As round three approaches and the season begins to take shape, some unexpected results have sent pre-season predictions into turmoil.
Many who had Port Adelaide and Geelong in their premiership market will have to reassess after both teams have failed to register points in their opening two matches, while the Giants and Bulldogs put their hands up as surprise top-eight candidates after two wins on the trot.
The Bombers shocked the competition with a last-gasp win over Hawthorn that boosted their flag aspirations, North Melbourne bounced back with a thumping of Brisbane and Collingwood’s injury curse continued in its loss to the surging Crows, who look like the real deal in 2015.
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With three big rivalries across the weekend there is sure to be plenty of feeling in round three, so let’s get straight to the action.
Magpies vs. Saints
Friday, April 17th, 7:50pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Collingwood – $1.92 (+17.5)
St Kilda – $1.92 (-17.5)
Round three kicks off at the MCG with the 2010 Grand Finalists facing off on Friday night football.
Both teams come into the contest with one win and one loss, with the Saints impressively sweeping aside Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium last week, while the Pies were blown away early by a rampant Adelaide Crows outfit and never quite got back into the contest.
Both captains will go into the game with injury clouds over their captains, with Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury batting an ankle aliment while Saints’ skipper Nick Riewoldt is struggling to shake a calf injury.
This should be a fantastic contest, and while both teams lack the polish of some of the better teams in the league, they make up for it with their endeavour and attack on the ball. While the Saints have been brave in the opening two rounds, any team with the quality of Pendlebury, Swan and Cloke across the ground will be hard to contain for such an inexperienced St Kilda squad.
Magpies should bounce back and take the points.
Tip: Collingwood to win 1-39 points $2.10 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Dane Swan/Travis Cloke most disposals/goals double $14 via Sportsbet
Blues vs. Bombers
Saturday, April 18th, 1:45pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Carlton – $1.91 (+31.5)
Essendon – $1.91 (-31.5)
Two traditional rivals face off at the MCG to kick off a big Saturday of football, and their fortunes could not be further apart after the opening fortnight.
The Dons had a spirited win against Hawthorn, coming back from a seemingly unassailable deficit late in the final quarter to snatch the points, while Carlton were humbled over in Perth by the Eagles on the back of a 10-goal haul to former full forward Josh Kennedy.
The Bombers have made just one change, bring in veteran defender Dustin Fletcher to replace James Gwilt, while the Blues have made wholesale changes, bringing in seasoned players in the form of Andrew Walker and Dennis Armfield, whilst also handing a debut to Irish youngster Ciaran Byrne.
Typically these grudge matches defy logic, and while the Dons bring in the much better form coming into the contest, the Blues will be fired up after getting hammered through the media all week and will come out all guns blazing.
The Dons should prevail, but the final margin will be closer than the odds suggest.
Exotic: Brent Stanton to get 30 or more disposals $7.40 via Sportsbet
Crows vs. Demons
Saturday, April 18th, 2:10pm, Adelaide Oval
Adelaide – $1.91 (-48.5)
Melbourne – $1.91 (+48.5)
The first of three interstate Saturday games sees the Crows hosting the Demons in what looms as a potential hammering for Paul Roos’ men.
The Demons were woeful after half time last week, conceding nine unanswered goals to the young Giants in Canberra after completely dominating the first half, whilst the Crows put the Pies away early at Etihad Stadium and coasted to victory.
The Crows are set to welcome back superstar on-baller Scott Thompson for his first game of the season, while the Demons will be without up and coming midfielder Jack Viney after scans revealed the 21-year-old suffered a broken leg in the loss to the Gaints.
The Demons last year were able to take the points home from South Australia after one of their finest wins in over a decade, but those heroic deeds will be hard to emulate with the Crows playing a fierce brand of competitive football that emphasises winning the contested ball – the weakness Melbourne exploited last year.
Adelaide should win this one very comfortably.
Tip: Adelaide by 40+ points $1.65 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most disposals group A – Patrick Dangerfield $5 via William Hill
Swans vs. Gaints
Saturday, April 18th, 4:35pm, Sydney Cricket Ground
Sydney – $1.92 (-39.5)
GWS – $1.92 (+39.5)
2015 is the year we finally get to see a Sydney derby where both teams will go into the contest feeling they are a big chance of winning.
Forget last year’s round one aberration; both teams come into this game cherry ripe, undefeated and on the back of two very impressive victories.
Both teams’ backlines will be put to the test, with the Swans’ Kurt Tippett and Lance Franklin proving to be a potent force so far this season. Whilst for the Giants, Jeremy Cameron is in rare form. Compound that by the emergence of Cam McCarthy and the Gaints have a duo up forward capable of returning fire if the Swans want to make it a shootout.
The contest should draw a huge crowd to the SCG for what promises to be the most important battle of the bridge to date, and while the Gaints bring impressive form into the match, the Swans will have too much quality across the board.
Tip: Swans to lead at the end of each quarter $1.57 via William Hill
Exotic: Most disposals group B – Kieran Jack $3.25 via William Hill
Kangaroos vs. Power
Saturday, April 18th, 7:20pm, Etihad Stadium
North Melbourne – $1.92 (+4.5)
Port Adelaide – $1.92 (-6.5)
Two of the pre-season flag fancies clash at Etihad Stadium Saturday night, with the loser having to seriously re-evaluate their goals for the season.
Port Adelaide sits in the precarious position of 0-2 after the opening two rounds and cannot afford another loss, which could potentially, even at this early stage, make it very hard for them to finish inside the top four.
Their opponents bounced back after their disastrous start to the season with a 10-goal thumping of an undermanned Brisbane, and will be keen to keep that form coming into Saturday night.
The game may be won and lost in the ruck department, with Power big man Matthew Lobbe still out of the side due to injury. New recruit Paddy Ryder has failed to fire so far this season and faces the daunting task of halting the momentum of the AFL’s number one ruckman, Todd Goldstein.
The hosts are not without their injury concerns either, with one of their chief playmakers, Nick Dal Santo, set to miss the game and potentially several months of football with a high grade hamstring injury.
Both teams will go into this one believing they have what it takes to win, but the home ground advantage plays in North Melbourne’s favour.
North in a close one.
Tip: North Melbourne to win $2.12 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Jay Schultz first Port Adelaide goal $5 via William Hill
Lions vs. Tigers
Saturday, April 18th, 7:20pm, GABBA
Brisbane – $1.91 (-13.5)
Richmond – $1.91 (+13.5)
Saturday’s final game pits two teams that are in dire need of a win against each other.
The Lions have been simply woeful this season, losing round one in a tight game against Collingwood before getting embarrassed by North Melbourne, while Richmond are 1-1 after an opening round win against Carlton and a disappointing loss to a young Western Bulldogs outfit.
The Lions will again be without captain Tom Rockliff, who is yet to shake his rib injury, and young forward Michael Close who ruptured his ACL, but welcome back versatile swingman Brent Staker and young gun James Aish.
The Tigers conversely have brought back Shaun Edwards who was a late withdrawal from last week’s loss to the Dogs, as well as defender David Astbury and midfielder/forward Chris Knights, both of whom impressed in the pre-season.
The Lions’ already thin list has been decimated by injury, and are in dire need of new recruits Dayne Beams and Allen Christensen to step up and alleviate some of the pressure. Unfortunately both have failed to have an impact so far in their new colours.
Richmond should win comfortably and move to 2-1
Tip: Richmond $1.48 via Sportsbet
Hawks vs. Bulldogs
Sunday, April 19th, 1:10pm, Aurora Stadium
Hawthorn – $2.10 (+45.5)
Western Bulldogs – $2.10 (-45.5)
How much more entertaining does this game look than it did in the pre-season?
The Hawks are coming off the back of a heartbreaking loss against the Bombers, but are still the best team in the competition, while the Bulldogs are flying, starting the season with two spirited wins over West Coast and Richmond.
The Hawks welcome back All-Australian defender and midfielder Josh Gibson and Sam Mitchell, while the Dogs lose dashing defender Easton Wood to a hamstring injury.
The Dogs have been terrific so far this season, with a maniacal sense of urgency both with the ball and without, but the Hawks have too much class and mature bodies for the young Dogs.
Hawks to bounce back in a big way.
Tip: Hawthorn to win by 60 points or more $2.75 via William Hill
Exotic: Jack Gunston first goal scorer $10 via Sportsbet
Cats vs. Suns
Sunday, April 19th, 3:20pm, Simmons Stadium
Geelong – $1.91 (-37.5)
Gold Coast – $1.91 (+37.5)
Who would have thought both the Cats and the Suns would be 0-2 going into round three?
The Suns have been atrocious so far this season, succumbing to both Melbourne and St Kilda, two teams that are likely to finish in the bottom four, while Geelong were dismantled by Hawthorn round one and suffered a heavy defeat by the hands of Fremantle last week.
Contrasting news on the injury front for both teams, with the Cats set to welcome back superstar midfielder Jimmy Bartel, while the Suns have lost the best player in the competition in the form of Gary Ablett jnr for an indefinite amount of time.
The Suns’ midfielders will need to step up in Ablett’s absence, something they have failed to do so far this season while their obviously hampered captain was in the team. The likes of Dion Prestia, David Swallow and Jack Martin need to lift their game if the Suns are to stand any chance here.
Unfortunately it is unlikely that the Cats will lose two games in a row on their home deck, and should have too much experience for their younger opponents.
Tip: Cats to win 1-39 margin $2.35
Exotic: First goal scorer – Mitch Clarke $9 via Sportsbet
Eagles vs. Dockers
Sunday, April 19th, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
West Coast – $1.92 (+19.5)
Fremantle – $1.92 (-19.5)
The Western derby completes the third round of the AFL season, with both sides confidence levels sky high off the back of very impressive wins.
The Eagles easily accounted for Carlton on the back of a ten goal haul by full forward Josh Kennedy, while Fremantle condemned Geelong to their second loss in as many weeks, hammering the Cats after half time to run out 44 point winners.
The Dockers lost Hayden Ballantyne to suspension, while the Eagles lost forward/midfielder Simon Tunbridge to an ankle injury.
These games are typically hard to predict, but going on form the Dockers are going to be very hard to beat, and look set to continue their dominance over their fellow Western Australian rivals, winning the last four match ups between the two.
Tip: Fremantle to win $1.32 via William Hill