Jude Bolton's Round 1 heroes and villains

There were so many things to get excited about from the opening round of the AFL season - and a few frustrating issues.

Round 1 always brings with it a sense of the unexpected. Even after a long summer and NAB Challenge series, no one -- not even the players and coaches -- really knows what will transpire when the real stuff gets underway.

Thankfully, the long wait for the action to begin was well worth it; and we had some brilliant individual efforts, controversial moments and nail-biting contests from Thursday night through to Monday afternoon.

One of the things I most love about Round 1 is seeing new players run around; and some of the first-year players who shone at the weekend belied their inexperience.

Last year's No.1 pick, Jacob Weitering, was outstanding for Carlton against the Tigers on Thursday night, while Melbourne's Clayton Oliver, Essendon's Darcy Parish and a trio of young Swans all stepped straight up to the big league.

And not to be outdone, a couple of old hands in Gary Ablett and Brent Harvey showed they had plenty left in the tank, too. Buddy Franklin, meanwhile, needed just 30 seconds to emphasise how important he is to the Swans' fortunes this season.

But after assessing all nine matches from an exciting first round, three major positives and concerning negatives caught my eye.


The Demons: The Melbourne faithful would have been heartbroken if their terrific unbeaten run in the NAB Challenge counted for nothing with a loss in Round 1. Especially so when they drifted back into terrible old habits during the middle two quarters against GWS. However, they fought hard to stay in the game and were dragged over the line by some Jesse Hogan heroics. Hogan, who was smashed by Phil Davis for the first three quarters at the MCG, showed tremendous resolve to drag his team over the line with three goals in the final term. It won't be the last time he does that.

Sydney debutants: Many were concerned about the Swans' prospects in 2016 after Adam Goodes (372 matches), Rhyce Shaw (237) and Mike Pyke (110) all retired, and Craig Bird (137) and Lewis Jetta (127) joined Essendon and West Coast respectively. But the Swans unveiled a new generation in a powerhouse display against Collingwood on Saturday night. Tom Papley (11 possessions, three goals), Callum Mills (18 classy touches) and George Hewett (15 disposals, seven tackles) all excelled on debut. Papley, Mills and Hewett sounds like a law firm; maybe not, but it's definitely the new firm.

Adam Treloar: Treloar was a shining light on a dark night for the black and white. The former Giants player showed immediately why the Pies went so hard and paid so much for him. With the rest of the Collingwood midfield copping a collective mauling, Treloar collected 34 touches, four tackles and a goal, and showed off his electric burst around the ground. With Dane Swan going down with a potentially season-ending injury, Treloar suddenly becomes even more important, and he'll need his team-mates to stand up alongside him.

Patrick Dangerfield: 43 disposals, 10 inside 50s, seven clearances and six score involvements. Took control from the first bounce against the reigning premiers no-less. Geelong have forged great cohesion in such little time with their strong midfield with the likes of Joel Selwood, Danger, Mark Blicavs and Josh Caddy. And with youngsters like Lincoln McCarthy and Darcy Lang stepping up 2016 is full of promise.


Travis Cloke: Sydney's Heath Grundy saved the Easter eggs up and gave Cloke donuts in the first half on Saturday night, with the big Magpies forward going touchless. Cloke's horror night was summed up when he received Bronx cheers from the Swans faithful when he finally collected his first possession in the third term. He finished with seven touches for the game, and no goals. For one of the most dangerous power forwards in the league, Cloke looked listless against the Swans, only marking the ball once.

The deliberate out-of-bounds rule: We all knew the umpires had been instructed to be stricter with their interpretation of the deliberate out-of-bounds rule, but many fans, players and coaches were left scratching their heads during Round 1. There were a few shockers in the Power-Saints game, and another against Fremantle's Tom Sheridan during the Dockers' horror loss to the Dogs. On principle, I agree with the move to deter players from using the boundary line as an escape route - and overall, I thought the umpiring was good on the whole. But as fans get used to the new interpretation, at times it's going to feel very harsh.

The Dockers midfield: They were touched up by the young Bulldogs, putting in an embarrassing display for Round 1 at Etihad. You're not going to win many games if you finish down in contested ball by 44 and down on uncontested footy by a whopping 130. They were beaten convincingly at the coalface and were left chasing tail all day because of a lack of spread. The Gold Coast Suns are going to have to be on their game and prepared for the onslaught as Ross Lyon will have his troops wound up to make amends in their Round 2 clash over at Domain Stadium.