The Men’s AFL season started on the perfect note for some, while some have early soul-searching to do. With upsets, inspirational comebacks, and stunning debuts aplenty, Men’s AFL returned in style.
The Inner Sanctum takes you through round one, complete from A-Z. The defining highs, lows, and controversies surrounding round one of the 2022 AFL Premiership season.
A is For Aliir Down: Port Adelaide looks as if it will be without its star defender and All-Australian Aliir Aliir for a significant amount of time with a syndesmosis injury. The Power were crippled by injuries in their loss to Brisbane at the Gabba and their depth will be thoroughly tested in the next few weeks as they aim to replace them.
B is For Brisbane Fortress: Brisbane was on the ropes as it went into the final quarter against Port Adelaide. Having only lost just one home and away game there in the last two seasons, the Lions looked set to add another one to that before storming home.
C is For Coleman Contenders: Fans of both sides had plenty of reason to get excited with the form of their respective spearheads, Ben Brown at the Demons and Aaron Naughton at the Dogs. While Naughton may have top-scored with four goals from six marks, it was Brown, with three goals from eight marks helping the Demons take the spoils once more. Expect both to feature prominently in Coleman calculations this season.
D is For Doc: Sam Docherty, the ex co-captain as well as the heart and soul of the Carlton Football Club was influential in his first game back since his second testicular cancer battle. Docherty provided an early highlight with a goal in the second quarter, his first since round 10, 2017. The crowd responded to the powerful moment with a massive roar, while his teammates ran from everywhere to get to their inspirational teammate. He finished with 26 disposals at 96 percent disposal efficiency, a welcome return for an amazing human.
E is For Enormous: The entire football world was enamoured by the electric start to Matt Rowell’s AFL career two years ago. Rowell, the Suns, and the fans have been exasperated by the injury battles that have restricted him to a handful of games thus far, but Rowell exploded into the 2022 season with a 33-disposal effort full of desire and class, suggesting this could be the year that the Suns become a powerhouse with their young bull back to his best.
F is For Fly’s Pies: The beginning of a new era under coach Craig McRae saw Collingwood take charge, with new recruit Patrick Lipinski leading the way with 30 disposals and one goal, Jack Ginnivan, Oliver Henry, Josh Daicos, and Beau McCreery combining for six goals to start their season with a 17 point win over the Saints.
G is For Giant Green Breakout: In his third season in the competition, Tom Green appears set to take the next step in becoming a dominant midfielder. In round one, Green racked up 31 disposals along with two goals for the Giants in their loss to the Swans. If it weren’t for a match-winning second-half performance from Luke Parker, Green would’ve been named BOG but will certainly be among the contenders for votes come Brownlow night.
H is For Heath Chapman: A name not familiar to many outside the Fremantle faithful, Chapman’s game was OK, without being exceptional, racking up 14 disposals and four marks. But it was his last-second fist to somehow keep the ball in play that won his side the game. A truly amazing effort to somehow handle the pressure of his opponent and get a huge fist on it, that won’t appear on the stat sheet but ensured the Dockers held on for a one-point win.
I is For Injuries: After coming back this season after an injury-interrupted year, Dion Prestia was subbed out early against the Blues with another hamstring injury. After a string of soft tissue injuries in the past two seasons, it is another blow for him and the Tigers. As well as Prestia, Jack Riewoldt also emerged from the game with a suspected fractured thumb, joining a host of important players on the sidelines for Richmond with Nick Vlasutin, Kamdyn McIntosh and Kane Lambert all currently missing.
J is For Jack’s back: Having played just a single game in 2021 and plagued with injuries, the Hawks would be pleased by Gunston’s first game back. He finished the game with three majors for the afternoon, which could have been seven had it not been for poor kicking. After a long stint on the sidelines, Gunston still looks like he’s got plenty left in the tank, having also kicked his 400th career goal.
K is For Keays: Many predicted Ben Keays to take the next step in 2022 and become one of the elite midfielders in the game, and if round one is anything to go by, the potential is there. Despite his side narrowly getting beaten, 37 disposals, four marks and five tackles should see Keays in the Brownlow votes and starting to get the credit he deserves.
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L is For Like father, like son: History repeated itself when Nick Daicos made his highly anticipated debut for Collingwood on Friday night against St Kilda, the same team his father Peter debuted against 43 years ago. The number four draft pick impressed with 27 disposals, five marks, and three score involvements in a first-up win for the Pies.
M is For Martin: And no, not Dustin Martin, but Essendon’s Nic Martin. On debut at the home of footy on what was a largely forgettable day for Essendon, Martin was an absolute standout. With 27 disposals, 17 kicks, 10 handballs, 10 marks, and five goals, it’s hard to imagine many with as dominant a stat-line as that on debut.
N is For New Coach, New Blues?: In the debut game for Carlton coach Michael Voss, his first game in eight years back in the senior coaching chair, the Blues ended the decade-long hoodoo in round one matches with victory against Richmond. Matthew Kennedy starred with 33 disposals and captain Patrick Cripps with 30 disposals and three goals were arguably best on ground, but Carlton’s prized recruits in George Hewett and Adam Cerra have also announced themselves to their new supporter base in the best way possible, combining for 58 disposals between them.
O is For Oh no, Joe: Joe Daniher would be counting his blessings after a horrific blunder left his side trailing at half-time. After a miraculous mark seconds before the siren in the goal square, Daniher handed off to a teammate and the siren went. Port went in with a narrow lead to the main break, but fortunately for him, couldn’t hold onto it.
P is For Parker’s Show, Not Buddy’s: In the lead up to the first match of the season, all eyes were in the Buddy Franklin direction as he’s within touching distance of the 1000 goal milestone. Franklin needed just five goals to achieve the mammoth feat, however, on the night, it was Swans captain Luke Parker who decided he’d be the one to kick the bag. Parker stole the show as he went on to collect his fourth Brett Kirk medal in Sydney Derby XXIII, the most of any player.
Q is For Quick Ball Movement: There was a notable shift in Geelong’s game plan compared to previous seasons, with the Cats hunting in packs and keen to exit the stoppage with pace, relying on their key forwards to take advantage – and that they did. From defence they were just as dynamic, taking the first option and playing on at a much higher rate than last year. It paid dividends, with the Cats up by 60 points at half-time, and going on to win by 66.
R is For Rachele: There was plenty to like from Josh Rachele’s practice game efforts, leaving Crows fans full of optimism heading into round one, and Rachele certainly didn’t disappoint. Five goals from 14 disposals and five marks meant, despite the narrow loss for his side, it was a debut to remember.
S is For Shane Warne: St Kilda paid tribute to the late cricket legend and lifelong Saint, donning ‘Warne’ and ‘23’ on their shirts during the warm-up. Players from both teams also wore black armbands. In a touching moment, Warne’s children, Jackson and Brooke, tossed the coin before the game. The stadium lights were dimmed towards the end of half-time, as Warne’s life was acknowledged.
T is For Trac is Back: Six months after winning the Norm Smith Medal with a record-equalling 39 disposals, Christian Petracca picked up where he left off against the Dogs, recording 38 disposals, eight marks, and two goals. With more quality games like that in him, Petracca may find himself in contention for another medal as the year goes on.
U is For Unchartered Territory: The Gold Coast Suns had travelled west to meet the Eagles nine times previously, and nine times it had been a long, sad trip back to Queensland with no premiership points to show for it. The Suns were headed for much of the day by their undermanned hosts but eventually ran over the top of the Eagles to prevail by 27 points.
V is For Victorious in round one again: Having not lost a season opener since 2017, Hawthorn’s run of perfect season starts is still alive, having seen off a resilient North Melbourne side. Having been underwhelming during the preseason, the Hawks 2022 campaign got off to an ideal start, with Sam Mitchell victorious in his first game as coach.
W is For Wednesday Night Footy: For the first time since 2000, the Men’s AFL season started on a Wednesday night with the Grand final rematch between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at the MCG. As the Demons walked away to a 26 point victory, to a crowd of just under 60k, it remains to be seen whether this will become an annual event to kick off the season in the future.
X is For X-Factor: Geelong has been crying out for a small forward that can apply pressure and hit the scoreboard, and whilst they have taken a genuine risk with Tyson Stengle, he showed in his first game for the Cats that he may be just what they needed. Stengle was front-and-centre, crumbing magnificently and with four goals on debut for the blue and white hoops, they couldn’t have asked for much more.
Y is For Youth stands tall: Having traditionally boasted one of the older sides in the competition, Hawthorn fielded a younger outfit for their season opener against North Melbourne at the MCG. The Hawks’ young brigade showed promise, with Dylan Moore and Ned Reeves stepping up and playing one of the best games of their careers in the absence of Ben McEvoy and Luke Breust. Jai Newcombe and Changkuoth Jiath were also handy contributors in the side’s 20-point win.
Z is For Zealot: The West Coast crowd have often been hailed and hated for their particular brand of zealotry in equal measures. The restrictions on crowd numbers set by the WA government meant that only 20,958 people were able to watch the Eagles take on Gold Coast at Optus Stadium in round one. Could that have played a part in the Suns’ victory? Possibly- we’ll never know- but it certainly wouldn’t have harmed them.
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