Collingwood's Steele Sidebottom and Patrick Lipinski in Round 1, 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

The AFL was off to a hot start on Wednesday night as the grand final replay kicked off the 2022 season.

Round 1 was packed with emotional returns, upsets, close finishes and overall cracking footy.

Here are 20 thoughts and opinions from the league's opening week of action.

1. That was a special round of footy

Entertainment was at a premium to kick off the latest AFL season. Upsets were aplenty and most contests were tight encounters, where stars of the game, top draft selections, new coaches and returning veterans (and even boundary umpires) all provided the goods. Let's all hope that this week's action wasn't an anomaly but instead a sign of things to come in as 2022 continues.

2. Demons remain cream of the crop

In a contest that scarily mimicked their grand final encounter, minus the inhumane barrage of goals in the fourth, Melbourne again proved to be the better side as their superior spread of key position players again proved to be the difference.

3. Petracca overtakes Dusty

The Dees midfielder mirrored his Norm Smith Medal performance as he was simply unstoppable with the ball in hand. No one in the league has been able to dismantle an opposition like Petracca since Dusty during the Tigers' recent stretch of greatness. However, given Petracca's (and Melbourne's) obvious ascension its quite clear that he's overtaken the Tigers great as the face of the AFL.

4. Have the Blues finally arrived?

New coach, missing their best player and still convincingly knock off the perennial threat that is Richmond. The Blue boys were pretty hot but don't get too far ahead of yourselves. Let's see if this newfound contested game can hold up against the likes of the Doggies on Thursday night.

5. Richmond appears to have fallen off the proverbial cliff

The Tigers got annihilated at their own game with Carlton bullying them inside and suffocating their often swiftly aggressive forward advances with holistic defensive zoning.

After an impressive start, no one seemed to step up for the yellow and black once the Blues started to fight back and press the issue. With an ageing list and reasonable injection of youth, perhaps Richmond's immediate future is less promising than initially projected if they can't rediscover their premiership identity.

6. Docherty warms hearts with memorable major

After overcoming a secondary recurrence of testicular cancer, former Blues co-captain Sam Docherty got the call for Round 1 and didn't disappoint. He tallied 26 touches, six marks, 467 meters gained and a goal for the ages. He stood up like a champion both on and off the field.

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7. Saints need more from Brad Hill at the coalface

Throughout Friday night's loss, Saint Brad Hill was fidgety and prone to fumbles whenever a Collingwood player was anywhere near him, and his stat line doesn't emphasise how dramatically underwhelming he was with the quality of his decision-making with the ball in hand. New season but the same story, essentially sums up the Saints' woes.

8. Patrick Lipinski adding insult to Bevo’s week

If Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge wasn't already having a well-documented week with his side's underwhelming loss to the Dees and his subsequent press conference outburst, then Patrick Lipinski's Collingwood debut was the cherry on top.

'Lippa' departed the Kennel in search of more opportunity and has certainly carved out a nice role at the Pies as his efforts against St Kilda were arguably best on ground. Despite it only being one showing, 30 disposals, five clearances and a goal in exchange for pick 43 certainly seems like a bargain for the Magpies.

9. Boundary umpire turns heads in underwhelming Cats-Dons encounter

Essendon dramatically underdelivered in their clash with Geelong as they were tipped to make the move into the league's upper echelon. Instead, they received a reality-shattering belting at the hands of the experienced Cats, who remain among the competition's elite.

The most exciting part of the lifeless encounter was the absolute beauty of a mullet one of the boundary umps was sporting. To him, I and the rest of the game's spectators thank you for your service.

10. Malthouse's questionable predictions were just that. Questionable.

After picking the Bombers to win it all in 2022, former AFL senior coach Mick Malthouse may be looking to repair his crystal ball. Essendon had no energy to initiate the fast-paced transition game that helped propel them into an elimination final last season and were even lazier when they had to work back defensively. It's only Round 1 but the sheer lack of effort was astounding given that they seemingly have the talent and experience in Rutten's system. Sorry Mick.

11. Phil Davis delays the inevitable as Buddy approaches the 1000 mark

The Giants' defensive stalwart stood tall against one of the game's legends. Davis held Buddy to eight touches and a major as his nemesis was eyeing the monumental 1000-goal mark. The two have always been a treat to watch throughout the majority of their 'battle of the bridge' contests, although this time Davis won the matchup while the Swans ultimately won the day.

12. Good to see Paddy McCartin return

The former No.1 pick hadn't played an AFL game since 2018 and had appeared to have his AFL dream slipping through his hands, with his concussion issues largely factoring into his lack of games and minuscule production. However, The big fella was given a lifeline by the Swans, which he grabbed with two hands, as McCartin appears to have cemented a nice spot as an intercepting backman under John Longmire. Despite a couple of careless decisions, which will no doubt cease with increased experience in the role, Paddy impressed with 14 touches and four intercept marks.

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13. Sore bodies aplenty in Power v Lions

Both sides were aggressive in the contest and there was certainly no love lost on Saturday night with both tackle counts being in the mid-50s. Youngster Xavier Duursma, veteran defender Trent McKenzie and Lions skipper Dayne Zorko all went down with injuries, with fiery Lion Mitch Robbinson coming under scrutiny for his ill-advised hip and shoulder on Duursma. Obviously, no one wants to see such a physical game end with such catastrophic results but it was good to have that thrilling feel in the opening round.

14. True to their respective narratives, Port stumbled late while Lions played catch-up

Port Adelaide managed to wrestle control away from the home team and open a 24-point lead during the third term, looking prime to make an early statement to the rest of the comp. As quickly as the Power built their lead, the Lions decided to put their foot down and finished the game, scoring five goals to one in the fourth to pinch the win. Both sides' constant criticisms were on full display as Port again failed to secure the victory against a contender away from home, while Brisbane couldn't wrestle away control until they were forced to.

15. Roos, Hawks offer plenty in battle between tipped cellar dwellers 

Hawthorn and North Melbourne are seen as the two weakest teams in the AFL, so it wasn't surprising that the encounter was on the closer side. Both flexed their assortment of impressive youth, with the Roos' No.1 pick Jason Horne-Francis impressing with his efforts despite limited touches. The contest was back and forth and overall a pleasant viewing experience to kick off Sunday's slate of games.

16. Rachele is a walking highlight reel

The Crows' top pick from 2021 impressed on debut as he booted five goals from 14 touches and managed to highlight his poise, accuracy and goal sense. In many respects, if Rachele failed to suit up against the Dockers then the Crows may have found themselves on the wrong side of a belting despite Freo's goalkicking woes. There's no denying that Rachele's propensity for creating scoring shots is a spark that inspires his side to lift, with Sunday's effort proving the fact.

17. Defensive play of the year goes to Heath Chapman

The elite combination of awareness, body positioning and ability to read the play that Dockers backman Heath Chapman displayed during his goal-line stand is that of someone significantly beyond his years. He saved the game for Fremantle with a spoil that likely won't be beaten when looking back on the top defensive plays for 2022.

18. Plenty of promise ahead for struggling Eagles

The Eagles were thoroughly outplayed by the Gold Coast Suns, something I never thought I'd write, as they were behind in possessions, contested possessions, centre clearances and inside 50s, just to name a few. Yet, they hung in all game while fielding only a handful of their stronger players. West Coast was able to manage this valiant effort on the back of controlling possession with their chip-kick game and the pacey forward advances of Jamaine Jones and Willie Rioli. The Eagles performed more towards the serviceable side which does give them a glimmer of hope as they await the returns of an assortment of stars in the coming weeks and months.

19. Rowell back and Dewy can breathe 

My goodness if anyone seriously thought Matthew Rowell had fallen off after a promising debut season in 2020 they were sorely mistaken. After an injury-riddled start to his AFL career, the former pick one bullied the Eagles all game long, with a hard hit from Willie Rioli doing little to stop the Suns star. After an 'honourable loss' dissipated from his vocabulary, Stuart Dew deserves some praise following a solid start to 2022 as his side pulled out all the stops in the fourth en route to a win in the west.

20. All three new coaches win their first game 

Michael Voss, Craig McRae and Sam Mitchell all won their first games for their new clubs on the weekend. McRae and Mitchell won on their senior coaching debut while Voss notched up his first win since his last foray at the head of the helm in 2013, with the Blues, Pies and Hawks looking refreshed in the process. Whatever 2022 has in store for these men one thing appears certain, their impacts on their respective clubs have resulted in immediate impacts for the better.