Round 2 AFL Preview
St Kilda v Richmond, MCG
If last year is anything to go by, Richmond should lose this fixture. Last year the Tigers managed to beat the two eventual grand finalists but lost to Gold Coast and drew with Port Adelaide. Last week, they almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, conceding the last five goals of the match and were only spared when Chris Yarran missed two chances to poach the match.
Don’t get me wrong, Richmond is a great team to watch, one of my favourites actually, highly entertaining, but a roller-coaster-ride for their supporters. You just don’t know what you’re going to get.
Why St Kilda is hosting Richmond at the MCG makes no sense to me. But anyway, Richmond deserves favouritism here. But they only just won and St Kilda only just lost last week.
But on the basis that Richmond win matches they should lose and lose matches they should win, I’m tipping St Kilda.
Last year, also on a Friday night, these two teams played one of the matches of the home and away season in Round 10 in the intimate cauldron of Etihad where 34 goals were scored. Richmond won by eight points but it’s their only victory over St Kilda in their last 15 clashes.
The Saints get four big inclusions this week: Leigh Montagna, Adam Schneider, Sean Dempster and Sam Fisher.
Tip: St Kilda
Sydney v Gold Coast, SCG
Sydney have been rusty so far having started their preseason a month or so later than most others. If they are to have some complacent performances, it might as well be in the first two rounds against GWS and GC.
Gold Coast comes off a highly impressive win last week, led by a masterful performance by the imperious Gary Ablett.
In their first home game of the year, the Swans will get to unfurl their 2012 Premiership flag.
Sydney won 7 of 9 games at the SCG last year. Their only losses were by 7 and 5 points to Hawthorn and Adelaide, who finished 1 and 2 on the end-of-season ladder.
I’m comfortable choosing Sydney here, but I’m most curious about the margin. It will tell us a lot.
Western Bulldogs v Fremantle, Etihad Stadium
This is a big day for the Doggies, a real opportunity. They provided the surprise of Round 1 when they easily accounted for Brisbane. But Fremantle will provide a better yardstick to assess just where the Western Bulldogs are at.
The Bulldogs have won 7 of the last 9 meetings and Fremantle hasn’t beaten the Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium since 2004.
The Bulldogs will be confident and are unchanged but captain Matthew Boyd is still absent for at least another week. Hayden Ballantyne is out suspended for Freo and his ingenuity will be missed.
Tip: Western Bulldogs
Brisbane v Adelaide, Gabba
I’m really keen to watch this match because I’m really confused where both teams are at.
Brisbane was super impressive in preseason with wins over Collingwood and Carlton but fell down to earth losing to the Western Bulldogs last week by 68. Talk about bursting the bubble!
Adelaide, who finished 2nd on the ladder last year and only just missed out on the Grand Final, had a fortnight to reflect on their season-opening loss to Essendon.
It’s great to see Matthew Leuenberger back from injury after playing only the first three rounds last season.
Ballarat boy Brad Crouch will make his debut for Adelaide. He’s been earmarked as a future star and has drawn comparisons to Patrick Dangerfield.
Port Adelaide v GWS, AAMI Stadium
As meaningless as the ladder is after Round 1, Port Adelaide proudly sit at the top after the biggest margin of all the Round 1 winners. It’s really hard to make too many assumptions after that match. Most teams start off inspired under a new coach, which is supposed to reinvigorate a team. Plus it was just over Melbourne, so nothing special.
In fact Port Adelaide has a really easy draw to start their season – GWS, GC and Melbourne in 3 of their first 4 Rounds.
On Saturday night, they will honour John McCarthy and, as a mark of respect, they have decided to retire his jumper number 35 for 2013. Look out for the moving tribute video from the Port Adelaide players.
Oliver Wines was especially prominent in his debut game for the Power with the youngster earning a NAB rising star nomination.
GWS are not without a chance, especially if Phil Davis can restrict Jay Schulz like he did last year.
Tip: Port Adelaide
Essendon v Melbourne, MCG
In one of many oddities sport throws at us, Melbourne has beaten Essendon the last three times. They’ve started quite big underdogs in all three of those encounters.
Last year’s meeting was in Round 10 when Essendon were hot (they were 8-1 with their only loss by 1 point to Collingwood on ANZAC Day) and so they were considered massive favourites yet lost to the lowly Dees by 6 points in a low-scoring scrap.
Melbourne will be keen to make amends for a very disappointing 79-point loss last week. Sometimes it’s a result like that which inspires a team to bounce back the next week. Melbourne doesn’t need to win this match but they do need to win respect back from the football community after an insipid performance last week.
Jack Viney was a shining light last week. There have been plenty of great debut performances over the time but I can’t remember one where such natural leadership was displayed.
Geelong v North Melbourne, Etihad Stadium
They’ve left the best till last because all of Sunday’s fixtures are mouth-watering.
North announced themselves when they beat Geelong in this fixture last year in R3 in a high-scoring shoot-out. At the time, it was considered quite an upset. It will still be an upset if it happens again, but not as unexpected.
Veterans Joel Corey and James Kelly return to strengthen the Cats’ midfield.
I like North Melbourne, especially at Etihad where they went 10-3 there last year. But then again, Geelong have a good record there too, having won 9 of their last 11.
Bothers Chris and Brad Scott will coach each other again. Honours are even 1-1 in their two encounters so far.
Collingwood v Carlton, MCG
This is the most anticipated match of the round as the most storied and historic rivalry in the AFL enters another chapter. The premise this time is built around the narrative of Mick Malthouse coaching against his former club and successor Nathan Buckley. No love lost there. But at least Malthouse’s relationship with Buckley is not as sour as it is with Eddie McGuire.
As much hatred as these two teams have for each other, there is a good cause. They’ll be playing for the 21st annual Peter Mac Cup, designed to promote awareness and funds for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Carlton won both of their meetings last year by 60 and 23 points. That probably tells us form can be thrown out the window when these great rivals clash.
Scott Pendulbury plays his 150th match and Heath Shaw makes his return after being a late withdrawal last week. But the Pies are still missing Dale Thomas, Luke Ball and Alan Didak.
Shaun Hampson and Eddie Betts are out to injury, so I’m concerned where Carlton’s goals are going to come from.
West Coast v Hawthorn, Subiaco
What a treat to close out Round 2. With all due respect to the hyped Coll v Carl match, WC v Haw is my match of the round, as I tipped these two to be this year’s grand finalists in my preseason forecast.
West Coast doesn’t lose at Subiaco too often. They’ve won 23 of their last 27 – their only four losses were to Sydney and Fremantle, twice each.
West Coast still has a few players injured and will resist the temptation of rushing Daniel Kerr back from knee surgery, instead choosing to ease him back via the WAFL.
Hawthorn has a 6-day turnaround from an absorbing loss to Geelong. Cyril Rioli needs to spend more time in mid-field to get into the game more because he is an x-factor but isn’t getting enough of the ball.
Most people are tipping West Coast here but not me, I’m going on a limb. But Franklin will have to kick straight!