What can we learn from the first six games of Round 1?
In a truncated season of only 17 games, early wins and percentage boosts can mean some breathing space later in the season, so the start to the season by Richmond, Collingwood and Greater Western Sydney was not only predictable but necessary.
The pitiful effort of the Gold Coast Suns means that one of the recent perennial under-performers, Port Adelaide, currently has the best percentage in the competition. The Power have finished in tenth position in three of the past four years, and to restrict the Suns to four goals in four (admittedly shorter) quarters either says they are on the rise or that Gold Coast will continue to be a cellar dweller.
This season Port Power were not a big recruiter in the draft period, picking up only one player with AFL experience and two big names under father-son picks (Trent Burgoyne and Jackson Mead) while losing some big names, so it is hard to believe that their improvement was the sole reason for the near eight-goal thrashing of the Suns.
As someone who had hopes of a gradual rise up the ladder for the Suns, based on my belief that they were winners in the draft market, I was dismayed to think that their tenth season will be no better than the nine that preceded it.
The Suns’ Stuart Dew (who played most of his career at Port Adelaide) has a moderate coaching record, having won only 16 per cent of games during his two-year coaching stint.
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Dew’s time in the job has seen the Suns’ annual common theme continue: the loss of their best (and most experienced) players to opposition clubs. The club’s third most experienced player Michael Rischitelli retired, but five others players are now plying their trade at other clubs, including Jack Martin, who left the club three games short of a century but has already shown his value to Carlton with four goals in the first game of the 2020 season.
At least Gold Coast were able to recruit three experienced players in place of those who left, including Brandon Ellis, who played 176 games for Richmond, and may well have still been there if Alex Rance had retired earlier. Both of the other two, Hugh Greenwood (Adelaide) and Zac Smith (Geelong), have at least 50 games of experience at their previous clubs and all three should be automatic sections at the Gold Coast.
Bookended by two wooden spoons (there were only 17 teams in the comp in 2011), the Suns have failed to finish any higher than 12th during the decade, and it would appear even that placing is a bridge too far.
The results in the two other Saturday matches were too close for any meaningful analysis, so the bottom five places in the eight are still wide open and Geelong and Western Bulldogs (who put in a shocker!) should not be discounted.
Personal milestones were plenty with a number of players either debuting for a new club or playing their first game of AFL. Among these was the son of former Magpies captain Gavin Brown. Gavin’s son Tyler joined his other son Callum in the win over the Western Bulldogs, alongside Peter Daicos’ son.
At Carlton, Jack Newnes kicked his first league goal not at St Kilda, as did Josh Bruce at the Western Bulldogs.
One of the sad results is the gradual slip down the club top 100 goal-scorers list of players who were part of the VFL back at the start of the competition in 1897. At Collingwood, Jordan de Goey’s one goal took him to level with Archie Smith, who won the league goal-kicking in 1898.
In the same year, Mick Grace was regarded as the champion of the colony while still at Fitzroy. Later he moved to Carlton, and this week his goal-kicking tally for that club was surpassed by Levi Casboult.
Geelong won their third consecutive match by beating Brisbane by 27 points at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday night – but coach Chris Scott’s injury list grew by two key on-ballers before quarter time when both Quinton Narkle and Mitch Duncan suffered respective hamstring injuries.
Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt is open to the idea of playing more games with shorter turnarounds while in an AFL hub, but the two-time premiership star says the Tigers might need to call for reinforcements.
Before I start this Round 6 preview, I would like to extend thoughts and best wishes to my fellow Melburnians who returned to lockdown yesterday. These are incredibly challenging times and I wish you and your loved ones strength and safety over the next six weeks and beyond.