Collingwood v Carlton: Friday 8/4 – 7.50pm at MCG
Julius Caesar versus Pompeius, Batman versus The Joker and now Collingwood versus Carlton. Great traditional rivalries make for great viewing, and tonight’s top-of-the-table clash between the Magpies and the Blues, in front of over 80,000 fans at the MCG, will be one to savour.
Collingwood unveils its 2010 premiership flag tonight, but going on its form over the past fortnight, it may as well unfurl the 2011 flag at the same time. The Pies’ win over North Melbourne last Saturday was close to perfect, with 11 different goal kickers and a dominant midfield display led by Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury. To make things a little more daunting for the Blues, premiership captain Nick Maxwell will return to the side tonight after an injury layoff.
It may have been a weak opposition, but Carlton was simply awesome against Gold Coast last Saturday night. Yes it was the Suns’ first ever game and yes they had 12 players on debut, but the Blues’ ruthless mentality was incredible impressive. They seem more versatile than ever this season and if they remain in good touch, there’s no reason why they can’t finish in the top four. However the Blues go from playing the worst to the best in the competition and there’s undoubtedly a massive gap between the two.
It’s been a long time since a Collingwood-Carlton game has been so eagerly anticipated, but that hype should disappear over the first two quarters of this game. The Pies have no weaknesses and you would be silly to tip against them for the remainder of the season. Carlton might match it with them for a small portion of the match, but expect the Pies to win comfortably.
Collingwood by 36 points
Western Bulldogs v Gold Coast Suns: Saturday 9/4 – 2.10pm at Etihad Stadium
Gold Coast’s inaugural AFL match was one to forget, but its second might be just as forgetful as it plays its first interstate game against a 2010 preliminary finalist.
Western Bulldogs got somewhat back to its best form last week with a 78-point demolition of a depleted Lions team. The form of the midfield was very encouraging for Doggies fans, with Matthew Boyd, Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen and Daniel Cross gathering 125 possessions and kicking five goals between them. Fans would’ve also been thrilled with the game of father-son recruit Tom Liberatore, who gathered 28 disposals and laid 10 crunching tackles.
Everyone now appreciates how tough 2011 will be for the Suns. After a 119-point thrashing, it’s clear they won’t be a force to reckon with this season. There were however some promising signs for the Suns, with youngsters Charlie Dixon and Brandon Matera showing plenty of promise, while mature-age recruits Michael Rischitelli and Daniel Harris certainly didn’t disgrace themselves.
Let’s not waste much time on this game. It really should be a walk in the park for the Dogs who should win by at least 10 goals.
Western Bulldogs by 80 points
Adelaide v Fremantle: Saturday 9/4 – 2.40pm at AAMI Stadium
This will be a fascinating contest between two teams who will be vying for a top eight spot by season’s end.
It will be fascinating to see how Adelaide plays this weekend after enjoying a break in Round 2. The weekend before, the Crows showed plenty of promise with a gutsy 20-point win over Hawthorn at home. Rising star Patrick Dangerfield’s second half performance was awesome and he proved to the footy community he is ready to take the next step in 2011.
When was the last time Fremantle started a season with an interstate victory and a home loss? How times have changed. The Dockers would be furious with last week’s performance against Geelong. If they had kicked accurately in front of goal, the result might have been different. Teams can’t afford to kick more behinds than goals in games, especially against a quality opposition such as the Cats.
These teams aren’t premiership contenders, but they’re certainly top eight contenders. However the big difference on Saturday should be the return of star forward Kurt Tippett, who should have massive influence on the game and win it for the Crows.
Adelaide by 12 points
Richmond v Hawthorn: Saturday 9/4 – 7.10pm at MCG
The AFL’s colosseum will host two of the most passionate teams in the league tomorrow night, with the young Tigers keen to upset a red-hot Hawks outfit.
Despite the draw, Richmond fans should be extremely proud of how their team performed against the Saints last Friday night. With the calibre of players the Saints had, the Tigers should never have been in contention. But they didn’t give up and fought hard right until the end of the match, even without star full-forward Jack Riewoldt. The midfield trio of Brett Deledio, Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin all played outstanding games and proved they are going to be a classy unit in future years.
Hawthorn started to show some ominous signs against the Demons last weekend. After trailing at half-time, the Hawks piled on 8.11 to 1.1 in a breathtaking third quarter display. They were led by the classy indigenous duo of Cyril Rioli and Shaun Burgoyne, who had too much skill and poise for the helpless Demons. Check out Burgoyne’s goal of the year contender here.
With key defenders Kelvin Moore, Luke McGuane and Alex Rance all unavailable to play, an inexperienced Richmond player is set to be given the horrendous task of trying to stop Lance Franklin. ‘Buddy’ has been promising a massive game for a while now and against a young defensive unit, he is likely to have a night out — that is if he can kick straight. Hawks should win comfortably.
Hawthorn by 30 points
West Coast Eagles v Sydney: Saturday 9/4 – 6.10pm at Patersons Stadium
Collingwood and Carlton might be the best traditional rivalry in the AFL, but West Coast and Sydney have developed one of the great modern-day rivalries over the past six to seven years.
After claiming the 2010 wooden spoon, the undefeated Eagles currently sit third on the ladder and have undoubtedly been the surprise packet of the 2011 season so far. Veterans Andrew Embley and Dean Cox are back to their best form, while Luke Shuey was nominated for the AFL’s Rising Star award for his 27-possession and three-goal game against Port Adelaide.
The Swans produced an impressive come-from-behind victory against Essendon last Sunday. They were led superbly by tough inside midfielder Jude Bolton, who seems to be improving with the more games he plays. The form of fellow old-timers Adam Goodes and Ryan O’Keefe has also been encouraging for Swans fans over the first two weeks of the season.
Recent games between these two teams have always been close and this one should be no exception. However the Eagles will be missing two of their best players in Mark LeCras and Beau Waters through injury. Sydney should take advantage of those two player exclusions and win this one by a small margin.
Sydney by 12 points
Melbourne v Brisbane Lions: Sunday 10/4 – 1.10pm at MCG
Both of these teams put in extremely disappointing performances last weekend, but now have a great opportunity to make amends at the MCG on Sunday.
Some say Melbourne’s loss to Hawthorn was a more disappointing display than Gold Coast’s thrashing at the hands of the Blues. The Dees let the Hawks have 19 scoring shots in the third quarter, while they only managed two themselves. Sure, the Hawks were a class above them – as they should be too – but to let the margin blow out that far is inexcusable.
Without skipper Jonathan Brown up forward, Brisbane is a wooden spoon team. While they have a few classy players through the middle and in defence, Brown’s absence means the Lions’ forward structure is completely dysfunctional. When players look up in search of a forward target, all they see is a clueless Mitch Clark and youngster Broc McCauley running at them. A team simply can’t rely on those two to kick goals.
The young Dees should win this one very comfortably and prove they are still a chance to make the top eight this season.
Melbourne by 48 points
Geelong v Port Adelaide: Sunday 10/4 – 2.10pm at Skilled Stadium
This one could get ugly.
While it hasn’t been totally convincing, Geelong has started the 2011 season with two tense wins. Mind you, those wins did come against a grand finalist and a semi-finalist from 2010. It was good to see stalwarts Paul Chapman and Cameron Ling make successful returns to the side against Fremantle last week. More importantly, they both made significant contributions to the win and look set for a solid season.
After their comprehensive loss to Collingwood in the first round, the Power would be angry with their three-goal loss to the Eagles last Saturday. They had more tackles and a similar amount of forward 50 entries, yet still had 13 less scoring shots. Coach Matthew Primus has made it clear to his team they need to make the most of their opportunities.
However the Power won’t be given any easy opportunities on Sunday. Geelong’s inclusions this week include Joel Selwood, Cameron Mooney and Matthew Scarlett, while Port Adelaide loses Domenic Cassisi and Steven Salopek through injury. The Cats should win by plenty in their first game at Skilled Stadium for 2011.
Geelong by 60 points
St Kilda v Essendon: Sunday 26/3 – 4.40pm at MCG
From a pure on-field perspective, this is the game of the round.
After Friday night’s inexcusable draw to Richmond, footy experts have raised serious concerns about the Saints, who currently sit in 11th spot with one draw and one loss. Some harsh critics believe they are a weak side, while others think they could miss the top eight if they continue playing the way they are. With star midfielder Lenny Hayes out for the rest of the season due to a tragic knee injury, the Saints need to inject some youth into the side, an argument supported by senior player Jason Gram.
The Bombers were brought back to reality against the Swans last week. They led by five goals at one stage, but were outplayed by an inspired Sydney outfit. On a positive note, first round Rising Star nominee Dyson Heppell impressed again with 21 touches, while Jobe Watson continued to show his improvement both as a player and a leader.
The Bombers have had the wood over St Kilda in recent years. They have won the past three matches and eliminated St Kilda from this season’s NAB Cup competition as well. However the Saints have a lot to prove on Sunday night and will be keen to announce to the rest of the competition they are still a force to reckon with. It should be a close game, but you get the feeling the Saints might pull a special performance out when they need it the most.
St Kilda by 24 points