The AFL season opened last night with the defending minor premiers Richmond thrashing the perennial cellar dweller Carlton by 97-64. Richmond, who are again favourites to win the whole competition, barely got out of second gear against the Blues as they started their campaign smoothly.
Tonight finalists Collingwood will take on Geelong, in a game that the Pies will see as a good test of their premiership aspirations this year against an ageing but still very experienced opponent. Tomorrow Melbourne should see off Port Adelaide, Adelaide will have a similar test as Collingwood against Hawthorn, dark horse the Swans will face the Doggies and Premiers West Coast should dispose of Brisbane.
On Sunday St Kilda have a chance to start their season on the front foot, at home against wooden spoon favourites Gold Coast. GWS will play the first Sydney game of the season, against Essendon, in a game that will be a good test for the two mid-level teams that are hoping to push into the top group this year. Finally Fremantle will finish the round at home against North Melbourne.
The premiership race this year looks like it will continue the recent transition in the dominant clubs. While at least one of Sydney, Hawthorn or Geelong reached the final in every year from 2005 to 2016 (except for Collingwood’s draw and then victory over St Kilda in 2010), and one of the big 3 claimed premierships every year except 2010, 2006 (West Coast over Sydney) and 2016 (Bulldogs over Sydney) there has been a changing of the guard since.
Richmond stormed to the flag in 2017, and claimed the minor premiership in a canter last year before falling to Collingwood in the preliminary final. They are again favourites to claim both the major and minor premierships this year, with Collingwood, Melbourne and Premiers West Coast also strongly favoured.
Sydney, Hawthorne and Geelong look like being a part of the chasing pack this year, with none reaching the final four in 2018. All still have the players and the skill to beat anyone on a given day, but as their stars age and become more injury prone it is looking unlikely that they will have the staying power and durability to reclaim the glory years.