AFL returns this week with Opening Round, after the completion of the Community Series preseason matches.

Only eight teams return for Opening Round, which sees Sydney face Melbourne, Brisbane host Carlton, Gold Coast verse Richmond, and GWS take on the reigning premier, Collingwood.

Before that though, a number of locals had their final preseason hit-outs at the weekend before the 2024 season officially gets underway.


GWS v Gold Coast

THE local trio on the Gold Coast were all in action for their final preseason test before Opening Round, up against GWS at Manuka Oval.

After taking Brisbane Lions all the way over six periods the week before, who knew what to expect from the Suns this time around.

But a lightning-looking Giants outfit were just as competitive, and look to make a real impact on the ladder in 2024, after reaching a Preliminary Final last year.

After only sitting two goals down against the Giants after the first term, GWS kept the Suns goalless in the second to run out to a 42-point lead.

The Giants continued on their route, going up by more than eight goals by three quarter time, before the Suns showed some fight to bring the margin down to 44 by fulltime.

Moe’s Bailey Humphrey impressed, playing more midfield minutes and presenting himself as an inside bull. He racked up 14 disposals and kicked a booming goal in the third quarter.

Threading the needle: Moe’s Bailey Humphrey, sporting some new ink, looked comfortable racking up more midfield minutes. Photograph: AFL Photos

Moe’s Sam Flanders was only able to collect 16 disposals, far from his best, despite playing less minutes in the midfield as Gold Coast experimented.

Morwell’s Ben Ainsworth was very quiet, picking up just four disposals throughout the match, finding himself on both ends of the ground, rather than his usual spot on the half forward flank.

Gold Coast are one of eight sides to play on opening round next week, with the Suns hosting Richmond at Heritage Bank Stadium on Saturday (March 9) afternoon.

The match has fallen perfectly as far as storylines go, with three-time Richmond premiership coach Damien Hardwick coaching against his old side in his first game as coach of Gold Coast.


St Kilda v North Melbourne

TWO locals faced off when St Kilda met North Melbourne at RSEA Park on Sunday afternoon.

Both forwards, Traralgon’s Tim Membrey took to the field against Foster and North Melbourne’s Zane Duursma, who was donning the blue and white for the first time.

The Saints held control for most of the game, kicking away to a lead of over five goals by halftime, but the second half was a different game.

North Melbourne kicked five goals to nothing in the third term, dragging St Kilda’s lead back down to three points.

The Roos took the lead early in the final term, before a Membrey major put the Saints back in front, starting their run of goals which led them to victory.

St Kilda got home in the end by 19 points, but by no means was it convincing. The win resembled their 2023 season: started well, lost the plot, got there in the end.

Membrey had nine disposals, took five marks and kicked two majors.

In his first outing as a Roo, Duursma had 14 disposals, took six marks, and kicked two straight goals, one each to start the first and second quarter.


Missing Out

NEITHER of the Jiath brothers played at the weekend, both missing out for separate reasons from the outside looking in.

While there were no reports of an injury to Morwell’s Tew Jiath, it is suspected that he just hasn’t quite made Collingwood’s best 23.

Despite a confident start in the previous week against North Melbourne, it appears he will need some more time.

Meanwhile, Morwell’s Changkuoth will still be sidelined for quite some time, with the half back expected to miss at least the opening couple of the months of the season due to a hamstring.