NAB Challenge Opening Round Provides Highs and Lows

AFL is back even if it is just the NAB Challenge? Some teams have made strong starts while others are yet to show their hand.

It might only be pre-season but AFL in 2015 is underway with the NAB Challenge kicking off last week. Six fixtures were played from Thursday to Sunday and there were some eye catching results, with four of last year’s top eight tasting defeat first up; while all the sides that won didn’t feature in the finals in 2014. Collingwood, West Coast, Brisbane, Western Bulldogs, Gold Coast and Adelaide all began brightly while double defending AFL premiers Hawthorn were joined on the losers list by Carlton, St Kilda Richmond Geelong and North Melbourne.

Collingwood Crush the Premiers

Collingwood’s drubbing of the Hawks in Launceston raised a few eyebrows but to put the win into perspective, Hawthorn were missing more than half of their Premiership winning side. Still the Pies proved their pre-season is on track and new recruits Jack Crisp, Travis Varcoe and Jordan De Goey showed enough to suggest the trio will be integral to Collingwood’s bid to break back into the play-off places this year. The latter who was pick five in last year’s draft was particularly impressive. While the Hawks were happy some of their younger brigade were introduced to senior footy, their round tow team will be vastly different.

Hot Start for the Queenslanders

The AFL’s Queensland contingent both made winning beginnings with the Lions edging the Saints by 3 points in a low scoring match while the Suns secured an 8 point win over the Cats in Townsville on Sunday. Mitch Clark, playing his first match in almost two years, started slowly but was nearly Geelong’s match winner in the final quarter, proving he’ll be a pivotal player in a key positon this season. Still Gold Coast outlasted the Cats in stifling heat and a hammering humidity in what can only be described as a gruelling pre-season encounter. The Suns win without their big names was a sign the beach boys are seriously chasing September action for the first time. While in Moreton Bay it was Brisbane’s big off season recruit leading the way. Dame Beams starred for the Lions in their 58-55 victory.

Bulldogs Bite but Injury a Blow

The Bulldogs win over Richmond came at a huge cost, with young gun Tom Liberatore’s season ending before it began. The midfielder ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in his side’s 22 point win. It’s a shattering blow for both player and club, the 22 year old was the Dog’s 2014 Best and Fairest winner and will be a massive miss this year. Many of the Tigers top players watched the game from the stands, while the winners were near full strength.

West Coast cruised past Carlton by 31 points in a match which featured two teams that didn’t play finals footy last year while Adelaide ensured they made a positive start to the NAB Challenge with a 10 point triumph over 2014 Preliminary finalists North Melbourne. Six more matches will be played in round 2. Freemantle Face Melbourne on Thursday night, While Sydney will play their first match since their awful grand final display when they battle with Brisbane on Friday night. Greater Western Sydney will host the Suns on Saturday, while at the same time an almost unrecognisable Essendon take on the Saints. Port Adelaide are at home to West Coast on Sunday and round one losers Hawthorn and North Melbourne meet.