Christian Petracca reacts to Melbourne's loss to Sydney in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THIS week's Things We Learned, we discover Melbourne still has its issues in front of goal, Collingwood also has a tall forward problem plus much, much more.

Check out what we learned from the Opening Round of the 2024 season.


1) Melbourne still has demons up forward

Familiar problems returned to haunt Melbourne in its 22-point defeat to Sydney, with 1.8 on the scoreboard at half-time and only five goalkickers for the match. Bayley Fritsch played a lone hand with four majors, Jacob van Rooyen somehow added another when the ball bounced off his face, his shin and then through for a goal, but the Demons need more polish and firepower if they are to overcome the same issues that blunted their finals campaign last year. Kysaiah Pickett will be available to face the Dogs in round one following his one-match ban, Harrison Petty and Tom Fullarton are nearing returns, and Shane McAdam is sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury, but the Demons won't want to fall too far behind the pacesetters before the cavalry arrives. - Martin Pegan


2) King Charlie is still The Man

Dual Coleman medallist Charlie Curnow might have copped a touch of criticism for a quiet finals campaign last season, but if Friday night's performance against Brisbane is any indication, he should still be the most feared key forward in the competition. After barely touching the ball in the first quarter-and-a-half, Curnow completely flipped the game with 15 minutes of magic either side of half-time. He made light work of young Lion Jack Payne – who had the better of him at Marvel Stadium last season – to kick four goals in a hurry and start the fire for Carlton's remarkable comeback. In the air, on the ground - it doesn't matter for King Charlie. He'll be tough to beat for a third straight Coleman. – Michael Whiting


3) Pies need to look forward to power flag defence

Collingwood is holding out hope that Dan McStay could return to play this season after rupturing an ACL last November, but someone needs to fill the sizeable hole in the meantime. The Magpies had more inside 50s than the Giants (60-53) on Saturday night but fell as much as 52 points behind before adding four consolation goals. Brody Mihocek booted three and ruck Darcy Cameron added two, but Mason Cox didn't live up to the pre-game hype and Ash Johnson failed to fire a shot as the tall forward line fell flat. The Pies have the variety in attack to trouble most sides but will want to settle on their tall partners for Mihocek quickly, especially as other contenders make a fast start. The fact the Giants tall trio of Callum Brown, Jesse Hogan and Aaron Cadman contributed 11 of their 18 goals on Saturday night highlighted what the Pies were lacking. - Martin Pegan

Ash Johnson fumbles during the match between GWS and Collingwood in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

4) Matt Rowell is ready to become the game's clearance king

He trailed only dual Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale last year for total clearances, and on the evidence of one game – yes, it's just one game – Matt Rowell is ready to go up a notch in 2024. Against Richmond the former No.1 draft pick was Herculean around the stoppages, extricating a remarkable 20 clearances against a midfield that included Dion Prestia, Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper. Rowell was so clean at ground level, and coupled with his usual ferocious endeavour, was the catalyst behind Gold Coast's first-up win. – Michael Whiting