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Can Geelong and Hawthorn play each other every week?
We all know it’s not possible of course, but if AFL chief Gillon McLachlan is serious about wanting to see more ‘attractive football’, he’d at least give it 30 seconds of thought.
Yesterday’s blockbuster seemingly opened a new chapter in a rivalry that won’t flame out for some time, with Patrick Dangerfield’s Cats debut living up to the hype.
Danger had 43 disposals and 10 inside 50s in a performance blighted only by the fact he missed three chances to effectively seal the match in the last quarter. Had his 0.3 been 3.0 it would be impossible to look past him for player of the round. He may well get there anyway.
Round 1 confirmed some basis to the hype for teams such as Geelong, while potentially elevating the outlook for the likes of the Western Bulldogs, who were super impressive in their demolition of Fremantle. Collingwood were among those who had cold water poured on their outlook, but they may not have been alone.
Which brings us to the first instalment of the AFL Power Rankings, a new segment on these pages that aims in part to identify the shifts in the footy world at the end of each weekend’s matches.
We must be clear upfront. There are several things the AFL Power Rankings are not: They are not the ladder. They are not predictions (either of the eventual ladder or matches even one week into the future). You want those? The ladder itself and the betting markets, respectively, will probably help you out.
Rather, the AFL Power Rankings are designed to answer one simple question for each team: Where are they at?
As in, right now, at this moment, given who they’ve played recently, and they performed in those games, where is each AFL team actually at relative to the others in the competition?
That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Monday (or indeed Tuesday) morning footy talk inevitably comes back to asking this question of teams in one way or another. The AFL Power Rankings will answer the question, for every team, backed by what the numbers are saying about their recent form and the quality of their opponents.
Mostly, it’s a bit of fun. If, after looking at where your team is, you’re not having fun — please feel free tell us about it in the comments.
Ladder: 14th (0W, 1L)
The Hawks were without six players from last year’s grand final side on Monday. Still, they couldn’t get going in the first half as the Cats smashed them in contested marks 9-1. Hard to build momentum when that’s on the stat sheet. That said, the third quarter fightback can be taken as a reminder of how quickly this team can get going. The loss wasn’t catastrophic enough to bump them from top spot.
Ladder: 4th (1W, 0L)
Matt Priddis had 12 clearances among his 43 possessions against the Lions, but it was Josh Kennedy who was the individual standout with eight goals in an ultimately comfortable win against the Lions. Attention now turns to the grand final re-match at the MCG on Sunday.
Ladder: 2nd (1W, 0L)
Sydney weren’t an overly prominent part of off-season top four discussions, but once again they’ve shown why you can’t leave them out of the conversation. Lance Franklin returned with a four-goal performance, Luke Parker was impressive and they simply outworked a club that was talked about as an improver this season from the opening bounce.
Ladder: 1st (1W, 0L)
Keep an eye on the Doggies. They were alive from the opening bounce against Fremantle, playing exciting footy. Five players — including Shane Biggs, Jason Johannisen, Lachie Hunter and Jack Macrae — topped 30 disposals on Sunday. Break that down and you’ll find a 24-year-old, a 23-year-old and two 21-year-olds. Then there was the five-goal performance Jake Stringer (21) and influence of Tom Liberatore (23) and Marcus Bontempelli (20). The upside of this club’s list is ridiculous. Don’t be surprised one bit if they get even better this year.
Ladder: 7th (1W, 0L)
Can we read too much into the Tigers’ escape against the reigning wooden spooners? Probably not. They were without Ivan Maric, Brett Deledio, Shaun Grigg and Reece Conca. Despite finding themselves in a difficult situation, they still found a way to win, which is what the good teams do.
Ladder: 6th (1W, 0L)
The Power had to work for it against St Kilda, but Robbie Gray was instrumental in securing the four points. A very, very interesting Showdown looms this week. Both Adelaide clubs have the right to feel as if they’re in the mix for finals. An opportunity to make a statement beckons.
Ladder: 8th (1W, 0L)
When everyone else seemed to be showing signs of being out on their feet at the end of a physical, fast-paced, blow-for-blow season opener, one of the biggest blokes on the field made it all look so easy. Todd Goldstein came up big at the death and showed yet again how much of an influence he can have. Brent Harvey’s third quarter helped wrestle the match back in North’s favour, too.
Ladder: 11th (0W, 1L)
For the better part of three quarters the Crows had a response to whatever North Melbourne threw at them. That was the positive. The negative? The gap in class and execution as the match wore on. North had the men for the moment and it won them the four points.
Ladder: 5th (1W, 0L)
Shots fired. To start the year with a win over the reigning premiers is one thing. To have that win powered by new recruits Patrick Dangerfield and Zac Smith is another thing altogether. The Cats weren’t quite a finals-calibre team last year, but early signs say that has changed over the off-season.
Ladder: 18th (0W, 1L)
Ross Lyon summed up the big loss to the Dogs reasonably well: “They were up for a street fight and we were up for a nice Sunday stroll.” A bit more street fighting will be needed for the Dockers to return to the competition’s top tier, which they were well and truly apart of in the first half of last year but dropped away from as the season progressed. Expect this to be Nat Fyfe’s last 15-disposal game for a while.
Ladder: 17th (0W, 1L)
Could it have gone any worse? Down 12 scoring shots to two at quarter time, down 62 points at half time, a chaotic night in the medical room, Dane Swan picking up a broken fibula and foot … and all this amid headlines about illicit drug use among players during the off-season. Will the pressure go up another notch this week? There’s a blockbuster Friday night clash with Richmond ahead.
Ladder: 10th (0W, 1L)
To an extent you can understand the hype around the Giants in the lead-up to the new season, given the talent on that list. But consider this: Their last two AFL matches have been losses to Melbourne. Their last win against a side that didn’t finish bottom five in 2015 was back in round 8 last year. Only two wins last year came against eventual finalists (albeit with one against the eventual premiers). Take all that into account and what’s the conclusion? There’s still work to be done here.
Ladder: 3rd (1W, 0L)
Gary Ablett was back to doing Gary Ablett things, which is just so damn exciting to watch. The Suns led the scoring shots 10 to one in the first quarter against Essendon and it didn’t look like slipping after that. A healthy win to start the year as they look to rebound from a nightmare 2015.
Ladder: 13th (0W, 1L)
Nearly. A round 1 road win would have boosted confidence at the Saints, but instead they’ll be dissecting the cause of their collapse — they were outscored 9.4 to 1.1 in the last 40 minutes — against Port. On the flipside, they had a good team on the ropes late in the third quarter. How to do that for four quarters, that’s the question.
Ladder: 15th (0W, 1L)
Travelling to the opposite end of the country to face the losing grand finalists in the first game of the season is no easy assignment. Debutant Josh Schache opened his career with a couple of goals — and he was one of six multiple goal kickers — so the trip over wasn’t without positives.
Ladder: 9th (1W, 0L)
Not every team backed up NAB Challenge form with round 1 form. The Dees did. Jack Viney didn’t have a goal, behind or assist against the Giants, but he finished with 11 score involvements and racked up 32 touches. Jack Watts is starting to change opinions. It was a narrow win against a fellow non-finalist, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.
Ladder: 12th (0W, 1L)
It wasn’t a match that put four points next to their name, but Thursday night’s competitive performance against Richmond was a win for the Blues. Rather than starting the season off with more dejection, fans can soldier on with a tinkle of optimism. Oh, and as a bonus they got confirmation that Jacob Weitering is, in fact, all that and a bag of chips.
Ladder: 16th (0W, 1L)
David Zaharakis was a positive in the comprehensive loss to Gold Coast. The unusual circumstances of this season could provide a platform for him to take a big step forward in his career. Overall, no one got a shock with the scoreline at Metricon Stadium. It will be hard-going for the Dons this year.