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Checkside Round 1: Suns' God rises for Easter

Gary Ablett was Gold Coast's big signing. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Roar Guru
31st March, 2016
5

Any other time I talk about Demons beating Giants I’m discussing a fantasy novel; if I bring up the time the Swans beat the Magpies I’m on about something illegal; and if I want to chat about Suns beating Bombers it’s usually about something I imagined after a late night out.

But no, if I’m talking about football, then you can dig it.

It’s time to look at what we can draw from the first of the eight-point games in a series I’m calling ‘Checkside’.

Richmond vs Carlton
I tipped Tigers

The now traditional opening match of the season actually lived up to the hype. Carlton was hard at the contest, careful with their ball use, willing to take the game on, and all the other clichés about playing well.

Richmond seemed a little surprised, and took a while to assert themselves, but did enough to win.

Number 1 draft pick Jacob Weitering played like the most 27-year-old 18-year-old ever, meaning Carlton will probably lose him to another club in about four years, and Marc Murphy, Patrick Cripps and Bryce Gibbs were effective in the middle. The Blues’ main problem remains their forward line, but if they do manage to address that they should earn a few upset wins this year.

Richmond still have some improving to do if they are to make it to September. Fortunately, they get to practice against Collingwood this week.

Melbourne vs Greater Western Sydney
I tipped Giants

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The Giants tried the bold new strategy of not kicking goals when they had the chance. It turns out that the old idiom of ‘bad kicking is bad football’ holds up and the Giants played some very bad football. When you convert just over a third of your shots on goal into goals, and then you lose by two points, that means you threw away the win.

The Demons did well with their comeback in the last, but if they give up an extra eight shots on goal (not counting out-on-the-full) every week, they won’t get many opportunities to have those kinds of comebacks.

While the Giants will rue this loss for the rest of the season (unless they win the premiership or something), the Demons will take confidence from pulling a win in the first game of the season, and will look forward to playing the Bombers next week. Who knows, they may even spend some time in the eight this year.

Speaking of Essendon…

Gold Coast vs Essendon
I tipped Suns

It’s Easter; it had to happen. People of Australia, He has risen. Gary ‘Our Lord and Saviour’ Ablett has returned, and he is as good as ever.

With all the conversation last year about whether Nat Fyfe is the best player around, Ablett made those arguments moot. The Suns weren’t methodical but they were effective and they put the patchwork Bombers (which is also the name of the worst children’s book ever written) to the sword. A better team would have won by 100 points and it portends to a very long season ahead for the fans at Windy Hill.

The Suns were ably led by Ablett, but also had good contributions from Aaron Hall, 200-gamer Michael Rischetelli, new recruit Matt Rosa, with Tom Lynch looking dangerous up forward against the diminished Bombers defence.

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The Bombers have problems pretty much everywhere, with David Zaharakis and Matt Stokes the only players who fired a shot.

As much as I’d hate to see it, we might see a zero-win season from Essendon.

Sydney vs Collingwood
I tipped Swans

My first attended match of the season. Many were tipping Collingwood as the big movers of the season, and the Swans to be one of the sliders, so what occurred must have been quite the shock.

There were a number of stories: Buddy Franklin’s first match in a long time, the start of the Swans’ first full season at the SCG since 2001, and the Swans’ first match without Adam Goodes on the list since 1998.

Collingwood had re-signed their coach, were dealing with the fallout of a News Ltd report on drug use within the club, and were trying to adjust to the huge move of the match from Olympic Park to Moore Park.

It seems like some of the players didn’t get the memo. Or else Collingwood decided that without the sub rule, they’d play five men down.

The Swans were dominant in pretty much every facet. The only player who could be said to have a legitimately decent game for the Collingwood Witches-Hats is new recruit Adam Treloar.

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The Swans might be thereabouts again this year, but we’ll have to wait and see a few more matches before we can make solid predictions (my oxymoron of the week) about the future of Sydney and the Training Drills.

North Melbourne vs Adelaide
I tipped Kangaroos

This game is the hardest to make a judgement on. Both teams were decent finalists last year and want to take the next step, but nobody knows if they’re going to.

The match itself was a real tug-of-war match that ended up being decided by the golden oldies. With a little more luck and polish the result could easily have been reversed. but thanks to the Crows’ lack of Brent Harvey, the Kangaroos managed to hold on.

My absolutely flawless and specific prediction based upon this solitary match is that both these teams will be competing for a finals spot and will knock off some of the top teams, but will also drop a few to weaker teams.

This game really showed how much teams miss players. From Daniel Wells coming back and instantly giving the Kangaroos midfield so many more options, to the Crows having to adjust to life without Patrick Dangerfield. Both teams have shown that they can manage without these players, but without them they are diminished.

The Kangaroos more so than just about anyone else will be hoping to have a minimal injury list this year.

Western Bulldogs vs Fremantle
I tipped Bulldogs

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If you’re having goal problems I feel bad for you, son. I got 99 problems but a freak ain’t one. Hit me!

I was really impressed by the Bulldogs’ effort throughout the four quarters. They were brutal around the contest and pretty efficient at the goal face. Fremantle on the other hand, were indecisive, ineffective and in a world of hurt. I’m not sure they had a game plan aside from ‘kick it somewhere vaguely away from the opposition’, and it should be an area to focus on before their next match.

That said, the Bulldogs were great everywhere. Tom Liberatore showed that despite their decent season last year, the Bulldogs still missed him, Jake Stringer further emphasised that he is the best medium-sized key forward since Michael O’Loughlin, and Tom Boyd further consolidated his position as the most over-paid player going around.

The Dockers, for their part, barely fired a shot. Nat Fyfe demonstrated that he is the most overrated player in the league, Matthew Pavlich showed that without the burden of captaincy he is an aged key forward, and the rest of the team made evident how little instinct they have when the gameplans they have constructed fall down.

The Dockers might have trouble, while the Bulldogs might have everyone who doubted them eating crow (not that sort) before the end of the year.

Port Adelaide vs St Kilda
I tipped Power

This match was three quarters of the match of the round. St Kilda took it to the Port Potential until three-quarter time, and I thought that they would hold on, but the Force from Port managed to build a victory margin that actually flattered them and diminished the Saints’ efforts.

There were plenty of positives to take out of the match for both sides though.

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New Port Energy recruit Charlie Dixon managed to work his way into the game after being a little quiet in the early parts, and the mid-small forward group of Robbie Gray, Chad Wingard and Brad Ebert were their usual, annoyingly brilliant selves. Meanwhile, Saints ruckman Tom Hickey had one of the best games a ruckman can have, dominating the hit-outs and having a respectable number of possessions. Their midfield group also had a great spread of contributors without anyone really standing out.

Both sides might worry about their defence – if they are ever unable to keep their scoreboard ticking while also being unable to slow their opposition scoring, they might run into issues later in the season.

West Coast vs Brisbane
I tipped Eagles

The least interesting match of the round. The Lions did compete better than expected, especially since they had a few key players out. They managed to score 100 points in Perth, which is an achievement that many good teams fail to accomplish. The problem is that they also conceded 166 points. Ah, the frustrations when you just fail to complete an objective.

The Eagles look strong across the park, although with only Brisbane as the opposition it’s hard to make too many huge claims yet. It will be interesting to see whether the high-flowing attack will still be used against stronger teams like Hawthorn or Geelong. Oh look: a segue!

Geelong vs Hawthorn
I tipped Hawks

This was a good game. I don’t think it was a great game. Alastair Clarkson said that his team only turned up to play for a quarter and I’m inclined to agree with him. And while that third quarter did make the game tense for the first part of the last term, the rest of the match was relatively straightforward dominance by the Cats, with the Hawks only having the run on in small patches outside of their quarter.

Patrick Dangerfield was easily the best player on the day, although for a few moments there it seemed like he had joined the Giants instead of the Cats, allowing the rest of the team to play just a little bit freer, giving them the time they needed to do their best.

The Hawks were missing a few of their best players and it seems like they’ll be missing a few more for a little while. Their defence is their main concern, particularly against contested marking. Considering they face the Eagles this week, it could be a real danger.

Finally, I’ll leave you all for my tips for the next round, so you can all laugh at my pathetic attempts at predicting.

Tips for Round 2
Tigers
Crows
Demons
Kangaroos
Bulldogs
Dockers
Cats
Hawks
Swans

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