Sydney beats West Coast in Perth Stadium opener, Geelong edges Melbourne and GWS crushes Bulldogs
The Eagles’ crowd gave a hot reception to Lance Franklin, but the Swans superstar answered with eight goals. (AAP: Travis Anderson)
West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui made a successful return from a knee injury, but it was Lance Franklin who stole the show in Sydney’s 29-point win at Perth Stadium.
On a Sunday where Geelong needed a last-minute miss from Max Gawn to scrape past Melbourne, it was a big day for both Sydney sides.
GWS smashed the Western Bulldogs in Canberra, and the Swans took care of the Eagles in the first home-and-away game at Perth Stadium.
Franklin booted five goals in the first half and finished with eight majors in the 18.7 (115) to 13.8 (86) triumph in front of 53,553 fans.
Naitanui, playing his first AFL match since rupturing the ACL in his left knee in August 2016, showed he had lost none of his ruck magic by producing a series of sublime taps to advantage throughout the match.
West Coast led by one point early in the second quarter on the back of Naitanui’s strong performance in the ruck.
But with Franklin dominating in his battles against defenders Tom Barrass and Will Schofield, it seemed just a matter of time before Sydney pulled away.
The 31-year-old booted three goals in the opening term.
And by the time he kicked his seventh goal midway through the third quarter, Sydney led by 30 points and it looked to be game over.
However, Naitanui helped turn the tide late in the third term as West Coast’s midfield started to gain control.
Naitanui sent the crowd into raptures when he won a holding the ball decision in the forward pocket and then snapped truly from the set shot.
And when Mark LeCras booted a goal after the three-quarter time siren — West Coast’s fourth in a row — the margin was just five points.
But once again it was Franklin who stepped up when Sydney needed him most.
With the Swans leading by just 11 points, Franklin outbodied Barrass to take a mark, before running into the open goal to give Sydney some much-needed breathing space.
West Coast continued to fight hard, but a freak scissor-kick goal from Luke Parker killed off their comeback for good.
LeCras and Jack Darling booted three goals apiece for the Eagles, while Naitanui finished with 33 hit-outs, 12 disposals, and one goal.
Franklin tallied 21 possessions, nine marks, five tackles to go with his 8.1.
Demons are Gawn as late miss lets Cats hold on
Max Gawn’s (R) miss in the final seconds killed Melbourne’s chances of a win over Geelong. (AAP: Julian Smith)
Geelong has marked Gary Ablett’s return home with a pulsating three-point AFL win over Melbourne at the MCG.
Demons ruckman Max Gawn took an outstanding mark at the death and had an easy set shot at goal from only 20m out.
But it went wide and the Cats held on to win 14.13 (97) to 13.16 (94), with the clash living up to its billing as the match of the opening round.
Melbourne’s Jayden Short also had a set shot on the final siren, but he was 60m out and his impressive torpedo punt fell 10m short.
After Jesse Hogan goalled to bring Melbourne to within five points at the 11 minute mark in the last quarter, the game finished with six successive behinds.
Cats forward Daniel Menzel starred with four goals, but he had two of those misses after taking great marks.
Crucially, those behinds gave the Cats a seven-point lead and the Demons closed out the match with four misses. Gawn also had a snap at goal that went wide.
After seven years at Gold Coast, Ablett impressed in his return to the Cats with 39 possessions and a goal.
While all the pre-game focus was on Ablett, it was the newcomers who stood out in a see-sawing first quarter.
As the lead changed four times, Melbourne debutant Bayley Fritsch kicked the opening goal of the match.
Three minutes later, Geelong first-gamer Esava Ratugolea did the same.
Fellow Cats debutants Lachie Fogarty and Tim Kelly also kicked their first AFL goals in the opening half.
Ablett delighted the Geelong faithful when he kicked their fourth goal in the first term and the Cats led by four points at quarter time.
Geelong took control in the second term as they dominated outside play, despite losing defender Harry Taylor in the first term with an ankle injury.
The Cats kicked seven goals to one and had Melbourne on the ropes at the main break, leading by 27 points.
Cats midfielder Cam Guthrie did his best Dustin Martin impersonation to fend off Melbourne opponents and highlight the second term with an outstanding goal.
But the Demons changed the game in the third term, tightening up their defensive play and cutting down Geelong’s outside run.
With veterans Jordan Lewis and Bernie Vince pivotal across back and defender Josh Wagner also impressive, the Demons kicked five goals to one and reduced the margin to seven points at the last change.
Geelong defender Tom Stewart was sore and a fierce third-quarter tackle from Wagner also left captain Joel Selwood proppy in his 250th game.
Christian Petracca starred for the Demons in the midfield and Selwood also had 39 disposals.
Impressive Giants crush the Bulldogs at Manuka
GWS dominated across the ground as the Giants thrashed the Western Bulldogs in Canberra. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)
A suspected ACL injury to premiership midfielder Tom Liberatore has topped off a nightmare first game of the AFL season for the Western Bulldogs.
Beaten preliminary finalists Greater Western Sydney pummelled the 2016 premiers in Canberra on Sunday, winning their clash by a whopping 82 points.
The Giants kicked the first four goals of the game and were never challenged in the 20.13 (133) to 7.9 (51) result, as stars Jeremy Cameron (six goals) and Toby Greene (four) ran riot up forward.
While the Bulldogs were completely smashed at Manuka Oval in front of 10,454 fans, their worries extend to Liberatore who is staring at a second knee reconstruction 117 games into his career.
The club confirmed the 25-year-old had suffered a suspected ACL injury to his right knee and would undergo further tests in the next 24 hours.
The Dogs seemed to lift when Liberatore went off in the first quarter after a lacklustre start, kicking the next three goals to only be five points behind at quarter-time.
But it was all the classy Giants from there as they booted 16 goals to four after the first change.
They were led sensationally by key on-ballers Stephen Coniglio (32 possessions and two goals), Josh Kelly (29 and two) and Dylan Shiel, while Tim Taranto also played an integral role.
GWS’ new-look half-back line performed well, with former number one draft pick Lachie Whitfield slotting in seamlessly after Nathan Wilson’s move to Fremantle and the injury to Zac Williams.
On a dark day for the Bulldogs, Jack Macrae, Luke Dahlhaus and Lachie Hunter found plenty of the ball and young ruckman Tim English showed some serious promise in his fourth game.