grand Final hasn't featured in a September since. As someone who peaked in high school, I can certainly relate to that sentiment. The Bulldogs are now a strong contender for worst footy jumper of all time, and Chris Hemsworth was even there to see the jumper that was an insult to both the Bulldog's history and the character of Thor. The Swans kicked the first goal here, but after that it looked like it was going to get very ugly with the Bulldogs kicking the next six, and keeping the Swans goalless in the third quarter. However the Swans came home hard in the second half, even closing to within one goal late in the last quarter before the Bulldogs slotted two late ones - one of which from Bontempelli, capping off a best on ground performance.
Brisbane Lions vs West Coast Eagles
Only three times in the AFL era has the reigning premier been held goalless in a quarter of a round one game. In 1995, 2007, and 2019. The more interesting part of this stat is that all three times it was West Coast. Brisbane had recorded just one goal five to quarter time, to the Eagles six goals two, and it looked like it was going to be one of those gallant losses we saw from Brisbane last year. That was before the next three quarters (including a scoreless third term from the Eagles) went 14 goals to two Brisbane's way. In front of a crowd of just over 20 000 at the Gabba, the new look Lions roared, capping off a Saturday in which none of the favourites won, and one that made me want to quit Footy Tipping halfway into round one. New recruits McCarthy and Neale both shone for the Lions, while many of the Eagles were flightless, with the exception of Dom Sheed, who continued his great pre season form, with a lazy 38 disposals.
St Kilda vs Gold Coast Suns
The Suns rapidly managed to roll over almost half of its list, trading away Tom Lynch, Steven May, Kade Kolodjashnij, Aaron Hall and Jack Scrimshaw, and another 11 being delisted or retiring, many expected them to struggle to win a game this year, were up against the Saints, who seem to have angered every god on this green earth, as they lost almost their entire backline to injury in the preseason, after a worse than expected 2018 campaign.
Much like the last time these two teams met, this was an action packed blockbuster (brought to you by Marvel Stadium) and yet again Gold Coast fell excruciatingly short, after being in the lead in time on in the final term. The only good news is that The Suns don't have enough fans for anyone to be truly heartbroken by this result, whereas the Saints fans needed some glimmer of hope at the end of a very long dark tunnel.
GWS Giants vs Essendon
After a strong back half of last season, and recruiting Dylan Shiel, many backed Essendon to have a fair tilt at the Premiership this year. But much like the rest of the games this weekend, the Giants were determined to prove everyone completely wrong. While Essendon looked like they were still on their summer holidays, the Giants moved the ball from end to end with ease, with the Shiel sized hole in the midfield proving to be less Giant than some people feared. A couple of junk time goals helped the margin look more respectable, but Essendon will go into next week determined to make up for what was a truly awful showing.
Fremantle vs North Melbourne
These two sides would have had to combine for over 300 points to save this from being the lowest average score of an opening round in over 50 years, and while Fremantle tried their best to reach the mark, North Melbourne clearly seemed to think that the Dockers had done enough hard work for both of them, and barely tried to score at all. Had you asked me who was going to manage a total of nearly 150, and win by fifteen goals in round one, I think Fremantle would have been at least bottom three on that list. Cam McCarthy proved that all you need to do to become a better footballer is to get a haircut and a better choice of facial hair, cutting the Roos apart with twenty disposals and five goals. In fact he looks so little like Cam McCarthy that I'm wondering if Fremantle actually replaced him with an entirely different, far better footballer in the off season.
It was definitely a week of upsets, and the rule changes designed to make the game more high scoring, instead ended up resulting in the lowest scoring round in half a century. See you next week.