The Essendon Bombers and Geelong Cats looked like flag contenders in the AFL’s opening round for 2018. The Sydney Swans spoiled the party for the West Coast Eagles, getting a big away win in Perth. Those are the big headlines from AFL round 1, while Hawthorn midfielder Tom Mitchell set an AFL disposals record. Here is your full round recap!
Essendon Beats Adelaide in Comeback Fashion
Down by three goals and change at three quarter time, the Essendon Bombers didn’t crumble, chipping away at the Adelaide Crows lead to win the final term 6 goals to 1 and emerge winners 99-87 in a marquee Friday night home game. The Bombers ended up being faster to the ball, tougher in the backline, and created more scoring chances as Dyson Heppell and David Zaharakis combined for 70 disposals in the absence of Zach Merrett, who took a head bump at the hands of Richard Douglas and missed most of the contest. Brendon Goddard and Andrew McGrath were other key ball winners while Cale Hooker and James Stewart combined for six goals, Darcy Parish and Jake Stringer adding good forward pressure with 14 tackles combined.
The Bombers worked their attack through their lesser known forwards and it paid off, while new recruit Adam Saad helped lock down the Adelaide forward line. If Essendon can continue to get contributions from the mid tier of their list, they could very well finish top 4.
The Crows don’t need to panic yet, they rode a strong third term into the lead and competed well. Matt Crouch and Rory Laird were both over 40 disposals, while Bryce Gibbs chipped in with 35 disposals, strengthening their midfield. The forward line was a bit more a concern, rookie Darcy Fogarty, Josh Jenkins, and Gibbs combined for six goals but the Crows struggled to mark inside 50.
Melbourne denied against Geelong at the Siren
Missing Patrick Dangerfield, the Geelong Cats still managed to win 97-94 against the Melbourne Demons, avoiding the fate of Adelaide and staving off a final term collapse. The Cats dominated possession, though the Demons were better going forward. Gary Ablett in his return to the blue and white had 39 disposals and a fantastic running goal. Joel Selwood, and recruit Tim Kelly were also among the disposal leaders for the Cats, as Selwood had 39, and Kelly posted 27. Daniel Menzel and Brandan Parfitt were the only multi-goal scorers for the Cats, as their offensive attack was a mix of contributors.
The Demons came on strong in the second half led by Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver. Jesse Hogan, Alex Neal-Bullen and Cam Pederson were their multi goal scorers while rookie Bayley Fritsch was solid in the forward line. You have to feel for ruckman Max Gawn, as he had a dominant game, but missed a goal from up close in the final seconds that cost Melbourne the game. If Gawn and Oliver had avoided poor results in the final 2:30, the Demons would have won a massive game, but instead the Cats escaped with the 4 points.
Sydney Wins First Game at Optus Stadium
Western Australia native Lance Franklin kicked a massive eight goals for Sydney, propelling them to a 115-86 victory over the home team West Coast at the opening of their new stadium in Perth. The Swans were the superior team through most of the contest, though they only led by 5 heading into the final term. The Eagles competed in the midfield and actually had more inside 50’s than their competition, but they couldn’t shut down the Sydney attack, and their own attack was missing Josh Kennedy in a big way.
Luke Parker and Josh P. Kennedy led the Sydney midfield, Parker kicking one of the goals of the season with a blind bicycle kick late in the final term. Isaac Heeney and Will Hayward joined Franklin in Sydney’s attack.
Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff, and Dom Sheed were the midfield engine for West Coast, Elliot Yeo starred off half back and Mark LeCras and Jack Darling combined for six goals. Rookies Liam Ryan and Jake Waterman were also solid, as was returning ruckman Nic Naitanui. Nic Nat only played about half the game but was excellent, presuming he’s fit he should help the Eagles compete for finals.
That said, Sydney winning away is already a big boost to their season, after the horrid start last year.
Richmond Raises the Flag and Sees off Carlton
Despite a rusty start, the Richmond Tigers triumphed 121-95 against a spirited Carlton side in the season’s curtain raiser. The Blues came out with an aggressive gameplan and executed through three quarters. The Tigers found an extra level though, with a six goal final term that the Blues simply couldn’t match.
The biggest problem for the Blues was a relatively impotent forward line, as Levi Casboult was shut down up full forward by Alex Rance. Star ruckman Matthew Kreuzer got tight in the second half, further denting the Blues hopes. Despite all that, it was a great showing from Patrick Cripps and Kade Simpson, as they dominated with the footy, combining for 71 disposals. The Curnow brothers were huge as well, with Ed posting 29 disposals, and Charlie kicking 5 goals. Matthew Wright also booted five for a Carlton side that is going to upset some good teams this year.
Dustin Martin shaked off a slow start with 32 disposals, including some pinpoint kicks. Jacob Townsend and Jack Riewoldt combined for eight goals, while Josh Caddy had a great game with 3 goals and 19 disposals. Richmond’s pressure won them another contest.
New recruits help Port Adelaide thump Fremantle
Port Adelaide ran away with things 110-60 against Fremantle at home, the only downside being the loss of ruckman Paddy Ryder in the process. Forward Todd Marshall kicked four goals, new recruits Steven Motlop and Jack Watts combined for five. Riley Bonner and a host of other Power players contributed with disposals in the midfield, as this Power side made the Dockers look lost out there.
Only Lachie Neale (38 disposals) looked particularly convincing for Freo, as they didn’t have a multi-goal kicker, and even Nat Fyfe struggled. Expect Ross Lyon to shake up their best 22 in the coming rounds, otherwise Freo looks to be in for a rough year.
GWS Giants Embarrass the Western Bulldogs
The GWS Giants were favored to beat the Western Bulldogs, but they ended up destroying them 133-51 in a game they never trailed. Even worse for the Dogs, Tom Liberatore tore his ACL and is done for the year. Stephen Coniglio and Toby Greene starred for the Giants in their massive win, Greene kicked 4 goals, while Coniglio had 2 goals and 32 disposals, plus 7 tackles. Tim Taranto, Lachie Whitfield, and Josh Kelly also helped lead the GWS midfield while Jeremy Cameron led all comers with six goals. If GWS can keep it up, they will finish top 4 and perhaps as minor premiers.
The danger signs are strong for the Bulldogs, only Jordan Roughead had more than a goal and other than Lachie Hunter, Jack Macrae, and Luke Dahlhaus the Dogs were pretty much anonymous in the midfield. They also got exposed in the backline.
Winning starts for St. Kilda, Gold Coast, and Hawthorn
A strong final term saw St. Kilda separate from Brisbane 107-82 in a competitive contest. The Lions weren’t bad, but they played too much of the game in their defensive half of the field, the Saints racking up scoring opportunities and converting eventually to pull away.
Jack Steven (34 disposals and 2 goals), Jack Billings (26/2), and Blake Acres were massive for the Saints, Jade Gresham and Josh Bruce combined for six goals. St. Kilda should be competing for a top 8 stop this season based on their performance, but their are tougher teams than a rebuilding Brisbane that away.
The Lions were lifted by new recruits Luke Hodge and Charlie Cameron but will need a far better attack if they are going to improve on 2017.
Hawthorn comprehensively beat Collingwood 101-67, all but ensuring the heat will remain on Magpies coach Nathan Buckley. The Pies lacked in attack and were dominated by Tom Mitchell, who cranked out an AFL record 54 disposals. Luke Breust led the Hawks with 4 goals, while Jaeger O’Meara and James Sicily were solid for the Hawks. Adam Treloar led the Pies in the midfield, but they had just one multi-goal scorer.
Gold Coast edged North Melbourne 55-39 in a slop fest where goals were only kicked from one side of the ground. The Suns had a better attack and applied more pressure in the wet, mucky conditions as Ben Ainsworth and Aaron Young were solid in attack, and both David Swallow and Jarrod Witts dominated. North posted a forgettable performance all around, Shaun Higgins and Ben Cunnington were commendable, but Ben Brown went awol and they couldn’t lock down the Suns in the forward 50.