The first round is always pretty exciting for the fans and the players but the results usually are not a precursor to what might unfold for the remainder of the season. 23 rounds….it’s a long year with lots of games – 198 games by the way! Good luck in the tipping and let’s assume you all started with a 1 from 1 after last Saturday’s Swans win against the GWS. Anybody actually get that wrong?
Richmond V Carlton at the MCG Thursday Night
The Tigers have had a lot of trouble trying to beat Carlton over the past few seasons and Richmond fans are certainly looking for another opportunity this Thursday night to start the season with an upset win. People have been saying that Carlton will win the premiership, if not last year then this year, if not this year then….well you get the picture. The Blues still suffer from having an inexperienced back line and against the Tigers with Reiwoldt lurking it can be costly. Each time supporters expect this to be a close game we get a rout. 80,000 at the MCG should see a tighter game although NAB cup form has never been a true indicator as the Blues lost all their matches in that format while the Tigers accounted for Hawthorn and Geelong. Maybe an historic win will help Richmond have a better year.
Richmond by 11
Hawthorn V Collingwood at the MCG Friday night
This game is certainly the match of the round based on where the teams finished last season. Collingwood just beat the Hawks in the prelim last year to make the Grand Final. Early season-ending injury to Krakaoer for the Pies was not a good start to the season for them. It will be interesting to see how the Pies shape up with Buckley as the new coach. Collingwood have the players to stop Hawthorn feeding star player Buddy up forward and that might just be the difference in the end. The Pies need to make a statement early in the new season and Hawthorn must beat Collingwood if they think they can win the flag. Should be a great game.
Collingwood by 16
Melbourne V Brisbane at the MCG Saturday
The spirit of Jim Stynes will play an enormous emotional part in this game and hopefully the Melbourne players are not drained by the time the game gets under way on Saturday. The game should be a fairly close result with both teams looking to probably finish the season somewhere in the middle of the ladder. The Lions are still rebuilding since their halcyon days and the 3 premierships and the Demons continue to rebuild from 1964. Melbourne’s opportunity departed with the lack of success after some huge draft concessions and the creation of Gold Coast and GWS. The Lions and Demons will bother a few teams this year but their supporters will have September off again. It would be a nice start to the season for the new Melbourne coach if they could learn his game plan and win.
Melbourne by 27
Gold Coast V Adelaide at the Metricon Stadium Saturday
The crowing has already started across the border and Adelaide rumours are that they will make the finals and be as good as Geelong over the next 3 seasons? Without trying to extinguish too bright a flame it’s true that they won their way through to the NAB pre-season premiership in awesome style but that accomplishment can sometimes be the poisoned chalice. There is no underestimating the Crows who most experts picked to finish in the top 5 last season but injuries and the unfortunate demise of their long standing coach de-railed them a little. So maybe they will perform to higher expectations this year. On the other side of the ledger we have the almost new boys on the block Gold Coast hoping to make a bigger mark on the AFL scene than they did in their inaugural season albeit the final result wasn’t all that bad. Bluey McKenna has the job of gaining 6 wins this season or he gets the chop. A nice bit of goal setting by the Gold Coast board don’t you think? Some of the kids he has playing are still another season away from notching 50 games….but let’s sack the coach….again. With regard to the result in this game? Well it’s a brave punter who will put money on Gold Coast.
Adelaide by 88
North Melbourne V Essendon at Etihad Saturday night
Last season the Bombers started like proverbial F111’s and swept all before them winning games against everybody and anybody….and winning them well. Eventually the injuries and youth succumbed to normal AFL patterns and Essendon fell away to finish in the middle of the pack. Conversely North Melbourne started poorly but had a reasonable middle and end of season but they just didn’t have the cattle to match it with the big 4. It’s hard to believe that either of these teams will make the final 8 but they will challenge for it, suffer a few big beats and upset a few finalists in the process. Picking the winner in this opening game is really a toss of the coin and don’t expect a big margin.
Essendon by 15
Fremantle V Geelong at Patersons Stadium Saturday night
It is traditional for the premiers to be a little slower off the mark after a flag year and add to that the Cats have to pussyfoot it across the Nullabor to take on the newly coached Fremantle. The appointment of Lyons and the sacking of Harvey just adds to the hazy purple at Fremantle and of course it’s with great interest that we will see what game plan changes eventuate with the Dockers. Maybe they would have been better off nabbing Malthouse – at least he has coached premiership teams! Fremantle had the season from hell with regard to injuries last year so a relatively injury free season might see them back in the top 8 and with the Lyons factor who knows? Geelong, on the other hand, has nothing left to prove and is certainly going to be in the mix again this year. Whether that means a GF appearance or not will depend on the hunger of the players. But it would be nice to see the Dockers open their account at home to give their poor supporters a bit of heart. A Geelong loss in the opening game is neither here nor there.
Fremantle by 20
Western Bulldogs V West Coast Eagles at Etihad Stadium Sunday afternoon
Can’t seem to find a lot of recent news on this game. West Coast had a stellar season last year with a prelim final appearance which was totally unexpected. Their year started badly with the loss of LeCras and then Nicoski, both for the season. The Western Bulldogs promised a lot a couple of years ago but their opportunity may have gone for a while as well. The Rocket Eade implosion certainly didn’t help them. Can the Eagles maintain last year’s form? Can the Bulldog’s forget last year’s form? West Coast are not great lovers of this stadium so maybe the home ground advantage might be enough to see the Western Bulldogs sneak home. This is another game where there should not be a big margin.
Western Bulldogs by 15
Port Adelaide V St Kilda at AAMI Stadium Sunday afternoon
Scotty Waters has been asked to pick up the pieces at St Kilda as his first senior coaching post. Another graduate of the Malthouse school of coaching. Where to the Saints after a despairingly bad season last year? They still have the core of players but can St Kilda rebound after a dirty year? Port Adelaide continues to rebuild but even a home ground advantage might not be enough to win this game with players still lacking experience. Port also has been in the wars financially and as the second SA team they remain the poor relatives. But the AFL has enough money to continue to prop up all clubs and even create new ones so my advice to all AFL clubs is spend as they see fit, it will all be repaid in the end. Not sure how the Saints will go this season. A lot depends on the Watters style, how well Reiwoldt plays and the return of Lenny Hayes. The Saints still appear as a final 8 team considering the other teams so maybe a 5th or 6th would not surprise. Port Adelaide may improve a little and with Gold Coast and GWS at least they won’t finish 17th or 18th.
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