Main content

Nine things we learned from round one

The 10: round one's best moments All the best highlights from a brilliant Opening Round
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Robert Murphy of the Bulldogs leads the team onto the field in his first game back from injury during the 2017 AFL round 01 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Western Bulldogs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Bob Murphy was back to lead the premiers against Collingwood

1. The Tigers have tackled one of their biggest issues
Richmond averaged an AFL-low 60.1 tackles in 2016, with coach Damien Hardwick often pointing to the team's low-stoppage game style as the reason his men laid fewer tackles than anyone else. If Thursday night is an indication of what's to come, Hardwick won't be answering those questions in 2017. The Tigers laid 88 tackles to Carlton's 67, using their defensive pressure without the ball to launch a new attacking game style when they forced turnovers. The tackling star was Nick Vlastuin, who moved into the midfield and won a career-high 12 tackles, while captain Trent Cotchin laid eight (the equal most he's laid since round 21, 2014). Star forward Jack Riewoldt, never known for his defensive pressure, laid a career-high seven and made sure Hardwick knew about it post-match. - Nathan Schmook

2. Bob's still got it
Bob Murphy has lost none of his class nor any of his popularity among Western Bulldogs fans. The huge cheers heard when he first touched the ball were replaced with grudging admiration as he repeatedly used his skills to put teammates into better positions. Slipping between high half forward, wing and the role of a high defender he found space at will. His weighted kick to Toby McLean in the third quarter was sublime and his presence might be just the motivation the Bulldogs need to go back-to-back in 2017. - Peter Ryan

Around the state leagues: Who shone in your club's twos?

3. Max Gawn is set to dominate 2017
What would St Kilda have given to run some 'third man up' interference against Melbourne on Saturday night? With Tom Hickey as their only genuine ruckman, and Josh Bruce pinch-hitting briefly, the Saints lacked answers against a red-hot Max Gawn, the best big man in the game. With the third man banished from ruck contests, Gawn was able to be even more effective than normal, working his 49 hit-outs down to his midfielders, who won the clearances 44-31. The Demons were particularly dominant in the centre square (19-14), winning all eight centre clearances in the third quarter. Gawn did it all with a back complaint, spending 10 minutes off the ground in the second quarter and receiving work from trainers through the game. - Nathan Schmook

4. If Port Adelaide maintains its round one standard, finals are a chance
It's a big if when you're talking about the Power, but at least Ken Hinkley's side has jumped out of the blocks to get the season underway in style. There was hardness, with Ollie Wines and Brad Ebert sharing 30 contested possessions, 18 clearances and 16 tackles, there was a shared workload on the scoreboard, with gun smalls like Chad Wingard and 200-gamer Travis Boak both chiming in, and some raw excitement in Sam Powell-Pepper's eye-catching debut. The problem with Port in recent seasons has been the lack of consistency in effort, intensity and competitiveness, so while a first-up win over the Swans was a perfect start to 2017, if they drop back to their bad habits of the past couple of years against Fremantle in round two, it will all go to waste. Huge game for Ken's men next week. - Adam Curley


5. Merrett's meteor still rising
Zach Merrett stood up for the Bombers last year while they were decimated by the WADA suspensions of 12 listed players, winning the club's best and fairest in just his third season. The 21-year-old showed in the Dons' win against Hawthorn he's not about to rest on the laurels of that personal accolade or go into his shell now that Bombers midfield heavyweights Dyson Heppell and Jobe Watson have returned from their anti-doping bans. If anything, Merrett looks set to take his game to another level in 2017. His performance against the Hawks was brilliant. He had an equal game-high 37 possessions – 26 in the first half – and hurt the Hawks time and time again with his ability to burst away from stoppages. If he can maintain this sort of form, Merrett will elevate himself into the AFL's elite midfield bracket by the end of the season. - Nick Bowen

6. The Lions will be harder to score against in 2017
Aside from the blistering first quarter, the most notable aspect of the Lions' upset win was their adherence to team defence. Last season they allowed 130 points a game, and incoming coach Chris Fagan has made no secret of his want to significantly lower that number this year. Against the Suns they made a great start. Their first line of defence – pressure around the contest – was immense, allowing the back six a better chance to compete against Gold Coast's dangerous forwards. The Lions conceded a whopping 74 inside 50s, but many of them were under pressure and allowed them to scrap out a win. If they continue to hunt in numbers, they'll go a long way towards becoming a more difficult team to score against. - Michael Whiting



7. Josh Kennedy is going to be hard to topple for the Coleman Medal
Kennedy has claimed back-to-back Coleman Medals and on Sunday's evidence it's going to be hard for anyone to catch him for a third-straight year. The star forward booted seven straight majors in the Eagles' 43-point win over North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, which was in stark contrast to the goalkicking woes of opposition forward Jarrad Waite (who kicked 1.7 for the afternoon). The 29-year-old Kennedy is a huge key to West Coast's premiership hopes and he continues to deliver. If he can stay fit, it would be brave to back against him as the competition's leading goalkicker in 2017. - Callum Twomey


8. Exciting Crows winger rockets up Rising Star rankings
Andrew McGrath and Sam Powell-Pepper are the early favourites for the NAB AFL Rising Star, but there's a young Crow who is going to stake his claim. Second-year player Wayne Milera showed with his pace and quality ball use that he's going to be a contender at the end of the season. The 19-year-old was the No.11 overall pick of the 2015 NAB AFL Draft and played eight games last year. He had 23 possessions against premiership favourite Greater Western Sydney and will be an integral part of the Crows' onball brigade with his outside run and delivery into the forward line. - Lee Gaskin

9. Paddy could kick 40+ goals in dangerous new role
It must be tough for Chris Scott to break up the 'Dangerwood' midfield combo after their stellar seasons last year, but the rewards of stationing Patrick Dangerfield in attack for longer periods were immediately obvious in round one. While it robbed fans of seeing him going head-to-head with Nat Fyfe for most of Sunday's contest, the top Cat is such a difficult match-up playing deep forward and he caused all sorts of headaches for Freo's defence. 'Danger' was picked up by Dockers recruit Joel Hamling when he was at full-forward and twice outsmarted the ex-Western Bulldogs premiership defender in the air before half-time, as he slotted two majors and helped ignite the Cats' charge to a 39-point lead at the long break. Not many teams will have a defender who can match Dangerfield's pace, power and brilliance and – like early Brownlow Medal rival Dustin Martin – he could kick bags of goals this year. - Travis King


The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs