Round 3 AFL preview panel

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    Preview of AFL Round 3 matches (all times AEST).

    FRIDAY, April 13
    Carlton v Collingwood at MCG 7.50pm
    Head to Head: Blues 123 Magpies 114 drawn 4
    Last clash: Round 17 2011 – Magpies 13.20 (98) bt Blues 11.13 (79) at MCG
    Tab Sportsbet: Blues $1.75 Magpies $2.10
    Sportingbet: Blues $1.80 Magpies $2.05

    Fascinating clash as the upwardly mobile Blues tackle grand finalists Collingwood in a traditional clash with a sharp, new edge. Carlton have made no secret of their top four aspirations. If that’s where they truly sit, these are the games they must win. Carlton recall defenders Michael Jamison and Nick Duigan from injury, but Lachie Henderson is likely to get first crack at Collingwood power forward Travis Cloke. Collingwood regain skipper Nick Maxwell for his first match of the season.

    Key: The midfield duel. Carlton’s Chris Judd and Marc Murphy take on the Magpies’ Scott Pendlebury and Dane Swan. Both teams also have excellent support casts. Whoever gets on top here wins.

    Tip: Blues by 25 points

    SATURDAY, April 14
    Richmond v Melbourne at MCG 1.45pm
    Head to Head: Tigers 100 Demons 79 drawn 2
    Last clash: Round 22 2011 – Tigers 17.15 (117) bt Demons 17.8 (110) at MCG
    Tab Sportsbet: Tigers $1.25 Demons $4.00
    Sportingbet: Tigers $1.27 Demons $3.75

    Two teams at 0-2, but contrasting views have been taken of their defeats. Melbourne have been pilloried for their uncompetitive efforts against Brisbane and West Coast. Richmond have been well in their matches against top-four aspirants Carlton and Collingwood, only to be overrun at vital times. You’d rather be the Tigers. Few would want to be Mark Neeld after his baptism of coaching fire – much of it out of his control. But Neeld has shown he will drop players regardless of reputation – and few could have any complaints with axing former skipper Brad Green after two terrible games.

    Key: Few have started the season better than Tigers midfielder Trent Cotchin. He’ll need to be reined in if the Demons are to have any chance.

    Tip: Tigers by 27 points

    Port Adelaide v Sydney at AAMI Stadium 2.10pm
    Head to Head: Power 6 Swans 14
    Last clash: Round 8 2011 – Swans 18.13 (121) bt Power 9.5 (59) at SCG
    Tab Sportsbet: Power $2.75 Swans $1.45
    Sportingbet: Power $2.67 Swans $1.47

    No team can grind out victories like the Swans. They’ve started 2-0, and in beating a good side in Fremantle, haven’t really got their due. The Swans are a great chance to continue their unbeaten start to the season against Port, though the Power were much improved against St Kilda in round one and showed they had make huge leaps on their dismal 2011 in the loss to Essendon. Ruckman Shane Mumford is an important `in’ for the Swans, and his size and ability in the hitouts will be pivotal in giving his side first use.

    Key: Sydney midfielder Josh Kennedy is officially an A-grader – with 30 touches in his opening two matches. Does the hard stuff and will give Port headaches around the stoppages.

    Tip: Swans by 11 points

    Fremantle v Brisbane at Subiaco 4.40pm
    Head to Head: Dockers 8 Lions 11
    Last clash: Round 14 2011 – Dockers 12.16 (88) bt Lions 10.5 (65) at Subiaco
    Tab Sportsbet: Dockers $1.08 Lions $8.00
    Sportingbet: Dockers $1.09 Lions $7.50

    Hard to get a read on the Lions, who looked scintillating against Melbourne but were smashed by rampant Carlton last week. Fremantle claimed Geelong’s scalp at home in style, but couldn’t back up against the Swans. The Dockers have always shaped as formidable at home, and Ross Lyon’s style lends itself to Subiaco becoming an even tougher fortress to penetrate. Jonathan Brown’s return from injury gives the Lions a focal point in attack. How they get it to him remains the question as the Dockers’ onball brigade should have the upper hand.

    Key: Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe just keeps getting better, and along with returning Michael Barlow add options and quality to the Dockers’ midfield.

    Tip: Dockers by 38 points

    Gold Coast Suns v Essendon at Gold Coast Stadium 7.40pm
    Head to Head: Suns 0 Bombers 1
    Last clash: Round 6 2011 – Bombers 31.11 (197) bt Suns 8.10 (58) at Etihad Stadium
    Tab Sportsbet: Suns $11.00 Bombers $1.04
    Sportingbet: Suns $12.00 Bombers $1.03

    One wonders where the Suns would be without Gary Ablett, who keeps racking up the touches as his side keeps getting hammered. The Bombers’ unbeaten run looks set to continue, and the celebration of Dustin Fletcher’s 350th game will no doubt lift the Dons. The only time these teams met, the Bombers kicked a record first quarter score last year. Essendon are getting great value from the underrated Brent Stanton and Jobe Watson in midfield. But soft tissue injuries continue to be a concern – Mark McVeigh the fifth to break down in a week.

    Key: Suns midfielder Michael Rischitelli was uncharacteristically quiet last week and will need to lift.

    Tip: Bombers by 67 points

    Western Bulldogs v St Kilda at Etihad Stadium 7.40pm
    Head to Head: Bulldogs 70 Saints 77 drawn 3
    Last clash: Round 12 2011 – Saints 12.9 (81) bt Bulldogs 8.9 (57) at Etihad Stadium
    Tab Sportsbet: Bulldogs $2.75 Saints $1.45
    Sportingbet: Bulldogs $2.60 Saints $1.50

    Two teams with new coaches and new game styles to deal with. The Saints have managed a win, though it was only against lowly Gold Coast. The Dogs are still looking for a first victory under Brendan McCartney, but they will fancy themselves in a match they need to win to avoid the spotlight afforded 0-3 teams around this time of year. St Kilda veteran Lenny Hayes and forward Nick Riewoldt appear to be back to their best if their performances against the Suns were any guide.

    Key: Bulldogs skipper Matthew Boyd has been excellent in his side’s opening two matches, but needs a lift from those around him to quell the star-studded Saints midfield.

    Tip: Saints by 6 points

    SUNDAY, April 15
    Greater Western Sydney Giants v West Coast at Blacktown Olympic Park 1.10pm
    Head to Head: Giants 0 Eagles 0
    Last clash: N/A
    Tab Sportsbet: Giants N/A Eagles N/A

    When the bookies won’t take bets on the match, you fear a one-sided affair. This is the position several have taken with the Giants. West Coast will beat them despite being without star duo Matt Priddis and Darren Glass. But can the Giants conjure a round one-like performance which saw them push Sydney, or is their smashing by North Melbourne last weekend closer to what we can expect? More cannon fodder looms for the Eagles, who torched Melbourne by 100-plus last week. Successive century-plus wins is on the cards – and the mother of all percentage boosts.

    Key: Underrated Eagle Scott Selwood appears to have taken giant strides this season, virtually having his own footy in the massive win over Melbourne last weekend.

    Tip: Eagles by 112 points

    Hawthorn v Adelaide at MCG 3.15pm
    Head to Head: Hawks 13 Crows 18
    Last clash: Round 1 2011 – Crows 16.9 (105) bt Hawks 12.13 (85) at AAMI Stadium
    Tab Sportsbet: Hawks $1.18 Crows $4.90
    Sportingbet: Hawks $1.18 Crows $4.85

    Hawthorn’s penchant for being run down in close games against the best clubs is now becoming legendary. The match against Geelong on Monday should have been won. Instead, they lost and take on the Crows, who haven’t lost yet under new coach Brenton Sanderson. Sanderson learnt his trade at Geelong and knows intimately how the Cats were able to put together seven on the spin against the Hawks. He’ll have some tricks up his sleeve. Adelaide have lost forward Richard Douglas to injury, but Chris Knights – dangerous running off half-forward – is the logical replacement.

    Key: Hawks midfielder Sam Mitchell was unstoppable in the first half against Geelong and has started the season superbly. He can expect a hard tag from the Crows. Can he shake it and keep doing what he’s been doing?

    Tip: Hawks by 26 points

    North Melbourne v Geelong at Etihad Stadium 4.40pm
    Head to Head: Kangaroos 58 Cats 92 drawn 1
    Last clash: Round 7 2011 – Cats 19.13 (127) bt Kangaroos 9.7 (61) at Skilled Stadium
    Tab Sportsbet: Kangaroos $4.90 Cats $1.18 Draw $51.00
    Sportingbet: Kangaroos $5.00 Cats $1.17 Draw $67.00

    Good teams win the games they shouldn’t. Any doubts about the 2012 Geelong were erased with their stunning come-from-behind win against Hawthorn – everyone’s premiership favourites. The Cats remain as formidable as ever, have injected youth in the right places, and will take stopping against the Kangaroos. North come off a shellacking of GWS – effectively a training run of far less intensity than Geelong’s showdown with the Hawks. North midfielder Ryan Bastinac is on track for a breakout year, and improving Jack Ziebell’s return from suspension toughens up their midfield. They’ll need him, with Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel and Paul Chapman lying in wait.

    Key: Can the Cats back up from a tough encounter off a six-day break at their best?

    Tip: Cats by 18 points

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