The twilight game on the Saturday when AFL footy returns is between two of the original VFL clubs, Carlton and Melbourne.
And while both have had some finals success in the last decade, it is now a significant period of time since either team raised the premiership cup after the last game of the year.
Both suffered losses way back in Round 1 to the premiership teams of the last two seasons (Richmond and West Coast Eagles) and both will be keen to get their season underway with a win in a year where you only get one opportunity to gain a four-point break on an opponent who is a potential challenger for a final-eight spot.
Both teams would like their chances of winning. Since David Teague took over Carlton mid-way through 2019, they have had a 50-50 win-loss ratio and a slight improvement on this should see them play finals in 2020.
Melbourne – despite suffering a disastrous 2019 – still have the personnel and the ability to repeat their 2018 effort in finishing fourth on the ladder and winning two finals comfortably.
Simon Goodwin is in his fourth year of coaching, and in the first two years he achieved a record of more than 50 per cent success. If he can replicate that in 2020, it would also see the Demons knocking on the door of a finals appearance.
The Demons boast a champion player, who due to his long service to the club not only provides leadership and experience to the team, but holds a top-ten position in the club’s top 100 game-players list.
This is former captain Nathan Jones. Jones sits second on Melbourne’s top 100 game-players list behind David Neitz, the only Demon to play in excess of 300 games. Jones has a total of 286 games so is unable to catch Neitz in this truncated 2020 season of 17 home-and-away games and become the greatest game-player at Melbourne ever.
Two other milestones, however, are in sight. If Jones can manage to play six games this season, then his total of 292 games would see him join Anthony Stevens (North Melbourne), Darren Milburn (Geelong) and Matthew Boyd (Western Bulldogs) in 98th position on the AFL all-time top 100 game-players. A further eight games would see him reach the coveted 300-game mark.
Neville Jetta will bring up the traditional milestone of 150 games at the Demons and join three players who finished their careers at Melbourne on that number.
The late Scot John Phillip “Sean” Wight was part of the Irish experiment started by Ron Barassi and Barry Richardson and was the first player brought to Melbourne from Ireland. Matthew Whelan started at Melbourne in 2000 after stints in both the Northern Territory and South Australian leagues. Jared Rivers was another SANFL player recruited to Melbourne. After playing all 22 games to bring up his 150 games in 2013, he moved to Geelong and played another 44 games.
Tom McDonald, if he plays, will pass Stephen Tingay and claim outright 43rd position on Melbourne’s top 100 game-players list. Tingay was recruited from Shepparton and debuted in Round 1, 1989 and gave the Demons good service until 2000. Tingay is also a top 100 goal-kicker at Melbourne, sharing 89th position with Ron Barassi.
At Carlton, Matthew Kreuzer will equal the game tally of Mil Hanna, who was famous for being the first Lebanese player in the AFL. In 1992 he finished second in Carlton’s best and fairest and made the All Australian side. He played in Carlton’s last premiership in 1995.
The returning Eddie Betts will pass former star forward Jarrad Waite’s tally of games.