Richmond v Carlton | MCG
Last Meeting: Elimination Final, 2013 – Carlton by 20 points
After a disappointing first round, both Carlton and Richmond will look to bounce back to avoid a 0-2 start to the season. It’s very early to write off the loser of this match in terms of 2014, but an 0-2 start is a significant hole that will be tough to get out of. For Carlton, their pre-bye draw features the likes of Essendon, West Coast and Collingwood – matches they will most likely come out second best, leaving them with a good chance of a 3-5 record before their Round 9 bye. Richmond has a similarly tough draw, with matches against Collingwood, Hawthorn and Geelong before a Round 8 bye. A loss here puts Richmond most likely 2-5 before their bye. The loser of this match is really going to struggle to make an impact in September.
Despite their loss last week, Richmond can look to their key statistical areas and know they weren’t too far off a win. Winning clearances, inside 50’s, tackles, and relatively even in contested possessions is a good indicator of things to come. Just a loss of concentration and intensity after they took the lead early in the 4th cost them a win. If Carlton are going to have a chance in this they need a lift from their key players, with one of Gibbs, Murphy, Simpson or Collingwood recruit Dale Thomas to really lead the way. They lacked possessions in the first round, which makes it impossible to deliver the ball efficiently into their forward 50.
Richmond will quickly erase their Elimination Final loss with a dominant display in the midfield. Tigers by 20
Essendon v Hawthorn | Etihad Stadium
Last Meeting: R18, 2013 – Hawthorn by 56 points
Impressive wins for both sides in Round 1, and with the turmoil at Essendon seemingly behind them (barring any more comments from Tania Hird), this match should feature two teams at their peak looking to start the season with a 2-0 start. Following a tumultuous 2013, Mark Thompson seems to have gained the support of his club, and has them heading in the right direction. No surprises here really, with the two time premiership coach being an integral part of Essendon’s uprise since 2010. For Hawthorn, the premiership winning team continued where they left off last year with a 48 point thumping of Brisbane. After a half time lead of 22 points was quickly erased, the Hawks quickly turned up the tempo and running over their opponents – like any good team should do. A minor scare in a straightforward game may have jolted their 2014 season.
While both teams resemble their Round 18 teams from their last meeting, it won’t be at all like that 56 point margin. If Essendon is going to surprise a big team this year, this will be the match. Yes, Hawthorn had a big win last week and looked in top form by the end of the match, but this was against a developing team. Essendon is far from this, and are ready to take a big step in 2014. It’s still hard to tip against a reigning premier though.
A tight match for the first 3 quarters, but Hawthorn will show their class towards the end and put away a very solid opposition. Hawks by 15
St Kilda v Greater Western Sydney | Etihad Stadium
Last Meeting: R3 2013 – St Kilda by 72 points
A surprisingly intriguing game given that both teams are fighting for an unlikely 2-0 start to the season after upsets last week. The Giants midfield/rucking combination was sensational against the Swans, with new recruit Shane Mumford feeding the likes of Ward, Treloar and Coniglio who all (scarily) look ready to take the next step in their footy careers. Jeremy Cameron had another typically efficient game in front of goals with 4 goals from just 7 kicks. GWS look the real deal so far and their recruits have fit seamlessly into their squad, now boasting a more balanced mix of experience and talent.
The Saints coped with a depleted midfield against the Demons but will welcome back A-graders Montagna and Hayes who will ease the burden on the likes of Geary, Armitage and rising star nominee Luke Dunstan. Another match winning performance from Nick Riewoldt (and another no show from Travis Cloke) boosted his credentials as the game’s premier Centre Half Forward of late, and he should run rampant against the Giants due to the unavailability of key defender Phil Davis. Despite a 68 point thumping at the hands of the young Giants recently in the NAB challenge, I expect St Kilda to run out on top late with the lack of talls in the Giants defensive 50 proving decisive.
Saints to pull through in a close one, leading to an unlikely 2-0 start. Saints by 24
Port Adelaide v Adelaide | Adelaide Oval
Last Meeting: R19, 2013 – Port Adelaide by 4 points
The first showdown at the newly developed Adelaide Oval, takes over from AAMI Stadium in hosting Adelaide and Port Adelaide home matches. Not that they’ll need some time adjusting to the new surroundings though. This will be a fierce match, and with Port Adelaide now a genuine finals team, and Adelaide competing at a high level with Geelong for over 3 quarters, we could be set for another classic. Port Adelaide continued their finals winning brand of footy in the opening round, with a high tackle and contested possession count, which is very impressive for a young team. They could be forgiven for a bit of a slump after an impressive 2013, but coach Ken Hinkley is clearly running a top club. Adelaide continues their minor rebuild, looking to get back to their 2012 form that saw a Preliminary Final appearance. Eddie Betts seems reinvigorated at the new club, and with Lewis Johnston kicking 3 goals, their forward line seems to be in order despite missing Taylor Walker, and a poor debut game at Adelaide for James Podsiadly.
The derby always throws up an interesting encounter, regardless of their form heading into the match. I can only see one result here though. Port Adelaide is playing the game style that holds up in tight tough matches, like those thrown up in finals or the derby. Their style is engrained in how they play, and it won’t be a matter of having to turn it on for the big match, like Adelaide will have to do. The Crows will be competitive at times, and may even push Port all the way to the end, but they won’t be at the same consistent level Port Adelaide will be.
A tight match, but overall strength around the ground will propel Port Adelaide to a 2-0 start to 2014. Port by 8
Fremantle v Gold Coast | Patersons Stadium
Last Meeting: R6, 2013 – Fremantle by 45 points
Both teams enter Round 2 after convincing wins to start the season, and with a chance of causing a massive upset, the Gold Coast Suns will face the biggest test in football – Fremantle at home. Fremantle was super impressive against Collingwood, tearing apart what may end up being a finals side. The margin may have been a bit lopsided with Collingwood’s inaccurate kicking, but the Fremantle consistency all over the park was on show. Aaron Sandilands was dominant with 39 hitouts against the Grundy/Witts pair combining for only 24. Against an inexperienced Gold Coast ruckman in Tom Nicholls, this may be even more lopsided.
The Suns began the season just how they left off last year. Against a finals team from last year, the Suns took charge for the entire game, and even seized back dangerous momentum back from Richmond early in the 4th quarter. Gary Ablett was his usual 40-plus disposal self, and the young midfield of Prestia, Swallow and O’Meara were dominant. Against an experienced and hardened Fremantle midfield, they’ll need to maintain a full four quarter effort to have any chance of causing a major upset.
Gold Coast will challenge from time to time, but a consistent Fremantle team will be too good. Fremantle by 40.
Sydney v Collingwood | ANZ Stadium
Last Meeting: R20, 2013 – Collingwood by 29 points
A terrible first round for both teams was a bit surprising, given both teams are pushing for finals and many have tipped the Swans for the Grand Final. A clash at ANZ Stadium will give both teams an opportunity to right a horrible wrong from Round 1. The Swans lacked a consistent effort for 4 quarters, even though they looked to have the game sewn up before half time. The Giants made them pay for slacking off towards the end. For Collingwood, well, they were expected to lose, but maybe not by 70 points. Up at quarter time, it all went pear-shaped from then on, kicking only 3 more goals for the match. Their midfield fired, but lacked consistency across the ground. Against a team like Fremantle, this will bring about a hefty margin.
A really tough match to take a stab at. Probably the toughest of the round. Sydney had decent numbers in their key statistical areas like tackles and contested possessions. They were just outplayed. Collingwood gave up in their first match basically – a massive concern for the Pies. They had no way to stop the rot, and were outplayed in all aspects of the game. So by that logic, and with the match being played in Sydney, most would say the Swans will get up. ANZ Stadium though always throws a spanner in the works, with the Swans never playing their best footy there. The only time in recent memory they played brilliant footy here was against the Pies in the 2012 Preliminary Final.
Despite this poor record at ANZ and against the Pies, I’m tipping the Swans to get their season back on track. Swans by 10
Brisbane Lions v Geelong | ‘Gabba
Last Meeting: R23, 2013 – Geelong by 1
A total of one goal separated these 2 clubs encounters last year, thanks to an after the siren effort from Ash McGrath and a last second scramble in Geelong. In the space of one season, both sides will field significantly different lineups but the contest should still remain tight. Losing midfield heartbeat Tom Rockliff to suspension hurts; however the lions displayed last week against the reigning premiers that coach Leppitsch demands an uncompromising, tough brand of football that should keep the Lions on par with the cats regarding contested KPIs. The class of Jimmy Bartel was further emphasized in his milestone game last week, with fellow standout Andrew Mackie set to play in his 200th this week. The Cats have much more class across attack and defence than the Lions, which should prove the difference on an expected hot day at the Gabba.
Another tough encounter between the two but Geelong to kick away late. Cats by 20.
Melbourne v West Coast | MCG
Last Meeting: R3, 2013 – Eagles by 94
West Coast started its season of redemption in perfect fashion, ruthlessly putting away a dangerous dogs side by half time. LeCras and Darling combined to kick 9 goals, whilst their tackling pressure and ferocity at the ball was top notch – reminiscent of their 2012 trademark. Melbourne started superbly against an undermanned St.Kilda, however the lack of a consistent option in the forward line limited their 47 forward 50 entries to just 6 goals. Paul Roos will be sweating on the availability of key forwards Hogan, Dawes and Fitzpatrick as the likes of Byrnes and Pederson simply cannot get the job done. It wasn’t all doom & gloom for Demons supporters however, as Vince and Tyson performed well on debut and Jack Watts proved to be effective throughout the midfield. Interestingly, the Eagles have struggled mightily interstate at the MCG, winning just 2 of their last 14 games at the ground since ’08. Both of those wins came against…….yep, the Demons.
Eagles home easily which puts the Dees back on the bottom of the ladder. Eagles by 65.
Western Bulldogs v North Melbourne | Etihad Stadium
Last Meeting: R19, 2013 – North Melbourne by 54 points
After a bitterly disappointing opening round for both sides, it will take a real effort to get a win this round. Both teams’ best footy is solid enough for finals, but it’s their bad footy that costs both of these teams. For the Dogs, their high intensity footy was on display at times against West Coast, but against a side with so much talent, it’s hard to keep up. A big thing to take from this match for the Dogs was what happens when you face the best ruck combination in the league. Naitanui and Cox, as Callum Sinclair considerably outplayed Will Minson, denying the ball to the dangerous midfield of the Western Bulldogs. Despite this, the Dogs were even in clearances – a testament to the skill and tenacity of their midfield.
North Melbourne is probably the team with the most to prove this week. They were thoroughly outplayed in every aspect in Round 1. The most shocking statistic was their lowly 291 possessions, while Essendon’s count was an impressive 450. This is simply due to work ethic. 110 contested possessions was the lowest count of all teams, and by a considerable margin. For a side that many have tipped to be on the verge of top 4, this was a terrible performance. Their inability to deny the opposition the ball is a real concern and must be quickly dealt with to ensure they avoid a 0-2 hole to start the season.
North Melbourne’s horrible display last week will hopefully breathe some fire into a lifeless side. Roos by 10 in an unconvincing display.