So much can change between the first game of pre-season football and the grand final.
How do new players fit in at their clubs? Who looks set to take the leap to the next level? What new tactics are sides trying out? All questions that fans are looking for answers to.
There was plenty of takeaways from the opening weekend of the Marsh Community Series and we’ve listed some of them here.
The Bulldogs midfield is as good as any in the competition
The Dogs entered Friday night’s clash against North Melbourne without Tim English and looked set to feed off scraps in the midfield. And despite Todd Goldstein’s dominance, the Dogs mids put up some incredible numbers.
Jack Macrae had 32 disposals, Josh Dunkley managed 23, Lachie Hunter had 30 and a goal while Marcus Bontempelli had 37 and snagged two majors. That’s top four depth!
The Saints belong at Moorabbin
The Saints made their long-awaited return to their spiritual home on Thursday Night. St Kilda haven’t played a game at the Linton Street, or RSEA park as it’s now known, since 1992.
An attempted move to Seaford was a massive fail and the fans spoke with their feet as thousands piled into Moorabbin to watch the Saints beat the Hawks. The fact the beer supply had run out by quarter time is an example of the atmosphere in the ground that night.
Christian Petracca has the tank
Often seen as the final hurdle for Christian Petracca, an engine suitable for long midfield minutes has seemingly finally arrived. Petracca had 38 disposals in a dominant best on ground display against Adelaide and looms as a prominent force in Melbourne’s attempt to return to September 2020.
Matt Rowell is ready
There was little doubt Sam Walsh was ready last year and just as little doubt this year that Matt Rowell is ready to make a meaningful impact at AFL level by round one. The number one draft pick had 20 disposals and laid seven tackles in the Suns’ surprising 68-point win over Geelong. He looked the part and played the part.
Brad Hill will be a priceless acquisition
Brad Hill looked every bit the missing piece for St Kilda on Thursday night. The Saints struggled by foot in 2019 and Hill provides some much-needed class on the ball, particularly going inside 50. Blistering pace and an engine as big as anyone’s in the game, Hill may hold they key to St Kilda’s top eight hopes.
Teams don’t need the AFL for pre-season games
St Kilda took on Hawthorn on Thursday night in the first official game of the Marsh Series, but the pre-season games got underway roughly three hours earlier at Ikon Park.
Carlton and Collingwood organised a six-quarter scratch match which drew a healthy crowd given the twilight Thursday time slot.
Both sides fielded strong teams and due to the unofficial nature of the game, were able to implement rules to benefit themselves – six quarters with the score resting at the end of each and simulation that allowed both teams to work on specific game scenarios were the main features. The way of the future perhaps?
Marvel has no place hosting pre-season games
The pre-season games are a great chance for clubs to visit communities they otherwise wouldn’t play in front of. It’s become a highlight of the pre-season, yet Friday night saw the Bulldogs and Kangaroos play in front of a poor crowd in the community of Docklands. It perhaps a game that could’ve been played just about anywhere else.
Tom Mitchell hasn’t lost a step
The 2018 Brownlow Medalist was back in action after missing all of last year due to a broken leg. He racked up 21 disposals in the Hawks’ clash with St Kilda in limited minutes, accumulating the football as only he can. The ball magnet proved a valuable addition and could be back to his best before we know it.
Sam Docherty also hasn’t lost a step
The Carlton co-captain hasn’t played a game in two years after back to back ACL’s. The 2017 All-Australian skippered the Blues for the first time in Thursday’s clash with Collingwood and was intercept marking and even pirouetting out of trouble. Docherty played with limited rest and looked 100%.
Lachie Neale still brings his own ball to the footy
Neale had 47 disposals against Port Adelaide and eased any fears he’d lost the footy he seemingly packs in his bag and brings onto the ground to play with. He had the ball on a string and expect him to keep bringing said footy throughout 2020.