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The Roar's AFL expert tips and predictions: Round 1

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18th March, 2020
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We’re back for another year. For this week, at least.

Yes, in case you missed last night’s news; Round 1 is back on tonight.

So, we’ve hastily organised the return of (most of) our AFL expert tipping panel.

Daniel Jeffrey has excused himself from the panel this year, his reasoning is time constraints but I think he’d find the time if he wasn’t reeling from 2019’s last-place finish.

That means you’re stuck with last year’s champion, Marnie Cohen, AdelaideDocker and myself for 2020.

The season could get postponed before I finish writing this, so let’s not delay further.

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Stirling Coates
Richmond, Western Bulldogs, Essendon, Sydney, Port Adelaide, GWS, St Kilda, Hawthorn, West Coast

The only thing more normal than Richmond playing Carlton in the AFL’s season-opener is Richmond beating Carlton in that fixture. Will the Blues be better in 2020 with a full year of David Teague? Of course, but they’re nowhere near the Tigers just yet and so the navy blue half of the {error-invalidnumber} people at the MCG tonight will go home unhappy.

The Western Bulldogs and Collingwood has to be the match of the round on Friday night. Two top-four hopefuls, although I think one of them is in for a dip in 2020.

That team is the Magpies, who seem to in the very highest echelon of reliable but without enough game-changers around the park. I’ll go with the Dogs to claim a narrow Round 1 win.

Essendon get the nod over Fremantle on home-ground advantage alone, while I think Sydney’s ‘told-you-so’ tour begins with a solid win in Adelaide as well.

The Swans probably don’t have the cattle to play finals, but all this talk of a descent into wooden spoon territory is nonsense. They have a strong record at Adelaide Oval and will flex their muscle over a new-look Crows side.

Port Adelaide are another side I think could be a huge surprise and I expect the narrative on Ken Hinkley to reverse completely by September. Heck, the way this year is going, a Port Adelaide vs Melbourne grand final is probably the most likely outcome (with the UFO to abduct the ball as it sails through for what would have been the matchwinner). The Suns get up and about in the early part of the year, but the Power will get the job done.

Similarly, GWS should go some way to getting the grand final out of their system with an entertaining win at home in front of the Cats. You can insert your own joke about empty stadiums not harming the Giants here.

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GWS Giants fans cheer at an AFL match.

No cheer squads will be jarring, even for the Giants. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Brett Ratten and St Kilda will draw first blood in the Five New Coaches Championship over Rhyce Shaw’s Kangaroos. History says we have to expect one of these new coaches to taste September (or November) football in their first season and the Saints look the most likely to me, although I wouldn’t be surprised if none of them got there.

Brisbane are a popular pick to ease back into the pack this season, but I’m not necessarily sold on that outcome just yet. I do think, however, they’ll start the season off with a loss to the Hawks. The Lions have an absolutely atrocious record at the MCG; since winning their third consecutive grand final in 2003, they’ve won just seven games at the venue since – with three of those being in 2004.

That’s four wins in 15 years at the home of football and Alastair Clarkson’s mob – with Tom Mitchell back – are exactly the kind of team who feast on that. Who ever thought they’d rather be playing Hawthorn in Tassie?

Finally, 2020 has been just that bizarre we need a big upset in the first round and I’m going with Melbourne to cause mass anxiety in WA with a shocking win over the Eagles.

As for the Shoe-In of the Week, we’re going right back to the start with a Tigers win over the Blues.

Marnie Cohen
Richmond, Collingwood, Fremantle, Adelaide, Gold Coast, GWS, St Kilda, Brisbane, West Coast

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Wow. What a last 4927428 days this week has been. It feels like we have waited 29 lifetimes to know if the AFL season would kick off today, or not. Amidst all the toilet paper hoarding and tougher lockdowns, we finally have a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

I must admit, I don’t know if this is the best decision but I will welcome it. As a footy tragic and someone who desperately wants to talk about something that’s not the C-Virus, I am here for the start of the 2020 season.

I don’t think any of my tips will come as a shock to the system, perhaps with the exception of the Suns – so let’s start with them.

The Sunnies enjoy a victory at home in the opening six rounds of the season, so why not back them in to kick off this weird and wonderful season with a win. They went 2-0 in the community series, with star recruits Rowell and Anderson looking impressive. Brandon Ellis and Darcy Macpherson also looked the goods.

It’s not to say that Port Adelaide can’t or won’t win, it’s just to say that the Suns are in a good position to kick off their season with a win.

Stuart Dew

Stuart Dew and the Suns could get off to a great start. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Same with St Kilda, who recruited well at the end of last season and flexed their muscles in the pre-season comp. They will have to stop Ben Brown though, who looks to be ready and raring to go for round one. Probably one less challenge the Saints would like to have, but it’s great news for us 37 North supporters.

I think last year’s grand finalists Richmond and GWS will both open their accounts with wins. Collingwood and West Coast (without their “influential” home crowd) should notch up victories as well.

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I really like the way Freo looked during the pre-season and they came within seven points of the Bombers in Melbourne early last season. With a relatively fit lineup, I don’t see why they can’t win. The issue is; who is their avenue to goal?

As much as they’d love to clone Sonny Walters – one in the midfield and a couple up forward – that technology is not yet available. Essendon’s run off half back may prove too strong, but I’ll trust my gut here and back the Dockers in.

Both the Swans and Crows look ordinary. The home ground factor as swayed my decision here.

And Brisbane love playing the Hawks, so I won’t go against winning form.

AdelaideDocker
Richmond, Collingwood, Fremantle, Sydney, Port Adelaide, GWS, St Kilda, Brisbane, West Coast

Absolutely nothing about this beginning to the season is normal. Except Richmond being more than likely to win their opening round clash against the Blues, but nevertheless expect Carlton to put up a fight.

Similarly, I expect Friday’s clash featuring the Pies and Doggies to be a good clash – a great one, even – with Collingwood to open their ledger with a win.

The New South Welshmen teams in Sydney and GWS will secure wins against Adelaide (in Adelaide) and Geelong (in Sydney) respectively. I’d really want to see Gold Coast win their opening clash, but I’ll play if safe and tip Port, because who knows how many rounds there’ll be in this tipping column, and we’ve gotta stockpile the wins while we can.

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Sunday’s games are a little tricky, but I’m going to tip St Kilda, Brisbane and West Coast respectively. It’s the Brisbane tip – against the Hawks at the MCG that is the most difficult one of them. But a crowd-less ‘G is essentially a neutral ‘G, yeah?

Finally, and more out of blind optimism than anything, I’m going Freo over Essendon on Saturday.

Round 1 Stirling Marnie ADocker The Crowd
Richmond vs Carlton RCH RCH RCH RCH
Western Bulldogs vs Collingwood WB COL COL COL
Essendon vs Fremantle ESS FRE FRE ESS
Adelaide vs Sydney SYD ADE SYD ADE
Gold Coast vs Port Adelaide PA GCS PA PA
GWS Giants vs Geelong GWS GWS GWS GWS
North Melbourne vs St Kilda STK STK STK STK
Hawthorn vs Brisbane HAW BL BL BL
West Coast vs Melbourne MEL WCE WCE WCE
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