Round 3 Preview
With Round 2 under the belt, we've finally got a bit of rhythm to the season again as we head into Round 3.
Great to see a few upsets last weekend, and we might see a few more here to keep things exciting. Nothing better than an unpredictable season.
Let's take a quick look at all the games this weekend...
Richmond v Hawthorn
The Hawks are under the pump after one bad half against Geelong. An overreaction? Perhaps. They will field the oldest side in history this weekend (any time you've got Shaun Burgoyne running around that will heavily influence your averages...), but that also means there won't be any panic or fear when facing the reigning Premiers.
No Dusty for the Tigers is significant, even though their record without him is fine. He does give them the X-factor they need amongst a team of really honest soldiers, so he will be missed.
The O'Meara inclusion for the Hawks helps enormously - on paper that midfield (who were poor last week) can match it with the Tigers tonight no doubt.
A fast start is crucial here - leaning towards the Tigers to come out of the blocks and post a reasonable first quarter score here and be hard to chase down.
Pick: Richmond by 22
Western Bulldogs v GWS
What a game! The loser will be well and truly under the microscope, given both lost as favourites last weekend.
Marvel Stadium should suit GWS as much as it does the Bulldogs, and they've just got so many scoring options it's hard to see them losing unless the whole game becomes a defensive slog.
The Giants with too many weapons for the Bulldogs, I feel.
Pick: GWS by 18
North Melbourne v Sydney
Really impressed with the blue-collar Roos last week, and they get to come home and take on an equally workman-like Sydney on their own turf.
North Melbourne had 9 individual goalkickers last weekend, which might become a regular thing as they try and find other avenues to goal aside from Ben Brown. On the flip side, Sydney are working with a makeshift forward setup due to injury troubles - Papley and Heeney hold the key to their fortunes unless a Tom McCartin or Nick Blakey can bob up and hit the scoreboard.
You know what you're going to get from North, it seems. Epxecting them to win here.
Pick: North Melbourne by 23
Collingwood v St Kilda
This will be a cracker. If Collingwood can tweak their offence and click forward of centre, then they deserve to be favourites here.
But the interesting angle with St Kilda is that they seem to be rated on last year's performance even though so much has changed in that period - a stack of new, experienced playing personnel, a new coaching group and a couple of performances this season that suggest the Saints might be ultra-competitive this year.
The Pies have a lot more class across the board, but I wouldn't write off St Kilda in this one, particularly if the rain comes down.
Pick: Collingwood by 10
Brisbane v West Coast
This Round 3 fixture just keeps on giving. Another super match, and a real chance of the Eagles pulling off the upset in this one. There is a usual overreaction to a loss the previous week, and the Eagles are a classic case after being embarrassed by the Suns.
The Lions are 2-0 without showing the same electric form as last season just yet, so we will go for West Coast to come out breathing fire a knock off Brisbane on their home deck.
Pick: West Coast by 15
Geelong v Carlton
Hard to see anything but a Cats win as they build some momentum early in the season. Unless the Blues can address their slow starts and get their confidence up in the first quarter by hitting the scoreboard, it might be a tough night for them against Geelong.
Just get a feeling that little Gazza might enjoy spending his last year exploring his bag of tricks up forward. Still so fun to watch.
Pick: Geelong by 33
Gold Coast v Adelaide
Coin flip. Adelaide have been smashed in the media and backs against the wall here. Don't think the Suns would have started favourites very often!
I think the Crows might enjoy escaping the Adelaide bubble and head into the Gold Coast sunshine, and they still have enough senior players to steer them in the right direction. Just need to find avenues to score - who will step up?
Pick: Adelaide by 1
Essendon v Melbourne
Might not seem like it, but this could be a fascinating game. We saw what the Demons were capable of in the first half last week before conservatism got the better of them. In some ways it was the perfect result if they are to challenge for finals this year - get the four points but learn some valuable lessons about their game and how to handle certain situations.
The Bombers are being treated like they won more comfortably than they did, while the Demons are being treated like they lost.
Happy to pick Melbourne in this one - four quarters of offence and an unpredictable forward line (Pickett to slot in there and cause havoc, hopefully) might give them the edge in a close one.
Pick: Melbourne by 10
Fremantle v Port Adelaide
This 2020 "fixture" is just the gift that keeps on giving for Port Adelaide. Two straight forward but impressive wins to start, then they find themselves playing Freo at a neutral venue. Is there any edge in Fremantle having already spent time in the hub vs Port Adelaide having just arrived?
Port has enough firepower to take care of Fremantle here and make it 3-0. Team selection for the Dockers will be interesting and they will be competitive, but the upset might be a bridge too far.
Pick: Port Adelaide by 27
Round 3 Burning Question:
What are they keys to success in this shortened, crowd-less game?
Will we have enough of a sample size to find some metrics that indicate success this year? We've seen a link between no crowds and fewer tackles (intensity seems to suffer without thousands of fans providing some atmosphere), a lot of momentum swings in games (is it harder to maintain momentum once you've got it?) and we are still not really any wiser about what a competitive score will be this season...
Really interested to start seeing some more value in the data with a few more games in the bank. After another couple of weeks we can start getting some insight into how this extraordinary season might play out.