The footy is back but there is still not a winner after the Collingwood Magpies and Richmond Tigers played out a nailbiting 5.6 (36) to 5.6 (36) draw, the first between the clubs since 1917 and the second in the history of the rivalry.
Just six behinds were scored in the final quarter as the game wound up being the lowest scoring match since 1999.
But there was plenty to talk about as the players took a knee for the Black Lives Matter movement before a ball was kicked with the Magpies and Tigers playing out a tight battle in front of little more than cardboard cutouts and the media.
‘TOO SHORT’: NEW RULE PANNED
The AFL’s return after just short of three months had a bizarre feeling with the usually packed MCG was eerily empty and quiet.
But the players could also have been put off by the shorter quarters with Collingwood midfielder Taylor Adams telling Geelong’s K Rock football “The game was too short” after the match.
The rule was in place for the one round prior to the league’s hiatus with plenty of discussion around the rule.
Some believed the rule would be around for longer than just the 2020 season while others have disliked the rule from the get-go.
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury was quick to apologise for the return of the game delivering an anticlimactic finish.
“I feel sorry for everyone at home who’s waited three and a half months and they get a draw first up,” he told Channel 7.
“No doubt there’d be a few broken TVs. It is just great to be back, to walk away with a draw is frustrating but we’ll take two points and move on to next week.”
AFL CEO Gillon McLaughlin has already said the 16-minute quarters aren’t here to stay but it is necessary if the competition needs to compress the schedule later in the year with multiple games in a week.
Fans were not happy with the short quarters and were already calling for a change.
Former Australian cricket coach Darren Lehmann was also not a fan, calling it “poor” and for the AFL to “change it back”.
Even Channel 7 commentator Brian Taylor took aim at the divisive change.
“I don’t like the shortened quarters Bruce, but I know it’s a temporary measure for this year,” he said. “I think the AFL have already come out and said it won’t happen next year. But we’ve got to get through this year and adjust the game to make it fit.”
‘SERIOUSLY’: HIGGINS’ INCREDIBLE COMEBACK
There are few stories out there like Richmond Tigers 21-year-old Jack Higgins, who returned to top flight footy for the first time in a year after going through two brain surgeries last year.
There were fears that Higgins may never fully recover after a brain bleed and previously undiagnosed blood vessel weakness were identified and he went under the knife.
But back in senior footy, Higgins even kicked a goal, albeit in controversial circumstances.
With the ball called a mark by the review system, despite appearances to the contrary with the goal umpire calling it a behind, fans blew up over the decision.
“You can clearly see the ball was marked before the line,” the score review official said.
Few else agreed although many seemed to give Higgins the benefit of the doubt as he went back and slotted the goal.
Post-game, Higgins told Triple M Footy that he wasn’t sure about the mark.
“As they say in cricket, you always got to go with the batsman,” he said. “I couldn’t see cause it was right in the light of the thing, and yeah I couldn’t see it, so we’ll claim it.”
With a goal, a behind, 12 disposals and eight marks, it was a great return to the AFL for Higgins.
FAKE CROWD GETS MIXED REVIEWS
The AFL’s return was always going to be a little bit weird with no fans in the stands but the use of fake crowd noise has been very mixed for the return of the game.
The NRL, which is now in its third week back, used the crowd noise for its broadcast and it was fairly well received.
Even AFL CEO Gillon McLaughlan was a fan.
“I thought the canned crowd noise was good, I thought it was a positive,” he told 3AW late last month.
“Broadcasters I know are looking at lots of different things, they’re certainly looking at that. I was interested to have a look at that, I thought it added to the atmosphere of the game.”
But with the fake crowd noise in full voice, AFL fans weren’t quite as positive about the addition.
While it wasn’t the biggest hit, the AFL won’t have to wait too long to get at least some fans through the turnstiles, with the South Australian government announcing 2240 fans can go to Saturday night’s Showdown at Adelaide Oval between the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide.
While Victoria still seems a long way away from returning crowds, it appears a positive move for the league and sports fans everywhere.