This weekend showcased the opening round of the 2018 AFL season, with the league likely pleased with the outcome. There were plenty of skills on display, positive atmosphere, and for the most part reasonably competitive matches.
On Thursday night, in the season curtain raiser, Richmond, ultimately defeating Carlton by 26 points, took some time to display last season’s form, as did their Brownlow medalist, Dustin Martin. Carlton fans saw a glimpse into the future, with their crop of youngsters standing tall, in particular Charlie Curnow who booted the first goal for 2018 and another four for the game.
— AFL (@AFL) March 22, 2018
There were a few dubious decisions over infringements to the “protected area” around the mark. After the AFL Umpiring Department admitted on Friday morning that two of the 50 metre penalties paid were wrong, the issue disappeared and umpiring was relatively uneventful for the remainder of the round.
After a tumultuous off-season, Jake Stringer made his debut for the Bombers on Friday night. While not reaching his masterful heights, he contributed at crucial moments to Essendon’s gutsy 12-point comeback victory over last year’s grand finalists, Adelaide.
On Saturday night, Hawthorn secured a comfortable 34-point win over Collingwood, perhaps overshadowed by Tom Mitchell’s remarkable record-breaking 54 disposals, the most ever in a single AFL match.
In a nail-biting finish that could have gone either way, Melbourne went down by 3 points to the Cats. As if scripted for a perfect return for Geelong’s prodigal-son, Gary Ablett Jr produced 39 disposals and one goal alongside teammate and Cats captain, Joel Selwood, coincidentally collecting 39 disposals while celebrating his 250th game.
Our first thriller of 2018! Melbourne v Geelong went right down to the wire.
— AFL (@AFL) March 25, 2018
GWS signalled their ambitious intentions for the year, in a dominant 82-point victory over the Western Bulldogs, who would be hoping the loss is not a continuation of their premiership hangover from 2016.
In torrential rain and shocking playing conditions, Gold Coast Suns opened Stuart Dew’s ledger as a first-time coach with a gritty 16-point win over North Melbourne.
Fremantle’s struggle continues, looking lacklustre in their 50-point loss to a hardworking, confident Port Adelaide, who were able to find team cohesion with many new players playing their first game together.
In the first AFL game played at Perth’s new ‘Optus Stadium’, visitors Sydney beat home-side West Coast by 29 points, a highlight being Buddy Franklin’s 8-goal haul off his own boot.
Enjoy all of Lance Franklin's eight goals from Sydney's strong win over the Eagles👇 pic.twitter.com/gQVmrZOdCh
— AFL (@AFL) March 25, 2018
After a very tight first half of the match, St Kilda overcame Brisbane’s pressure to produce a 25-point win.
As expected injuries continue to play a major factor in our game, with Paddy Ryder looking to have damaged his Achilles and Tom Liberatore a potential ACL injury that could be season ending. The new-look tribunal will be in action for Richard Douglas (Adelaide) who was reported for rough conduct on Zach Merrett (Essendon).
Overall, Round 1 had plenty on offer and the good news is, there’s another 21 matches to look forward to.