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Tonight the 2013 AFL season begins when Adelaide Crows host Essendon at AAMI Stadium, with the football world’s focus finally turning to the on-field action. We’ll have live scores and commentary from the first bounce at 8.40pm AEDT.
In 2012 Adelaide, under the guardianship of Brenton Sanderson for the first time, began the year by winning the NAB Cup and continued that form throughout the season, eventually coming within a kick of making the grand final.
Suffice to say expectations are considerably higher this year but the Crows’ pre-season form has been patchy at best.
Their losses against St Kilda and Geelong both came at AAMI Stadium and it while they were nowhere near full strength, neither were their opponents.
But it would be foolhardy to place any significance on anything that happens before round one.
Adelaide made AAMI Stadium a difficult place to travel to last season, winning 14 of 16 matches there including a four-point win over the Bombers in round 19.
Patrick Dangerfield picked up 29 touches that night and Taylor Walker kicked four, and Sanderson will once again be hoping for big contributions from the pair both tonight and throughout the year.
Tonight they face an Essendon side who made their own flying start to last season going 8-1 after before a succession of injuries literally crippled their campaign, closing out 2012 on a seven-game losing run.
Aside from the ongoing drama that has enshrouded Windy Hill over the past month, much of the attention throughout the NAB Cup was on the form of Brendon Goddard.
The number one pick of the 2002 draft has begun 2013 strongly with a host of strong performances in the NAB Cup.
If he can continue this into tonight Hird will be a very happy man as will captain Jobe Watson, who will appreciate a second key midfielder to take some of the opponent’s attention.
Essendon have been boosted by the inclusions of Michael Hurley and David Zaharakis, although fellow midfielder Jason Winderlich is still unavailable with a groin complaint.
Adelaide received their own bonus at the selection table with the news that Jason Porplyzia will play, despite being hospitalised a fortnight ago with a stomach ulcer.
Highly touted West Adelaide product Brad Crouch has been named as an emergency, while former Essendon recruit Josh Jenkins will line up forward in place of the now-departed Kurt Tippett.
So who wins? It’s hard to go past the home side – you simply can’t argue with a 14-2 record.
Then again, that was 2012 and the Crows have been off so far in the pre-season and there is no doubt Essendon will be keen to play away the memories of the last four weeks, if only momentarily.