Will Hayward and Isaac Quaynor during Sydney's match against Collingwood in R1, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

FOLLOWING the introduction of Opening Round and a notably hectic start to the 2024 season, the dust has settled and the ladder is a much clearer picture - at least for now.

For the first time this year, all 18 teams have played the same number of games, with the undefeated Geelong a big winner, while Essendon has had a particularly curious start to the season.

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Bombers fans will be thrilled that their side is sitting in seventh spot, but their percentage of 92.7 could be cause for some caution. The seventh-lowest percentage in the competition, it's 24.8 behind Carlton, the second lowest of the top eight sides.

While things have evened out, the ladder parity will last just another five weeks before the mid-season byes across rounds 12 to 15.


The early-season bye, a function of the new Opening Round, doesn't appear to have had a major impact, either positively or negatively. Brisbane and Gold Coast both lost the week after their bye, while Greater Western Sydney (against the Suns), Carlton, Collingwood and Sydney all won. After a bye in round six, Melbourne and Richmond will face off at the MCG on Wednesday night, meaning (unless there's a draw) Opening Round teams will have a 5-3 record coming off the bye.

However, all eight Opening Round teams have had at least one week in the first six rounds where they've been significantly off the boil.

Carlton (against Adelaide in round five) and Sydney (against Richmond in round three) were both a step off in games they were expected to win, although they only suffered defeat by second-figure margins.

Gold Coast had a horror showing against the Western Bulldogs (a 48-point loss in Ballarat in round two), while the beleaguered Tigers were comfortably beaten by West Coast by 39 points in round five, after which coach Adem Yze said his troops looked tired.

The Giants were off the pace against Carlton in round six after a sluggish finish against the Saints a week earlier, while Melbourne needed some junk-time goals to save their blushes against Brisbane in round five.

After Opening Round defeats, Collingwood lost to both Sydney (33 points) and St Kilda (15) over rounds two and three, while Brisbane struggled against Fremantle (23, round one) and the Pies (20, round three).

Interestingly, in all cases, these losses came after a minimum six-day break (most were seven), a standard gap in any other AFL season.

In addition to the new Opening Round, the arrival of consistent Thursday night games plus how public holidays have fallen this year has added to a particularly busy start to the season. In the 32 days between March 28 (Easter Thursday) and April 28 (this Sunday), there are just 10 footy-free days.


Even Ross Lyon's St Kilda – who weren't involved in Opening Round – have felt the pinch of the congested start to the year, with Lyon citing workload in the wake of the Saints' lethargic loss to the Western Bulldogs last Thursday

"We haven't had one performance like that to be honest (since the start of 2023)," Lyon said after the Saints' third game in 11 days, inclusive of two interstate trips.

"I don't want to use excuses, but I certainly came here, I was cautious.

"The physiological demand is extreme."

Having begun on March 7, the earliest start to a season in VFL/AFL history, 2024 is looming as a case of survival of the fittest more than ever before.