AFL Round 2

St Kilda v Richmond - Concerns for the Saints  proved to be justified last week on the Gold Coast as the young Suns played with desperation and vitality, especially when Gary Ablett spread the whiff of possible victory about the place. The Tiges  played with similar vim against the Blues and should have beaten them by more. Which, in a straight-forward reading of the form lines would explain why Richmond are solid favourites in this. The Saints need big games from the two Nicks – Riewoldt and Dal Santo. But even that is unlikely to be enough. The Tigers, on the rise, to dominate the mid-field and win by 20 points.

Sydney v Gold Coast - Sydney’s  soft draw became a little harder with the Suns  determined win against those Saints. But they are the premiers for a reason. All the focus was on G. Ablett last week, and rightly so, but it’s worth checking out the games of key-position players Charlie Dixon and Rory Thompson. Both have grown in stature. Add Sam Day and Zac Smith and there’s some strength in their big men. The Suns can take this up to the Swans early, but the pros will get on top. Sydney by 18 points.

Western Bulldogs v Fremantle - The Bulldogs  looked to be a whole new side against the Lions in the opening round – to the surprise of most. Freo , impressive themselves, won’t give the locals the same latitude. The Dogs will find themselves in a whole new ball game. This is a nice test of their improvement. The Dockers by 28 points.

Brisbane v Adelaide - The Crows  lost to Essendon in something of an upset what seems like eons ago now. Then, as they watched the Lions  lose to the Scraggers, you could hear the groan emitted from Adelaide. The Crows thought they’d be facing a Brisbane side coming off an untroubled winning, happier with itself than it had been after nailing the NAB Cup. Instead Adelaide head to the Gabba to face a side that will be pumped. Michael Voss won’t have much voice left by Sunday, nor the dressing shed much paint. The Lions will have had many reminders this week and Adelaide will bear the brunt of that. Adelaide, harbouring doubt, to be beaten by the home team in a tight one. Paddy Dangerfield to cop another hammering. Lions by 7 points.

Essendon v Melbourne - Last year I watched these two teams fight it out from the trivia night at the Wynyard footy club in Tasmania. By halfway through the last quarter the whole event was suffering as participants were drawn to the hootin’ an’ hollerin’ from the front bar. Nothing was going to stop them seeing what all the laughing and cheering was about. The Dees  were in front and hanging on – to the amusement of most of Australia and pretty much all of Wynyard. That was a huge loss for Essendon . But, six months later, Melbourne were disgraceful in Round 1. They’ll be one category higher this week but that won’t be enough. The Bombers by 26 points.

Port Adelaide v GWS - Kevin Sheedy remains the master. While Mick Malthouse continues to write his own history, Sheeds gets on with playing the role of part-time Aussie larrikin and full-time Irish mystic. He’ll need more than a few leprechauns in the back pocket at Footy Park if his youngsters are to beat a recovering Port Adelaide  side. Power were impressive last week with those players coming back from injury looking the goods. Ill-fated in recent times, things may be going better for them. The draw certainly helps. They should beat the Giants  at home. Port by 32 points.

Geelong v North Melbourne - Although most of the known universe will be focusing on Collingwood and Carlton, hyped to the max with every drop of publicity squeezed from the Malthouse-McGuire tiff, it’s the games on either side of it on Sunday afternoon which will have more bearing on things. The Cats  were outstanding in the second half against Hawthorn and there is no doubt the doomsayers have reconsidered their doom-meters insofar as Geelong is concerned. The Cats showed all of their traditional qualities last week and added another one: pace. They have always moved the footy quickly, often with a manic play-on approach, but now they have runners as well: Varcoe, Motlop, Smedts, Murdoch. They’ll need them against North  who showed their plod up last season with a brilliant exhibition of running footy. North let me down last week. In the end they should have clawed back to get within the 12.5 points of the line but gave away a late goal. The Cats impressive start makes me think it will be about the boys from Kardinia. In an entertaining battle of the twin brothers, Geelong by 10 points.

Collingwood v Carlton - Carlton  are gone. Well, they were last month. But this is April and the Blues beat their arch-rivals twice last year, bizarrely: once, early on, so impressively they were immediately installed premiership favourites. They shouldn’t have been, and bookies are still smirking at the $4 they offered which Blues tragics couldn’t resist. Could that happen again? It’s been such a soap opera in Melbourne this week between Eddie and Mick, with Nathan Buckley trying to be above it all, that you’d be forgiven for wondering what sport was actually being played. But the on-field analysis reveals Carlton as pretenders from last week, lucky to be anywhere near the mark. They continue to lack a forward structure with the roles of their big blokes ill-defined. They look good when in possession but rely on the gods to provide it. They can expect no generosity from Collingwood . We’ll see what Mick understands about his former team - but he will have to be a tactical genius to work out a successful approach here. The Pies by 19 points.

West Coast Eagles v Hawthorn - Nervous Hawthorn  types, not that too many Hawkers will show you this side of themselves, are concerned they may not win a game until about Round 8. They have a tough draw and this is one of the toughest fixtures in their early run. However, it should not be forgotten that the Hawks dominated Geelong for periods last week. Their strength was in the clearances. But this week they face better rucking stocks and a mid-field that has found a nice balance between setting up to defend and setting up to punish. Who would have thought the two pre-season favourites for the flag would lose in the opening round? Concerned Hawthorn to lose to a very good side advantaged by the home ground. The Eagles  by 7 points in a defensive game.

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