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Two unexpected winners and two unexpected losers to face off in AFL Round 2

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Roar Guru
22nd March, 2021
10

The first Saturday of the 2021 AFL season produced two massive upsets – with the winners of those matches to face off in the AFL’s return to the SCG on Saturday afternoon, while the losers seek redemption at Kardinia Park on Friday night.

In a round which proved to be a nightmare for many tipsters, last year’s wooden spooners the Adelaide Crows caused the first major boilover of the new season, upsetting last year’s grand finalists the Geelong Cats by two goals at the Oval in the Saturday twilight match.

After a tough first season for Matthew Nicks at the helm, not many gave the Crows, grand finalists only four years ago, any chance of toppling the Cats, even on home turf.

But an inspired performance from Taylor Walker, who booted five majors, saw his side lead from start to finish to register their first Round1 victory since 2017, and just their second since 2012.

It was a far cry from the first thirteen matches of last season, which produced no victories for the Crows until they managed to win three consecutive matches towards the tail end, but it proved to be too late as they finished in last place for the first time in club history.

The win over the Cats means they have now won four of their past five matches, with the only loss in that patch being against Richmond in the final round of last season.

Brodie Smith of the Crows in action

(Photo by Matt Turner/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

They will now fancy their chances of going 2-0 when they travel to Sydney to face the Swans, who upset hot premiership favourites the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba and perhaps provided the competition a blueprint on how to bring down a quality team on their home turf.

As was to be expected, the Lions burst out of the blocks with three goals in as many minutes, vindicating the belief that the Lions would be in for a field night at home against the side that finished 16th on the ladder last season with just five wins.

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The third of those Lions goals was kicked by Joe Daniher, whose jumper-grabbing celebration was criticised by Channel Nine AFL journalist Kane Cornes on The Sunday Footy Show.

If anything, it proved to be a turning point as the Swans pegged back two goals to trail by just five points at quarter-time, having successfully quelled the Lions’ attack to that point.

The Swans dominated the second quarter, but by the halftime break, scores would be level on 8.4 (52) apiece, and many expected the Lions’ experience and more recent success to get them over the line in the second half.

However, the Sydneysiders flipped the script after the main break, kicking nine goals in the third quarter and ultimately going on to win by 31 points, marking the third time in four seasons that they have won a season opening match on the road.

The final score of 19.11 (125) was their highest score since mid-2018, and the highest score of any side this round, but it was also just the third time since the end of 2018 that they had cracked triple figures.

Last season, their highest score in any match was 11.8 (74) in Round 1 against the Crows at the Adelaide Oval.

Forefront to the Swans victory were debutants Errol Gulden and Logan McDonald, who both kicked three goals each with the former the favourite to land the Rising Star nomination for Round 1.

That result could prove to be a springboard in the Swans’ bid to return to finals football in 2021, as it was for the Lions when they defeated reigning premiers the West Coast Eagles by 44 points in Round 1, 2019 (after coming from 27 points down at quarter-time).

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Prior to then, the Lions had not made the finals since 2009 and in the nine seasons between 2010 and 2018 inclusive, had finished no higher than 12th on the ladder (in 2013).

But beating the Eagles in the first Round 2 years ago gave them the belief that they could not only compete with the best, but also beat the best, and their new brand of football would ultimately rocket them back up the ladder.

Back to the Swans now, and with Buddy Franklin set to return against the Adelaide Crows this Saturday, it will only make for what promises to be an exciting return for the club to the SCG after the side played only four games there last year for a return of one win.

The 34-year-old has not played since Round 23, 2019 and is 56 goals in arrears of becoming the sixth player to reach the magical 1,000-goal mark, something that has not been achieved since Gary Ablett Sr. brought up his four figures in June 1996.

His return will be one of many subplots ahead of the Swans versus Crows match at the SCG, with the winner to go 2-0 up to start the season.

The day beforehand, the Cats and Lions face an early season crunch match at Kardinia Park with the loser to drop to 0-2 for the season.

Already the fallout has begun at both Kardinia Park and the Gabba over their respective teams’ shock round-one losses – with poor attitude being a main factor in both of their defeats.

Most concerning was the Lions, who went into their match against the Sydney Swans at home as rampaging hot favourites to smash the side that had finished 16th the previous season.

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As was to be expected, Chris Fagan’s side kicked the first three goals of the match in as many minutes to lead by 19 points, and the blowout everyone had forecasted was well on track.

But Joe Daniher’s first goal as a Lion, and the subsequent celebration which attracted criticism from Kane Cornes, proved to be a millstone as the Lions wilted under the pressure of the younger Swans, which had not made finals since 2018.

At one stage in the final quarter, the Lions, preliminary finalists last year and with the squad capable of winning the premiership, trailed by 50 points before pegging back the final three goals of the match, but it would not be enough to prevent an already embarrassing defeat.

Fox Footy commentator Gerard Healy slammed the Queenslanders for not bringing the right mental base into the match, believing the side simply turned up believing they would walk all over the Swans.

But in the AFL, you simply cannot do that, and the Lions were left to pay the price for severely underestimating a side that had the second-youngest squad in the competition.

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In his first match as the reigning Brownlow Medallist, Lachie Neale had a match to forget as he failed to lay even a single tackle, though he had 24 disposals (only Jarryd Lyons earned more for the side).

What must be remembered, though, is that the Lions lost to Hawthorn by 28 points in Round 1 at an empty MCG last year before advancing to its first preliminary final since 2004.

This, the onus will be on the northerners to hit back when they travel to the Cattery, a place where they haven’t won since 2003, to face the Geelong Cats on Friday night.

The Cats will be without Patrick Dangerfield who has been sent straight to the judiciary for the bump that KO’d Jake Kelly, with the 30-year-old set to face a suspension of at least three matches.

Therefore, a Dangerfield versus Neale match-up in the midfield will have to wait until at least Round 15 when the teams will face each other at the Gabba.

Patrick Dangerfield of the Cats makes a break

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It was a dirty afternoon for Chris Scott’s team, who also went into their match against the Adelaide Crows at the Oval expecting to win, but were ultimately found as wanting rather than willing.

They will also be without boom recruit Jeremy Cameron for another week, after he tweaked his hamstring during training last week, so the marquee Cameron versus Harris Andrews match-up will also have to wait until the return clash in Brisbane in three months.

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The Cats now face going 0-2 for the first time since 2015 and without Dangerfield and Cameron, and even at home where they haven’t lost to the Lions since 2003, it will be a tough ask against a Lions side that will be seeking more than just redemption.

Other teams in recent years have recovered from disappointing Round 1 losses to reach the finals, but the fact of the matter is that only five teams in the past decade have recovered from an 0-2 start to reach the finals.

Most notably, the Sydney Swans finished in sixth place in 2017 after starting that season with six straight losses, while Collingwood also dropped its first two matches in 2018 before made the grand final. In 2019, Essendon dropped their first two, before finishing eighth.

This will be the teams’ first meeting since last year’s preliminary final, in which the Lions started heavy favourites with it being played at the Gabba, yet it was the more experienced Cats who took the honours and denied the Lions a historic grand final berth on home soil.

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The regular season match between these sides was played last year was played in unfamiliar territory at the SCG, this coming after the Cats and all nine other Victorian clubs were forced to evacuate when a second wave of coronavirus cases smothered the state.

That match saw the Cats win by 27 points, despite losing three of the four quarters.

But fast forward to Friday night and even though it’s early days, the stakes could not be any higher for either the Geelong Cats or Brisbane Lions, with the loser to drop to an 0-2 record for the season.

Those two matches will make for intriguing viewing in a round that will also see:
* Old rivals Carlton and Collingwood look to avoid an 0-2 start when they kick off the round on Thursday night;
* Port Adelaide welcome Essendon to the Adelaide Oval;
* St Kilda and Melbourne, both coming off Round 1 victories, face off in Spud’s Match – dedicated to the memory of former Saints defender Danny Frawley, who took his own life in September 2019;
* The Gold Coast Suns face North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium, sans Matt Rowell;
* Hawthorn look to cause an upset when they clash with Richmond at the MCG;
* The Western Bulldogs look to make it two from two when they host the West Coast Eagles at Marvel Stadium; and
* Fremantle and GWS seek their first win for the season when they clash behind WA’s now-controlled border at Optus Stadium.