Whilst opening-round victories are quite rightly seen by most clubs as providing the ideal kick off to the season, it doesn’t need to be the be all and end all for teams that actually lose their first match in regards to their goal of reaching September action.
The fact is that in each of the last three AFL seasons, at least two teams that ended the home and away season inside the top eight suffered opening-round losses.
It is also important to note that in the last three seasons, one of the eventual preliminary finalists also managed to suffer defeat in their opening round encounter as well.
Back in 2010, the Western Bulldogs and the Sydney Swans were defeated in their opening round matchups, by eight and 36 points respectively. However, both teams still managed to play a prominent role in September with the Bulldogs reaching a Preliminary Final and the Swans bowing out narrowly at the hands of the Bulldogs in a Semi-Final.
The 2011 season saw two teams reach the finals after suffering opening-round defeats with St Kilda losing by a single point to eventual premiers Geelong and eventual preliminary finalist Hawthorn falling by 20 points against the Crows, whilst the Swans also made it deep into September despite only managing an opening-round draw with lowly Melbourne.
2012 saw three teams suffer first-round defeats, albeit narrowly, and they still managed to make the top eight.
Collingwood performed the best of the three as they reached a Preliminary Final, suffering a creditable loss to the Swans in Sydney. Geelong and North Melbourne were the other two teams that also lost narrowly in the first round and both subsequently exited the finals race after the first week.
Despite last year’s finalists in Adelaide and West Coast failing to record a win in the first half of this season‘s opening round, there is still little reason whatsoever for pessimism from fans of those two teams.
In fact, there shouldn’t be any loss of hope no matter what the results of the first round are for any other of the well-fancied teams that are aiming to reach September action, as long as they are at least competitive.
While losing certainly isn’t the ideal way to begin the year, losing first up doesn’t have to be a fatal blow to any team’s prospective finals chances so long as they are able to pick up enough wins in the following weeks in order to make the final eight.
As the old saying goes, it’s a marathon and not a sprint.