Footy is back for the second week in a row! If this trend continues, we might see an entire season being played and a winner announced. Wouldn’t that be something?

It’s early days still and most of the teams are still trying to figure out this whole 16 minutes quarters after a 12 weeks absence thing. Some teams (Geelong) seem to have it all worked out, but others (West Coast) think that their trip to the Gold Coast is an all-expenses holiday and haven’t clued on to the fact they need to turn up to games.

For the teams sitting on two losses (Freo, Carlton, Adelaide and Bulldogs), this week is pivotal in terms of making finals. In a regular season, three losses isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but in the year of 17 games, these cellar dwellers will need to win this week or face the prospect of having to claim 9-10 of their remaining 14 games. So, you’d hope with their season on the line that they don’t go gentle into that good night.

 

Richmond vs Hawthorn

Both teams had games in round two they might want to forget. Whether it was the Tigers’ inability to win a game against an opponent that scored 36 points, or the Hawks’ midfield being dismantled down at the Cattery, they will both be eager to right the ship this week.

If there ever was a danger game for Richmond, it is this one.  Dusty is out with rib soreness and they are a little underdone at this point of the season. I suspect it’ll takes a few weeks before we see the Tigers purring.  While they are not at their best, they have enough talent and experience to get the job done. However, it will be interesting to see how long Harwick preserves with Rioli and Riewoldt at the selection table – both of which have not been at the best for the past season.

Not really sure what can be said about Hawthorn. Round 1 against the Lions showed a lot of promising signs. 12 weeks later they are a completely different side. But I am willing to hold off judgement until I see them play this week. I suspect some of it might be rust from the extended break.

One of the keys to the game will be nullifying the influence of Lynch. Lynch was able to pull his team from the depths of disaster last week with three goals and they’ll be looking for him to provide option in the forward half if they hope to keep their impressive undefeated streak going.

But who will be the linchpin in defending Lynch? Bone bruising might do the job for them, but in the likely case he plays, you’d expect Frawley to be sent to him early on – but even he is not up to the task of keeping the chains on Lynch. Clarkson might need to get creative and rotate a few troops onto the power forward. If they can limit him to 1-2 goals, I reckon Hawks are in with a big chance, especially with Dusty out. Still, it’s never prudent to not back the Tigers, but I am going to do it anyway.

Prediction: Hawthorn by 10

 

Bulldogs vs GWS

The elimination final replay is my pick for the game of the round. Questions around the dogs’ insipid season are going to be quickly forgotten with the prospect of seeing Toby Greene and Marcus Bontempelli at it again.

We’ve waited 10 months for this replay and footy fans must working on their best eye-gouging puns ready for Friday night.

The Dogs have a chance to save their season and redeem themselves and I hope they take this opportunity with two hands because a ferocious battle is what we want to see and not whatever they dished up against Collingwood and the Saints.

If you’re not a follower of stat king @sirswampthing on Twitter, I recommend you give them a follower. They provided a damning stat this week on the bulldogs. It read “Since 2017 WBD have won 12 of 31 games vs sides sitting higher than them on the ladder.”

Make of that what you will, but I am seeing it not only a damning indication they are downhill skiers, but they will lose this one too.

GWS went down to a savage North Melbourne. It’s interesting to note they have lost the disposal war in both games by a decent margin, but smashed the tackle count, which suggests they are efficient with their ball movement and applying a lot of pressure. That makes them a scary good team, especially if you want to throw in the 85 percent shooting accuracy from game one.

Whatever the result of this game, you can expect this one to get spicy and if Dog’s haven’t prepared a little something for Greene as payback, then we’ll all be the poorer for it.

Prediction: A handful of fines and probably a suspension.

 

North Melbourne v Sydney

Sydney haven’t had the worst start to the season, in fact some of the individual performances from the team have been sublime (e.g. Isaac Heeney, Dane Rampe and Luke Parker) but it’s hard to mount an argument that sees them take the cookies in this one. North Melbourne are dangerously underrated this season. In both games, they’ve come from behind to take the wins in a gritty fashion.

They are a team that’s not necessarily polished, but one that are prepared to scrap and I think they’ll cause more than a few teams a serious headache. And when your midfield is a pack of aggressive thugs lead by a ruck who is smashing out 50+ hit outs in a shortened format, it’s going to make playing against them a difficult task.

The Swans best chance is a fast, clean possession game to break the lines with a bit of that flair we’ve seen from their new-look forward line. As the saying goes, you can’t hit what you can’t see.

Prediction: North Melbourne by 20.

 

 Collingwood v Saints

This is one of the more intriguing games of the round. Both have pantsed the Bulldogs and both have shown great form so far (if you exclude the Pie’s second half against Richmond).

For the first time in a long time, the Saints are not decimated with injuries. Company this with a new-looking list, a coach with the confidence of the player group and the promise of a season not yet derailed and you have a team that can win.

This game has the potential to be one of those surprise upsets no one saw coming. The Pies are one of the strongest contenders for the flag, but the extended bye and a few key positional injuries may leave them exposed to a hungry team with a little bit of belief.

The Saints chance with this one is exposing the seemingly impregnable defence with the speedy, chaotic stylings of players like Billings and Butler, who absolutely had their way with the Dogs’ backline.

The Pies will want to rethink their forward strategy this week. 5 goals from a team chock-blocked with superstars? Come on. If your midfield has to carry the goal kicking load for you to just scrap in with 36 points, something is definitely amiss. And somehow, I don’t think bringing Mason Cox is going to be the answer. It’s too late for this season, but Collingwood really need to target a key forward for 2021. I think it’s the missing piece of the puzzle.

This doesn’t look like it from the outside, but I have a lot of confidence this game is going to be a banger.

Prediction: Either team by under a goal.

 

Geelong v Carlton

Is it too early to say that the Teague honeymoon is well and truly over? Bolton copped the sack in round 11 last year and besides games where it looks like the blue tide was finally coming in, nothing has changed. How long are we supposed to cut him and the club some slack? Months? Years? Will they ever rebuild?

Carlton are still incapable of winning, even when their opponents put their heads on the chopping block like Melbourne did in round 1. Unfortunately, backing up a 1-point loss to the dreadful Dees with a trip down to Geelong isn’t going to help the frustration of their fans, because this has blow out written all over it.

Geelong have come out of the isolation period in great shape. Much like 2019, you can expect them to be dominant throughout the early part of the season. Selwood, Dangerfield and Ablett were all terrific against the Hawks and should dominate the Blues in this one as well.

I’d love to be proven wrong, but I won’t be.

Prediction: Geelong 60+

 

Brisbane v West Coast

The Eagles moving to a Queensland hub may be the worst strategic decision since Hitler invaded Russia in Winter. I know, I know, they probably didn’t get a lot of say in the matter and we should be grateful the hub teams helped get the season back on, but their game style of kick-mark simply does not translate to a humid environment where the ball is hard to mark.

The West Coasters will be smarting after an embarrassing loss to a youthful Suns side. Imagine getting a lesson on footy from a second gamer. “Hello, I am Matt Rowell, and this is my Masterclass.”

And to make matters even worse, All Australian Jeremy McGovern will be sitting on the sidelines after being suspended for striking Alex Sexton.

When they face the Lions on Saturday night, it’s forecast to be humid, so so they’ll no doubt having some ball handling issues, but for everyone expecting the Lions to repeat their 2019 domination of the Eagles, you might want to proceed with caution.

The Lions have been far from impressive so far and they were very lucky to get away with a win against the Dockers. After losing both home finals and their first match to Hawthorn, there are some question marks about how good they will be in 2020.

This game will benchmark where both teams are at. Even though the Eagles were disappointing in round 2, with a list of that calibre, I’d be surprised if they serve up another game like last week. But they also playing against their great foe – the weather – so anything can happen.

A great match up to look out for is Charlie Cameron against Brad Sheppard. Charlie is the best small forward in the competition, but Sheppard is no shrinking violet in the backline and I think this will be a great contest.

The logical person looks at forecast of 85 percent humidity and puts a line through the Eagles. But despite last week’s performance, they are still a good team and it would be folly to write them off. However, it’s really Brisbane’s game to lose.

Prediction: Brisbane by 17.

 

Gold Coast v Adelaide

Gold Coast are the feel-good story of the week. Downing West Coast by 44 points is close to be their great highlight in the club’s history. They will be brimming with confidence going into this one and it’s not hard to see why – Adelaide are absolutely stinking it up right now. They were serviceable in their loss to Sydney, but woeful in their 75-point flogging at the hands of Port.

I don’t know what is wrong over in West Lakes, but the Crows are fast becoming the basket case of the competition and there’s no reason for it. They have a great list of players and a successful history, but ever since they lost the ’17 grand final and details of that infamous camp came out, they have been a ghost of their former selves. Right now, they are making themselves a very easy target.

But can Gold Coast capitalise on this? I know we all want Gold Coast to finally do well and seeing this Rowell kid play is bloody beautiful, but can we trust them? No. They’re Gold Coast and for the past few seasons they have started off competitively and slipped quickly to the bottom of the ladder.

This game has a lot more riding on it than just 4 points. It’s a battle of the Suns’ new optimism vs the very soul of the Adelaide Football Club. Crows have been awful so far, but I can see them finally putting up a fight and this promises to be great viewing. Some of the club stalwarts (I’m looking at you Tex) need to stand up and lead by example. This one is really hard to predict.

Prediction: The optimism of the Suns shines through 

 

Essendon v Melbourne

Bombers fans are likely frothing at the mouth at the prospect that their team might be 3-0 before the end of this weekend when they face the dreadful Dees.

If you’re a neutral supporter, stay away from this one. The only people are going to enjoy this match are Essendon fans and masochistic Dees fans.

Essendon might be near the top of the ladder, but the jury is still out on whether they are a formidable side yet, but my feeling is they are not, because they barely got away with wins against teams destined to miss out on September/October(?).

But it’s going to play a couple of weeks before we see them play a side that will test them – they have Carlton next week! Wowee. Essendon might be top of the ladder next week. If they go 4-0, finals are on the cards for this group – another chance to get that elusive win!

I don’t see Essendon having any troubles putting Melbourne to the sword this week. Besides a few good patches of play in week one against West Coast, they have looked subpar. They’ve kicked an aggregate of 105 points over two games, which was the same score Richmond kicked in round 1. How can a team expect to kick a winning score when their inside 50s are so atrocious?

It’s really a head scratcher why there isn’t more pressure on Simon Goodwin. I think it might be time to dip into the coffers and pay him out and start afresh. Don’t waste the best years of Gawn, Oliver and Petracca on this coach!

Prediction: Essendon by 24

 

 Fremantle v Port Adelaide

Port are another team sitting nicely at the top of the table with very little opposition. Thumping the Suns and Crows is not really the litmus test they need and I suspect we won’t really see if they are the real deal until they go up against West Coast next week.

Don’t get me wrong, Port might be the sleeper this year, but we’re only in week 3 and it’s far too early to speculate. They have a great young list (love me some Butters) and bit of spunk about them and this will perhaps give them the momentum they need to play finals again.

I think they might have a real fight on their hands this week with the Dockers. Fremantle are very unlucky not be 2-0 at the moment (and more importantly for their fans, ahead of West Coast). They had their chances against Essendon and a contentious call in the Brisbane game might have been the difference.

Hogan has put his hand up to play for this one and we’re all wondering if Justin Longmuir has enough faith in him yet. If he’s good to go, it’s going to be bolster their forward stocks immensely. If he and Taberner can both kick a couple in this game, Port might finally get a real test.

Port will want big games from Dixon and Westhoff again as defence seems to be Freo’s most glaring weakness (which has been somewhat remedied by the inclusion of Aish), but they have plenty of other scoring options, including young gun Xavier Duursma.

Prediction: Another tight loss for the boys in purple