AFL exports round one

By Alex Mitchell

Sixteen of the region's finest footballers took part in what will go down as one of the most bizarre AFL rounds of all-time last weekend.

With no crowds in attendance for the season-opening round — and now no games until June at the earliest — the players experienced the game firmly in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, but had to put that to one side and churn out some good football.

Collingwood duo Jamie Elliott (Euroa) and Steele Sidebottom (Tallygaroopna) were the first local products to taste victory for the season, part of their side's 52-point Friday night thumping of the Western Bulldogs.

Both played true to form; Sidebottom was his consistent self with 26 disposals, nine marks and four tackles, while Elliott impressed around the big sticks with 13 touches and 1.1.

For the Bulldogs, the game marked Kialla product Alex Keath's debut for his new club after an off-season switch from Adelaide, his tenure in Footscray beginning with 15 disposals and nine marks.

Deniliquin's Sam Lloyd was quiet for the Dogs.

Later in the round, Mooroopna's Jy Simpkin and Rochester's Shaun Atley were part of a great comeback win for North Melbourne against St Kilda.

Simpkin, in particular, continued to look the complete package with 23 disposals and a goal as the Roos flew back from 31 points down to beat the Saints by two points.

The reliable Atley had 15 disposals to keep things ticking along.

Benalla product Tom Rockliff was as busy as ever in his return to the AFL, racking up 26 touches as his Port Adelaide side smacked Gold Coast by 47 points away from home.

Katamatite's Tom Clurey held his defensive post down as usual with 12 touches and six marks, while Deniliquin's Todd Marshall was particularly impressive with two goals.

For the Suns, Shepparton's Will Brodie found the ball 14 times, while Kyabram's Nick Holman had eight touches.

Benalla's Harry Morrison was the other district lad who got to sing the team song, with 10 kicks in Hawthorn's triumph against Brisbane.

Finley's Tom Hawkins kicked 2.2 in Geelong's loss to Greater Western Sydney, with teammate Esava Ratugolea (Cobram) held to just six touches.

Mooroopna's Clayton Oliver had 20 disposals in Melbourne's loss to West Coast, while Moama's Lachie Schultz had just nine touches in Fremantle's narrow loss to Essendon.