EVERY week there are winners and losers, and it takes standout performances from both teams and individuals to finish on the positive side of that ledger.
These were the biggest stars as the new-look VFL finally kicked off after a 573-day wait since the 2019 Grand Final.
JOSH BEGLEY (FRANKSTON)
The VFL catchcry this season is A New Era, and what better way to launch it than with standalone clubs Frankston and Coburg locking horns under the brand new lights at Skybus Stadium on a Friday night?
And although teammate Nathan Freeman (38 disposals) and Lion Marcus Lentini (39) were outstanding in the middle, it was Begley’s light that shone brightest when most needed.
The former Essendon forward kicked five of his six goals from the three-minute mark of the second quarter to the same time in the third, as the Dolphins turned a 22-point deficit into a matchwinning 33-point lead for the perfect start to that new era.
MATTHEW PAYNE (ASPLEY)
Former AFL player Ryan Bastinac might have been best-on-ground, but decorated veteran Payne had a point to prove and did so emphatically.
The triple NEAFL MVP, triple AFLQ best-and-fairest winner and 11-time club champion made his VFL debut at 35 and led the Hornets to a stunning hiding of Port Melbourne.
Payne kicked two goals in the first-quarter onslaught of 10 majors and finished with 27 disposals, seven marks and four tackles to show the NEAFL was better than it had been given credit for.
BILLY GOWERS (SOUTHPORT)
The Sharks chased Gowers hard after his 33 matches and 39 goals for the Western Bulldogs and he showed just why with a matchwinning six-goal haul playing as a deep forward.
He was a constant thorn in the side for a Carlton team that looked to have the game in its keeping, also taking six marks and delivering two goals on a silver platter to former Sun Connor Nutting.
If he can keep that up, Southport could make a big impression on its first VFL season, and at almost 25, he could come into mid-season draft calculations.
JAY RANTALL (COLLINGWOOD)
The Magpies’ second-round pick in the 2019 draft, Rantall has had to wait a long time for his VFL debut to press his claims for the big stage.
Collingwood rewarded the 19yo with the No.1 guernsey this year and the young inside midfielder set about repaying the faith with a mighty effort to lead his team to an upset win over Werribee on the road.
Rantall had 25 disposals and six tackles as he fed off ruckmen Max Lynch and Mason Cox, and will quickly come into AFL calculations on that form.
SAM WEIDEMAN (CASEY DEMONS)
Now in his sixth season at Melbourne, Weideman had struggled for consistency with 46 goals in 42 AFL games and 69 in 41 appearances for Casey.
He had a six-goal haul in 2017 and seven and five in 2018, but his round-one performance was his best yet.
On a weekend featuring several big bags, Weideman rose above all to boot 7.2 from 16 disposals and seven marks, while sharing a forward line with 2019 Coleman Medal runner-up Ben Brown (three goals).
Sam Weideman finishes with seven goals as Casey def. Box Hill 118-67 pic.twitter.com/TBxEeyfvF0— 7AFL (@7AFL) April 18, 2021
TOM DOWNIE (WILLIAMSTOWN)
The ex-GWS Giant is still a giant, and he had the biggest shoes to fill in the VFL in taking over from retired Seagulls powerhouse Nick Meese in the centre circle.
And he did it in fine style, dominating in the air and around the ground to put a dampener on the Northern Bullants’ much-anticipated return as a standalone club.
Downie had 32 hitouts, nine marks (most of them intercepts), 18 disposals and six tackles for good measure in a best-on-ground display that proved Williamstown will be just fine without their imposing former club champion.