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The Roar's AFL expert tips and predictions, Round 3: Which of last year's grand finalists is going to stay winless?

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27th March, 2024
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The Easter weekend is upon us, which means five straight days of footy – yay!

But it also means no games on Saturday afternoon until 4:30 – aww.

It’s a bumper weekend that features surely the most important grand final rematch in decades, with Collingwood and Brisbane both winless to start the season and probably only one more loss away from things REALLY hitting the fan.

There’s also the annual Good Friday match between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs Carlton (no I’m not bitter), and Easter Monday between Geelong and Hawthorn always delivers something memorable, even if it’s not necessarily a good contest.

Like last week, this is also a deceptively difficult round to tip – there are three or four games that could swing either way, and to get a perfect 8 you’ll almost certainly need to pick an outsider.

The only question is… which one to back?

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Tim Miller

Last week: 5

Brisbane, Carlton, Fremantle, St Kilda, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Sydney, Geelong

A speed run of the easy games first – Carlton might get a scare but should be too powerful for North Melbourne, Sydney are just better than Richmond, Geelong have dominated Easter Monday in recent times and that should continue against Hawthorn, and if the Western Bulldogs lose to West Coast at home AGAIN I doubt I’ll survive the trip home.

That leaves four matches that have me pondering them nervously, and two which are genuinely line-ball.

The first of the latter is Thursday night – a grand final rematch with more at stake than ever. Collingwood are facing their toughest test since Craig McRae took over, while Brisbane seemed equally off the boil in the first few rounds.

It has been five years since the Pies beat the Lions at the Gabba, which is enough to sway me – Brisbane in a tight one, the Pies to 0-4.

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I’m more comfortably picking Fremantle at home to knock off a 0-2 Adelaide, given their form – but the Crows have every reason to come out with a head full of steam, and with the Dockers’ first quarters poor in both their recent wins, things could really get worrying for them if they go down by six or seven goals instead of four or five.

Ditto Essendon and St Kilda, both minus suspended spearheads – St Kilda seem the stronger side on paper, but there’s something about the Bombers, particularly their newfound strength around stoppages, that suggests the Saints’ backline will be in for the fight of its life. Still, Saints for me.

That leaves the toughest game of all – Port Adelaide hosting Melbourne. If this was at the MCG, I’d have no hesitation backing the Demons, who have started 2024 in great shape and look a stronger outfit than the Power.

But it’s at the Adelaide Oval, and the Dees head over without Steven May. That’s enough for me to side with the home team – but if you’re picking a roughie this week to try and get ahead of the game, I’d recommend Melbourne.

Darcy Moore celebrates Collingwood' 2023 premiership win.

Darcy Moore celebrates Collingwood’ 2023 premiership win. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Dem Panopoulos

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Last week: 7

Collingwood, Carlton, Fremantle, St Kilda, Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Sydney, Geelong

Now we’re cooking.

We’ve got high-scoring games, winless grand finalists, suspensions making headlines and press conferences surrounding sagas that are just being uncovered – footy’s back.

It’s hard to look past tonight’s game as the best of the round, before the Easter Bunny hops its way into our lives. Typically, you’d think the Lions would win, with some extra motivation from the grand final, the fresh legs after a week off and a style of play that will challenge the Magpies’ deepest defenders, who have struggled so far this season. On the other hand, there’s a group in the reigning premiers that has so much to prove.

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This game should be a classic – I think it’s time Darcy Moore stood tall, took the main match-up inside defensive 50 and proved why he’s one of the top three defenders in the league.

Friday night’s game is certainly intriguing too – the Dockers have been a dominant second-half team in the opening couple of weeks with elite pressure and good offensive ball movement to wrestle back momentum and take control, while Adelaide did the exact opposite to what was suggested last week and maintained a slow, uninspiring style of football.

Put simply, if Matthew Nicks doesn’t change things, the Crows absolutely cannot win in Perth. This one’s a really exciting game to tune into for that reason alone.

An unconvincing Power team comes up against a Melbourne outfit which is a bit undermanned and in the headlines once again.

I didn’t have Port in my top eight and they’ve done nothing to convince me that they could be in the opening fortnight of the season. At home, this is their opportunity.

Harry McKay of the Blues celebrates a goal.

Harry McKay. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

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Cameron Rose

Last week: 5

Brisbane, Carlton, Fremantle, Essendon, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Sydney, Geelong.

I’m loathe to tip Collingwood having a fourth loss in a row, but anecdotally, it feels like grand final rematches often have the reverse result when the two teams first meet the next season. Brisbane to win at home and consign the Pies to a 0-4 start.

Essendon has been unfairly maligned this week, and if they bring the same attitude and effort they did against Sydney, they can beat a St Kilda outfit that might be a bit happy with themselves right now.

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Port v Melbourne is probably the match of the round, and with no Steven May, I’m siding with the home team.

Liam Salter

Last week: 6

Brisbane, Carlton, Fremantle, St Kilda, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Sydney, Geelong

Tipping went swimmingly last weekend, with my faith in the Suns – or rather, faith against the Dogs – my most significant miss.

It’s easy not to make that mistake this weekend, as the Dogs host the Eagles – anything less than a comfortable win here is very bad indeed.

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My other miss, shared with all my colleagues except Dem, was backing the reigning premiers Collingwood in. They face an equally ‘lowly’ club this week, with the Lions also not having won this season.

The ultimate comedy result? A draw. What my head says? The Lions, in a thriller. 

The South Australian sides face intriguing clashes. The Crows have never beaten a top-eight side away from home in the Nicks era – while calling Freo a top-eight side remains foreign to me, that is technically what they are and the Crows’ streak should stand, with the Dockers running high on confidence after two strong wins (first quarters excluded, of course).

The Power host the Demons, and while the have looked strong, their opposition hasn’t exactly been sterling – Port to win at home here. 

The Swans, Blues, Cats and Saints are my remaining picks – in order of confidence. 

Shai Bolton fends off a Jake Lloyd tackle. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

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Round 3TimDemCamLiamCrowd
BL vs COLBLCOLBLBL?
NM vs CARCARCARCARCAR?
FRE vs ADEFREFREFREFRE?
ESS vs STKSTKSTKESSSTK?
PA vs MELPAMELPAPA?
WB vs WCEWBWBWBWB?
RCH vs SYDSYDSYDSYDSYD?
HAW vs GEEGEEGEEGEEGEE?
LAST WEEK57566
ROLLING TOTAL1315121315
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