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2020 AFL season: Round 3 preview

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Roar Guru
15th June, 2020
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Last week proved to be a nightmare for many tipsters with at least three premiership favourites failing to win their matches over the weekend.

Chasing a 14th consecutive victory, Richmond were brought undone by Collingwood in the first match of the rebooted AFL season, being pegged to a 5.6 (36)-all draw, but it was still enough to ensure they remained undefeated for over twelve months.

Their two main contenders, the West Coast Eagles and GWS Giants also copped unexpected defeats at the hands of unheralded opposition, and if the Eagles’ loss to the Suns is anything to go by it could be a long month for Adam Simpson’s men on the Gold Coast.

Meantime, the Giants won’t have long to stew over their disappointing loss to North Melbourne, facing a short turnaround before they face the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.

In other matches, 2012 premiership winning Swan Rhyce Shaw will go up against his old coach, John Longmire, in the coaches box as the Kangaroos seek their first win over the Swans in Melbourne since 2007.

Off the back of its impressive boilover win over the Eagles, the Suns will also attempt to complete their set of beating every team in the AFL when they host the Adelaide Crows on Sunday afternoon.

Here is your full preview to Round 3.

Richmond vs Hawthorn
Round 3 kicks off with what threatens to be a one-sided clash when Richmond faces Hawthorn at the MCG on Thursday night.

The Tigers will be filthy for falling behind early against Collingwood in Round 2, conceding four goals in the first quarter while failing to score one themselves.

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They were left to play catch-up for the rest of the evening, and eventually forced a 5.6 (36)-all draw – the teams’ first drawn match against each other in over 100 years and the lowest-scoring AFL men’s match since 1999.

Still, it was enough for the Tigers to stretch their undefeated run past twelve months, the club’s most recent defeat being against the Adelaide Crows at the Oval on June 13 last year.

On Thursday night they’ll start hot favourites to defeat a Hawthorn side that was nothing but insipid in its 61-point loss to the Geelong Cats at GMHBA Stadium last Friday night.

The Hawks were put on the back foot early, and while they managed to at one point claim the lead in the second quarter and were only behind by six points at halftime, collapsed in a dismal second half to lose by ten goals in their first appearance at Kardinia Park since 2006.

Coach Alastair Clarkson labelled his side as “fourth-rate” and it has all but become clear that the club has become a shadow of the team that was the most dominant side of the past decade, in which they won three flags from four grand final appearances.

Veteran Shaun Burgoyne should consider himself lucky to play given he escaped with only a fine for his dangerous tackle on 250-gamer Patrick Dangerfield.

Recent history is against the Hawks, who have lost their past four against the Tigers dating back to late-2017. That said, the Tigers should unleash their frustration on them after being denied a 14th consecutive victory by way of a draw against the Pies.

Prediction: Richmond by 30 points.

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Nick Vlastuin of the Tigers is tackled

(Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Western Bulldogs vs GWS Giants
Both the Western Bulldogs and GWS Giants will look to put disappointing losses behind them when they face off in the latest instalment of their ongoing feud at Marvel Stadium this Friday night.

Expected by many to continue its barnstorming start to the season, the Giants were found wanting by an unfancied North Melbourne side at home on Sunday, with coach Leon Cameron saying his side “didn’t get their hands dirty” during the two-hour horror show.

Despite leading by two goals in the third quarter, the Giants were left on the back foot for the majority of the match, and faded towards the death to lose by 20 points and drop to eighth place on the ladder.

One positive, however, was the return of ex-co-captain Callan Ward from an ACL injury which saw him miss all but three minutes of last year’s campaign.

Now the Giants will need to pick themselves up for a Friday night showdown against the Western Bulldogs, who will also be coming off a short break and are fresh off a disappointing 39-point loss to St Kilda at Docklands.

The Bulldogs also started favourites in their match against the Saints but were made to look second rate as new captain Marcus Bontempelli continued a rough start to his new role.

They trailed by only three points at quarter-time, but only managed a grand total of seven goals – half as many as what the Saints managed – leaving them with more questions to be asked than answered.

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This will be the first time the Bulldogs and Giants face each other since last year’s elimination final, where fireworks exploded in the Giants’ 58-point victory, which came only three weeks after the Dogs put them to the sword by 61 points, both times at Giants Stadium.

Tempers flared in the elimination final after Toby Greene was sent directly to the judiciary for his rough treatment on Marcus Bontempelli, this coming after the now-Bulldogs captain crunched Nick Haynes in the regular season match, from which he escaped with a fine.

Moreover, this will also be the first time the two sides face each other in Melbourne since 2017, when Greene generated controversy for kicking Luke Dahlhaus with his boot as the Giants won by 48 points.

But while there may be no crowd to witness the next instalment of this rivalry at Marvel Stadium this Friday night, you can still bet there will be fireworks in what is expected to be a highly-watched game on television.

Away from home for the first time this season, I think the Giants should bounce back.

Prediction: GWS Giants by 16 points.

Zac Williams of the Giants celebrates a goal

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

North Melbourne vs Sydney Swans
The match between North Melbourne and the Sydney Swans promises to be an intriguing one, for the fact that 2012 premiership winning Swan Rhyce Shaw will go head to head against his former coach, John Longmire, in the coaches’ box.

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Nearly eight years have passed since the Swans upset Hawthorn to win the 2012 flag, with Rhyce Shaw redeeming himself with a premiership medallion nine years after being part of the Collingwood side that was humiliated by the Brisbane Lions in the 2003 grand final.

Shaw’s time in Sydney saw him produce some consistent football as he thrived outside of the Melbourne media bubble, which has typically been unforgiving towards several players’ transgressions.

After retiring in 2015, he remained with the Swans on the coaching panel, before returning south to join the North Melbourne coaching staff as an assistant to Brad Scott.

After Scott resigned halfway through last year, Shaw took the reins and after an impressive stint as caretaker coach, was elevated to the head coaching role on a full-time basis.

This season he has led the Roos to two victories from as many matches, first coming from five goals down to edge out St Kilda in their opening match, and then going on a hit-and-run mission to upset the GWS Giants by 20 points at Giants Stadium in Sydney.

They now have the chance to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 2016 when they face the Sydney Swans at Marvel Stadium.

After starting their season with a three-point win over the Crows, the Swans conceded the first three goals of the game against the Bombers, and while they trailed all day, never allowed their opponents to stretch their lead beyond 20 points.

They got to as close as a point in the dying minutes, only to be “Dom Sheeded” at the death by Bombers midfielder Darcy Parish.

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It marked the Swans’ first loss against the Bombers at home since 2009, and having failed to defend one hoodoo, must now defend another when they face the Roos, whom they haven’t lost to away from Sydney since 2007.

This includes a hat-trick of wins in Tasmania, where the Swans are undefeated from four appearances (having also beaten Hawthorn in Launceston in their only match there, in 2012).

However, back at home, I think the Roos should continue on their merry way.

Prediction: North Melbourne by six points.

Collingwood vs St Kilda
The second of three matches at the MCG this weekend sees Collingwood look to put behind the disappointment of their draw against the Tigers when they face a red hot St Kilda in the twilight.

In the first match of the rebooted season, the Pies started on fire against Richmond, kicking the first four goals of the game to shoot to a four-goal lead at quarter-time.

However, they could only manage one goal thereafter as they recorded their first draw since 2017, and in part prevented Richmond from notching up a 14th consecutive victory.

Their next task is to face a rejuvenated St Kilda side which fired on all four cylinders to thrash the Western Bulldogs by 39 points at Marvel Stadium last Sunday night.

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Still stung by their second-half collapse against the Kangaroos in Round 1, the Saints showed no mercy against the Bulldogs, with ex-Swans Zak Jones and Dan Hannebery proving their worth to the club with dominant individual performances.

It goes to show that this is the type of football they are capable of producing under Brett Ratten, who blasted his players in the aftermath of their Round 1 loss to North Melbourne in which they gave up a five-goal lead to lose by two points.

Not much is expected of the Saints this season, but if they can cause a boilover against the Pies this Saturday night, then the AFL world might stand up and take notice.

However, I think the Pies will be too strong.

Prediction: Collingwood by 18 points.

Taylor Adams of the Magpies is congratulated by teammates

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Brisbane Lions vs West Coast Eagles
Life on the Gold Coast hub might be about to get tougher for the West Coast Eagles, who on Saturday night will travel up the M1 to the scene of their Round 1 humiliation from last year.

Adam Simpson’s men copped a 44-point thrashing by the Gold Coast Suns in their first match on the holiday strip since 2017, after which the 2018 premiership coach said that his side “had a lot of work to do”.

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The Eagles are one of four clubs that have been forced onto the Gold Coast as a means of resuming the season after both Western Australia and South Australia outlawed any competitive contact sport from resuming in their states.

They will be sharing the Royal Pines resort, a stone’s throw away from Metricon Stadium, with the Dockers, though it’s understood the two clubs will be separated from each other with the Eagles using one half of the hotel and the Dockers the other.

Now they will face the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba – the scene of their horrific 44-point loss in Round 1 last year – for a third consecutive year.

In that match, the Eagles led by as much as 27 points at quarter-time but took their foot off the pedal thereafter in a disastrous start to their premiership defence, which ultimately ended with a semi-final defeat by the Geelong Cats at the MCG.

On the flipside, the Lions built on that result to finish second on the ladder and qualify for its first finals series since 2009 – only to then bow out of September in straight sets with losses to the eventual grand finalists, Richmond and the GWS Giants.

After dropping their season opener against Hawthorn at an empty MCG, the Lions led from start to finish to defeat Fremantle by 12 points, with Charlie Cameron and Harris Andrews among their best, and register their first win for season 2020.

Now, facing a badly wounded Eagles side set to be without Jeremy McGovern due to suspension, Chris Fagan’s side will have every reason to believe they can beat the westerners once again, and leave their opponents facing a 1-2 start to the season.

Prediction: Brisbane Lions by 25 points.

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Hugh McCluggage

Hugh McCluggage has his bags packed for the finals. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos via Getty Images )

Geelong Cats vs Carlton
The other Saturday night match will see the Geelong Cats start hot favourites to beat Carlton and sentence the Blues to a 0-3 start to the season for an eighth straight year.

In Patrick Dangerfield’s 250th AFL game, the Cats were held on a leash by Hawthorn in the first half, before breaking off the shackles in a dominant second half, led by Gary Ablett Jr, to win by 61 points and record its first win against Hawthorn at Kardinia Park since 2004.

It was the Cats’ first win for the season after they lost to the GWS Giants by 32 points at Giants Stadium in Round 1, before the season was suspended at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Next up are the Blues, which failed to score a point in the first quarter against Melbourne and then fell seven goals behind before belatedly launching a stirring comeback which ultimately ended with them falling one point short.

Coach David Teague said that the team cannot afford to start matches so poorly, as it has proven to be their downfall in their two losses so far this season.

One positive for the coach was the performance of fullback Jacob Weitering, who kept his opponent Tom McDonald scoreless for the whole match. This came after he also blanketed Richmond forward Tom Lynch in the opening round, which seems like an eternity ago now.

The top draft pick from 2015 also kept Tom Hawkins goalless in Round 23 last year, which was the most recent time the Cats and Blues faced each other.

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Back then, the Cats showed no mercy as they wrapped up the minor premiership in style, and won’t be expected to be so kind to the Blues who will be looking to avoid a third straight defeat to start the season.

Prediction: Geelong Cats by 40 points.

Tom Hawkins of the Cats celebrates kicking a goal

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Gold Coast Suns vs Adelaide Crows
The Gold Coast Suns have their best chance yet to complete their Grand Slam of having beaten every single team in the AFL when they welcome the under-siege Adelaide Crows to hub life at Metricon Stadium.

Having gone nearly 14 months without a victory, the Suns shocked the AFL world by thrashing premiership fancies the West Coast Eagles by 44 points at Metricon Stadium last Saturday night in what was their 200th AFL premiership match.

The win was masterminded by second-gamer Matthew Rowell, who earned the Rising Star nomination after gathering 26 disposals, seven tackles and two goals in what was the Suns’ biggest win against the Eagles and just their second against them after a win in 2017.

The challenge for Stuart Dew’s side is to back it up against the Adelaide Crows, who will enter their Gold Coast hub for at least a month on the back of losses to the Sydney Swans and Port Adelaide in their opening two matches.

After narrowly losing their season opener against the Swans at home, Matthew Nicks’ side nothing but insipid in its 75-point loss to Port Adelaide in the Showdown, with the ex-Swans defender labelling the defeat “embarrassing”.

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The Crows had started the game strongly, but waved the white flag after quarter-time as they crashed to their worst defeat in the intra-state rivalry, eclipsing the 65-point thrashing they copped in 2001.

Further souring the defeat, captain Rory Sloane didn’t feature after three-quarter-time after suffering a thigh injury in the third quarter, and is in doubt for the clash against the Suns.

History is heavily on the Crows’ side, as they have never lost to the Suns in 13 previous attempts, and have also never lost on the Gold Coast since entering the competition in 1991.

But despite that, I think the Suns should continue their strong form at home and make it 14th time lucky against the Crows, which would see them record at least one victory against each of the other 17 clubs in the league.

Prediction: Gold Coast Suns by 10 points.

Will Brodie

Will Brodie of the Suns celebrates scoring a goal. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Essendon vs Melbourne
As part of the original fixture, Essendon’s home clash against Melbourne would’ve marked the 20th anniversary of the Bombers’ 16th and most recent premiership.

The Bombers had been planning a reunion of the class of 2000 which featured the likes of Matthew Lloyd (that year’s Coleman Medallist), James Hird (the Norm Smith Medallist), “Smokin'” Joe Misiti, Marc Mercuri, Dustin Fletcher, Scott Lucas and current Richmond coach Damien Hardwick.

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However, the club will have to hold off on that for now, with only essential staff to be permitted inside the MCG when the modern-day Bombers look to make it 3-0 against the Dees, who have split their two matches on either side of the three-month long break.

The Bombers led from start to finish to beat the Sydney Swans by six points at the SCG last Sunday to break an eleven-year winning drought at the venue.

In what was likely his final match at the venue, it also marked John Worsfold’s first win as a coach at the venue after seven previous defeats at the Moore Park venue (three with West Coast and four with Essendon).

Fifth-year midfielder Darcy Parish channelled his inner Dom Sheed to kick the match winning goal on a tight angle from the boundary line at the death, and it ultimately proved to be the difference between the Bombers being on six or eight premiership points.

Meantime, Melbourne started its match against Carlton in dominant fashion, kicking five goals to nothing in the first quarter, yet could only manage three more goals for the game and ended up in front by only the barest of margins at full-time.

The Dees led by as much as seven goals, but allowed the Blues to storm back into the contest in the second half. Jake Melksham said in the aftermath that the club “would have lost this match” last year.

Over the past decade, matches between Essendon and Melbourne have been difficult to predict with any real confidence; only once (in 2013, when the Bombers won by 148 points) in that time has the starting favourite won on match day.

In what will be the first appearance on the MCG for both sides this season, I think the Bombers will take the chocolates.

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Prediction: Essendon by 12 points.

Fremantle vs Port Adelaide
The final match of Round 3 will act as the second match of the Metricon Stadium double header when Fremantle “hosts” Port Adelaide at what was the host venue of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Life on the Gold Coast hub started disappointingly for the Dockers, who went down to the Brisbane Lions by only two goals at the Gabba in their second consecutive match away from home, and the second in a string of an indefinite number of matches away from WA.

For at least the next month or so, the Dockers will call the Gold Coast home and their first “home” game will see them face Port Adelaide, which will be playing its second game on the holiday strip in three months.

The Power will arrive on the Gold Coast on the back of two impressive wins, the most devastating of them a 75-point thrashing of the Adelaide Crows in Showdown XLVIII in the final match to be played at the Adelaide Oval for at least a month.

Former captain Travis Boak claimed his second Showdown Medal as the Power registered its biggest win in a Showdown, and leveled the ledger at 24 wins apiece – making it the most even interstate derby in the Australian Football League.

Those two wins sees Ken Hinkley’s men sit in top spot on the ladder with a percentage of 290.6 – some 116 percentage points more than the second-next best team, Collingwood.

Thus, you can bet that the Power will show no mercy towards the Dockers, and sentence the Purple Haze to a third straight defeat to start the year.

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Prediction: Port Adelaide by 30 points.

Port Adelaide

Port Power’s brains trust. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)