x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Collingwood open AFL season with a bang, St Kilda with a whimper

Last year's grand finalists make contrasting starts to a new season in the Australian Football League.

MELBOURNE // Last year's grand finalists St Kilda and Collingwood have made sharply contrasting starts to a new season in the Australian Football League (AFL).

St Kilda conceded a goal 19 seconds from full time to lose by a point to Geelong in a low-scoring match on Friday while champions Collingwood opened their new campaign with a 75-point win over Port Adelaide.

Carlton, Adelaide, Fremantle and Essendon were also winners in a first-round which saw no seismic shifts in last year's standings but underlined the continuing strength of the 2010 semi-finalists.

Collingwood were emphatic winners but Ben Johnson, the veteran midfielder, acknowledged the huge challenge ahead of them as they attempt to become back-to-back premiers.

"We want to win another premiership. After the feeling we got last year, there's nothing better and we won't accept anything less," Johnson said.

"It's not hard at all to maintain. As I get older I'm enjoying my footy more, and all you want is success."

Collingwood started strongly yesterday, opening a 58 point lead, then letting it slip to 16 points before reasserting their dominance.

St Kilda had the upper hand for almost three quarters of their match against Geelong before letting slip and losing to a goal by the substitute Darren Milburn.

A turnover in midfield led to a long ball deep into the Geelong attacking 50 and Cam Mooney flipped the ball to Milburn who clinched a 6.12 (48) to 6.11 (47) win.

"I thought we were OK in the first two and a half quarters," Chris Scott, the Geelong coach, said.

"The Saints force you to play a certain way and that's a credit to them. We didn't expect anything different.

"We've got some things to work on but I'm just so impressed with the work ethic and the commitment of the boys because everyone was out on their feet towards the end."

Ross Lyon, the St Kilda coach, said his team battled well throughout the match.

"I was really proud of our effort. It was going to be interesting to see our attitude to playing real football again, and I thought it was first class, to be honest. I don't think anyone could question our endeavours and our hardness and our pressure."

Carlton had to fight back from a 20-point deficit at three-quarter time to beat Richmond 14.20 (104) to Richmond 13.6 (84), Jack Riewoldt kicked six goals for Richmond but the Blues fought back with the help of Marc Murphy who had 19 possessions.

Fremantle beat Brisbane 13.16 (94) to 14.8 (92), Essendon beat the Western Bulldogs 16.17 (113) to 8.10 (58) and Melbourne drew with Sydney 11.18 (84) to 11.18 (84).