Week one of the 2016 AFL finals did not disappoint, an enthralling week of football that has really set the tone for the rest of the finals series. Here are four things we learned.
It’s not over until the fat lady sings
Hawthorn and Geelong’s qualifying final in 2016 will go down in history as one of the greatest matches of all time.
An enthralling affair of four quarters, the result came down to a kick after the siren, with Isaac Smith lining up for the Hawks.
Smith hooked his kick to the right leading to a famous victory for Geelong.
It was a fierce contest the entire match, with numerous momentum shifts throughout the game.
The last quarter was no exception, with the lead seesawing between the two clubs.
Geelong nearly sealed the game in the last minute when Steven Motlop had two shots on goal but missed both, allowing Hawthorn to rebound out of defence from the kick in.
The Cats nearly blew it by not manning up and allowing the Hawthorn players so much space, and the ball went end to end very quickly.
So quickly that Luke Breust had time to make a mistake, kicking into Corey Enright on the mark, and still mop it up, shrugging an Enright tackle and finding Smith alone inside 50.
Everyone thought that the Hawks would do it again, steal another victory by less than a goal, but it was not to be.
The game could not have been more dramatic if it tried, and really showed you should expect anything in the finals.
The Giants’ defensive pressure is just as good as their run and carry
Greater Western Sydney have been lauded all year for their run and carry, their speed on the outside being one of the main reasons they have been so successful this year.
Their incredible, and arguably unexpected, victory over Sydney showed that while that is a highlight of their game, their defensive pressure is what will lead them further through this finals series.
It was a brutal affair with the young GWS team’s toughness on display.
They were courageously going back with the flight of ball and laying crunching tackles, their physicality forcing turnovers and in turn allowing their attacking game to flow.
Dylan Shiel and Devon Smith led the team with 10 tackles each, closely followed by Stephen Coniglio and Ryan Griffen, each with nine.
GWS is a young team giving their first finals appearance absolutely everything, and the more experienced finals teams should be weary of them.
Eddie Betts broke history at Adelaide Oval
Adelaide crushed North Melbourne in the first elimination final, by over 10 goals.
This was thanks in part to an Eddie Betts master class, with him kicking a six-goal haul.
His haul took his season tally to 72 goals, and his Adelaide Oval tally to over 100.
Remarkably, his 104 goals have come from only 36 games, becoming the first AFL player to get to the tally on Adelaide Oval.
It was not only his goals that enthralled the crowd, but also his jumping marks in the air and his speed and athleticism at ground level.
The 62-point win was a well-rounded performance for the Crows, Rory Sloane and Brodie Smith’s return to the team really balancing the side.
If the defence can hold up and the midfield can maintain quality supply to the league’s strongest forward line, they will be a real chance to upset Sydney at the SCG next weekend.
The Bulldogs’ resilience is continuing
The upset of week one of the finals happened in the very first game, with the Western Bulldogs going over to Perth and beating the in-form West Coast Eagles by 47 points.
One of the club’s greatest wins was made even sweeter by the unexpected nature of it, given the Bulldogs had never won a final interstate before and they had five inclusions.
Tom Liberatore, Easton Wood, Jack Macrae and Jordan Roughead returned from injury in the final but having not played for a number of weeks, could have been excused for being underdone.
However, all of the inclusions had an impact on the game in what was an all-round team performance.
Considering the amount of injuries that they have had throughout the year, the fact they are now a chance to knock out a three-time premiership team in Hawthorn is admirable.
Resilience and hard work really have held the Dogs in good stead.
Written by Kirralee Thomas @kirralee_thomas