AFL coaches 2023: Clarkson, Kingsley, Scott and Lyon all record wins

The first round of the 2023 AFL season is in the books and there are a variety of surprising results achieved over the weekend.

Starting the year with a tie between Richmond and Carlton, there was much to love about the opening round, including the development of the new coaches.

Of the AFL clubs’ four new coaches, three returned for the second time – Alastair Clarkson, Brad Scott and Ross Lyon – while Adam Kingsley’s first game was a positive start.

North Melbourne held off a brave west coast side by five points on Saturday afternoon, while the Giants staged an exceptional comeback in hot conditions against Adelaide.

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Essendon dominated against their old rival Hawthorn, while St Kilda won the Ross Lyon Cup after crushing Fremantle to round off the weekend.

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Let’s take a look at how the other 14 managers started their current tenure:

AFL Coach 2023

Coach wins %
Matthew Nicks (Adelaide) – 2020 3/17 17.6
Chris Fagan (Brisbane) – 2017 22.5 22.7
Michael Voss (Carlton) – 2022 22.12 54.5
Craig McRae (Collingwood) – 2022 16/22 72.7
Justin Longmuir (Fremantle) – 2020 17.7 41.2
Chris Scott (Geelong) – 2011 19/22 86.4
Stuart Dew (Gold Coast) – 2018 22.4 18.2
Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn) – 2022 22.8 36.4
Simon Goodwin (Melbourne) – 2017 22.12 54.5
Ken Hinkley (Port Adelaide) – 2013 22.12 54.5
Damien Hardwick (Richmond) – 2010 22.06 27.3
John Longmire (Sydney) – 2011 22.12 54.5
Adam Simpson (West Coast) – 2014 22.11 50
Luke Beveridge (Western Bulldogs) – 2015 14/22 63.6

So what does the story say?

Statistics show that half of the current coaches had a successful first season (7/14) and of those seven, five reached the finals in their freshman year.

All four clubs (Kangaroos, GWS, Bombers and Saints) are not expected to push for September action or a flag in 2023 but will still remain a mystery for the remainder of the competition.

And as we know, like Collingwood and Craig McRae in 2022, the shock and awe factor can sometimes prove to be a winning card.

St Kilda’s surprise win over Fremantle, Premier League, on Sunday gives hope to his supporters and sheds some light on how Lyon will coach their club going forward.

Riddled with injuries to key players, Lyon’s coaching has been second to none, showing a few more arcs than rivals give the Saints credit for.

The former Saint and Dockers manager put together a brilliant defensive performance while creating enough scoring chances to seek victory despite not being picked by many.

The Giants’ win over the in-form Crows (based on last season) was also impressive, led by sole captain Toby Greene.

Star GWS players Tom Greene, Stephen Coniglio and Callan Ward joined Greene in leading the club back into the game to make Kingsley’s coaching career a flyer.

While Adelaide may not be viewed as a genuine contender, teams can only beat sides they face each week and the Giants still have plenty of players from their 2019 roster.

Again, like St Kilda, GWS remain a mystery in the competition, although no one sees them moving up from 16th place (six wins).

The Bombers also fit into this category, especially after their stunning win over Hawthorn and some of their 2022 results.

Scott’s influence was in full swing, putting together a high-pressure performance and dooming the young Hawks to specific areas of the ground.

The Bombers beat big finalists Sydney, Brisbane at the Gabba and crushed the Gold Coast Suns in the latter half of 2022.

Scott appears unknown to rivals and is more than capable of producing a successful season much like he did with the Kangaroos in 2010.

And finally North Melbourne, who won the last two wooden spoons but started 2023 well.

Kangaroo fans hoped Clarkson’s influence would cause players to crack, and they did.

North Melbourne’s rousing win over the Eagles, classified in the bottom four, showcased plenty of young talent, including third player of 2022 Harry Sheezel, who hit 34 touches on his debut.

Realizing it’s work in progress, Clarkson would want to see consistent improvement throughout the year and competitive performance every week.

When sportswriter Jonathon Horn questioned the AFL’s opening weekend, “Is it, as Malcolm Blight used to point out, the least important round of the season? Or is it an important launch pad?”

Yes, it’s only round one of 24 and there’s still a lot to play, but it would be foolish not to make too much of what we’ve seen.

Essendon and St Kilda showed what they can do while GWS still have remnants of their big finals squad.

And the joy of AFL fans at the Kangaroos’ seventh win since early 2021 is heart-warming.

Momentum can be so beautiful and with the way the four new coaches started 2023, anything is possible.

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