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Why you can remain optimistic for your AFL team after round one

Before round one is the best time for an optimistic football fan — the best-case scenario is still possible and there’s no concrete evidence to prove otherwise.

But with one week of AFL season 2022 now in the books, nine teams have lost — meaning half the competition is feeling disappointment. But it’s never quite that simple.

Aside from 100-plus point thumpings, games are almost never complete write-offs and there is always something teams can take away for next week and the remainder of the season.

So whether it’s a good quarter, a brilliant individual display, or an inspirational moment or two, there are reasons for fans of every AFL club to be optimistic.

Adelaide

The silence at Adelaide Oval after Heath Chapman’s “best spoil ever” for Fremantle spoke volumes — Crows fans were devastated their team had not got over the line, in more ways than one.

Josh Rachele looked totally at home in his debut game, kicking a bag of five to get the Crows close to a win over Fremantle.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: James Elsby)

But there were reasons to be upbeat despite the loss, starting with debutant Josh Rachele and his five-goal haul. Then there was Ben Keays, whose 37 disposals, eight inside 50s and 12 score involvements showed how crucial he will be to Adelaide’s attacking hopes this year.

Finally, the comeback from 25 points down at half-time to establish a solid lead showed the Crows are capable of the damaging extended bursts of football that will be so important in 2022.

Brisbane

An AFL full-forward grimaces as he kicks the ball for a goal while a defender dives to stop him.
Joe Daniher showed he still has an eye for goal, kicking four majors in Brisbane’s win over Port Adelaide. 

When your opening game is at home against one of last year’s preliminary finalists, getting a win is enough to be going on with.

It was a struggle for much of the night at the Gabba, but the Lions kicked away with a five-goal-to-one final quarter.

There was a familiarity to the win, with Zac Bailey, Marcus Adams, Lachie Neale and Joe Daniher playing big roles — even if Daniher’s handball on the siren will feature in countless blooper tapes.  

The Lions also confirmed they had a solid forward / back-up ruckman in Darcy Fort, while everyone would be happy that Cam Rayner came through his comeback match unscathed.

Carlton

Patrick Cripps pumps his fist in celebration in the vicinity of a Richmond player
Blues fans welcomed the return to form of skipper Patrick Cripps, who kicked three goals in Carlton’s win over Richmond.(Getty Images: Dylan Burns)

I’m not sure Blues fans need any more reasons for optimism after their team’s win over Richmond, but just in case:

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A win first-up for new coach Michael Voss — check. A solid defensive performance — check. Sam Docherty’s return from cancer with 25 disposals and a memorable goal — check.

The best reason for optimism, however, is the new midfield: with Patrick Cripps in top form, the dominant Matt Kennedy and recruits Adam Cerra and George Hewett popping up everywhere, leading to a 40-22 clearance win over Richmond.

The Blues also had a 64-40 advantage in inside 50s. If the midfield can keep producing like this — and Sam Walsh will return at some point — Voss and Blues fans will be smiling a lot in 2022.

Collingwood

The Magpies went into 2022 looking for a fresh start under coach Craig McRae, following the team’s 17th place finish in 2021.

The camera looks through a crowd of AFL players to focus on a coach who is standing, addressing his team during a match.
Collingwood fans were left cheering as Craig McRae had a winning start to his coaching career at the Magpies.(Getty Images: Mark Kolbe)

Round one gave real hope, not just with the win over St Kilda but the Pies scoring more than 100 points — something they achieved only once last year.

Jordan De Goey played an important role, with 27 disposals, five clearances and 12 score involvements.

The headlines were for the son-of-a-gun in Nick Daicos, who looked like a jet with his 27 touches and seven intercepts. But Bulldogs recruit Patrick Lipinski (30 disposals, eight score involvements) also showed the Pies had picked up a bargain.

Essendon

OK, so there wasn’t a lot to love about the Bombers’ performance against Geelong, and the result was the most lopsided of round one.

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However, you have to factor in the absence of key players like Jake Stringer and Aaron Francis.

The big plus for the Bombers was mature-age recruit Nic Martin, who appeared game-ready with solid skills and movement. He racked up 27 touches and kicked five great goals.

Another positive was the way Essendon finished off the match. The Bombers were staring down a 100-point hiding at three quarter-time before kicking five goals to three in the final term.

Fremantle

A group of AFL players throw their arms around each other in celebration as their opponents look dejected after a game..
The Dockers led, then trailed, then hit the front and hung on for victory at Adelaide Oval.(AAP: Matt Turner)

When it looks like you’ve thrown a game away, getting over the line can be a huge fillip for a team.

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When it happens on an away trip, and the win is sealed by a brilliant defensive effort, it’s even better. Well done, Heath Chapman — your goal-line fist saved four premiership points.

The Dockers’ familiar issues with goal kicking — 11.17 at Adelaide Oval — could have dominated the discussion. But the final quarter comeback courtesy of goals to Sam Switkowski, Rory Lobb and Lachie Schultz turned that around.

Ex-Sun Will Brodie and former Cats player Jordan Clark both had solid debuts in Dockers’ colours, and fans were left with a goal to savour in Michael Frederick’s cracking mid-air volley.

Geelong

One game, one win, top of the ladder — if you’re a Geelong fan, that’s a pretty strong start to the season.

Patrick Dangerfield, Jed Bews and Nik Cox all crash into each other as they compete for a ball in the air
Patrick Dangerfield (centre) was back to his most dangerous form for the Cats against Essendon.(Getty Images: Michael Wilson)

The Cats had 12 scoring shots to three in the first term, and they led by 60 points at half-time before coasting to victory. 

The midfield did the damage, with a 51-27 smashing at the clearances, and 63 inside 50s — nine of them from a rampaging Patrick Dangerfield. New recruit Tyson Stengle added to the mix with four handy goals. 

The other big plus is that Jeremy Cameron escaped serious damage to his ribs and lungs after his big collision with Essendon’s Jayden Laverde — he will be a big in when he returns.

Gold Coast

A Gold Coast AFL player looks up while moving his fist to deliver a handball while opponents try to close in on him.
Young gun Matt Rowell was back to his best in a brilliant performance for the Suns in their win over West Coast in Perth.(Getty Images: Paul Kane)

You can say what you like about West Coast’s many missing players, but regardless of the margin, on Sunday night the Suns beat the Eagles in Perth for the first time ever, and they did it without key forward Ben King.

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The reasons for optimism start with Gold Coast’s number 18, Matt Rowell, who was back to his beast-like best.

His disposal was erratic, but his ball-hawking ability, fierce tackling and eye for the play was stellar. And the one-two punch of Rowell and Touk Miller, plus Jarrad Witts in ruck made Gold Coast’s midfield dangerous.

In other good news, Izak Rankine kicked four, Mabior Chol and Levi Casboult showed enough to build on as a forward duo, and in Alex Davies the Suns have got yet another exciting young prospect.

GWS

An AFL player looks ahead as he gets ready to kick the ball towards goal while a defender throws out an arm to stop him.
Harry Himmelberg gave an impressive performance in round one, kicking three goals for the Giants against the Sydney Swans.(Getty Images: Mark Kolbe)

The Giants may have lost the first ‘Battle of the Bridge’ of 2022, but there was plenty of good news for GWS in round one.


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