Seeing a return to a nine-match round for the first time in over a month, the early weekend contested included Brisbane, Adelaide and Collingwood blowouts along with a draw between a highly inaccurate Sydney and Geelong in Sydney under Friday night lights.
There were exciting contests across the breadth of the weekend, culminating in heartbreak for the luckless Eagles.
In the opener the Lions were never really troubled by Richmond, winning 20.14 (134) to 7.11 (53) becoming king of the judge by 71 points at the Gabba.
Joe Daniher kicked five goals and was among 10 goal kickers for the hosts, while Hugh McCluggage, Lachie Neale and Connor McKenna led the charge for the Lions.
Better Tigers included Noah Balta, and Nick Vlastuin, unsurprisingly playing in defence.
In an amazing finish with less than a minute remaining, Isaac Heeney kicked a point to level the scores, helping Sydney share the points with Geelong at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The inaccurate Swans outfit will lament their missed opportunities. Luke Parker, Errol Gulden and Braeden Campbell, who kicked two of their six goals, along with Nick Blakey in defence, were their better contributors.
Gryan Miers – with 26 disposals and six inside 50s in his 264th career game on Friday night, Zach Tuohy, equalled Melbourne great Jim Stynes’s AFL/VFL games record for an Irish player, and athletic ruckman Mark Blicavs were the Cats’ best.
On the back of a career best five-goal haul from Indigenous superstar Izak Rankine, the Crows gained valuable percentage with a 66-point shellacking of the cellar-dwelling Kangaroos.
Adelaide kicked 21.12 (138) to 11.6 (72) in a one-sided affair after half time, with captain Jordan Dawson, Ben Keays, defender Mitchell Hinge and ruckman Riley O’Brien all dominant.
Wearing their 2023 Indigenous jumper, North Melbourne’s best was rookie Harry Sheezel, three-goal forward Nic Larkey and Aboriginal talent from Tasmania, Tarryn Thomas.
After the Fremantle Dockers grabbed the lead seven minutes into the final quarter at Marvel Stadium, the Dogs lifted to kick the next five goals to win 16.6 (102) to 11.7 (73).
Tom Liberatore and skipper Marcus Bontempelli led the way around the contest, along with Adam Treloar, while former number one draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was a target in attack with four goals.
Michael ‘Son Son’ Walters and Jye Amiss (from five kicks) finished with four goals each for the vanquished.
Liam Henry (33) and Caleb Serong (38) had a massive 71 disposals between them while big defender Brennan Cox finished with 31 possessions and 13 marks for Fremantle.
Collingwood confirmed its status as premiership favourite with an emphatic 13-goal demolition of the Gold Coast Suns.
The half time score showed the Magpies had kicked 11.6 (72) while conceding only 1.4 (10).
Jamie Elliott slotted through five majors, while Nick Daicos, running defender John Noble, Isaac Quaynor and captain Darcy Moore all had a telling influence in the big win.
Noah Anderson, Charlie Ballard and Matt Rowell were gallant for the well beaten Suns
In wet conditions from outside the 50 metre arc, after a tremendous game of see-sawing football, Dan Houston after the final siren lived every school boy’s dream, kicking the match winner to give Port Adelaide a 12th consecutive and continue its history streak.
The Power won 11.12 (78) to Essendon’s 10.14 (74) by four points, after being nine points down at lemons, and also had to grab back the lead twice in the final stanza.
Houston was outstanding with 32 touches, seven marks and four clearances to go with that match-winning goal.
Zak Butters, Conner Rozee with his three goals, Kane Farrell, and defender Dylan Williams, were also keys as well for the black, white and teal.
Port did lose key big man Scott Lycett (knee) replaced by debutant Dante Visentini minutes before the game.
For the luckless Bombers Darcy Parish was their best, followed by Jye Caldwell, Jordan Ridley, skipper Zach Merrett and ruck Andrew Phillips.
In the first game on Sunday the Blues finally found an avenue to goal, blowing Hawthorn off the park in the first half and then cruising to a 17.10 (112) to 7.10 (52), 10-goal win in front of 65,337 people.
Captain Jason Cripps returned to 2022 Brownlow Medal form while Adam Cerra, Jacob Weitering, Blake Acres and Harry McKay all stood up.
South Australian Will Day, whose grandfather Robert played in the 1971 premiership, was the Hawks’ best, followed by Josh Ward, James Worpel and Fergus Greene.
In a shock result at Traeger Park in Alice Springs, the GWS Giants snatched a two-point win over an inaccurate Melbourne, kicking 7.5 (57) to 5.15 (45).
Josh Kelly kicked a monster winning goal that further creates a log jam in the middle of the premiership table. He, along with Stephen Coniglio, Tom Green and skipper Toby Greene led the way for the Giants.
In what could prove to be a costly loss by the Dees, Jack Viney, recruit Lachie Hunter, Christian Petracca and key defender Stephen May were their better performers.
West Coast played with real spirit in the final game of the weekend, testing St Kilda but fell just eight points short in an absolute thriller at Optus Oval in the west. Four goals up at half time, the Eagles finally went down 12.5 (77) to 12.13 (85).
Leading the way for the hosts were Luke Shuey, Tom Barrass and a 35-year-old Shannon Hurn, while Liam Duggan, and Dom Sheed were also noteworthy.
Better Saints, who were lucky to win, included bigman Rowan Marshall who has 26 disposals and 34 hit outs, Brad Crouch, young Mitch Owens with four goals, and Jack Sinclair.