John Harms On Round 1

We’re two games in and already a spanner has lodged itself in the works of the premiership season with both favourites going down last weekend. I am just wondering whether I can go through the entire season without tipping a winner. 0-2 at the moment and not feeling confident. There is some ripper footy to be played this Easter weekend though.

Richmond v Carlton
If you want to hear good footy theory, just hang around a Melbourne pub this week. Well, actually, not necessarily good footy theory, but the theories of Tigers and Blues fans trying to convince their fragile selves that they can win this fixture. Tigers have Trent Cotchin pencilled in for the Brownlow, a place in the Top 8 (some in the Top 4), and a 12-goal smashing of the old foe. The Baggers are countering with a similar Blues-centred argument. Not everywhere though. In Percy Jones’s pub in Lygon Street, where you will occasionally spot Syd Jackson or Jimmy Buckley, they’re spending a lot of time talking about the ‘70s, which suggests to me that those with a bit of footy behind them aren’t convinced by their own. The Blues were very ordinary in the NAB Cup final, for what that is worth. My theory is that the Tigers will win and win well, by 18 points. And I can’t believe I’ve just fallen into them again.

Western Bulldogs v Brisbane
This is one of the few games this year where the Bulldogs will be genuine contenders, and not battlers trying to get games into emerging players. They’re up against a surprisingly confident Lions outfit which is thriving while J. Brown is fresh. The Lions have a solid back half and I just can’t find enough goal-kickers in the Bulldogs squad to trouble them. The Lions runners were clean through the middle in March, and it’s still March. The Lions by 19 points.

Gold Coast v St Kilda
It could be a harmonicas only in the seedy joints of old Acland Street by late on Saturday night as Sainters lament their lot with a bit of twelve bar. This opener may well be a disaster for the travelling Saints some of whom will struggle to get their zimmers on as hand luggage. Others will need to be extricated from their chairs. It’s hard to get out of 24F when you’ve been belted by full-backs for over a decade. That’s life. An Ablett-led Suns side will take it right up to St Kilda on the Gold Coast. At +21.5 the line looks pretty good to me. Gold Coast by a kick.

GWS v Sydney
The Sydney derby makes sense as a season-opener. It’s a little unfortunate that one side just happens to be the premier. And to be very good as well, even if their preparation, by all reports, has been a little laboured. No doubt the Giants will show signs of improvement. But not enough. Pragmatic J. Longmire knows percentage will matter this season. They’ll finish over the top of the competitive youngsters. Sydney by 50 points.

Melbourne v Port Adelaide
There is a little bit of mail around for Port Adelaide at the moment and this is not a bad draw to test that out. The Dees should have better structure this year with the capable and intelligent Chris Dawes holding down centre half forward. The homeground advantage will also serve them well. Jeremy Howe to take a screamer in a tight match to help Melbourne home by 9 points.

North Melbourne v Collingwood
I don’t mind North this year. I like the clean skills of their mid-fielders and the genuine pace they have around the ground. This match is in the salon and, even though the roof may be open (the forecast is good – fine and 23) in the twilight, the salon suits free-wheeling North. This has the potential to be highly entertaining. I just can’t bring myself to tip the Pies for historical reasons nor on the basis that Travis Cloke seems to have a bit of Watto about him these days. North by 11 points.

Geelong v Hawthorn
Tantalising. The Cats still haven’t lost to Hawthorn since the 2008 Grand Final and just find a way of getting home. This surprises a lot of people – including Tom Hawkins, if you look deeply into his eyes just after his thumping kick sails through in their last contest. (How many times will we see that between now and the first bounce?) There’s a bit of Travis Cloke about Buddy at the moment which, by my logic, means there’s a bit of Watto about Buddy too, and that can’t serve the club well. At the other end Brian Lake adds steel to the defence, but he also adds eccentricity. The Hawks are premiership faves (again) and my guess is that’s not just the weight of money. I think the form guide for the Mayblooms reads the time-honoured “Keep Safe”. The Cats will miss Johnno and James Kelly, both suspended, but their structure suits contests against the old foe. Full house at the MCG on Easter Monday. Classic. Geelong by 1 point.

Best: North at the line.

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