Richmond go for two in a row, more misery for Melbourne and Pies to pip Blues.
Footy is finally back and we were treated to some cracking contests in round one which makes life very difficult from a tipping point of view heading into the second lot of matches for 2013.
Here’s a quick recap: Essendon surprised all by knocking off Adelaide in the season opener, while Fremantle vindicated many preseason predictions that they would be a force this year although they did it at the expense of my flag favourite West Coast.
Richmond fell in against Carlton on a very nervy night for Tigers supporters but there was a lot to like about their performance.
The Blues also have plenty of scope and will get better the more they play under new coach Mick Malthouse.
The bombshell of the first week’s action was the ease in which the Western Bulldogs brushed aside NAB Cup winner Brisbane Lions with a 68-point triumph when almost everybody tipped against them.
I believe most tipsters will be treating the Lions with plenty of trepidation now while the Doggies are clearly an unknown quantity.
Reigning Premiers Sydney were made to grind out a 30-point win over ‘little brothers’ GWS Giants while Gary Ablett turned it on to guide Gold Coast Suns to a first-up victory over a disappointing St Kilda.
Port Adelaide, who were on the end of a few hidings last year, absolutely flogged a despondent Melbourne outfit who did not give a yelp after half-time, scoring just one goal.
Collingwood, disadvantaged by a few late omissions, did the job over North Melbourne and a Joel Sewlood-inspired Geelong made it ten in a row over Hawthorn, with a great fightback, eventually winning by seven points.
So let me have a crack at Round 2 for you:
St Kilda vs Richmond – MCG, 7:50pm (all times below AEDT) – Friday, April 5
The Tigers looked a class above Carlton at times last week but as is always the case, they allowed the opposition back in, putting their noses in front by just five points at the final siren.
It was great for Richmond to simply pocket the four points and win a close one after some heartbreak last year but they will be looking for more tonight, especially against a St Kilda side which were stunned by the Suns (not that Richmond isn’t aware of that feeling).
The fact the Saints have the wood over the Tigers in recent years does nothing to sway my thoughts on this game. I feel Damien Hardwick has put together a group of players who are made of sterner stuff than some of the Punt Rd teams of the past.
Jack Riewoldt had a day out with eight goals in this fixture in 2012 and after a goalless (but very team-orientated) performance last week, I believe he can have a say at the MCG tonight.
Trent Cotchin and Brett Deledio are again the keys for the Tiges while the Saints will as per usual rely on Nick Dal Santo, Lenny Hayes and Nick Riewoldt.
Terry Milera snagging three last week means he will be watched more closely by the Tigers smaller defenders but James Gwilt out is a worry for the Saints’ backline which does get back Sam Fisher and Sean Dempster.
Leigh Montagna is a huge in as he has blitzed against Richmond in the past and Adam Schneider is also a handy inclusion but there is enough for the Tiges to secure their first 2-0 start to a season since 1997.
Prediction: Richmond by 22.
Sydney vs Gold Coast – SCG, 1:45pm – Saturday, April 6
The Swans were tested by GWS last week before eventually coming away with a five-goal victory.
Josh Kennedy and Ryan O’Keefe were at their usual damaging best while Adam Goodes and Kieren Jack were also extremely dangerous.
The form of those players bodes well for another triumph for the reigning champs, who unfurl their flag at the SCG tomorrow.
Gold Coast were a lot better than most expected in their 13-point win over the Saints with Ablett again leading the way.
He did, however, have plenty more help this time around with Jarrod Harbrow, Dion Prestia, David Swallow and Charlie Dixon all prominent.
The Suns will surely give another good account of themselves but the Swans will be far too classy and should run out fairly comfortable victors.
Prediction: Sydney by 35.
Western Bulldogs vs Fremantle – Etihad Stadium, 2:10pm – Saturday, April 6
The Doggies smashed Brissie last week which took many by surprise but I suggest Freo may be a completely different prospect.
Youngsters Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis leant superb support to Ryan Griffen and Daniel Cross in the absence of skipper Mat Boyd while Shaun Higgins and Daniel Giansiracusa got the job done on the scoreboard.
Another major plus was the debut of 29-year-old Brett Goodes but I just feel that the Dockers are way too good to let this one slip.
They did the business in the Western derby with a solid 28-point win over the Eagles despite the fact Matthew Pavlich was goalless which suggests there has been plenty of improvement in Ross Lyon’s outfit over the preseason.
Michael Walters was damaging, as was Nick Suban (three goals each), while Michael Barlow, David Mundy, Nat Fyfe, Stephen Hill and ex-Port winger Danyle Pearce did the job in and around midfield.
Prediction: Fremantle by 14.
Brisbane vs Adelaide – Gabba, 4:40pm – Saturday, April 6
Brisbane plummeted back down to earth with a huge loss at the hands of the Dogs following their NAB Cup triumph.
An inexplicable 11-goal loss dampened their beginning to the season proper and it doesn’t get any easier with a visit from the Crows who will no doubt be fuming after they were knocked off by the Bombers in week 1.
7.17 is a scoreline not to be proud of with the wayward Lions missing more than a handful of set shots in the first half before their woes continued.
Not one multiple goal scorer is a slight problem but surely that can be arrested at the Gabba tomorrow.
Matthew Leuenberger is a massive in and hopefully he can remain fit so he can supply the likes of Daniel Rich (tagged out of it last week), Tom Rockliff and Brent Moloney with first use.
Adelaide will be hurting from the opening night defeat to the Dons when they were widely tipped to get up and the pride of South Australia should really come to the fore for Brenton Sanderson and his men.
An 0-2 start to the season would be disastrous for their top four hopes and I suggest they will not allow that to occur with Scott Thompson, Patrick Dangerfield, Nathan van Berlo and co. desperate to bounce back by feeding Taylor Walker and Jason Porplyzia up forward.
Prediction: Adelaide by 15.
Port Adelaide vs GWS Giants – AAMI Stadium, 7:40pm – Saturday, April 6
Port’s huge round one win over Melbourne was just the tonic they needed to kickstart a brand new season after an extremely poor 2011 and 2012.
Their forward line of Jay Schulz (four goals), Angus Monfries and Paul Stewart (three each) and Justin Westhoff looked extremely dangerous but that was probably more due to an inept Demons defence allowing them to do as they pleased.
Hamish Hartlett, Brad Ebert, Kane Cornes and Travis Boak were all at the top of their game in the middle along with debutant Ollie Wines (NAB Rising Star nomination) and it is that section of the ground where I feel the Power will assert their authority on the Giants.
Kevin Sheedy’s Giants had a good old fashioned crack against the Swans and although they came up short, in racing parlance they will be better for the run.
Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel, Callan Ward and Stephen Coniglio were all prime movers while Jonathan Patton did well from limited opportunities up forward.
The Giants will again be up for the challenge but their inexperience and inconsistency will cost them against a Port side riding high with confidence.
Prediction: Port by 40.
Essendon vs Melbourne – MCG, 7:40pm – Saturday, April 6
The Dons got things started with a very impressive win over Adelaide led by Brownlow Medallist and skipper Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton and a breakout game from Ben Howlett with 25 touches and four goals.
You wouldn’t have thought that Essendon would be $1.10 favourites in round two but here you find them all the rage as they prepare for a meeting with Melbourne, who ironically inflicted the Dons’ second defeat of 2012 in round one0 for the Dees’ first win.
It probably couldn’t get any worse for Melbourne and with improvement the sole priority this week, they are highly unlikely to produce a winning performance.
Plenty of senior players need to step up and help out the inexperienced Jack Viney and Matt Jones who were brilliant on debut.
Jack Grimes and Nathan Jones were also solid but there was little else to like about Mark Neeld’s outfit and I’m tipping another defeat, which I’m sure, plenty others out there are doing.
Prediction: Essendon by 38.
Geelong vs North Melbourne – Etihad Stadium, 1:10pm – Sunday, April 7
The Cats produced a stellar comeback against the Hawks to continue their reign over last year’s runners-up and there is no reason to see why they cannot go on with it when they tackle the Kangaroos on Sunday.
Geelong will be buoyed by the return of Joel Corey and James Kelly who will only add to the already experienced types of Paul Chapman, Jimmy Bartel, Corey Enright and the leadership of Selwood who turned it on when the team needed it most at the G on Easter Monday.
Tom Hawkins and James Podsiadly looked frighteningly dangerous at times and will be too much for the North defence although they do get back Scott McMahon to assist Scott Thompson and Michael Firrito.
North were decent against the Pies but just lacked that special something to get them over the line although Lindsay Thomas was electric in the forward 50.
He needs a bit of help from the bigger blokes in the arc such as Lachie Hansen, Robbie Tarrant and Drew Petrie who could be a handful for the Cats defence if they click but Chris Scott is likely to have his Geelong team winning plenty of the ball in midfield to deny twin brother Brad’s side the chance to score heavily.
Geelong are a class outfit and their quality will overcome the Roos who actually did the job last year in round three when Brent Harvey destroyed his rivals with 38 disposals. He is not there this time around.
Prediction: Geelong by 15.
Collingwood v Carlton – MCG, 3:20pm – Sunday, April 7
The Pies were slightly held back by the late withdrawals of Dayne Beams and Heath Shaw last week but managed to offset those losses to open their account with a hard-fought 13-point win over North.
Usual suspects Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury set up the victory with Travis Cloke (4.3), Steele Sidebottom (three goals), Quinten Lynch and Tyson Goldsack (both two goals) finishing it off.
Shaw has returned this week to bolster the backline and that will only serve the Pies well especially with the Blues missing a huge goal source in Eddie Betts who has a broken jaw.
Against the Tigers in round one, the Blues appeared completely settled at stages when they were kicking goals at will, particularly in the last quarter, and they looked much better when switching to their free-flowing brand rather than Malthouse’s more defensive approach.
Betts is a big loss but Sam Rowe now gets his chance as a tall forward, who will pinch hit in the ruck, and doubled with Levi Casboult could cause a few headaches for the Pies defence.
However, you can’t expect too much from that pair and down the other end there should be plenty of attacking options as Nathan Buckley looks set to get one over his former mentor but in what should prove to be a cracker.
Prediction: Collingwood by 18.
West Coast vs Hawthorn – Patersons Stadium, 4:40pm – Sunday, April 7
It will be weird to see one of these two teams kicking off 2013 with two defeats next to their name but that will be the case bar a draw.
The Eagles looked good early in the derby against Freo but were overrun in the second half and will be fairly keen to make amends for that fade out and subsequent defeat.
In the same boat is Hawthorn who squandered a handy lead to eventually lose to Geelong by seven points.
They too will be hungry to atone for that reverse and will no doubt be going all out to get back the four points their bogey side took away from them.
Lance Franklin was not at his best at the G but expect him to improve dramatically on the wide open spaces at Subiaco and he will benefit greatly if Sam Mitchell carries on from his 37-disposal game.
Brad Sewell and Jordan Lewis were also prolific for the Hawks but they fell away up forward with Franklin slightly down on his regular output.
Luke Breust was ok and really should have kicked five if it not for profligacy in front of goal but that was about it in the Hawthorn forward line.
West Coast lose Mark LeCras again, which is a negative, but they are so good at home and should just have enough to edge the Hawks in a potentially tight one.
Prediction: West Coast by 5.
Pick your own line with Sportsbet
Richmond -11.5 ($1.68)
Sydney -26.5 ($1.40)
Port Adelaide -24.5 ($1.55)
Melbourne +51.5 ($1.57)
Geelong -10.5 ($1.73)
Add a bit of value
Add Collingwood -16.5 ($1.89) to make it: $18.70