Tom Mitchell (2L) was clearly best on ground as the Hawks beat Collingwood at the MCG. (AAP: Julian Smith)
Star Hawthorn midfielder Tom Mitchell has broken the AFL’s game disposals record in the 34-point win over Collingwood at the MCG.
The Hawks’ win followed victories for Gold Coast, St Kilda and Port Adelaide on the first Saturday of the season.
Hawks fans cheered late in the last quarter when Mitchell picked up a handball, giving him 54 disposals in the 15.11 (101) to 9.13 (67).
That broke the record jointly held by Gary Ablett jnr at Gold Coast in 2012 and Greg Williams when he played for Sydney in 1989.
The Magpies stopped a blowout, but Hawthorn’s class stood out.
Collingwood has now lost its last three round-one games and the spotlight shines that bit brighter on coach Nathan Buckley, who was reappointed late last year.
In round nine last year, Mitchell had 50 possessions in the loss to Collingwood and Buckley questioned his impact on the game.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson replied by saying Buckley’s observation was “pretty ballsy”.
On Saturday night, Mitchell was clearly best afield with 20 kicks, 34 handballs and 27 contested possessions.
The start of the game went according to Collingwood’s new plan for Darcy Moore, who the Magpies want to play in the back line.
He took a strong mark in defence and the Pies quickly transitioned, with Ben Reid marking and kicking the first goal of the game.
But 35-year-old Hawks star Shaun Burgoyne was on fire early, quickly responding with their opener.
Hawks fans cheered at the six-minute mark when Cyril Rioli came on for his first run after an interrupted pre-season and he had an immediate impact with his trademark forward-line pressure.
Rioli set up Burgoyne for his second goal and the Hawks led by that margin at quarter time.
A brilliant backward flick from Burgoyne gift-wrapped a goal for Jack Gunston early in the second term.
The Hawks suffered a major blow midway through the second term when defender Ryan Burton was forced from the field with an ankle injury.
Hawthorn kicked the last three goals of the half and comfortably led by 27 points at the main break. Mitchell had racked up a whopping 29 disposals and gained 491m.
The Magpies sent Steele Sidebottom to Mitchell for some of the third quarter, but the Hawks reigning best and fairest was still prominent.
Collingwood were missing several players through injury — Daniel Wells, Jordan De Goey, Jamie Elliott, Tyson Goldsack, Levi Greenwood and Alex Fasolo.
Once Hawthorn clicked into gear, the Magpies simply could not match their class.
Collingwood’s next challenge will be a home game against GWS, while the Hawks will set themselves for the traditional Easter Monday blockbuster against Geelong.
Suns singing in the rain with win over Roos
On an awful night for football, the Suns played the wet conditions better than the Kangaroos in Cairns. (AAP: Brian Cassey)
It was wet, wild, ugly and just the way Stuart Dew liked it as the Gold Coast Suns notched a 16-point win in his first game in charge.
The rookie AFL coach watched as his men out-enthused North Melbourne with the game on the line in the final quarter, the Suns prevailing 7.13 (55) to 5.9 (39) on Saturday night.
All 12 goals came at the same end of the ground, with final-quarter majors to Jack Bowes and Jarryd Lyons proving the difference.
A wet week in Cairns got a whole lot wetter about 45 minutes before the first bounce, with torrential rain sweeping across the region and flooding Cazalys Stadium.
North Melbourne coped best in the puddles early, winning more contested ball and notching the first quarter’s only goal through Shaun Higgins.
The Kangaroos missed two sets shots and had a masterful Higgins’ solo effort along the boundary line ruled to have glanced the post as they looked to establish control of the contest in the second term.
But they were left to rue those missed opportunities as the rain eased, the ground drained and the Suns kicked five straight to finish the half leading by 24 points.
Darcy McPherson scored the Suns’ first before Ben Ainsworth snapped a second and followed it up with another.
Alex Sexton and club debutant Aaron Young also got on the board as the Suns — led by Cairns local and second-year midfielder Bowes (21 disposals) — camped in North Melbourne’s forward 50m and reaped rewards.
North Melbourne responded by pushing Jack Ziebell forward and kicking all four goals in the third term, the skipper notching two of his own and setting up another to reduce the margin to one at the final break.
The rain returned in the final term, leaving teams with no choice but to hack it forward.
The ball rarely left the Suns’ forward half though, with David Swallow (game-high 30 touches) taking over to snap a run of five straight losses in Cairns.
Kangaroos tall Ben Brown was unable to make an impact, restricted to just four touches in the wet.
The Suns, under Dew’s high pressure, full-team defensive approach, won the tackle count 94-84 and contested possessions 208-189.
Saints overcome game Lions at Docklands
Jack Stevens (R) was the dominant figure for St Kilda in the Saints’ win over Brisbane at Docklands. (AAP: Julian Smith)
A match-winning performance from Jack Steven has helped St Kilda to survive a major scare from AFL upstarts Brisbane, downing the Lions by 25 points at Docklands.
The lacklustre Saints went to sleep in Saturday’s third quarter, giving up three straight goals and the lead before Steven stepped up to secure a 16.11 (107) to 12.10 (82) victory.
Brisbane looked to be on the verge of a famous opening-round victory when Tom Bell, number one draft pick Cameron Rayner and star recruit Charlie Cameron hit the scoreboard in quick succession.
But Steven booted two goals in two minutes on the stroke of three-quarter time to snatch back momentum and the lead for the Saints, who ran away with the game in the final term.
Steven finished with 34 disposals, reigning best and fairest Seb Ross was exceptional with his playmaking and Jade Gresham and Josh Bruce each slotted three majors.
“I thought the guys showed a lot of character,” coach Alan Richardson said.
“The Lions probably got the better of us at the clearances (but) I thought our outside footy was really positive.”
Ruckman Stefan Martin (42 hitouts, 19 disposals) and skipper Dayne Beams starred for a Brisbane side that stands to be much-improved from last year’s wooden spoon finish.
The off-season addition of Cameron, Rayner and former Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge is already paying dividends.
Cameron slotted three goals, Rayner made a dynamic start to his AFL career and Hodge (25 disposals) showed his enduring class while marshalling the Lions backline.
St Kilda have made no secret of their belief that they are primed to return to the finals for the first time since 2011.
But on the evidence put forward on Saturday, it might be too soon for Saints fans to clear their September schedule.
The Saints were beaten for contested possessions, smashed at the stoppages and often sloppy with their ball movement. A lack of polish ultimately proved to be the young Lions’ undoing with at least half a dozen of St Kilda’s goals scored from turnovers.
“I thought we made too many mistakes with the ball that caused turnovers and had to run pretty hard for most of the game to try and get the ball back,” coach Chris Fagan said.
“That might have caught up with us … St Kilda just used the ball better by foot than we did.”
Brisbane went a man down early in the second quarter when important defender Daniel Rich injured his left ankle in a marking contest.
Rich was helped from the ground, went straight to the rooms and was ruled out for the remainder of the contest.
Power have too much energy for Dockers
Steven Motlop thrilled the Adelaide Oval crowd with two goals for the Power in their win over Fremantle. (AAP: David Mariuz)
Port Adelaide’s Plan A for the fresh AFL season worked to perfection as their high-profile recruits fired in a 50-point victory against Fremantle.
New chums Jack Watts, Steven Motlop and Tom Rockliff all goaled early in their Port debut in Saturday’s emphatic 16.14 (110) to 9.6 (60) win.
Emerging Power forward Todd Marshall kicked four goals with Watts booting three, and Motlop and Chad Wingard, two each at Adelaide Oval.
The oft-maligned Watts (20 disposals, seven marks) snapped the first goal of the game and was instantly adopted by Port’s 38,324-strong crowd.
Three minutes later, ex-Cat Motlop (19 touches) sped away to convert a rousing goal on the run.
And when Rockliff, in his subdued 12-disposal Power debut, goaled 15 minutes into the second term Port were in the midst of crafting a defining 38-point lead.
Five-gamer Riley Bonner (31 touches) and captain Travis Boak were outstanding but Freo rallied with three late goals to sneak within 21-points at half-time.
The Dockers never got that close again as Marshall highlighted his fourth AFL game with four second-half goals, ensuring the visitors were road-kill.
The 19-year-old Marshall and teammate Charlie Dixon will be scrutinised for late hits on Fremantle players in the opening 13 minutes.
Power spearhead Dixon took some gloss of his polished game by kicking 1.4.
His teammate Justin Westhoff was superb with 25 disposals, nine marks and nine tackles and Ollie Wines (28 touches), Brad Ebert (28 disposals) and Sam Powell-Pepper (19 possessions) provided the midfield grunt.
The Dockers showed some pluck but were never genuinely in the hunt after conceding four of the initial five goals.
Onballer Lachie Neale collected a game-high 38 disposals, including 17 contested, and captain Nat Fyfe was solid, not spectacular, with 22 possessions and a goal.
Key backman Alex Pearce returned successfully after almost two years out with injury, Aaron Sandilands (52 hit-outs) ruled the rucks against Paddy Ryder and new signing Brandon Matera, who had 19 touches, six inside 50s and a goal, battled gamely.
The downside for the Power was an Achilles injury to Ryder which could see him missing next week.