Jason Horne-Francis celebrates a massive nine-goal win over the Lions to start the 2023 season (Image: Port Adelaide Power/Twitter)

Round One of the 2023 AFL season has been run and won, we started with a nailbiter and finished with the battle of the boss.

All four new coaches started the year with wins, there were gruesome injuries, more debate around the bump, and most importantly the footy was back.

The Inner Sanctum is back with the weekly report on the round that was and your teams’ tactics.

Richmond, 8.10 (58) drew with Carlton, 8.10 (58)

A deflating return.

The first game of 2023 ended with two rivals sharing the points, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of fans who waited six months for the return of footy. The Blues defied the stats to lead for most of the game before Tom Lynch broke Carlton hearts with a last-minute equaliser.

Richmond’s new recruit Tim Taranto was best on ground with a 32-disposal, eight-tackle performance. The former Giant showed glimpses of his prowess forward of centre, taking two shots at goal but sending both wayward.

Daniel Rioli was impressive off half-back, leading the match for metres gained with 681 from his 27 touches. While Toby Nankervis made the most of his matchup against Tom De Koning with a monster 37-hitout, eleven-tackle showing in the centre.

George Hewett was Carlton’s best early, gathering 21 of his 28 disposals in the first half. While Lewis Young had 14 intercept possessions as he tried to stem the bleeding from Richmond’s barrage of inside 50s.

Sam Docherty stood up once again for the Blues, providing the rebound from half back and adding a goal to his tally for the night. New signing Blake Acres had a quiet debut in front of 90,000, barely reaching 200 metres gained from his 16 disposals.

Total Centre Bounces – 20


80% – Tim Taranto

70% – Dion Prestia

65% – Jacob Hopper

55% – Shai Bolton

30% – Trent Cotchin

A much tighter rotation of midfielders compared to the practice games. Thomson Dow losing his spot in the side gives a greater rotation to their premier ball winners. Taranto showed that he can compete with the leagues’ best when he’s given a chance at the centre bounce.


90% – George Hewett

70% – Patrick Cripps

55% – Adam Cerra

55% – Matthew Kennedy

20% – Ed Curnow

10% – Zac Fisher

Hewett had a significant rise in opportunity, leading to him being one of the best on the ground during the first half. Cripps was quiet for the amount of chances he had around the ball. Curnow found himself inside late in the game tagging Prestia.

Kick ins (Play on percentage)


4 – Daniel Rioli (75%)

2 – Dylan Grimes (100%)

1 – Liam Baker (100%)

1 – Nick Vlaustin (100%)

1 – Jayden Short (100%)


4 – Sam Docherty (100%)

3 – Adam Saad (100%)

2 – Mitch McGovern (100%)

1 – Nic Newman (100%)

More AFL News

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Crystal Ball: Our 2023 AFL Season Predictions

Geelong, 16.7 (103) def by Collingwood, 19.11 (125)

Last Quarter Pies.

The Cats found themselves 22 points up late in the third quarter and were looking to grind out a win to start their title defence. However Collingwood wouldn’t go quietly, kicking the last eight goals of the game to blow past the reigning premiers and show that their narrow 2022 wins were anything but luck. An emphatic victory only hampered by several injuries to both sides.

Halfway through the first quarter Tom Stewart limped to the bench and didn’t return for the night, after slipping on the MCG’s surface. The Cats’ camp have cleared him of any ACL damage but are worried about potential high grade strains, could potentially see 4-6 weeks on the sideline.

For the players that stayed on the park, Jeremy Cameron stood up alongside a clearly injured Tom Hawkins, Cameron kicked two goals with 16 disposals as he pushed high up the ground and build Geelong’s lead early.

Collingwood siblings Nick and Josh Daicos effortlessly tore the Cats apart with slick movement and overlap running, the pair had 35 and 27 disposals respectively and combined for 11 inside 50s. Jordan De Goey had three goals and 25 touches to remind the league he’s still capable of breaking games apart.

Former Skipper Scott Pendlebury was close to the Pies’ best, easing to 27 disposals, eight tackles and kicking an all-important goal to start the second quarter. Jeremy Howe was the victim of a freak incident that saw him be stretchered from the ground with a broken arm.

Total Centre Bounces – 39


71.8% – Cameron Guthrie

64.1% – Patrick Dangerfield

53.8% – Mark Blicavs

43.6% – Tom Atkins

41.0% – Tanner Bruhn

20.5% – Max Holmes

17.9% – Brandan Parfitt

Blicavs had five CBAs as the ruckman included in his percentage, without those he would be equal with Bruhn. Guthrie was alarmingly quiet despite having the vast majority, Atkins and Holmes were far more impressive with their smaller tallies. Dangerfield started slowly but rolled the legs over. No real standouts for Geelong.


66.6% – Tom Mitchell

66.6% – Jordan De Goey

61.5% – Jack Crisp

59.0% – Scott Pendlebury

25.6% – Taylor Adams

15.4% – Jamie Elliott

5.1% – Steele Sidebottom

Mitchell will find himself heavily featured in the rotation moving forward, easily leading the Pies for contested possessions. De Goey was powerful out of the middle with his match-winning performance. Pendlebury looks likely to maintain that 50% mark which could see him return to vintage form.

Kick ins (Play on percentage)


4 – Isaac Smith (100%)

4 – Zach Tuohy (100%)

2 – Tom Stewart (100%)

1 – Mark O’Connor (100%)

Note: Worth mentioning Stewart had all of the Kick ins before going down injured (small sample size), a potential bump in roles for both Smith and Tuohy over the next month.


3 – Darcy Moore (100%)

2 – Nick Daicos (100%)

1 – John Noble (100%)

North Melbourne, 12.15 (87) def West Coast, 12.10 (82)

Clarkson has arrived.

The Kangaroos kept the Eagles at arm’s length for most of the game and rarely looked threatened on their way to an early 2023 win. There were impressive debuts for both sides as the draftees led the way in the clash at Marvel stadium.

Luke Davies-Uniacke got North off to a hot start, having nine disposals and a goal in the first quarter, before finishing with 32 touches and a game-high 19 contested possessions. Jack Ziebell’s return to the backline proved fruitful, finishing with game highs in marks (9) and metres gained (667). While Nick Larkey finished with six goals for the second year in a row against the Eagles

Debutant Harry Sheezel was prolific in the win, collecting 34 disposals at 73 per cent efficiency to go along with nine marks. Meanwhile, West Coast debutant Reuben Ginbey led the game with 12 tackles and had a team-high seven first-possessions at stoppage.

The Eagles were best served by Luke Shuey, who had a vintage 27 disposal, eight tackle performance. Dom Sheed motored around the ground to pick up his 25 touches, but was the most efficient of the midfielders at 80 per cent.

Total centre bounces – 28

North Melbourne

78.6% – Luke Davies-Uniacke

78.6% – Jy Simpkin

50% – Ben Cunnington

32.1% – Will Phillips

17.9% – Tom Powell

17.9% – Cameron Zurhaar

14.3% – Hugh Greenwood

7.1% – Paul Curtis

3.8% – Jaidyn Stephenson

North vastly opened their midfield rotation with a key focus on the contested ball. Davies-Uniacke, Simpkin and Greenwood led the way as the Kangaroos won the contested possession count by almost 40.

Winning the contest is a staple of Clarkson’s coaching and players with strong inside qualities will feature heavily at the centre bounce. Phillips started as the sub and was still fourth in line, look for him to return to the starting side in round two.

West Coast

75% – Dom Sheed

67.9% – Tim Kelly

57.1% – Xavier O’Neill

57.1% – Reuben Ginbey

35.7% – Luke Shuey

7.1% – Jack Petruccelle

7.1% – Jamaine Jones

Shuey and Ginbey were the Eagles’ best midfielders in the loss, with the latter laying a game-high 12 tackles. Campbell Chesser found himself stuck on the wing in his debut, with Adam Simpson opting for Petruccelle and Jones to provide x-factor in the centre.

Kick ins (Play on percentage)

North Melbourne

5 – Jack Ziebell (100%)

3 – Harry Sheezel (100%)

2 – Luke McDonald (100%)

West Coast

10 – Shannon Hurn (100%)

2 – Liam Duggan (100%)

1 – Jeremy McGovern (100%)

1 – Alex Witherden (100%)

1 – Luke Shuey (0%)

Port Adelaide, 18.18 (126) def Brisbane, 11.6 (72)

Power’s back on.

The Power pulled off the upset of the round to stun the Lions by nine goals at home. Ken Hinkley’s men were outstanding from siren to siren to get 2023 off to the perfect start. Brisbane had a short stretch of dominance in the second quarter but was well-beaten for much of the game, leaving plenty to fix before next week’s clash with Melbourne.

Connor Rozee backed up his All-Australian season with an electrifying performance, finishing with 23 touches and a goal. He was assisted by the former number-one pick Jason Horne-Francis who had 25 disposals and a goal of his own.

New recruit Junior Rioli chimed in with three goals from his 16 touches while Ollie Wines registered his usual 29 disposals and nine marks.

Lachie Neale and Josh Dunkley started well for the Lions, combining for 15 touches and six tackles in the first quarter. Brisbane struggled in the late stages of the game, though Daniel Rich made the most of his chances in the backline with a game-high 1010 metres gained.

Total Centre Bounces – 30

Port Adelaide

83.3% – Connor Rozee

73.3% – Ollie Wines

66.7% – Jason Horne-Francis

33.3% – Willem Drew

33.3% – Zak Butters

6.7% – Sam Powell-Pepper

3.3% – Lachie Jones

Rozee has become Port’s number one midfielder, working tirelessly in the contest and spreading on the break. Horne-Francis was sublime in his first official game for the Power and will continue to improve.

Zak Butters continues to sit towards the end of the ladder for midfield preference, but still impacts games on the outside.


86.7% – Lachie Neale

70% – Hugh McCluggage

70% – Josh Dunkley

46.7% – Will Ashcroft

20% – Zac Bailey

6.7% – Deven Robertson

Expect the Lions’ weekly rotation to feature the same five names with bit-part appearances from others. Even in the nine-goal loss, their structure was unwavering, relying on Neale, McCluggage and Dunkley to battle it out.

Kick ins (Play on percentage)

Port Adelaide

4 – Kane Farrell (75%)

2 – Ryan Burton (100%)


12 – Daniel Rich (91.6%)

4 – Conor McKenna (75%)

1 – Keidean Coleman (100%)

1 – Brandon Starcevich (0%)

Melbourne, 17.13 (115) def Western Bulldogs, 9.11 (65)

Bulldogs too tall.

The Bulldogs kept within reach of the Demons for the first half, before kicking just four goals in the second on their way to a 50-point loss. Melbourne couldn’t have asked for a better start, with a host of strong performances in the 2021 Grand Final replay.

Kysaiah Pickett was best on ground with a four-goal, eight-tackle performance. However he’s set to miss the next fortnight after his bump to Bailey Smith. Kade Chandler finished with a goal and seven tackles on his impressive night forward of centre.

The Bulldogs’ midfield led from the front but had little help on the night. Their forward line of Rory Lobb, Sam Darcy, Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan combined for two goals against a defence missing Steven May.

Ed Richards provided run and carry from the back half, finishing with a game-high 16 contested possessions and a league-high 16 intercept possesions. English put up a good fight against the combo of Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy, finishing with 22 hit outs and 24 disposals around the ground.

Total Centre Bounces – 29


82.7% – Clayton Oliver

79.3% – Christian Petracca

51.7% – Tom Sparrow

44.8% – James Harmes

24.1% – Kysaiah Pickett

13.8% – Alex Neal-Bullen

3.5% – Trent Rivers

Brayshaw was dropped from the rotation for a full-time role at half-back. Oliver and Petracca unsurprisingly starred in the win with a heavy feature in the centre. Tom Sparrow was a shock inclusion but was strong, expected him to feature more over the next fortnight due to Pickett’s suspension.

Western Bulldogs

72.4% – Tom Liberatore

68.9% – Marcus Bontempelli

62.1% – Jack Macrae

55.2% – Bailey Smith

41.4% – Adam Treloar

Not much to say on the Bulldogs, it’s the same rotation as the pre-season. The heavy defeat didn’t change the plan, the Dogs won the contested count but couldn’t make the possessions work. All five players were impressive but had a combined 63.1 per cent disposal efficiency.

Kick ins (Play on percentage)


6 – Adam Tomlinson (66.7%)

3 – Trent Rivers (100%)

2 – Jake Bowey (100%)

Western Bulldogs

4 – Bailey Dale (100%)

4 – Caleb Daniel (100%)

2 – Ed Richards (100%)

1 – Bailey Williams (100%)

Gold Coast, 9.7 (61) def by Sydney 16.14 (110)

Swans kids shine.

There were no signs of Grand Final drop-off in the Swan’s performance on Saturday night. They comfortably adjusted to the humid conditions and took advantage of their movement around the ground to pull away from the Suns. Gold Coast was unable to make the most of Jarrod Witts’ service as they slumped to a 49-point defeat.

Witts was easily the Suns best, having 51 hit outs and 25 disposals going up against Pete Ladhams. While Matt Rowell had eight tackles to go with his league-high 21 contested possessions as he took charge of the Gold Coast’s engine room.

Touk Miller had no signs of the hamstring injury that kept him out of the practice games, finishing with 29 touches, eight tackles and almost 500 metres gained. Charlie Constable was impressive off half-back, with a team-high 676 metres gained from his 26 disposals.

Chad Warner had an incredible start to 2023, notching up 30 disposals and a game-high 700 metres gained in tough conditions. Errol Gulden copped a minor calf injury late but still managed to finish with a goal and ten inside 50s.

Dane Rampe led the game with 12 intercept possessions and played a key role as the Swan’s last line of defence. While Jake Lloyd went at 100 per cent efficiency from his 28 disposals and a rare goal.

Total Centre Bounces – 28

Gold Coast

89.3% – Matt Rowell

82.1% – Touk Miller

67.9% – Noah Anderson

25% – David Swallow

14.3% – Sam Flanders

10.7% – Alex Davies

10.7% – Brayden Fiorini

Rowell looked to be back to his best, operating inside the contest and capitalising on Jarrod Witts’ dominance. In slippery conditions, Anderson battled away to be the Suns’ best in open play. Davies saw a considerable drop in numbers from the pre-season while Flanders stayed within his 15-20 percent range.


78.6% – Luke Parker

57.1% – Chad Warner

50% – Errol Gulden

46.4% – James Rowbottom

35.7% – Callum Mills

17.9% – Tom Papley

14.3% – Matt Roberts

Gulden saw a good chunk of his CBAs go missing due to the return of Tom Papley, the pair will most likely share 70 per cent of the rotation in a variety of splits. Mills was a worrying omission from the centre after his dominant 2022 season. Matt Roberts was subbed on halfway through the last quarter and attended every bounce in his time on-field.

Kick ins (Play on percentage)

Gold Coast

6 – Charlie Constable (100%)

3 – Darcy Macpherson (100%)

3 – Bodhi Uwland (66.7%)

1 – Jy Farrar (100%)

1 – Ben Long (100%)


3 – Nick Blakey (100%)

3 – Jake Lloyd (100%)

1 – Ollie Florent (100%)

GWS, 15.16 (106) def Adelaide, 12.18 (90)

Kingsley’s Giant comeback.

In the sweltering conditions of Western Sydney, the Giants surged late to earn Adam Kingsley a winning start to his senior coaching career. The Crows were wasteful in front of goal early and couldn’t stop the late momentum of new Captain Toby Greene.

Greene finished with four goals from 19 disposals, but his influence was felt beyond the forward arc, as he lifted in the third quarter, he carried the Giants alongside him. Tom Green was also impressive in the midfield, having 37 touches and a goal to start the season.

Stephen Coniglio relished his return to the coalface, kicking a goal from 32 disposals and having a league-high 14 score involvements. Though they’ll miss Josh Kelly and Lachie Whitfield next week due to concussion protocols.

The small forward combination of Josh Rachele and Izak Rankine proved to be an elite point of difference for Adelaide, with the two combining for five goals (and six behinds) and 34 pressure acts.

Jordan Dawson put up 563 metres gained from 23 touches in his first game as captain. Reilly O’Brien had 33 hit outs against Matt Flynn but his most noticeable moment was being used as a platform for Harry Himmelberg’s Mark of the Year contender.

Total Centre Bounces – 31


83.9% – Stephen Coniglio

80.6% – Tom Green

67.7% – Josh Kelly

54.8% – Callan Ward

6.5% – Harry Perryman

3.2% – Finn Callaghan

3.2% – Daniel Lloyd

The Giants had a consistent rotation for most of the day, Ward took Perryman’s role after an early injury. While Callaghan and Lloyd both featured late after Kelly was ruled out with Concussion. Coniglio and Green had incredible performances and will be relied upon next week with the omissions. Watch for Callaghan to have a large attendance spike.


70.9% – Sam Berry

70.9% – Rory Laird

38.7 – Harry Schoenberg

38.7% – Jake Soligo

29.1% – Josh Rachele

22.6% – Tyler Brown

12.9% – Izak Rankine

12.9% – Ben Keays

3.2% – Rory Sloane

Outside of Berry and Laird, the Crows appear to have a large list of names they’re happy to run through the middle. All these players appeared in the list in the pre-season against the Dockers.

Rachele and Rankine were both impressive in their rotation, while Laird had one of his quietest days on record.

Kick ins (Play on percentage)


9 – Isaac Cumming (55.6%)

3 – Lachie Whitfield (100%)

3 – Lachie Ash (33.3%)

1 – Harry Himmelberg (100%)

1 – Nick Haynes (100%)


8 – Jordan Dawson (87.5%)

6 – Brodie Smith (66.7%)

1 – Wayne Milera (100%)

1 – Tom Doedee (100%)

Hawthorn, 9.11 (65) def by Essendon, 19.10 (124)

Experience overcomes youth.

It was a tough day at the office for the Hawks, starting 2023 with a heavy loss to Essendon at the MCG. The Bombers proved to be too strong in the middle with the Hawks’ youth looking impressive but unable to consistently compete.

New captain James Sicily had 15 marks on his way to 30 disposals in the loss, while Connor Macdonald had a career-high 11 marks as hawthorn tried to control the ball. Jai Newcombe led the game with 29 pressure acts in his 19-disposal performance.

James Worpel finished with 29 touches but was wasteful in front of goal, kicking two behinds on the day. Debutant Cameron Mackenzie was the shining light on Sunday, with seven of his 18 disposals being score involvements.

Archie Perkins had a complete performance against the Bombers, having three goals from 20 disposals and a game-high 10 score involvements. Darcy Parish had 37 touches and 13 clearances to help Essendon win the contest.

Will Setterfield enjoyed being in the midfield, laying a game-high six tackles and 24 pressure acts, as well as kicking a goal from his 25 disposals.

Total Centre Bounces – 31


77.4% – James Worpel

70.9% – Jai Newcombe

51.6% – Cam Mackenzie

25.8% – Conor Nash

25.8% – Will Day

25.8% – Josh Ward

9.7% – Connor Macdonald

6.5% – Karl Amon

6.5% – James Sicily

Mackenzie was impressive on debut and was a key name in the Hawks’ rotation. They were well beaten in the contest and around the ground but the young brigade put up a good fight in their first outing. There may be cause for concern against a stronger and more established midfield.


83.9% – Darcy Parish

74.2% – Will Setterfield

67.7% – Dylan Shiel

67.7% – Zach Merrett

6.4% – Jye Caldwell

A tight mix that was able to get the job done against an inexperienced Hawthorn side. Setterfield showed he was worthy of being taken at pick five when being played in his preferred position. Both of Caldwell’s attendances came in the second half when the game was over.

Kick ins (Play on percentage)


4 – Lachlan Bramble (100%)

2 – Changkuoth Jiath (100%)

1 – Sam Frost (100%)

1 – James Sicily (100%)

1 – Blake Hardwick (0%)

1 – Jarman Impey (0%)


6 – Mason Redman (83.3%)

5 – Jordan Ridley (100%)

St Kilda, 10.7 (67) def Fremantle, 7.10 (52)

Effort over skill.

Ross Lyon won the clash against his old club to start his second era at the Saints with a win. St Kilda kicked four goals to none in the last quarter to come from behind for a 15-point win. The Dockers’ troubles forward of centre reared their head again to cause headaches for Justin Longmuir ahead of next weekend’s clash with North Melbourne.

Mason Wood continued his pre-season form into round one, notching up two goals from his 20 disposals in the absence of tall forwards. Draftee Mattaes Phillipou kicked his first goal in the AFL and had six score involvements from 18 disposals.

Jack Bytel had 22 pressure acts and a game-high seven tackles as he did a job on Caleb Serong to give the Saints an advantage at stoppages. Skipper Jack Steele had a team-high five clearances from 28 disposals, including nine in the decisive last quarter.

The Fremantle Defenders had the ball on a string for parts of Saturday’s game. Luke Ryan, Brennan Cox and Hayden Young combined for 97 disposals, 46 marks and 1739 metres gained. Andrew Brayshaw had seven tackles and 26 disposals in the first game of the season.

Sean Darcy dominated Rowan Marshall in one of the best big-man battles of the weekend, Darcy won the hit outs 38-14, and the contested possessions 14-10 in a strong showing. Caleb Serong had  a game-high seven clearances despite being tagged for much of the game.

Total Centre Bounces – 20

St Kilda

90% – Jack Steele

65% – Jack Bytel

65% – Brad Crouch

40% – Hunter Clark

40% – Jade Gresham

Marcus Windhager was the only name missing that could come back into the rotation. Bytel had a strong performance tagging Serong. Steele and Crouch were both prolific through the middle and were instrumental in the final-quarter surge.


85% – Andrew Brayshaw

75% – Caleb Serong

70% – Jaeger O’Meara

60% – Will Brodie

25% – Luke Jackson

Two of Jackson’s five CBAs were as a midfielder. Otherwise, it was the same four names seen in both practice games. Brodie’s time on ground was back to worrying levels, sitting at 68 per cent. Brayshaw had a strong start to the season while Serong battled a tag.

Kick ins (Play on percentage)

St Kilda

5 – Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (40%)

4 – Jack Sinclair (100%)

1 – Liam Stocker (100%)


2 – Luke Ryan (50%)

2 – Nathan Wilson (50%)

2 – Hayden Young (50%)

1 – Brennan Cox (100%)

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