Brisbane V Carlton: Gabba Thursday 7.40pm
Last week, both sides answered their pre-season doubters with emphatic wins.
The Lions disposed of an emotionally-drained Melbourne to ensure its preseason form was more than false hope, while the Blues brushed aside a sloppy NAB Cup campaign to again record a Round 1 win against the Tigers.
Brisbane is a fit side and it shows.
The Lions addressed the absence of skipper Jonathan Brown (due back next week) with run and carry out of their back half and quick ball movement resulting in their first 100+ score at the MCG in five years.
Carlton proved last week that like all good sides, it has another next gear to turn on with the game on the line.
Young guns, Marc Murphy and Matthew Kreuzer are in sensational form and are looking likely to lead the Blues’ charge into the top-four.
Defenders Michael Jamison (back) and Nick Duigan (knee) will miss another week, after failing to board the plane north yesterday.
Where will it be won and lost?
Rising Stars V The A-graders:
The midfield battle will see the Blues’ established stars against the rising talent of Brisbane headed by ageless veteran Simon Black.
Redden, Rich and Rockliff are all stars in the making.
Carlton’s midfield, however, is among the best in the competition and should prove too strong in the clinches.
Prediction: Carlton has too many A-graders. Blues by 24 points.
Essendon V Port Adelaide: Etihad Stadium Saturday 1.45pm
You could not help but empathise with Port coach Matthew Primus after he showed raw emotion following his side’s nail biting 4-point win over St Kilda.
Port Adelaide took their first step towards redemption last week, but now the question of whether a consistent effort can be applied each week will be asked.
Port’s forward line is promising with John Butcher and Jay Schulz working well together, while Hamish Hartlett showed he could live up to expectations as long as he remains healthy.
Essendon escaped with a win last week though its injury curse showed it still lingers, with Heath Hocking (concussion) and Kyle Hardingham (shoulder) succumbing to injury in the first half.
The Bombers won the game at the stoppages last week and will surely leave the three-ruck combination off the whiteboard for at least another week. Paddy Ryder and David Hille showed promise both up forward and in the middle.
Won and lost?
Power forward line:
Both Schulz and Butcher will need to fire up to give the Power any chance.
Drew Petrie had the Bombers backline at sea for a half last week. If Port Adelaide can provide both their key men with quality delivery they will push the home side.
Essendon will need to again assert itself around the stoppages in order to limit the Power’s supply going forward.
If the Bombers can reduce Port Adelaide’s forward 50 entries they should have enough of an edge across the rest of the ground to come out on top.
Prediction: Limit Schulz and Butcher. Bombers by 30 pts.
Sydney V Fremantle: SCG Saturday 2.10pm
It is no doubt that Fremantle has the belief it belongs among the best sides in the competition.
The ‘expectation-meter’ rose among the purple haze after the Dockers’ triumph last week over reigning premiers Geelong.
It is scary the things Nathan Fyfe can do on an AFL ground in just his third year, and with Sandilands the two are set to propel the Dockers to top-four aspirants.
However, will the Dockers continue to be plagued by the travel bug they have failed to shake since time began?
Round 1 judgments eluded Sydney after their expected dismantling of GWS but this week will test the Swan’s finals credentials against a quality side.
Sam Reid starred against the Giants but with Swans relying on a sole avenue to goal it leaves them shaky against the better sides.
Won and lost?
Both sides have a midfield brigade waiting to step into the next level.
Led by Fyfe, the Dockers’ on-ballers are slowly returning to full fitness and passed arguably the biggest test in football last week, matching Geelong in the clearance count (39-38 Freo’s way).
Josh Kennedy has shown in round one that he has continued his rise into the top-grade on the back of a relentless attack on the football.
With a support cast of fellow ex-Hawk Ben McGlynn, Kieran Jack and Shane Mumford, the Swans have the nucleus of a strong midfield.
The battle in the centre of the ground will be one to watch, with nothing more exciting than young players going head-to-head.
Prediction: Is 2012 the year the Dockers shake the travel bug? Not too sure yet. Swans by 10pts.
West Coast V Melbourne: Pattersons Stadium Saturday 4.40pm
West Coast last week overran the Bulldogs with the ease of a top-four side.
Despite being underdone, the Eagles’ forward line was dominant, led by Josh Kennedy who kicked seven after breaking his foot just four weeks earlier.
Melbourne has endured deserved criticism for an insipid performance against Brisbane.
The heat is well and truly on its experienced cohort of Aaron Davey, Brad Green and Colin Sylvia after all three struggled to have any impact in last week’s 41-point loss.
Won and Lost?
Melbourne will need to weather the storm early at Pattersons.
Should West Coast burst out of the blocks, the crowd will be impossible to silence and with that will come the seeds of doubt in the Demons’ minds.
If Melbourne does not come to play from the first bounce this could be a white wash.
Prediction: West Coast to be undefeated at home all year. Eagles by 70 pts.
Adelaide V Western Bulldogs: AAMI Stadium Saturday 7.40pm
Adelaide was granted a free pass in round one with a routine win over Gold Coast.
In front of their home crowd this week and with expectations riding high after their NAB Cup triumph the Crows are expected to perform and perform well.
Kurt Tippett and Taylor Walker worked in tandem last week but as has often been the case in seasons past they must do so week in, week out if Adelaide are to play finals.
The Western Bulldogs succumbed to an Eagles side last week simply superior in every aspect of the contest.
The daunting concern for the Dogs is their forward line.
Jordan Roughead does not look ready to assume responsibility as the main focal point while Jarrad Grant has not yet developed into the player those at the Whitten oval had hoped.
Ayce Cordy may get an opportunity after an impressive four-goal haul in the VFL.
Won and Lost?
Bulldogs inside 50 targets:
The Bulldogs have the midfield grunt to be able to at least break even at the stoppages but this means little without a functioning forward line.
Roughead will need to step up as will Grant and Liam Jones.
Star debutant Clay Smith and Luke Dahlhaus will fight like pit-bulls to keep the ball inside 50, however, they cannot be expected to be the ‘kick-long’ option going forward.
Prediction: Adelaide has more avenues to goal. Crows by 28 points.
Collingwood V Richmond: MCG Saturday 7.40pm
Collingwood put on an impressive display in their first up loss to Hawthorn given its depleted back-line.
The Magpies look set to welcome back full-back Chris Tarrant and veteran Ben Johnson, while skipper Nick Maxwell is a chance to line up in the VFL alongside Alan Didak and Nathan Brown.
Collingwood seemed less content to hug the boundary line last week, appearing to adopt a more direct style of play under new coach Nathan Buckley.
Richmond again failed to live up to the preseason hype against the Blues and will again need to prove to the yellow-and-black army that all is not lost.
Tyrone Vickery managed just 3 disposals and 1 mark last week, a very poor return from a centre half forward against an undersized opponent.
He needs to lift significantly this week if the Tigers are to give a yelp.
Won and lost?
Travis Cloke and Chris Dawes are an imposing prospect for any backline in the competition.
This game is of David V Goliath proportions when you consider that Richmond captain Chris Newman is the only player in the Tigers’ back six to have played more than 50 games.
Should the Magpies midfield start to dominate and the inside 50 tally begin to rise, Cloke and Dawes will have too much size and strength for the young Tigers.
Prediction: Hard to see Collingwood opening the season with two straight losses. Pies by 40 pts.
North Melbourne V GWS: Blundstone Arena Sunday 1.10pm
Hardly a blockbuster this game, but there is still much to prove for these two sides.
Greater Western Sydney’s attack on the ball in the opening game against the Swans impressed many pundits, with its youngsters showing little stage fright.
The Giants will miss veteran James Macdonald (suspension) after the 35-year old made an impressive return to AFL ranks with 23 touches in round 1.
North Melbourne will be looking to bounce back after letting last week slip against the Bombers.
Speedster Daniel Wells starred for the Kangaroos off half-back, while Andrew Swallow continues to take his place among the best stoppage players in the competition.
North will be looking to impress the Hobart locals as the club looks to establish a future in the area beginning with two home games in 2012.
Won and Lost?
Hard to pinpoint a specific area that will decide the match given North should control most areas.
Drew Petrie may prove the difference on his own.
He controlled the game against Essendon before he was moved to centre-half forward.
Petrie could be set for a day out if North Melbourne can provide ample supply.
Prediction: Hopefully GWS keep the fight. Roos by 60 points.
St Kilda V Gold Coast: Etihad Stadium Sunday 4.40pm
A first round loss to last year’s basket case was not an ideal start to the season for the Saints.
This week they must prove to their members and the football public they have not lost their mojo completely.
Captain Nick Riewoldt looked out of sorts last week with questions likely to be asked for the remainder of his career, as the wear and tear of body-on-the-line football begins to show.
Gold Coast was again pushed aside too easily against the Crows last week and have seemed to carry over its poor NAB cup form into the home-and-away season.
Coach Guy McKenna appeared a man under pressure in the box last week, a contrast to the picture of calm we had become accustomed to last season.
One things for certain, the Suns are feeling the pressure and it is not just the players.
Won and lost?
Suns’ defensive pressure:
The criticism of Gold Coast since its inception has been its willingness to allow cheap goals to the opposition.
Again last week Adelaide were allowed to stroll inside 50 on numerous occasions, leaving McKenna to grasp for what little hair he had to pull out.
The Suns must learn to work as a defensive unit, such a key element to the modern game.
If not they risk another blow out.
Prediction: More mature, battle hardened bodies to prevail again. Saints by 67 points.
Geelong V Hawthorn: MCG Monday 3.10pm
Such a game filled with superstars, captivating recent history and an inherent bitter rivalry deserves to be the only show in town.
Every time these two sides meet the Grand Final of 2008 is recalled.
And since that day, Geelong has won the past seven encounters between these two sides, with five of them decided by 10 points or less.
Mouth-watering match ups appear in almost every position on the ground.
Harry Taylor will likely resume pleasantries with Lance Franklin, Sam Mitchell will lock horns with Jimmy Bartell in the middle, while James Podsiadly’s battle with Josh Gibson will prove a vital one.
Picture: Hawthorn livewire Cyril Rioli
Won and Lost?
Buddy and Cyril:
Has there been a more scintillating combination in the modern era than Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli?
Both are match winners in their own right and love the big stage, proving that yet again against the Magpies last week.
Geelong will be without six-time All-Australian full-back Matthew Scarlett (suspension) in what could prove a costly blow, given the ability of both sides to score at will.
Scarlett may now be regretting the ‘favour’ he did for his fellow AFL players.
Prediction: Hawthorn are flying- the drought will end at seven. Hawks by 15 points.
William Botoulas is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student and upstart’s football writer. You can follow him on Twitter @botoulas43.