AFL fans
know you can’t read too much into early season results. Last year
Carlton won the pre-season Cup, leading to hope among fans and
speculation among pundits that 2005 might not be as bleak as many
expected. It was, and leading into 2006, it’s fair to say expectations
are anything but inflated.

The Blues are heavy favourites for
this year’s wooden spoon. But last night, someone forgot to tell the
players that, with Carlton beating finals contenders Melbourne by 21
points. Following the win, the Carlton faithful may dare to imagine
that 2006 will be filled with a few more wins or at least honourable
losses, rather than another series of embarrassing capitulations.

Hawthorn
fans know how it feels. Finishing third bottom last year, two ahead of
wooden-spooners Carlton, the supporters, players, coaches and
ex-Premiers now on staff are not so much aiming for the flag – though a
top eight finish would be welcome – as signs the club is headed back
towards success, or at least competitiveness. Like their Carlton
counterparts, they won’t know if that hope is in vain until a few more
games have been played.

If Carlton and Hawthorn can take some
hope from round one, so can Victorian football. Of the five interstate
clubs playing over the weekend, only one prevailed – West Coast over St
Kilda. Given that the last five premierships have been won by
non-Victorian clubs, and the last two Grand Finals have been contested
by two interstate clubs, it’s no secret that the interstaters have been
the benchmark. But with Geelong annihilating Brisbane, Essendon beating
the Swans, and the Kangaroos (who always start the season well)
comfortably accounting for Port Adelaide, it’s a promising start for
the Victorian clubs.

But again, don’t imagine teams like the
Swans are going to let one loss dictate the tone of their season, and
Adelaide, runners up in the pre-season cup and the hot tip for the flag
this year, could well make a statement against Collingwood tonight.
There may even be a few Victorian based supporters hoping they do
exactly that.

Peter Fray

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