Hawthorn has stormed back from 40 points down to beat Essendon by a point in a thrilling clash at Docklands Stadium
The Hawks trailed by 40 points late in the second quarter and 39 points at half-time but stormed back after the break, holding their nerve to win 14.8 (92) to 13.13 (91).
Tim O’Brien kicked the first goal of the second half to ignite the comeback and slotted the game-winner in the closing minutes.
After an exciting opening term saw the Hawks leading by three points, the Bombers built their lead with seven straight scoring shots in the second quarter.
A goal for Oliver Hanrahan and Jaeger O’Meara’s behind stopped the bleeding, but Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti’s goal on the stroke of half-time made it 10.6 (66) to 4.3 (27).
O’Brien broke free in the middle early in the third quarter to start the Hawks off on the right foot after the resumption and they kicked the next six goals before Darcy Parish finally potted Essendon’s only six-pointer of the term to go with four behinds.
Once Luke Breust slotted for Hawthorn shortly before the final break, it was back to a one-point game, with the Bombers leading 76-75 ahead of a thrilling final quarter.
Essendon kept its nose just in front for the first half of the final frame as both teams kicked three behinds each and no goals, before Ben McEvoy nailed a hugely important major in his first game as Hawks captain to give them their first lead since the start of the second.
Late in the piece, Hawthorn’s Blake Hardwick tried a flick-back and was pinged for a throw deep in the pocket, allowing former Giant Devon Smith to kick a clutch goal off the ensuing free-kick with just over two minutes left.
The Bombers may have thought they had the winner but the Hawks streamed forward from the centre bounce and O’Brien took a strong mark near the goalsquare, holding his nerve for the decisive shot.
Young Swans pull away from Lions late
The game between Sydney and Brisbane at the Gabba initially promised to be similarly exciting, before the Swans pulled away in the third quarter and finished with a comfortable 19.11 (125) to 14.10 (94) win.
The Lions shot out of the gates with two goals to Zac Bailey and one to new recruit Joe Daniher before the Swans knew what had happened.
Things evened out through the first half and the teams could not be split through the first two quarters, going into half-time tied at 52, but Sydney exploded with nine goals to two in the third term to all but secure the win.
The 31-point margin flattered Brisbane somewhat as they kicked the final three goals of the game when the match was already gone.
The Swans trotted out three debutants — draftees Logan McDonald, Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden — and the latter was one of the best players on ground, kicking three goals and having a hand in three more.
McDonald also made a major impression with three goals, including a bomb from the 50-metre arc to get the Swans on the scoreboard in the first quarter, which was his first goal in senior footy.
It was not just the first-gamers shining for the visitors, with Isaac Heeney booting three goals, while Sam Wicks was one of four Swans to kick two goals in what was his eighth AFL game.
Midfielder Callum Mills had the most touches in the game with 29 disposals as well as two goals and a goal assist.
Crows stun Cats at Adelaide Oval
The Crows scored the first major upset of the still-young AFL season, beating Geelong by 12 points at the Adelaide Oval.
The win over last year’s runners-up featured star outings by youngsters like 20-year-old Harry Schoenberg and 21-year-old father-son debutant James Rowe, but veteran forward Taylor Walker did the bulk of the scoring with five goals as the reigning wooden-spooners won 15.13 (103) to 13.13 (91).
Geelong ace Patrick Dangerfield will face match review scrutiny for a collision that concussed Jake Kelly in a clash of heads in the second term.
Kelly was ruled out of the match and the home side also lost injury sub Mitch Hinge (shoulder) and halfback Luke Brown (Achilles).
Kelly and Brown were sidelined in a first half dominated by Walker, who kicked four goals and set up another as Adelaide crafted a 38-point advantage.
The Crows stretched their lead to 43 points in the 13th minute of the third term before Geelong finally clicked into top gear.
The Cats booted four unanswered goals in a nine-minute burst to reduce their deficit to 19 points at three quarter-time.
A frantic but goalless initial 10 minutes of the last term was punctuated by a shoulder injury to Cat Sam Menegola, who was subbed out.
And after the teams traded two goals each, Geelong’s Gryan Miers reduced the deficit to 11 points with seven minutes left — but it proved the last goal of the game.
Adelaide’s Walker found scoring allies in first-gamer Rowe, fellow small forward Ned McHenry and Billy Frampton, who kicked two goals apiece.
The forwards feasted as the Crows midfield, headed by Rory Laird (27 disposals, six tackles) Ben Keays (23 possessions, eight inside 50s), skipper Rory Sloane (20 touches) and winger Lachlan Sholl (23 touches), applied fanatical pressure on the Cats.
Geelong’s Brownlow medallist Dangerfield was a standout for his side with 26 disposals which featured eight inside 50s.
Teammate Cam Guthrie (23 touches) was industrious, ex-Hawthorn winger Isaac Smith was influential with 21 disposals and two goals and his fellow mature-aged recruit Shaun Higgins (22 possessions) was solid.
Demons win first AFL season opener since 2017
Melbourne ground past Fremantle by 22 points to kick off their AFL season with a win for the first time since 2017.
An unanswered four-goal opening quarter set the Demons on their way and they never lost the lead all day, prevailing 11.14 (80) to 8.10 (58) in front of 21,365 fans at the MCG.
It was a rough day for Fremantle, which saw luckless key defender Alex Pearce substituted off with a knee injury in the second term, while fellow defender Joel Hamling limped off in the final quarter.
In his 100th AFL game, Melbourne on-baller Clayton Oliver (35 disposals, seven clearances) racked up the ball at will and was well supported by Christian Petracca (24 touches, two goals).
Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw (29 touches) and skipper Nat Fyfe (27 disposals, nine clearances) also had plenty of the Sherrin.
Melbourne defenders Steven May and Jake Lever excelled while Tom McDonald provided a strong forward target, booting two goals from nine marks.
It took nearly 15 minutes for either team to land a genuine blow in an error-strewn first quarter — but it was Melbourne who settled quickest.
After Kysaiah Pickett took a courageous mark then kicked truly for the opening goal, former Docker Ed Langdon quickly followed suit with a checkside on the run.
Bayley Fritsch, Petracca and impressive debutant James Jordon all struck before Sam Switkowski finally snapped the Dockers’ first in the second term.
Fremantle bounced back in the second quarter but copped a massive blow when Pearce limped off and headed straight into the rooms.
The 25-year-old, in his first AFL game since fracturing his ankle in round 11, 2019, was then substituted off for Stefan Giro.
The Dockers enjoyed a third-quarter resurgence, drawing within two goals, but were largely unable to make the most of their better moments.
Justin Longmuir’s side again butchered multiple chances to cut the deficit in the final term and when Petracca bounced through his second goal to put the Demons 23 points up, it proved enough to seal the deal.