It’s crazy to think that we’re about to hit Round Two, yet already there are players, coaches and teams under the pump.

If you listen to sports radio, peruse sports sites (which you evidently do) or tune into footy-related television, you may have heard that going 0-2 is a death sentence for winning the flag – it simply does not happen for teams that start like that.

Then we have players who promised a lot in Round One and failed to deliver – what does Round Two hold for them? And what if they fail to make up for their less-than-stellar R1 outing?

And then there are the coaches. With an expectation that there could be several vacancies in the AFL coaching world after a period of relatively smooth sailing, there are some coaches that may be about to feel what was once solid footing at their clubs start to shift beneath their feet.

Let’s take a look at who is under the pump heading into Round Two.

 

BRISBANE AND GEELONG

0-2

I mentioned it in the intro, and that is what is staring one of these premiership fancies right in the face if they fall over this week… and one of them will.

Playing the game at Kardinia Park (I love the fact we still call it that on this site and no one ever corrects us), you’d think the Cats will go in as heavy favourites, but this could be a season-definer for the Lions really early in the piece. It’s a fascinating matchup.

There are quite a few people who simply think the Lions blew it in 2020 – with a guaranteed home Grand Final in the offering, this team rolled them in the Prelim. What’s changed? Joe Daniher is in town, which is a huge upgrade on invisible man, Dan McStay, but is it enough to carry the Lions to a win in hostile territory?

The Cats have added quality, but with Jeremy Cameron on the sidelines, the Harris Andrews v Tom Hawkins matchup could dictate the outcome. Will Andrews stop the big man from having an influence, or will the constant threat of Hawkins cause Andrews to stay close to home and not venture outside what he deems is safe, leaving his other defenders to scramble?

0-2… as the AFL strives for parity amongst teams, starting with that record could almost end a season even before it really gets going. A little dramatic? Maybe… but who doesn’t like a bit of drama?

 

LEON CAMERON

A couple of goals up halfway through the last quarter, and his team blew it. You can give a heap of credit to St Kilda, but when you have the lead in the last quarter and you have a 20-point turnaround, you’ve as much lost it as the opposition have won it.

And GWS lost their opener to St Kilda in a big way.

This is supposed to be the season where the Giants turn it around. This is meant to be where they right the wrongs of 2020 and re-establish themselves as a power. Yet, they have started the way they played last season. Now they head West to take on an injury-riddled Freo team with nothing to lose.

A loss to Fremantle would sap the confidence of this Giants team and place the coach (who they amazingly re-signed last season right before they missed the finals) in jeopardy. For so long, Cameron has had the “handed the keys to the Ferarri…” line thrown at him. It might be time to take control of the car instead of careening off the road and slamming into a wall.

 

NATHAN BUCKLEY

I reckon we’re about to hit the point where we’ll find out whether Nathan Buckley still has the heart and soul of this team, or whether he’s lost them.

I don’t want to read too much into the affection the Magpies showed Adam Treloar prior to the bounce in Round One, but the hugs… not sure that would have been too pleasing for the coaching panel to see as they lined up against their former teammate. After the game – no issues with that at all, but when you’re about to go into battle, part of me feels as though that was an act of solidarity between the Collingwood players and Treloar.

Bucks is in the last year of his contract. He has been at the club for what seems like forever and he is still yet to realise the dream of winning a flag. A loss here, and that dream will never have felt further away.

Eddie is gone, and with Bucks no cleanskin over the past year or so in terms of Covid breaches and so on, you’d have to think that support for the club champion may be starting to wear a little thin. Only one thing fixes this – winning.

 

LANCE FRANKLIN

He sat on the sidelines and watched the future of a team he will most likely not be a part of. Logan McDonald, Braeden Campbell, Errol Gulden, Chad Warner, Sam Wicks… it was a delight for the Swans faithful to see this young crop of kids burst onto the scene in one collective smack to the side of the head of the Brisbane Lions.

But now the big fella is back, and he realises that this group could be just the ticket to give him one last shot at glory – stranger things have happened.

Every year there seems to be a bolter. From the bottom half of the ladder, a team emerges that catapults itself into finals contention, and as we’ve learnt in recent years, once you get there, anything can happen.

The Swans have a wonderful young core and a good mix of veterans – the icing on the cake would be a key forward that can stay on the park and make a big impact. The downside is that if the Swans fall over against the Adelaide Crows and Buddy doesn’t fire, there’ll be some that look at the team and wonder whether his presence upset the apple cart.

I would love to see Franklin hit some form and tear the game open. Absolutely love it. And whilst I am sure he will give himself every shot to do so, I just hope his body holds up and we don’t see him limp off as his Swans capitulate whilst trying to get him involved.

 

STEELE SIDEBOTTOM

It seems that the absence of Steele Sidebottom from this Collingwood team is something that many gloss over when it comes to 2020.

First, there were his “half-naked” shenanigans in Williamstown as everyone was fearing for their lives due to Covid, and then later in the year he left the hub to be with his missus as they welcomed their first child.

One of these circumstances was acceptable behaviour from an AFL player. Haha.

After missing Round One, and watching his team fall to the Dogs, Sidebottom returns to the fold against the Blues, and needs a big performance. He was one of the drivers of the Pies’ success in 2018, and if they are to go anywhere again this season, they need him to wind the clock back and lead this team – not just be along for the ride.

And if he keeps his gear on this season, that’s a bonus.

 

ZAC WILLIAMS

His first home and away outing in the navy blue was put on hold for a week after Williams was suspended during the AAMI Series for a hit on Hunter Clark.

It wasn’t the wisest move from Williams, and brought back memories of Steven May doing something similar to delay his start with the Dees after shifting from the Suns.

With the Blues already 0-1, Williams will be determined to make an impact, and the Carlton fans have some high expectations of him. He cost them a pretty penny in the move from GWS and with his exposure in the midfield limited to a handful of games at AFL level, there are some questions as to whether he is really the help Carlton have been seeking for Patrick Cripps (never fear, the help has arrived in the form of Sam Walsh!).

Williams will be thrust into the action immediately against the Pies and will be determined to make an impact. Hopefully, it is a positive one.

 

JACK ZIEBELL

Big numbers playing in defence, but what about… defending?

Jack was caught out several times when playing on crafty forwards and his lack of mobility meant that when he was isolated on someone like Zak Butters of Robbie Gray, he just did not have the wheels to match them.

The experiment of having Ziebell in defence could be a good one. He can always find the footy, and when there is a ball in dispute, you’d back him to win it, but Ziebell David Noble and the entire North defence need to be cognisant that Jack has some issues with speed and they need to make adjustments so as not to leave him stuck on an island without knowing how to swim.

 

CHARLIE CAMERON

It’s not often you hear a commentator openly question the effort of a player, but those watching the coverage of the Brisbane Lions’ shock loss to Sydney last weekend would have heard just that.

Dermott Brereton has a keen eye for the way a forward moves both with, and without the footy. And he did not like what he saw from Charlie Cameron.

During the broadcast, Brereton zeroed in on Cameron’s work ethic, or lack thereof and at one point pondered whether Charlie “had the sooks”. I am quite surprised this did not garner more attention, particularly as there was a similar question when Cameron injured his knee last season. So severe was the injury, that Cameron was sent back on the field and played the next week, but Charlie could not get near the footy, prompting some to question his ability to play through injury, or whether it was all upstairs.

This time round, the questions seemed to revolve around whether Charlie was a little upset at not being the number one forward… surely he is a bigger man than that, and after a pretty quiet first round of the season, he has a big Friday Night stage against quality opposition to prove just that.

 

BRODIE GRUNDY

I feel like I am picking on the Pies, here, but I’m just calling them as I see them.

In 2019, the Collingwood ruckman took all before him.

His consistency, second efforts and ruck dominance earned him an All-Australian berth and had Pies fans wondering what the next five or so years would look like with this running, tackling, clearing monster as the centrepiece to their midfield.

As we started 2021, they may not have as rosy a picture of that period.

Brodie Grundy dropped away in 2020 – he was still a very good ruckman, but others not only closed the gap – they jumped past him. I thought at some point we’d hear that he had been carrying an injury, or that he was going in for surgery for something or others.

Nope.

He just wasn’t playing at the same level. Still, that did not stop Collingwood from signing him to a big contract to keep the wolves from the door… and it didn’t stop them from throwing a few out the door to feed the wolves, either.

Grundy’s first outing of 2021 did not inspire a heap of confidence. His previous bunny, Tim English, had some back up in the form of Stef Martin, and together they nullified the advantage Grundy would normally possess against the Dogs. Now, he fronts u against Marc Pittonet, and nothing short of a resounding win at his position will do.

How do the Pies fans react if Grundy meanders through another outing against a big man he should eat alive?

 

So, who is under the pump at your club, and what happens if they fall over?

 

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