Here’s one I’ve picked up:
Today’s introduction of the 23rd player for medical substitutions marks the first time since 1998, when the fourth interchange player was introduced, that the AFL have expanded the number of players in a match squad.
Richmond vs Carlton at the MCG, Thursday 7:25pm AEDT
The traditional rivals begin the season yet again, in what will be the first game at the MCG since Richmond played Melbourne on the 5th of July last season, and the first AFL game with a crowd in Melbourne (If you view the AFLW as a distinct competition) since the Tigers won the 2019 Grand Final, which was literally an entire Richmond premiership ago.
This is the 223rd meeting between the two rivals, with 2021 marking the 22nd time the Tigers and Blues have played each other in Round 1 (The Tigers are ahead 11-1-9), one of which was the ANZAC Day Monday of 1966, in which Richmond won by a goal in Tom Hafey’s first game as a head coach, and another was the rematch of the 1982 Grand Final at Princes Park in 1983, which the Blues won by 10 goals in a lopsided 2nd Half.
The only year since 2007 that Richmond and Carlton haven’t played each other in Round 1 was 2014, when they faced off in Round 2 due to the MCG hosting Victoria’s remaining Sheffield Shield fixtures.
With the MCG capped at 50,000 fans for the time being, outside of the behind closed doors game last season, the last time a Richmond-Carlton game had an attendance below 50,000 was Round 18 of 2012, the only time between 2011 and 2019 that the Tigers and Blues had an attendance below 50,000.
Eddie Betts is currently sitting on 199 games played for Carlton.
Collingwood vs Western Bulldogs at the MCG, Friday 7:50pm AEDT
The last time Collingwood traded a star player to the Western Bulldogs was Travis Cloke in 2016, and what do you know, they played in Round 1 in 2017.
We all know how that ended.
Melbourne vs Fremantle at the MCG, Saturday 1:45pm AEDT
Melbourne are one win away from reaching 1100 wins in the VFL/AFL – They would be the 7th club to reach the milestone, with Richmond the only team non-founding member of the VFL to reach it previously.
Assuming he plays, Clayton Oliver will bring up the 100 game milestone, having played every game for the Demons since Round 20 of 2016.
In another odd fact, IF the Demons win on Saturday, Oliver will have a perfectly balanced career record of 50 wins and 50 defeats.
And, with Fremantle’s tall stocks almost completely sidelined, ruckman Lloyd ‘Blessed Are The’ Meek will make his debut for the Dockers are 3 years on their list, which will allow me to use the gag from the Life Of Brian:
Blessed are the Meek.
Adelaide vs Geelong at the Adelaide Oval, Saturday 4:05pm ACDT
If you want a totally random fact – This is the first time in the AFL-era (1990-) that the previous season’s Wooden Spooner has played the previous season’s runner-up in Round 1.
The last time such a random match-up occurred was when Essendon played St Kilda in 1984 – Essendon won by 37 points at Moorabbin.
This is also the third consecutive year that Adelaide have opened the season in the Saturday Twilight timeslot at the Adelaide Oval… Not that it’s mattered so far, as they lost the previous games to Hawthorn and Sydney.
Essendon vs Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium, Saturday 7:25pm AEDT
Essendon are 1 win away from racking up 100 wins against their arch-rivals from the 1980s.
The Bombers lead the all-time head to head 99-65, with another odd fact being that Hawthorn are the only current Victorian club that the Bombers have never played in a draw against.
Randomly enough, the Hawks were unbeaten in 3 games in Melbourne in 2020, which goes to show how poorly they handled hub life, as they finished with a 5-12 record.
And finally, Shaun Burgoyne will become the 8th-oldest player in League history if he plays on Saturday:
Brisbane Lions vs Sydney Swans at the Gabba, Saturday 6:45pm AEST
This will be the first time Brisbane and Sydney have played in Round 1 since 2004 – On that occasion the Lions, in their first game since claiming the Threepeat, won by a mere 2 points at the Gabba, after Blake Caracella kicked a goal late in the final term, and Jason Ball in his 150th game sprayed a set shot from dead in front with barely a minute to go.
The Swans would go unbeaten in their next 9 games against the Lions (8 wins + a draw), who wouldn’t defeat the Red & Whites until 2009.
It’ll be another milestone for the Kennedy family, as Josh (259) and John Jnr (241 for Hawthorn) become the 8th Father/Son combination to play in 500 games:
The others being Ken & Dustin Fletcher, Gary Ablett Snr and Jnr, Michael and Shane Tuck, David & Travis Cloke, Sergio & Stephen Silvagni, John and Marc Murphy, and Tim & Jobe Watson.
Three of Sydney’s 2020 draftees – Logan McDonald (Who lived around the corner from me and I never knew it), Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden – will slot straight into the Swans team, the first time the Swans have debuted three first-year players in the same game since Round 1 of 1990, when Paul Kelly, Brad Tunbridge and Shane Fell debuted for the Swans against Carlton (Info from the Swans website).
Errol Gruden will also be the first Errol to play a game of league football since Errol Hutchesson, who played 127 games for Collingwood between 1958 and 1967.
North Melbourne vs Port Adelaide at Marvel Stadium, Sunday 1:10pm AEDT
I almost completely forgot David Noble was now the head coach of the Kangaroos after Rhyce Shaw resigned in November for personal reasons, but that’s North Melbourne for you – If they were a fart in the wind, you wouldn’t even smell them.
Usually known for his exploits as an assistant, especially spearheading Brisbane’s revival as their list manager from 2017-2020, the last time Noble held a head coaching position was with Glenelg in the SANFL in 2003-04…
Unfortunately, the Tigers finished last and second last in those two seasons, as they reached the midway point of their 33-season premiership drought.
GWS Giants vs St Kilda at GIANTS Stadium, Sunday 3:20pm AEDT
St Kilda haven’t won in Sydney since Round 1 of 2010, when they defeated the Swans at ANZ Stadium – Since then, they’ve lost once at ANZ Stadium, 5 in a row at the SCG, and on their only 2 visits to GIANTS Stadium in 2015 and 2018).
This isn’t the first time the Giants have played consecutive games against the same team, given they played St Kilda in Round 18 of last season, and got beaten up so thoroughly that Bruce McAvaney randomly gave an out of context middle finger going through the positives about the Saints.
Alas, the Giants played Melbourne in Round 23 of 2015, their final game of that season, then they met again in Round 1 of 2016 – The Demons would win both games, the 2016 edition by a mere 2 points.
West Coast Eagles vs Gold Coast at Optus Stadium, Sunday 3:20pm AWST (6:20 AEDT)
With the usual Round 1 home game rotation with Fremantle scrapped for this season, 2021 will mark the first time the Eagles have played consecutive Round 1 games in Perth since 2013-14, when they were the away team for a Western Derby in 2013, and they played the Bulldogs in 2014, which was Adam Simpson’s first game as head coach.
Although, if you go further back, the last time the Eagles played consecutive Round 1 games in Perth as the home team was 2002-03.