We are only three rounds into the 2016 AFL season, but already it seems it will be one for the ages. The competition is a lot closer this year, and there will be a number of teams challenging Hawthorn’s quest for a fourth straight flag.
There are three undefeated teams so far, Sydney, Gold Coast and North Melbourne.
North Melbourne’s draw has been relatively easy so their undefeated start is to be expected, and while Sydney’s has been too, many experts expected them to slide in 2016, so the nature of their big wins is surprising.
The biggest surprise packet however, is the Gold Coast Suns. Their early form suggests that this might be the year they make the finals for the first time, especially considering the emergence of Aaron Hall, whose numbers and impact so far this year are that of an elite midfielder.
The Western Bulldogs seem to have taken a step up from their impressive 2015 campaign, playing an incredibly attractive and entertaining brand of football. They pushed the reigning premiers all the way to the end of their game yesterday only to full short by three points.
Hawthorn have had an up down start to the season with an opening round loss to Geelong, followed by two wins, including the grand final replay.
Many thought it could be the year of the Cat with all of Geelong’s off season additions, including prized recruit Patrick Dangerfield. However, even they had a shock loss against Greater Western Sydney after they had lost to Melbourne, again highlighting the evenness of all the teams.
Adelaide has been another surprise, with many suggesting the loss of Dangerfield would be too hard for them to cover. But with arguably the best forward line in the competition, their attacking prowess is hard to stop, as Port noticed in their 58-point thumping in the Showdown.
Port Adelaide isn’t playing their best football, a number of injuries to key players contributing to that, but despite the Showdown, they are still finding ways to win.
West Coast is being led well by 2014 Brownlow Medallist Matt Priddis, and will definitely be around at the pointy end of the season once again.
Melbourne and St Kilda are two teams that have shown glimpses of brilliance, with Melbourne challenging North Melbourne into the dying minutes of their game, and St Kilda comprehensively beating Collingwood. Both teams however need to work on their consistency if they want to keep winning games.
Even Essendon, the thrown together team that wasn’t going to win a game all season, chalked up a win in the first three rounds. Their 13-point win against Melbourne in round two will go down as one of the feel good wins for the year.
The disappointments of the year have been Fremantle, Collingwood and Richmond. Fremantle are winless and seem at odds with their game plan, while Collingwood and Richmond haven’t lived up to their preseason expectations.
Carlton and Brisbane are winless and down the bottom of the ladder, but even they have positives coming out of games. The emergence of the 2015 number one and two draft picks Jacob Weitering and Josh Schache are especially exciting for fans of those two clubs.
If the rest of the 2016 AFL season is anything like the first three rounds, we are going to be in for an enthralling winter.
Written by Kirralee Thomas @kirralee_thomas