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What we learned in Round 1: Footy can be a cruel, cruel game

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ACL injuries continue to be 'devastating' to AFLW (2:02)

The ESPN Footy Podcast's Anna Harrington breaks down three of the league's biggest stars suffering life-altering ACL injuries. (2:02)

There's always a lot of anticipation leading into Round 1: recruits have switched sides, the latest draftees are entering the arena, new coaches' impressions are yet to be seen (and judged) and all the preseason effort is to be unfurled.

Plus, fans have waited a long time to yell "C'mon umpire!" at the ground/screen (a proven fun activity). And the conclusion of the opening round gave us plenty to talk about.

Notably, the ladder seems more unpredictable than beforehand; Brisbane, the reigning premiers, have landed at the bottom after the Crows exacted revenge in the Grand Final rematch, while the flag favourites, Melbourne, had a convincing win over the Western Bulldogs and earned a top four spot - a position most would think they won't surrender.

A sharpshooting Richmond racked up the third largest percentage of the round (behind Adelaide and Fremantle) against St Kilda, while Geelong and Gold Coast are hanging out around the middle of the leaderboard after gallant showings.

Of course, nothing can be certain after Round 1, but the matches do give somewhat of an indication of what's to come this season.

So, with all that transpired, here are some of the biggest lessons we learned from around the grounds in and after Round 1.

Footy can be a cruel game

If there was a catchcry of the round, it'd be this: footy can be such a cruel game. The footy gods seemed to have forsaken the knees of some stars as the weekend saw a string of injuries that tugged at the collective hearts of fans and left sombre overtones to the round's end.

First, Bulldogs star Izzy Huntington went down to the ground clutching her knee in the clash against Melbourne and, as a player whose previously torn her ACL in both knees, gave a look of knowing devastation. Fans reacted with heartbreak and the feeling of concern was palpable from the stands.

The following day, Brisbane's ever-reliable Kate Lutkins also went down with an innocuous knee injury in the Grand Final rematch against Adelaide and Collingwood co-captain and 2021 best and fairest winner Bri Davey did the same, being helped off Ikon Park in tears in the dying stages of the rivalry match against the Blues. If this wasn't enough, preceding the knees, GWS star and new recruit Chloe Dalton was left looking shattered when a shoulder injury ruled her out of the game against the Suns, a game she was proving crucial in.

These injuries have caused a social media uproar, with many fans calling for answers into the duty of care being taken for the players, particularly as they are part-time athletes with other jobs outside of the summer sport.

Frankston is a fine place for footy

You'd be forgiven for thinking there wouldn't be much of a crowd at Frankston's Skybus Stadium for the season opener between St Kilda and Richmond. Not because it wasn't due to be an exciting match or that city-dwellers had to travel to Melbourne's bayside region for it, but rather earlier that day, the suburb was experiencing flash flooding and COVID cases were spiking.

But even as the first siren sounded, there was a line waiting to get in and crowds bustling for a spot on the boundary. Fans flocked to the stadium with eagerness and anticipation.

You could hear the sentiments of "how good is footy in Frankston?" and "Geez, the stadium looks alright, doesn't it" from the boundary, demonstrating that expanding the rotation of stadiums in which games are played isn't a terrible idea.

Frankston Oval proved itself to be a more than suitable ground to host the fanfare of the first game of the season and made a pretty good case as to why more games should be played out of the city. Good food, good beer and a very noisy crowd that appeared to be happy to be there (perhaps Tigers fans more than Saints ones, though).

This season, there'll be no easy wins

Round 1 showed us there'll be no easy wins this season.

When North Melbourne met Geelong in the opening round last season, they thumped the Cats by 62 points. This time, however, the Roos walked away with a hard-fought eight-point win.

Geelong showcased relentless pressure that kept their opponents goalless in the second term and well into the third and boasted a competitive midfield that showed a lot of promise for the season to come.

Similarly, the Suns were considered an easy win last season (understandably, as the club didn't earn a single victory), yet came out in Round 1 with a more much competitive looking side. They were locked in an arm wrestle with GWS for most of the game, exhibiting some highly contested footy and persistent pressure, before succumbing to a 15-point loss.

One thing's for sure - you don't want to be even slightly off your game in 2022.

50m penalties can prove to be very costly

When new rules come in, it's always important that players be well across them.

This is especially so when infringing on them cost 50-metre penalties, which can cost games. After the round, this is something Carlton are acutely aware of as some lacking discipline saw them give away three separate 50-metre penalties, which all resulted in Collingwood goals.

That's far too heavy a price to pay in a league where scoring can still be scarce.

They Blues were their own worst enemy in the 6.8 to 3.7 defeat.

Oh yes, Georgie Prespakis really is that good

When Geelong took the field against North Melbourne, all eyes were on the extremely hyped No.2 draft pick, Georgie Prespakis. Ten of the competition's 14 skippers predicted the sister of Carlton's Maddy to win the Rising Star award - as did four out of six ESPN staff in our season's predictions.

It was clear the draftee on the block at the Cattery was going to be good but this round was a test of just how good. To which that answer was 'very'.

On debut at Arden Street, the prolific and often damaging midfielder racked up 20 disposals (12 contested) and six tackles, and led the Cats with seven clearances, five inside 50s and 402 metres gained - not bad for a first gamer! Notably, her long sleeves were also a hit.

Now, let's all take a breather, pray for the knees and rest up for Round 2.