Round 1 – Hits and Misses
Dustin Martin’s contract situation has been well-documented in recent months, and his market value is estimated to be one million dollars per season. Clubs that have room in their salary cap should be preparing to throw everything at Dusty to pry him away from Punt Road, for they might be dealing with a Brownlow medallist once this season is finished. His performance against Carlton on Thursday was remarkable.
33 disposals, four goals, 13 score involvements and two assists, where he had time to start juggling the football and volley it through, but decided to give it off. Carlton had no answers. If there was a higher league for Martin to play in you’d be promoting him immediately, but he’s already in it. Elite.
Essendon’s win over Hawthorn was the third of three games I attended during round one and aside from the individual brilliance of Dusty, the Bombers impressed me the most. Their fans were thrilled by the cohesion their players showed, despite so many of them playing for the first time since 2015. Last year’s exile forced Essendon to blood so many new players, which took them to the wooden spoon, but that short-term pain already looks like it will bring enormous long-term gains. There is loads of potential throughout Essendon’s list.
Number one draft pick Andrew McGrath looked at home in defence, barely putting a foot wrong. Orazio Fantasia was exceptional as a crumbing forward, kicking four goals. Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett continued the form they showed last season, and Joe Daniher is everything you want in a forward until he has to take a set shot. And their new skipper, Dyson Heppell, was inspirational. 34 disposals and three goals, including two clutch goals in the last quarter, made for a magnificent debut as captain. There’s a lot of excitement among the Dons supporters, and so there should be.
The Adelaide Football Club deserves a mention among the stand-out performers of the weekend, having won the inaugural AFLW and knocked off the premiership favourites in the men’s comp. The Crows were consistently competitive during the AFLW season and earned a top-two finish largely thanks to basketballer Erin Phillips, who finished the season as one of the best players in the competition. The Crows claimed the flag on Saturday against the undefeated Brisbane in front of more than 15,000 fans on the Gold Coast, holding on to a slim lead in the final quarter to secure the win. They took the trophy to Adelaide Oval the next day to continue the celebrations as the men’s side caused a major upset by comfortably beating the Giants.
Clubs and fans alike would be silly to hit the panic button after round one, but early signs are not good for a couple of teams.
Gold Coast would have hoped to make light work of Brisbane and make their top eight intentions clear, but they were blown away by arguably the worst side of 2016. Trailing by eight goals at half-time, Rocket Eade must have put one up them, because they did manage to whittle away the lead. However, they still found a way to lose. More of the same from the Suns this season would spell trouble for everyone in that organisation, so they need to get their act together quickly.
North Melbourne and Fremantle lost at home to very good teams, but both leaked a concerning amount of goals. North’s defence couldn’t handle Josh Kennedy, who bagged seven straight. The more attention they gave him, the more space there was for LeCras, Cripps and Darling, who all kicked multiple goals. Freo will be looking for huge improvements on last season, which was a total disaster, but they were no match for Geelong. Admittedly, the Dockers side has endured a lot of changes in the off-season so it may take a few rounds for them to gel.
An aggregate of 186 points or more was amassed in every round one game, which has to have broken some kind of record, and a new record for the biggest single-round attendance was set, with 400,401 people attending the nine games in round one.