St Kilda v Richmond: Friday 1/4 – 7.40pm at MCG
The two Riewoldt boys – cousins Nick and Jack – line up against each other tonight to kick off what should be a fascinating round of footy.
St Kilda would be devastated after last week’s one-point loss to the Cats. After leading for the majority of the match, Geelong substitute Darren Milburn found space in his team’s goal-square and kicked the winning goal with just 19 seconds remaining. For the Saints to move forward, they need to trust their younger players and give them more games during the season.
Richmond produced a gutsy performance against Carlton in the season opener, only to fall short by 20 points. The Tigers hit the front in the final quarter, but allowed the Blues back into the game, prompting the question of whether they’ve forgotten how to win games.
The Saints will be desperate to make amends for the loss to Geelong and should bounce back with a strong performance against the young Tigers.
St Kilda by 36 points
North Melbourne v Collingwood: Saturday 2/4 – 2.10pm at Etihad Stadium
The boys from North Melbourne will wear their traditional blue and white jumper against Collingwood for the first time in a number of years, after the Magpies finally introduced a modified away strip, preventing the need for the Roos to wear an alternate strip.
The Roos can consider themselves unlucky after their four-point loss to West Coast on Sunday. With first-choice ruckman Hamish McIntosh on the sidelines with an achilles injury and deputy Todd Goldstein a late withdrawal, debutant Cameron Pederson had to ruck solo against All-Australian Dean Cox – and in 34 degree heat!
Going on its performance against Port Adelaide on Saturday, Collingwood has improved even more over the summer – a scary thought for the other 16 AFL clubs. Midfielders Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury and Ben Johnson were up to their usual tricks, gathering a lazy 99 possessions between them. Andrew Krakouer had a Superman-like third quarter while Chris Dawes looks as if he is ready to join the elite group of key forwards this season.
The Pies look more determined and desperate for success this season and should continue their great start to the season with a convincing win against the Roos.
Collingwood by 42 points
Port Adelaide v West Coast Eagles: Saturday 2/4 – 2.40pm at AAMI Stadium
Two teams who have been tipped to finish near the bottom of the ladder in 2011 have a wonderful opportunity to get an advantage over one another on Saturday afternoon.
West Coast began its campaign with a gutsy four-point win over the Kangaroos on Sunday. Cox put on a ruck master class, gathering 29 possessions, eight marks, 29 hit-outs and pushing forward for two goals. However, the win came at a massive cost, with All-Australian forward Mark LeCras tearing an adductor muscle and likely to miss 10 weeks.
Despite a 75-point losing margin against Collingwood last weekend, Port Adelaide can hold its head reasonably high. The Power kicked six consecutive goals in the third quarter to get within 16 points of the lead, but poor foot skills cost them dearly and the Pies ran away with the game in the last quarter and a half.
The Eagles haven’t beaten Port at home since 1998 and that drought should continue.
Port Adelaide by 18 points
Gold Coast Suns v Carlton: Saturday 2/4 – 6.50pm at Gabba
This match will undoubtedly carry the most attention and publicity for the weekend, with Gold Coast – the AFL’s 17th and newest club – beginning its footy journey against Carlton.
Every Suns player who runs out on Saturday night will be full of emotion and will naturally want to do their best. Especially captain Gary Ablett, who will be keen to prove to his critics he will be able to cope without his ex-Geelong teammates and will be just as good a player at his new club. It will also be interesting to see how 2010 number one draft pick David Swallow and his fellow young teammates cope with the hype and pressure.
The Blues survived a late scare from the Tigers last week, but there were still a few positives to come out of the game. Elevated rookie Ed Curnow was outstanding on debut, while Robbie Warnock, Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs were all solid through the midfield.
While it would be wonderful to see Gold Coast win its debut game, it’s hard to see the more experienced Blues dropping this one, especially in skipper Chris Judd’s 200th match.
Carlton by 30 points
Fremantle v Geelong: Saturday 2/4 – 5.40pm at Patersons Stadium
The last time these two teams met, Geelong annihilated an injury-weakened Dockers outfit by 69 points in a semi-final match. Will this weekend’s clash be any different?
It wasn’t pretty, but Fremantle did what it had to do to get over the Lions by four points on the weekend. A massive pre-season injury list meant the Dockers had to play a lot of kids – all of whom delivered at the right moment. Two young players who stood out were Nathan Fyfe, who impressed with his courage and speed, and Michael Walters, who kicked a brilliant banana goal to give the Dockers the lead late in the match.
The Cats also won ugly last weekend, with substitute Milburn kicking the winning goal with just seconds left on the clock. With Joel Selwood being knocked out in the first quarter, the onus fell on Jimmy Bartel to will his team over the line – and that’s exactly what he did. The 2007 Brownlow Medallist was simply awesome after half time, finding the footy at the right time and providing a genuine goal-of-the-year contender during the fourth quarter.
Geelong regains some big names for this game, while Fremantle doesn’t welcome back any of their injured players. It’ll be tighter than the last time they played, but the winning team won’t change.
Geelong by 12 points
Western Bulldogs v Brisbane Lions: Sunday 3/4 – 1.10pm at Etihad Stadium
After last week’s performances, these two probably have the highest pressure on them out of any team going into round two.
Like the Saints, the Bulldogs don’t look like they have changed much over the pre-season. Their 55-point loss to the Bombers was deplorable – they were out-tackled, out-marked and out-run by a much more determined side. Once again they were too predictable going inside 50 and too reliant on Barry Hall. For a team touted as potential premiers, the Dogs need to lift their game – a lot.
Despite losing by two points, the Lions were the biggest losers of round one. Besides losing the match, they lost skipper Jonathon Brown and impressive recruit Brent Staker. They literally fell apart in the final term and had no rotations left towards the end of the game.
Surely the Dogs will walk all over a weakened Brisbane and run out winners by a significant margin on their home ground.
Western Bulldogs by 60 points
Sydney v Essendon: Sunday 3/4 – 2.10pm at ANZ Stadium
It was hard not go get swept up in ‘Bomber-mania’ last weekend, but now Sydney players have a golden opportunity to shut Essendon supporters up at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
There were so many adjectives to describe the Bombers’ victory over Western Bulldogs last weekend. Awesome, hungry, desperate, exciting, quick, energetic, emphatic, aggressive – you could go on forever. Led magnificently by skipper Jobe Watson, the Bombers played like a top four team and made the Dogs look like a bottom four team. There is a distinct tone and attitude change ever since James Hird took over as coach – and it’s exciting.
The Swans players would’ve be extremely frustrated they didn’t leave the MCG with a win last weekend. Adam Goodes and Sam Reid were marking everything during the first half, but the Demons defenders lifted to restrict their influence and force a draw.
This one is perhaps the hardest game of the round to tip. But if Essendon plays anywhere near the same level it played at last week, an upset is a strong possibility.
Essendon by 6 points
Hawthorn v Melbourne: Sunday 26/3 – 4.40pm at MCG
Two of the most exciting young teams in Victoria round up an exciting round of footy under the floodlights of the MCG on Sunday night.
It was the one that got away for the Hawks on Saturday night as they went down by 20 points to the Crows. They dominated early in the match but wasted crucial opportunities in the second half and the young legs of the Crows simply outran them.
Despite missing several key players through injury, the Dees were gallant against the Swans last weekend but weren’t able to walk away with a victory. They showed glimpses of their best form and had plenty of chances to win the game, but could only manage to draw the scores level by the final siren.
Melbourne’s best defender James Frawley returns for this game, but even he won’t be able to stop Lance Franklin and the Hawks from winning on Sunday night.
Hawthorn by 30 points