While the weather starts cooling down in Australia in Northern China we are experiencing some welcome, warm days. 25 today, while completely unexpected as it was 5 last week with a wind chill of -3, was fantastic and people, like hibernating bears, emerged from their apartment blocks and took to the streets to shop at recently set up roadside stalls, play cards on street corners, mah-jong in apartment courtyards and exercise in the parks on state provided gymnasium equipment.Bicycles and scooters have appeared on the streets and sidewalks in their hundreds. This city is only small with about 2.2 million but you get a better idea of just how many people that really is when they all decide to come outside into the summer weather. There is a distinct lack of AFL conversation on the street corners and inside shops and restaurants, probably due to the fact that (a) I cannot understand a word they are saying and (b) it’s doubtful that AFL football holds a leading edge in the conversational interest of a Chinese person. While I would like to think that the confrontational stares I get as I walk down the streets is due to the Collingwood premiership t-shirt I am wearing I am sure it’s more likely because there are so few foreigners in this part of the world so we are an oddity and in fact, probably more than 50% of the population in Heilongjiang Province have never even seen a white Caucasian, except maybe in Harbin, the capital of the area, because that city is overrun with Russians and incidentally has a population of around 9 million!!
If the AFL really wanted to expand their franchise I would suggest a foray into China might have some possibilities because let’s face it, if only 5% of the population took to the greatest game on earth that would be an additional audience of 75 million!! I’m doing my bit to promote teams but the kids here do not know what a magpie, hawk, eagle or swan is let alone bombers, power, blues, suns and dockers! Lions and tigers? No problem. If North Melbourne continues to have identity difficulties I strongly suggest a name change to the Pandas with a move of training camp from Arden street to Beijing and let’s see the rush for membership tickets then! I need a football here too, a Sherrin with pump, because my opportunity to teach an outdoor game today resulted in a lesson in tunnel ball, an old favourite but hardly an introduction to the game of Aussie Rules. I think I have a long way to go because the girls’ team beat the boys….convincingly.
In the first 3 rounds of AFL we can all agree that the surprise is the form of Essendon and St Kilda which is causing tipsters some teething problems. However, if the current form of both these teams continues then it will certainly add a bit of spice into the tipping results. Will the Bombers lighten up? Will the Saints intensify? Only 7 games this weekend because we have 3 teams taking a bye so if anybody tells you they got eight correct over round 4 you know they are full of it! Good luck.
Richmond V Collingwood at the MCG Friday night
The Tigers were given a football lesson last week against Hawthorn and it’s safe to say that school is back in on Friday night with Collingwood taking over the tutoring from where the Hawks left off. It’s very hard to see how the Richmond midfield can beat their Collingwood counterparts considering the class the Pies have in that area. Dawes and Cloke and even Blair up forward will challenge most backlines. The Tigers need to get the ball as often as possible to Riewoldt to have any chance…not to win, but to lessen the margin.
Collingwood by 60
Hawthorn V West Coast at Aurora Saturday
The Eagles will lose their competitive edge if they continue with injuries although even with their best 22 they would struggle to win this game against the Hawks. West Coast has been surprising with their two wins so far, particularly the win against Port in Adelaide but beating Hawthorn at Aurora is a bit beyond them albeit they have won here twice. The Eagles will win the ruck contests but that might be about it. Buddy and Roughead up forward will challenge the Eagle backline and there is the return of Rioli to contend with as well.
Hawthorn by 41
Carlton V Essendon at the MCG Saturday
This is certainly the game of the round and we can expect about 70,000 at the MCG to watch the contest. The Bombers have beaten the Saints and the Bulldogs, both supposedly better teams than Carlton so logical thinking leans towards an Essendon win. Maybe. Jobe Watson is doing most of the centre clearances on his own and he comes up against Judd, Scotland and Murphy. There might be just a bit too much experience in the Blues line up but don’t underestimate the Bombers in this game.
Carlton by 22
Sydney V Geelong at the SCG Saturday night
The Swans have somehow worked their way into 3rd position on the ladder and they play Geelong who is second. It’s conceivable Sydney could win and expect a close game but Geelong will be a tough nut to crack for most teams this year. They have surprised many with their early season form as has Sydney. Goodes, apart from his first game, is in great form and in the company of Jacks and Bolton the team is going great guns early. The Cats have a few players like Bartel, Ling since his return, Kelley, Selwood after his concussion and Varcoe also in good form but Stevie Johnson probably needs to lift. Could we have another draw?
Geelong by 19
Port Adelaide V Adelaide at AAMI Saturday night
It’s the SA derby and neither team is travelling too well. When in doubt pick the home team? Hmmm, can’t say that either. The tip is Adelaide but there is no sane reason for the selection. The teams both hold low ladder positions but like all derbies expect a bit of passion in the play as city pride is on the line again.
Adelaide by 29
Gold Coast V Melbourne at the Gabba Sunday
The Suns have a couple of games experience in the big time and they meet Melbourne who narrowly beat the Brisbane Lions last week. Gold Coast won’t be beaten by 12 goals this week but they won’t win either. Campbell Brown didn’t do the Suns any favours last week with some onfield stupidity that will see him missing for the next four games, an absence that a team like the Suns, lacking experienced players, can ill afford. Gold Coast need to establish a bit of pride and Melbourne needs to gain a bit of momentum.
Melbourne by 36
Fremantle V North Melbourne at Subiaco Sunday
The Dockers have won both their away games and were beaten at home by Geelong. Fremantle needs to account for weaker teams at Subiaco and while North almost beat the Eagles here in game one Freo should be too strong. It will be interesting to see whether a bye helps North recover from a Collingwood flogging and also helps them to travel to Subiaco (darned if I can call it Patterson stadium, I wasn’t in Perth and don’t even know why it was changed)twice in 4 weeks, a trip that is a killer once a year let alone twice a month! Harvs gave a few of his team mates a serve last week which didn’t get good press and conversely the Dockers won the game against Adelaide last week without Sandilands who was injured early. They did it for Pav I reckon. It won’t be easy for Freo but that’s the tip.
Fremantle by 28