For around the past five to 10 years, there have been three certainties in life. Death, taxes and Hawthorn and Sydney tearing it up in the AFL. While it is only round one, we may have just witnessed the start of the changing of the guard.
Hawthorn was upset by an emotionally charged Essendon, who, with the help of its 10 returning players proved far too good for the the Hawks, running out 25-point winners.
The Lions, who many expected to win the wooden spoon, came firing out of the blocks, racing to a 46-point lead at half time against the Suns, who some experts predicted would finally begin to live up to their potential. While Gold Coast fought back strongly in the second half, Brisbane held on to record a two-point win.
Port Adelaide, expected to struggle once again, stunned last year’s grand finalists, Sydney, winning by 28 points at the SCG.
And lastly, the Demons, who had lost their past 14 matches against the Saints, and had lost 24 of their past 25 matches at Etihad Stadium, defeated the St Kilda by 30 points.
While St Kilda and Melbourne are considered to be at a similar level and both on the verge of playing finals once again, the win signals a new beginning for the Dees and shows a maturity not seen at the club for some time. The impressive win shows the side is ready to take the next step in its development.
All four matches on Saturday had their own story lines and amazing performances, but it was Essendon’s win that was most notable.
The win signaled a new era for a club that has been under siege for four years.
It was the great unknown how the returning players would perform and how good the Bombers could actually be in 2017.
The fans turned out in force, with over 78,000 packing into the MCG and their heroes rose to the occasion, all fully aware of the magnitude of the match.
The game is the first since 2012 that the club has played without the supplements saga hanging over it. Not only did the emotionally charged win put the saga behind them, but it gave the fans hope that the club can turn around quickly from the disastrous past few years and could even return to finals action as early as this year.
The Bombers got off to a quick start, but there were question marks over what 12 months out of the game would mean for the side and whether it would have an impact on match fitness later in the game, both physically and mentally.
However, even when challenged in the third quarter, Essendon responded in emphatic fashion.
The final siren was met with roars of sheer emotion and jubilation from the fans and players alike.
Regardless of how you feel about the club’s drugs scandal, watching the Bombers run all over the once mighty Hawks was a sight that would even melt the coldest of hearts. To see what it meant to the players, who have been through hell and back, was a special sight.
Perhaps lost in the emotion of Essendon’s upset win and strength through adversity, was the performance of Hawthorn.
Dismissed from the finals in straight sets last year signaled the possible demise of the then three-time reigning premiers. However, tonight was further evidence that the Hawks are not what they use to be. They simply could not match Essendon’s intensity and hunger at the contest late in the game. While it is only round one and certainly too early to jump to conclusions, the voids left by Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis will certainly take time to fill and will have a big impact this season.
Hawthorn is a brilliant club and will be back very soon, but this year may see a slight drop in the club’s fortunes.
Let’s hope this remarkable day of round one action is an indication of things to come in season 2017.
Exciting, fast paced and unpredictable football.