These are the questions I’m asking ahead of the AFL restart.
Will the Pies measure up to the Tigers?
What better way to kick off the resumption of the 2020 season than with a battle between two of the league’s powerhouses?
Despite a memorable demolition of the Tigers in the 2018 preliminary final, Collingwood players, coaches and fans must surely be envious of the premiership success achieved by their bitter rivals in two of the past three seasons.
With many viewing this as a grand final preview, can the Pies measure up and knock off the reigning premiers? A win here would certainly add to their already firming premiership chances.
How much of an advantage is the Cattery?
With three of the next four down at GMHBA Stadium, many saw Geelong as the big winners of the AFL’s revised fixture. Without an adoring home crowd, how much will the home ground really play a part?
The Hawks were mightily impressive in Round 1 and a battle at the G could have even seen them start favourites. Instead, their unfamiliarity with the ground and the Cats’ imposing record at home should see Geelong prevail.
Still, I’m expecting a cracking contest between two sides who historically provide exciting finishes.
Are the Lions on the slide?
Brisbane stormed into the finals series last season on the back of a swashbuckling second half of the season. From there it’s been a bit downhill with a poor Round 1 performance following a straight-sets finals exit.
Are we reading too much into just three games of footy? A loss at home against a middle-of-the-road Fremantle would be growing cause for concern.
Who are the Dees?
Was their exciting 2018 simply a flash in the pan? Or could we see a return to the form that saw them reach a preliminary final? It’s a debate rattling the minds of many in the AFL world.
Carlton overcame a horrid start to appear somewhat competitive against Richmond in Round 1. In a tricky situation for the Dees, a win would be expected while a loss to the Blues would spoil the hopes of Melbourne fans dreaming of a turnaround.
Are either of the South Australian teams relevant?
With coach Ken Hinkley’s job well and truly on the line, it looks like the Power are the only genuine chance of an SA team competing in finals this season.
The Crows have undertaken a major reboot since their excellent 2017 campaign. After a disappointing Round 1 performance at home against the Swans, few would see the remainder of the season as any more than a developmental year for the Crows’ younger players.
Showdowns are always fiery, entertaining affairs, but will the result lead us to believing that either of these teams will be relevant come the pointy end of the season?
Does the shorter format suit Nic Nat?
A Round 2 game against the lowly Gold Coast may not tell us a whole lot about the Eagles’ premiership chances, but it may give us an indication of where their improvement may come from.
If there’s one player in the competition that may benefit from the shorter game time, it’s West Coast’s star ruckman. On the back of a number of injury-troubled years, Nic Naitanui’s game time has been precariously managed by Eagles management.
Even if his limited minutes remain, Naitanui will be able to play a greater percentage of game time and could prove a large factor in the Eagles’ flag credentials. A battle against Suns co-captain Jarrod Witts provides a good test on resumption.
Can the Giants manage their injuries?
Without a string of injury-plagued seasons, the Giants may very well have already tasted premiership success.
The likely returns of Callan Ward and Zac Williams should boost an already talent-rich side who comfortably accounted for the Cats in Round 1.
In what should otherwise be a straightforward victory against North Melbourne, the Giants can’t afford the loss of key players early in a shortened season.
Can the Dons convince Joe?
After a failed bid to join the Swans at the end of last season, many believe it’s a foregone conclusion that Joe Daniher will eventually make his way to Sydney come the end of this season.
An Essendon finals appearance and a Sydney bottom-six finish may help persuade Daniher that a brighter future remains at Tullamarine. With the key forward watching on the sidelines, what better way for the Bombers to begin that quest than with a victory over the team after his services.
Will the off-season recruiting pay off?
St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs were viewed as the big winners of last year’s trade period. The Saints picked up Brad Hill, Zak Jones, Dougal Howard and Paddy Ryder, while the Dogs shored up their key positions stock by acquiring Alex Keath and Josh Bruce.
After each club’s excitement and build-up to the season, both were equally disappointing in Round 1. The Dogs were startled in a four-quarter obliteration by the Pies, while the Saints surrendered a big lead to fade late against the Roos.
The pressure will be on both clubs to respond and a 0-2 start for either will be a grim beginning after such optimism during pre-season.