Well that was, ah, an interesting opening quarter.
Commentators and fans were left stunned on Friday night after Sydney and St Kilda played out an error-riddled first term that had AFL historians reaching for the record books.
Despite both teams having 13 inside 50s each, St Kilda led Sydney 1.1 (7) to 0.0 (0) at quarter-time as they struggled for fluency with ball in-hand.
Watch every match of every round of the 2023 Toyota AFL Premiership Season LIVE on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Outside of 2020 – which has the shortened quarters during the Covid era – it was the lowest combined quarter-time score since 1999.
More remarkably, it was Sydney’s lowest quarter-time score in a match against St Kilda since Round 7, 1903. It was also the Swans’ first scoreless opening quarter since Round 21, 1997.
“There is no amount of polishing that can salvage this first quarter,” Fox Footy’s Jason Dunstall said.
“I don’t know if it’s the slippery conditions causing this. Is it the big occasion and players aren’t handling it? It’s just error after error after error.
“The one good thing is we’re going to reset and start all again when the second quarter comes out. There’s only one goal the difference, so no damage has been done at this stage. But it’s just been a horror watch. They just keep kicking it to each other and making mistakes.”
Dunstall pointed to a passage of play from the first quarter that summed up both teams’ struggles.
Swans stat Chad Warner marked inside 50, but his kick just sailed over the top of teammate Sam Wicks. But St Kilda’s Ryan Byrnes immediately turned the ball over by foot to Swan Ryan Clarke, who marked at half-forward – and then had his kick smothered by Dan Butler.
The ball spilt free to St Kilda’s Jimmy Webster, but his handball was intercepted outside 50 by Swan James Rowbottom, who found teammate Will Hayward by hand. But Hayward’s centring kick was a shank, putting it down the throat of Saints full-back Dougal Howard just outside the defensive goalsquare.
“I think both coaches would’ve just got their troops together and said: ‘Hey, let’s keep our heads, think about what we’re doing with the footy and hit our targets,’” Dunstall said.
The AFL world at quarter-time were left perplexed by the start to Thursday night’s match.
“This has been like a boxing match … except both boxers are punch drunk,” Swans legend Jude Bolton told Channel 7.
“They’ve just been really poor with the ball in hand. We know how defensively-minded the game has been, but there just needs to be a bit of calmness with ball in-hand to execute and a bit of extra run and overlap. It’s just been a kick-mark style of game.”