ASHLEY Hansen has long been considered a senior coach in waiting.

At least for seven days – last Friday through to Thursday night - we can remove the "in waiting" bit, following Michael Voss' COVID-positive test result last Friday morning.

Hansen will step in as senior coach of the Carlton Football Club in its Thursday night match – against the team in which he filled a variety of assistant coaching roles during the previous nine seasons, Western Bulldogs. Significantly, he will be going head-to-head against Luke Beveridge, who had been his boss since late 2014.

Hansen had been a wanted man by other clubs, including Geelong, before opting to leave the Dogs for the Blues late last year. While as an assistant coach he has managed to keep the same low profile he had as a very good player in a very good team, his reputation and credentials as a coach have grown each year.

The opportunity for Hansen is unfortunate for Voss. While annoyed at his own plight, Voss who had been forced to wait eight seasons in getting a second crack at senior coaching and who had led the Blues to a big win against Richmond on Thursday night, will not for a moment believe his absence will sap momentum.

Carlton coach Michael Voss celebrates with his players after the win over Richmond in round one, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hansen has been his right-hand man for the past six months as Carlton has sought to redefine itself, its first official outing under the new regime resulting in a victory as impressive as any since the surprise inclusion, and subsequent win, in the 2013 elimination final against the Tigers.

Hansen coached the 2016 Bulldogs team to the VFL premiership, the same year the Bulldogs won their second VFL/AFL flag. He was centre half-forward in the 2006 West Coast premiership outfit. He's familiar with success.

West Coast's Ashley Hansen celebrates a goal in the 2006 Grand Final against Sydney. Picture: AFL Photos

Think the Rising Star's a race in two? Think again

The newbie headlines in the off-season had been dominated by Jason Horne-Francis and Nick Daicos.

And then when we got to round one, 2022, those names stayed in the bold print. But other names, some from absolutely nowhere, emerged both in bolder print and enlarged size copy.

It was another Nic, and yep, there's no 'k' in this one, who, in an extraordinary round of AFL arrivals, who may have produced the best AFL debut in round one. In a losing Essendon team against Geelong on Saturday, Nic Martin, ex-Subiaco, nearly 21, booted five goals while accruing 27 disposals in a 66-point loss.

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Martin's five-star debut

Nic Martin had a debut to remember as he put five goals past the Cats

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No one, apart from family, friends, hardened Essendon supporters and footy devotees, had heard of him before the weekend.

Josh Rachele had a sizeable profile before his first game on Sunday. That's what happens when you go pick six in the most recent NAB AFL Draft. He is almost a household name after his heroics, also in a losing side, against Fremantle on Sunday. Five goals from 14 disposals. It doesn’t get much better.

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Five-goal Rachele lighting up your telly

Crows debutant Josh Rachele was a shining light in his side's agonising loss with a stunning five-goal performance

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Jack Hayes is 26. He had somehow been overlooked in eight national and pre-season and rookie drafts. He was nearly best afield in his first AFL game, for St Kilda, in a loss to Collingwood, booting three goals, accumulating 18 disposals. Pertinently, he looked completely at home under Friday night lights.

Daicos couldn’t have done much more in the same game, racking up 27 disposals. There’s seemingly a Brownlow Medal there, at some stage.

Horne-Francis did more than enough in a bad Roos loss to Hawthorn, 13 disposals and one goal his offering.

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Nick Daicos catches the eye in rousing AFL debut

Take a look at the best moments during Nick Daicos' long-awaited debut for the Pies

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Thanks umps, rule tweaks are an instant hit 

Here's something that isn’t said enough – well done to the umpires.

Well done for being as consistent as the game of Australian football allows one to be in the new adjudication of holding-the-ball decisions and dissent.

OK, we're a mere nine games into a 198-game home-and-away season, but in round one there was uniformity in how the whistle was blown to pay holding-the-ball free kicks. It is a complex process, several "decisions" needing to be made in split seconds before the whistle is blown, or not blown, for the official decision. Was there prior opportunity? Did the ball holder sufficiently take-on the tackler? Was it a correct tackle? Was it fair disposal?

Hawthorn's Blake Hardwick in a discussion with umpire Nicholas Brown in round one, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

There will always be grey in AFL on-ground decision-making. The AFL actually loves the grey. On occasions, the exact same umpire decision can be ruled both right and wrong.

But the Brad Scott-led adjudication requirements for 2022 have, to this point, remarkably improved the game. Players now know they must attempt to properly dispose of the ball when tackled.

The no tolerance on umpire dissent has been an instant winner. This one should have been part of official rules 30 years ago. Better late than never.

It's amazing how players can dispose of the ball when they know they have to. It's equally amazing how they can hold their tongue when they know that to do so will result in a 50m penalty.


And well done to them, too, for a very quick, collective embracing of 2022 requirements.