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The Roar


Questions to ponder ahead of Round 3: Can the Pies be re-heated, Are Port the real deal, Can Jezza's form last for the Cats?

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27th March, 2024

It may only be round 3, but already the AFL has dished up plenty of action and drama – so, there are many storylines to dissect.

Ahead of this week’s games, we ponder what may unfold; whether teams can turn around their form, or dig themselves a deeper hole.

Brisbane v Collingwood

Can Collingwood figure out their defence?
In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Collingwood is 0-3 – the premiers are winless.

They look far off the conquering team of 2023 and one aspect that will be of real concern to Craig McRae will be their struggles in defence with experienced players such as Darcy Moore, Jeremy Howe, Brayden Maynard and Steele Sidebottom looking a far cry from the style of play that saw them win a flag.

The Magpies have conceded just over 103 points on average in the first three rounds, and they are coming up against the side that has arguably the most attacking weapons in the competition on their home deck.

Granted, Brisbane has also struggled in their start but unless Collingwood can tighten up their defensive accountability, Thursday night could be the tonic the Lions need to click back into gear which would spell for very ugly watching for Pies fans.


North Melbourne v Carlton

Can North prove they are worthy of Good Friday?
We seem to have this conversation almost every year.

But until the Kangaroos can pull themselves from the bottom and stop accepting mediocre performances as seen in their inexplicable second-half fade-out against Fremantle, this debate will keep coming up.

Off-field, the club does make a huge contribution with their charitable partnership with the Good Friday Appeal and the Royal Children’s Hospital and now it’s time for that to translate into on-field action where they simply must produce a full four-quarter performance.

They have a great chance to provide stern competition against the Blues – a side that is expected to feature at the pointy end of September and finally prove to the footballing world that they are worthy of a marquee audience in front of a big crowd after four consecutive bottom two finishes.

Fremantle v Adelaide


Can Fremantle rectify their starts?
The Dockers have started the season 2-0 and their comebacks from a lacklustre start, especially against North Melbourne where they overturned a 32-point deficit, have shown the resilience that this side possesses.

However, coach Longmuir and the Freo faithful will be hoping that the slow starts are rectified.

Last year, the Dockers only won six first quarters from 23 games, the equal lowest in the competition, and that pattern seems to have extended into 2024.

Against an attacking and quick side desperate to correct their 0-2 start in the Crows in their aspirations to play finals, Fremantle will hope that they can get in front of the game early instead of having to stage a comeback as logic suggests they can’t keep winning from poor starts.

Essendon v St Kilda

Will Essendon ever rectify the defence of transition?
There’s been a lot to like in Essendon’s start to the season, taking it right up with the arguable premiership favourites in the Swans, at the SCG.


However, for Brad Scott’s men to finally break the finals drought, they need to do something about their defence of transition and do it quickly.

Last week, the Swans’ elite kickers such as Errol Gulden, Chad Warner and Nick Blakey tore the Bombers apart en route to scoring a whopping 132 points.

This weekend, the Bombers have a similar challenge with Saints half-back Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera coming off a career-best game with 32 disposals and 613 metres gained against Collingwood.

Unless the Bombers can tighten up when defending from the best half, expect Wanganeen-Milera and the other elite Saints ball users to have another field day.

Port Adelaide v Melbourne

Can Port take advantage of Melbourne’s weakened defence?
Whilst Port may have started the season 2-0, we still don’t know a lot about what 2024 holds for them given they’ve only played last year’s wooden spooners in the Eagles and a severely undermanned Richmond.

Saturday night’s game against Melbourne promises to be a much sterner test against the top 4 contenders in Melbourne.


The Demons backline is vulnerable as it will be without Steven May, who will miss through broken ribs, and potentially Jake Lever although the club has said that they are optimistic he will play on Saturday night.

However, whilst Port have been impressive in their two wins, they have struggled with inaccuracy, kicking 34-39 across both games.

If Port are to prove themselves as genuine contenders against a flag fancy, the likes of Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall and Willie Rioli simply have to take advantage of this weakened Demons backline.

Christian Salem reacts to pressure from Brodie Grundy and Isaac Heeney.

New Swans ruckman Brodie Grundy tackles Melbourne’s Christian Salem. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Western Bulldogs v West Coast Eagles

Have the Dogs finally figured out their defence?
For a long time under the coaching of Luke Beveridge, the defence of the Western Bulldogs has been heavily scrutinised.

Whilst the team may not have the star-studded names down back, it held up well in Ballarat against the previously undefeated Gold Coast Suns, restricting them to a mere 67 points.


The experienced Liam Jones took 7 intercept marks and young Buku Khamis repaid the faith shown by Beveridge with six marks of his own and the two players were also able to lead the attacking drive from the Bulldogs’ back half.

Whilst the Bulldogs’ defence will face much sterner tests than the Eagles, Sunday’s match provides a great opportunity for these unheralded players to develop their craft and show an improvement in the much-maligned defence of the Bulldogs.

Richmond v Sydney Swans

How will Richmond deal with the Swans’ skilled range of forward weapons?
Although they have been undermanned with injuries, the Tigers have been admirable in defeat, providing stern competition except for the disastrous first half against the Suns.

However, they have a whole new challenge against the high-flying Swans who could not have started the season any better.

A feature of the Swans’ success has been their creativity and precision in ball use with players like Isaac Heeney, Gulden, Blakey, Warner and Tom Papley contributing to an attractive style of play which has seen them average just over 106 points this season.

Whilst it may be difficult for Adem Yze’s side to realistically win against arguably the premiership contenders, it will be interesting to see if the Richmond defence led by flag heroes in Nick Vlastuin, Dylan Grimes and Jayden Short can suppress the Swans’ potency.

Geelong Cats Celebrations

Brad Close of the Cats celebrates a goal with Gryan Miers. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Hawthorn v Geelong

Just how good of a season can Jeremy Cameron have?
After Round 6 last year, Jeremy Cameron was the most valuable player in the competition, having kicked 27 goals and coming third in the AFLCA coaches’ votes.

He couldn’t maintain this form throughout the season, thanks in part to a Round 15 concussion, but two games into 2024, he could be on the path to complete the job this year.

His Goal of the Year contender in Round 1 is just representative of the irreplaceable dynamism he brings to Geelong’s offence and will be a huge factor if the Cats are to climb back into finals.

In the corresponding Easter Monday game against Hawthorn last year, Cameron kicked seven goals and had 22 disposals, and he could be set for another huge performance this Monday against the bottom four Hawks and have a part in another exceptional season.