And we’re back. The roar of the crowd at the ‘G. Welcome back.
Of course, it’s limited so it may be less a roar and more a humble growl, but a real noise nonetheless.
It feels like a long time between drinks, though it really hasn’t been. Maybe because we were so denied normality last year that we’ve been extra expectant, hopeful, and eager for this season to start that a shortened off season has felt like a long journey through abandon. The Australian Cricket team forgetting how to play cricket has probably not helped either.
2021… a more comfortable season. An optimism of normality to add to our usual wild ambitions that, for many, will become sudden slaps of reality by the end of the weekend. The AFL season, as Ross Lyon used to say, is a marathon, not a sprint and we are just setting off. Move too quickly and you may tire before the end; move too slowly and you may have too much space between you and the leading group.
This is an important round to many. A win, an inspired performance, a great moment from a young player and suddenly the bubble of optimism rises like a satisfactory burp or a much better simile. A loss, an injury, a bad performance, early signs of wariness or even hints that the previously trusted plan may have been worked out by lesser opponents and the heart sinks, hope fades and the train ride home seems a little longer than usual.
I’ve changed the preview up a bit this year. Instead of going game by game
We as usual get to kick off the season with a rather uninspired but traditionally important match up. And this game seems to always follow the same routine: Carlton get out of the blocks well; the Carlton fans get excited; the Richmond fans start to get worried; everyone starts writing Richmond off; then half time happens and Richmond remember they’re a good side, and Carlton remember they’re not a good side and the status quo is maintained with a 20 or so point to the Tigers.
I see no change to the formula this year.
On Friday, the Pies begin their (what I am going to call) redemption arc story, looking forward to a successful season that allows them to move away from their pre-season controversies. The Dogs refuse to be written off and continue to sell the notion that they’re a young, Grand Final winning side- despite that now being half a decade ago. Will this game start a new era for the young pups or kick off a new era at Collingwood? Time will tell.
Saturday starts off with Freo, who already have half their team missing due to injury and suspension (Though work this out for me, guys: Treacy gets 2 weeks suspension from the WAFL, which means he can’t play AFL until Round Five, but can play a WAFL warm up game this week. The WAFL is more bewildering than the AFL). They’re against Melbourne who are missing some key players as well. Probably avoid that one.
Adelaide have the chance to show their quality against the quality Cats. They won’t show much.
The Bombers and the Hawks are playing at Marvel for no logical reason- Both these teams aren’t pitched to do well, but hey, could be a great game anyway, and finally we finish Brisbane and Sydney. Brisbane have a great opportunity to right the wrong off missing their grand opportunity they were gifted last season, but even a half decent win over the lowly Swans won’t tell much of a story.
Great start to the season so far.
On Sunday, Port give us a chance to demonstrate their top four credentials, though like Brisbane are in a game they should win against the Roos. A comfortable win may not tell us much, but a loss will ask many questions, of our expectations of both the Power and the Roos. The Giants and Saints could actually be the game of the round, as both middle ground teams look to gain early ladder ascension over each other, in what will be in incredibly close 6-10 come round 23. Finally, we finish off with the Eagles and Gold Coast. At Optus, one would expect the Eagles to win pretty comfortably, however, the Gold Coast Suns are traditionally good starters to the season, and don’t play terribly when they travel to Perth.
Richmond V Carlton: Thursday 7.45 MCG
Collingwood V Bulldogs: Friday 7.50 MCG
Melbourne V Fremantle: Saturday 1.45
Adelaide V Cats: Saturday 4.05 AO
Essendon V Hawks: Saturday 7.25 Marvel (for some reason)