Five things we learnt from NAB 1

Finals aspirants will hit the ground running

It might still be the cricket season but North Melbourne and Richmond proved that not all have football teams are weighed down by preseason rust. Majak Daw’s don’t-argue and galloping goal, Jack Riewoldt’s slick no-look handball to Shane Edwards in heavy traffic and even old man Boomer Harvey’s never-fading wheels showed that both finals-aspiring teams are ready to burst from the blocks come round one.

League’s future in good hands

One of the highlights of the preseason competition is the opportunity it provides clubs to showcase the future headline acts. Gold Coast’s Jaegar O’Meara, Richmond’s Nick Vlastuin, Melbourne’s trio of Jack Viney, Jesse Hogan and Jimmy Toumpas, and the Giants’ rich flock of juniors, all stood out this weekend, showing the future of the AFL has plenty of toughness and class.

Melbourne might not be able to hit the side of a barn at the moment but they sure look to have hit the right draft picks this time – finally! Predictions at this time of year are always fraught with danger but Jack Viney looks a good early shout for the 2013 Rising Star Award. His almost reckless pursuit for the ball at just 18 years of age suggests he will be the face of the Melbourne footy club in years to come.

Goal kicking blunders still hurt

A footballer’s summer consists of running, weights and learning structures, but how about goal-kicking practice? Football fans now seem resigned to the bleak realization that goal kicking will never be what it used to, but over the weekend kicking for goal was simply atrocious. Collectively, teams converted 43.3% of shots at goal. In a season where up to 13 teams have genuine finals aspirations, accurate and opportunistic goal kicking might just be the difference between a team sneaking into the eight and missing by a whiff.

Never refuse to reuse

Recycling in the AFL often used to be unfairly linked to short-sighted top-up jobs like Michael Voss’ Lions and Danny Frawley’s Tigers but it seems this negative connotation is no longer the case. Sydney won last year’s premiership with a string of important recycled players and now other clubs are following suit.

Former Demon Brent Moloney impressed at Metricon Stadium, adding some grunt to an impressive looking Brisbane midfield. Another former Demon Ricky Petterd also looks refreshed in a new environment, playing across halfback for the Tigers. Add other recycled contributors over the weekend like Giant Stephen Gilham, Hawk Brian Lake and Melbourne’s quartet of Chris Dawes, Shannon Byrnes, Cam Pederson and David Rodan, this pre-season so far has highlighted the changing landscape in player recruiting.

Wait, What?

We open the weekend’s Herald Sun to notice that on one page miniature cricket figurines have replaced standard moment-capturing photography to depict the enthralling Australia and India test match in Chennai. On another page it reads Hawthorn lost back-to-back games to Gold Coast and Brisbane! Oh and a bloke with the last name of Wanganeen was in Hawthorn’s “best players”. Are we living in some strange alternate universe? Hopefully the month of March brings us back to footy as we know it and perhaps even with a few genuine professional photographs to capture the drama.

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