Thursday, March 31, 2011

AFL Preview Round 2

Last week: 6 from 8 (take a point for the draw).Your correspondent did not quite have the guts to tip the draw last week in the Melbourne versus Sydney game but did hint that a tied score was extremely likely. There were quite a few close games in the first round with 3 other matches being won by less than a goal. The big surprise for AFL followers and certainly for the Western Bulldogs was their demolition by the Bombers, a result that put Essendon on top of the ladder. AFL officials will love the look of the ladder after round 1 – Essendon, Collingwood and Carlton sitting in positions 1 – 3. What sort of a crowd can we expect at the Collingwood versus Carlton game next week? I attended last season and was amongst 80,000 other fans at that game. Then of course we will have the Anzac Day game between Essendon and Collingwood which attracts a big crowd anyway but with the Bombers performing well the AFL might be looking at crowd records.
The new substitute rule is causing clubs a bit of a headache but at this stage it’s hard to see a direct affect on the game although listening to the experts they seem to think it slowed the game down with less interchanges and also helped to keep better players on the ground longer. Hard to make that call from northern China and looking at replays didn’t convince me…..yet. Technology is a wonderful thing when you are a long way from home and if I can drink a beer, listen to the games live and stream some replays it’s almost the same as being in your lounge or garage in Australia – almost. Surreal but good!! The temperature here in the Heilongjiang province has rocketed in the past week and we are experiencing daily highs of about 12 and night minimums of -1 to 0, very temperate. Bicycles, left in building corners and frozen into place up to the middle of their wheels over winter, have thawed out, been commandeered and we now have streets just full of Chinese bicyclists adding to the total confusion and indescribable stupidity of the normal Chinese traffic. With the change in the weather we now have fruit and vegetable vendors selling their produce from their hand carts on street corners and with a national public holiday on Tuesday, Tomb Sweeping Day, all other available sidewalk space is occupied by the ever present Chinese entrepreneur selling ‘paper’ money for people to buy and burn on those same street corners at night after the vendors have gone home. Chaotic is an apt description, busy is another.
Back to the footy. There are a few difficult games to pick from in round 2 and for the tipster it might get tricky to select a team to win two in a row after their first win was a last gasp effort. In the case of Essendon……well you wouldn’t tip them last year against the Swans so what chance do you give them this week after their thrashing of the Bulldogs? Target this week is 5 correct, anything above that is a bonus. Good luck.
St Kilda V Richmond at the MCG Friday Night
The Saints let one slip last week against much better opposition than they will have in this game. The Tigers showed spirit against Carlton but the Saints will record their first win of the season and Richmond will have a zip – 2 start to 2011. The Reiwoldt cousins line up at opposite ends of the ground but Jack might have a harder task to kick 5 or 6 against a tighter Saints defence. The Tigers have a younger, inexperienced centreline up against the St Kilda champs Hayes and Del Santo which will help the Saints gather more inside 50’s. Tiger coach Hardwicke reckons Richmond is a chance. I reckon he’s full of it.
St Kilda by 38
North Melbourne V Collingwood at Etihad Saturday Afternoon
North has always troubled the Pies and teams this year will push themselves against last year’s premiers. Some will win, most will lose. Try as they might North cannot win this game and the margin might be similar to last week when Collingwood played Port. Fresh from their NAB cup win the Pies showed their fans a few gears in last week’s game against Port. Frustrating to see a 54 point lead whittled away as Collingwood found their lower gears but as expected, when it counted, they were able to ‘power’ away, so to speak. North Melbourne is on about the same skill level as the Power, maybe a little better, so the Pies need to be aware that a complete slack off will, if not lose them the game, make it uncomfortably close. If Brent Harvey has another quiet day and the Collingwood runners move unchecked, expect a blowout in the score line.
Collingwood by 61
Port Adelaide V West Coast at AAMI Saturday afternoon
The sides are evenly matched but the loss of LeCras and Masten to long term injuries, two of West Coast’s better players, is a bad blow for the Eagles. On Port’s side of the injury ledger they lost Jay Schultz with a knee injury. Playing the Power at AAMI doesn’t help West Coast and their plan to put two wins in a row together. An unusual statistic between these two teams is that West Coast have not beaten the Power at this ground since 1998 when the Eagles had a far better side than what they will field in this game!! Expect a close game but the home side should win.
Port Adelaide by 13
Gold Coast V Carlton at the Gabba Saturday Night
This is the historic first match for the Gold Coast team. They have recruited some star players but will find this pretty tough against the Blues with Judd, Murphy, Scotland and Gibbs in reasonable early season form. Judd is playing his 200th. How will Karmichael Hunt go in his first real game of AFL? How will Ablett settle into his new team? Hard to tip the Suns first up unless they were playing West Coast, Brisbane, Richmond or the Power. It will be interesting to see just where this new team is relative to the others.
Carlton by 42
Fremantle V Geelong at Subiaco Saturday Night
The Dockers got out of jail last week with a last gasp win over the Lions. Geelong also did the same against the Saints and the Cats know this trip to the west is usually filled with trouble. Old heads might not prevail when fitness will be the key in the hot weather. Fremantle beat Geelong last time at Subiaco and it might be a repeat this round. If Chapman returns for the Cats it will be his 200th game. The biggest problem Fremantle has is that they don’t have classy on-ballers who can capitalise on the dominance of Sandilands in the ruck. Then again the loss of the classiest Cat on-baller, Gary Ablett, is still a negative that Geelong needs to overcome. It should be another close game for these teams who both won by less than a kick last week.
Fremantle by 10
Western Bulldogs V Brisbane at Etihad Sunday
The Bulldogs have a lot to prove after last week’s debacle against Essendon and fortunately they meet a Brown-less Brisbane who lost against Freo last week in the dying seconds. We have no idea why the Western Bulldogs played like that last week but expect a different result and approach this week. They could kick the sweep. Will Rocket Eade make wholesale changes or was that pathetic effort against the Bombers just ‘one of those games’? Brisbane’s injury problems also include the lost of Staker for a whole season with a knee reconstruction. If the Bullies had a couple of guys that didn’t quite make last week’s team then perhaps we can expect them to be included for this match. Barry Hall might be a bit too much for the Lions’ back men to stop as well.
Western Bulldogs by 55
Sydney V Essendon at ANZ Stadium Sunday
The Bombers pulverised the Bulldogs last week and based on that form they are almost a sure thing against the Sydney Swans in this match. Don’t underestimate the Swans though, they have the ability to win this but it seems that Essendon is on a bit of a roll in 2011 even though they lost the NAB cup final. Interestingly, the last time they met in round 11 last year the Swans scraped home by 9 points and the Bombers look a lot better this season. Adam Goodes had a quiet game last week so he has to contribute more in this match. The game will be a lot closer than most think and the tip is for an upset, just what the Bombers need for a reality check.
Sydney by 17
Hawthorn V Melbourne at the MCG Sunday
Hawthorn started last week against the Crows in great form. Melbourne was a little slow out of the blocks against the Swans but was full of running at the end of the game and was unlucky to draw. Expect the overall class of the Hawks to help them win a tight one at the ‘G’. Their captain Luke Hodge may be included this week but problems with the achilles need to be 100% clear before a player is included in the team. Buddy kicked 2.6 last week so he needs to lift his accuracy. Hard to make a case for the Demons so I won’t.
Hawthorn by 18
Adelaide Bye

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