Round 3 tips: Freo to burst Bombers’ bubble, Hawks to edge Pies

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AFL Round 3 kicks off tonight in Perth with Fremantle hosting Essendon at Patersons Stadium.

Fremantle v Essendon – Patersons Stadium, 8:40pm* – Friday, April 12

*All times shown are AEST

The Dockers have become the best defensive side in the competition since the middle of last season under Ross Lyon, restricting visiting teams to just under 36 inside 50s at Patersons.

Tonight they face the high-flying Bombers who have scored the most in the league in the opening two rounds, boosted by their 184 against a hapless Melbourne outfit last week. James Hird’s Essendon have been efficient in the attacking 50, kicking 18.9 in Round 1 in Adelaide before firing 28.16 at the MCG but don’t expect that trend to continue against the Dockers.

Lyon has inspired Freo to become the best-performed team defensively since Round 15 2012 and will be out to hamper the Dons’ free-flowing style while looking to score heavily themselves after two plus-100 scores to kick off the campaign.

Michael Walters is proving pivotal up forward for the Dockers with six goals from two matches whilst the midfield honours are being shared by the likes of Nat Fyfe, Tendai Mzungu, Michael Barlow, David Mundy, Stephen Hill and Danyle Pearce.

Freo already appear to be the real deal this year with a season-opening win over flag fancies West Coast and a tough trip to Etihad Stadium to beat the Western Bulldogs and they should be good enough to get the points at home tonight.

Prediction: Fremantle by 12.

North Melbourne v Sydney – Blundstone Arena (Hobart), 1:45pm – Saturday, April 13

The Kangaroos are stiff not to at least have one win under the belts with a controversial free-kick and 50m penalty giving Geelong a four-point victory last week.

However, they did lead by six goals at half-time so it really should not have come to that but the Cats are the masters at lifting when the chips are down.

North will have a lot to take from that performance with Lindsay Thomas again on fire up forward, slotting five, with help from Drew Petrie who snagged four. Andrew Swallow, Ryan Bastinac and Jack Ziebell were prolific but tomorrow they face a Sydney side who have some form midfielders of their own in Jarrad McVeigh (four goals, 27 touches) Josh Kennedy (28 disposals), Ryan O’Keefe (27) and Kieren Jack (28), fresh off their 41-point triumph over Gold Coast.

The Swans have got the job done against GWS and the Suns in their first two outings and seem to step up whenever they are tested which they are likely to do again in Tasmania on Saturday.

Prediction: Sydney by 15.

Melbourne v West Coast – MCG, 2:10pm – Saturday, April 13

I thought it couldn’t get any worse for Melbourne after their Round 1 hammering by Port Adelaide but my word did it ever, losing by 148 points to Essendon.

It has been a big week for the Demons with the sacking of CEO Cameron Schwab and although they cannot win against the Eagles tomorrow, they will surely put up a better fight….won’t they?

Jeremy Howe has been a positive for the Dees with good numbers against the Dons last week whilst Nathan Jones continues to put in every week but there is very little help elsewhere (Jack Viney excused).

Mark Neeld has rung the changes, dropping Jack Watts among others, so it will be interesting to see who steps up and leads the way for the club with such an unsettled group.

West Coast, who get back Daniel Kerr, were stunned by the Hawks last week, losing by 50, and will be hurting from that which should be enough to get them over the line at the ‘G. Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling are starting to look dangerous and the remarkable recovery of broken arm victim Mark LeCras has the Eagles’ forward line in a strong state which will allow them to easily kick enough goals to secure a comfortable win.

Prediction: West Coast by 45.

GWS Giants v St Kilda – Manuka Oval (Canberra), 4:40pm – Saturday, April 13

GWS have been much more competitive than many would have expected in their opening two matches and find themselves with a better percentage then Melbourne and Brisbane and just behind West Coast.

They tested Port at stages last week but eventually succumbed to lose by nine goals. Callan Ward, Stephen Coniglio and Toby Greene led the way in midfield whilst number one draft pick Lachie Whitfield showed a fair bit which are positive signs.

Last Friday night, St Kilda were beaten by 17 points by Richmond but it was a case of missed opportunities as their inefficiency, particularly in the forward 50, eventually cost them.

The negative thing for the Saints was that all their top players – Nick Reiwoldt, Leigh Montagna, Nick Dal Santo and Lenny Hayes – played fairly well. In the past that has usually led to a Saints victory but this year it suggests that there is no depth in Scott Watters’ side. Ben McEvoy had the better of Ivan Maric in the ruck and Jack Steven, Clinton Jones (beating Trent Cotchin early) and Sam Gilbert were all prolific but that was about it.

Tomorrow afternoon, St Kilda really should produce a winning result against the Giants, especially after losing to Gold Coast in Round 1, and if they don’t there could be plenty of players taking a look in the mirror.

Prediction: St Kilda by 28.

Gold Coast v Brisbane – Metricon Stadium, 7:40pm – Saturday, April 13

The Suns have certainly improved dramatically this year with a Round 1 win over St Kilda followed by a fairly solid outing against reigning Premiers Sydney.

The most positive thing about last week’s 41-point loss (after trailing by 22 points at 3-qtr time) was that superstar Gary Ablett was nowhere near as effective as usual, allowing second-gamer Jaeger O’Meara and Dion Prestia (two good games in a row but now out with a hip injury) to lead the way in midfield whilst Charlie Dixon again showed why is so highly rated, kicking three goals up forward.

The Suns will be desperate to get one over their ‘bigger brothers’ the Lions at Carrara after losing the past three of these fixtures following the historic win in Round 7 2011 but NAB Cup winners Brisbane are determined to open their account for the season proper.

Claye Beams will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury which he sustained at training. That could dampen the morale but surely the Lions are experienced enough to deal with that and focus on beating an inferior opponent.

Irishman Pearce Hanley has emerged as a quality midfielder for Michael Voss and could again be a key contributor along with Brent Moloney and Tom Rockliff who will no doubt be pumping the ball into Jonny Brown and Stefan Martin in the forward 50, enabling the Lions to kick a winning score.

Prediction: Brisbane by 21.

Geelong v Carlton – Etihad Stadium, 7:40pm – Saturday, April 13

Geelong escaped with another win last week after again coming from behind to beat North by four points following their seven-point Round 1 triumph over Hawthorn.

Chris Scott’s charges simply don’t like losing and I suspect that will again be the case when they meet Carlton at Etihad on Saturday night. Steve Johnson is in for his first game of 2013 but James Kelly is again sidelined, this time by a calf injury, after picking up 25 possessions last week.

The forward power of Tom Hawkins, Paul Chapman and James Podsiadly, with help from smalls Alan Christensen, Matthew Stokes (who was superb as a sub last week) and Mitch Duncan should be too much for the Blues to handle after they were overrun by foes Collingwood.

The Blues always get themselves up for the Pies and looked very sharp at stages but conceded seven goals in the final quarter in a mirror image of their Round 1 loss to Richmond when they were down and out but almost lifted themselves to victory.

The enigmatic Chris Yarran and the clever Jeff Garlett were vital with three goals up forward whilst Andrew Walker started brilliantly, kicking three early goals of his own, but quickly faded. Skipper Marc Murphy and his predecessor Chris Judd were the midfield stars last week and should again rack up the stats against the Cats but I question where the help will come from meaning it could quite possibly be a 0-3 start for Mick Malthouse’s Blues.

Prediction: Geelong by 12.

Richmond v Western Bulldogs – Etihad Stadium, 1:10pm – Sunday, April 14

I’m two from two tipping the Tigers so I’m not about to jump off now even though I would not at all be surprised if the Dogs got up.

Richmond produced an unconvincing win over St Kilda last week but at least ground it out to pick up the points in a match they would have quite possibly lost in the past.

Skipper Trent Cotchin stood up when the club needed him, gathering 22 touches in the second half to finish with a game-high 31, whilst Jack Riewoldt starred with seven goals. Expect those two to again feature prominently against the Dogs, especially after last year’s Round 20 win when Cotchin racked up 35 and Riewoldt kicked five.

Before that loss, the Dogs had won eight and drawn one against the Tigers which leads me to believe that they don’t mind taking on the yellow and black. Their 28-point loss to Fremantle last week had its positives as they actually outscored the Dockers after quarter-time but the absence of captain Matt Boyd again may hurt them in the middle, especially against an in-form Tigers onball brigade.

There is plenty to like about the way the Bulldogs go about it this year but I think the Tigers have found a knack of winning and may be slightly too good in a tight one.

Prediction: Richmond by 14.

Collingwood v Hawthorn – MCG, 3:20pm – Sunday, April 14

An extremely difficult game to tip but I’m leaning towards Hawthorn after they clinically disposed of West Coast by 50 points in Perth last week.

Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli were back to their best with nine goals between them as well as Luke Breust chiming in with four as the Hawks piled on 23 goals in a brilliant four-quarter performance.

The return of skipper Luke Hodge helped motivate Alastair Clarkson’s side and he will only be better for the run which is timely as Brad Sewell will miss with a hamstring. Sam Mitchell has started the season in sublime fashion and Grant Birchall is quickly becoming the league’s best running defender.

In the Pies camp, they will be hurt by the loss of Nick Maxwell (6-8 weeks with a broken wrist) who would have played a crucial defensive role. His absence opens up a gap for the dangerous Hawks attack to exploit and if their midfield doesn’t get on top, then they could quickly bleed goals.

However, Collingwood are no pretenders and showed that by coming from behind to knock off rivals Carlton with a seven-goal burst in the last quarter led by youngster Jamie Elliott’s haul of five. He won’t be afforded the same amount of room he had last week so they may have to find another avenue to goal, perhaps through Travis Cloke who went goalless against the Blues.

Nathan Buckley may look to isolate him deep in the forward 50 against Ryan Schoenmakers, which could prove a crucial battle within the war, but I do believe Hawthorn will have enough firepower to make it four in a row against the Carringbush.

Prediction: Hawthorn by 8.

Port Adelaide v Adelaide – AAMI Stadium, 4:40pm – Sunday, April 14

The South Australian showdown again is a very interesting affair this year, as it has been in recent times.

Port find themselves sitting second on the ladder after wins over Melbourne and GWS but on Sunday they face a different type of opponent on the biggest stage in SA footy.

The Crows bounced back from their opening week loss to Essendon by edging Brisbane in a hard-fought contest last week and should be primed for this encounter.

Both sides have enjoyed three wins apiece from the past six meetings, but the Crows have secured three on the trot which gives them the ascendency.

Patrick Dangerfield stepped up a gear when needed last weekend, Scott Thompson again featured heavily and the supporting cast of Nathan van Berlo and Rory Sloane were prominent.

For the Power, Justin Westhoff produced his best game with a five-goal haul as well as 25 touches and 14 marks against the Giants whilst Chad Wingard was a surprise packet, picking up 22 possessions and kicking three goals. Again Kane Cornes racked up 30 disposals whilst Travis Boak and Brad Ebert led the way with help from inexperienced duo Jasper Pittard and Lewis Stevenson.

All that is positive but the opportunities were there to be taken against GWS and I fear they will not be allowed the same time and space against a fired up Crows outfit.

Prediction: Adelaide by 18.

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AFL enthusiast. Richmond supporter. Annual September holiday-maker.