Round 1 AFL Preview

Round 1 AFL - 2020
As I am sure you can appreciate, this preview has been an especially tricky one to put together. At the time of writing, the below fixture, and venues, are all I have to go on BUT this could change at any time during the remainder of the week, and even into the weekend. Unfortunately, this is likely to be the situation for a fair-sized portion of the 'evolving' 2020 AFL Season.  Still, at least we'll have footy to watch on the TV this weekend, even if we can't go to the games.

Richmond vs Carlton @ The MCG - 19:25

In a match that is always a bit 'rough around the edges', I am expecting the scores to be closer than you would think, in a game being played between last year's Premiers and a team that wasn't. The Blues have a bevvy of quality youth pushing through the ranks, and generally give the Tigers a reasonably tough time of things in the first fixture of the season.
From the Tigers 'best 22' they are probably going to miss Jack Graham (shoulder) Kamdyn McIntosh (ankle), Toby Nankervis (groin) and Bachar Houli (calf). For the Blues, they are looking likely to be without Harry McKay (groin), Brodie Kemp (knee), Caleb Marchbank (knee), Charlie Curnow (knee). For mine, this group of missing players make for bigger outs than those missing for Richmond. While I expect the Blues to be much better this season, I am going to go with the reigning premiers to win the first match of what is going to be a very 'different' AFL season.
Richmond by 25 points

W. Bulldogs vs Collingwood @ Marvel Stadium - 19:50

A team that has one of the best midfields in the competition (Bulldogs) and a team that has a spread of high-quality players (yes, the Magpies), this shapes as a quality game for everyone to watch… On TV.
New Bulldogs Josh Bruce will be a big plus for a team that lacked options up forward, while it is looking they will likely be without Aaron Naughton (unlikely with a knee), Tom Liberatore (knee), Taylor Duryea (groin), Lin Jong (hamstring) Will Hayes (suspended). Coming out of the other entrance at Marvel, the Magpies speedsters John Noble and Josh Daicos have to be a good shot at the club's first game after they both put in quality performances during the Marsh Series just finished. To balance out these positives additions, the Pies are probably going to be without Dayne Beams (mental health), Adam Treloar (hamstring), Levi Greenwood (knee), Tom Langdon (knee), Travis Varcoe (shoulder), Lynden Dunn (knee), Tim Broomhead (leg). At the same time, Scott Pendlebury will need to pass a fitness test after having missed a few training sessions and being tested for Covid-19, which I am happy to report has come back negative.
This should be a ripper of a match!
Bulldogs by 7 points

Essendon vs Fremantle @ Marvel Stadium - 13:45

In the first Saturday game of Round 1, Fremantle heads across to Melbourne (so far) to take on the Bombers in a game that already has a huge number of players unavailable from both teams; how are there so many injuries already?
To keep up with the theme of this preview, here is a list of the walking wounded.
For the Bombers, nearly every one of their players over 6'4” is out injured (just strange) with Patrick Ambrose (knee), Tom Bellchambers (knee), Joe Daniher (groin), Sam Draper (knee), Noah Gown (foot), James Stewart (groin), Mitch Hibberd (knee), Cale Hooker (hip), Dyson Heppell (foot), Lachie Johnson (knee).
And the Dockers are looking to be without Blake Acres (hamstring), Joel Hamling (ankle), Stephen Hill (quad), Jesse Hogan (mental health), David Mundy (leg), Alex Pearce (ankle), Sam Switkowski (back), Nathan Wilson (toe).
As this game is played in Melbourne, I am going to stick with the philosophy of 'when in doubt, the home team (even if there isn't a crowd of vocal supporters) is what it's all about', and go with Essendon to notch up an early win. Just!
Essendon by 8 points

Adelaide vs Sydney @ Adelaide Oval - 16:35

On Saturday afternoon the Crows will play hosts to the Swans in a match that should be a good one to watch.
Over the off-season, Adelaide has had a large number of changes to their list, with the likes of Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins, Hugh Greenwood, Alex Keath, Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Sam Jacobs having departed for pastures a different shade of green. While I am sure they have quality players to fill their spots, it just takes time to get used to playing together. Have they had enough time…?
The Swans to well over in Adelaide but tend to start the season a bit slower than most (they lost six of their first seven matches last season), probably appreciating that the season usually isn't worth much until mid-way through the year. Of course, in 2020 all teams will need to hit the ground running as fast as they can! In a blow for the Swannies, it is looking like Lance Franklin will miss with a knee and Sam Reid may not be right quite in time.
To reverse my usual thinking, history says the Crows have a better chance of winning this match if it was at the SCG, but I'll still stick with them at home for their first game of the season. Yes, I will probably regret going against history, as so many before me have.
Adelaide by 17 points

GWS Giants vs Geelong @ Giants Stadium - 19:25

In their game against the Cats, we get to see how GWS has recovered from the absolute belting they copped in the 2019 Grand Final. I think the loss will give them extra motivation to do well this year, and with the addition of quality youngster Tom Green, their playing stocks are even better!
Even with the likes of Zac Williams (Achilles), Tim Taranto (shoulder), Callan Ward (knee), Matt Flynn (knee) looking like they will miss this game, the Giants have a list that would be the envy of many other AFL teams.
Heading north from the venue previously known as Cardinia Park will be a team with ex-Saint Jack Steven but a team likely without Mitch Duncan (hip), Nakia Cockatoo (hamstring), Jake Kolodjashnij (hip), Nathan Kreuger (knee), Stefan Okunbor (Achilles). Will the Cats risk the airport and mixed plane? Hire a plane or catch a comfy bus up the Hume? Surely it has got to play on their minds…?
With the sting of a Grand Final shellacking, and a home ground advantage I can't go past the Giants to start their season off the right way.
GWS Giants by 34 points

Gold Coast vs Port Adelaide @ Metricon Stadium - 19:25

Going over the Gold Coast's list and you can't help but notice the number of early draft picks they have! It certainly isn't just one or two, and in this match, we should get to see last year's draft's No# 1 and 2 picks, being Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson starting their AFL careers up at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
With a much more experienced list, the Power look to only be missing Ollie Wines (shoulder) and Jack Watts (calf) with only the new Mitch Georgiades looking to be selected for one of the forward spots.
Like Carlton, the Suns are looking to be a team refreshed after a very disappointing 2019 season but I think the experience and quality of the Power's list across the ground, will be a bit more than the Suns can handle at this point of their development.
Port Adelaide by 27 points

North Melb. vs St. Kilda @ Marvel Stadium - 13:10

Our next game finds us heading to Marvel Stadium to see the Kangaroos take on a St. Kilda team that has had the benefit of a full pre-season under the watchful eye of 'not long in the job' head coach Brett Ratten. As someone who thinks the coach makes a huge difference to a team, it will be interesting to watch how the Saints go in their first match of the year. When you add in the players who have left the club, and the potential for six players (Dan Butler, Bradley Hill, Dougal Howard, Zak Jones, Max King, Paddy Ryder) to play their first match for the team, it is an interesting time to be a fan of the red, white and black.
Even with Luke Davies-Uniacke (groin), Ben Jacobs (concussion), Kayne Turner (foot), Ed Vickers-Willis (knee), Marley Williams (suspension) unlikely to be playing in this match, I think the 'settledness' of the North Melbourne outfit will get it over the line against a St. Kilda team that will surprise a few teams this year
North Melbourne by 14 points

Hawthorn vs Brisbane @ The MCG - 03:20

Looking at Hawthorn's list, the inclusion of Tom Mitchell back into it sure makes the team an instantly tougher proposition for opposing teams to plan for; he is such a huge accumulator of the ball! When you add the move of Ben McEvoy to CHB, I think the 2020 version of the Hawks has a good shot at making a big push into the/ any finals campaign that takes place.
And then there is the Lions.
Last year Brisbane sent out a strong warning to the competition that they had come of age as a team; beating the likes of the Eagles, Giants, Hawks and Cats while on their way to a semi-final appearance, and narrow loss to the Giants at the Gabba.
With neither team having too much to worry about on the injury front, and none for Brisbane, I think this game will be the one to watch from the options you have in Round 1, and we already need to reach for the 'coin of much guessing' and give it a good flip! Heads for Hawks (it just makes sense really) and that is who we are going with in this match.
Hawthorn by 7 points

West Coast vs Melbourne @ Optus Stadium - 18:20

Across the Nullarbor is where Melbourne will (may) be travelling this weekend for their Sunday fixture against West Coast at Optus Stadium on Sunday evening.
The players who are likely unavailable for the Eagles are Willie Rioli (suspension), Oscar Allen (ankle), Luke Foley (pubic bone), Jarrod Cameron (pubic bone), Daniel Venables (concussion) and Tom Cole (thumb). While the Demons are looking to be without Harry Petty (groin), Harley Bennell (calf), Kade Chandler (wrist), Aaron vandenBerg (foot), Kade Kolodjashnij (concussion), Mitch Hannan (groin) and Braydon Preuss (knee)
With two talented teams coming up against each other, we should have a very good game to watch on Sunday. Will Melbourne start to play up to a level their talent suggests they should be? How will West Coast perform with a list that is another season older, and ruckman who has had terrible luck with injuries over a number of years now? A couple of players to watch in this match are Max Gawn and Kysaiah Pickett, who has been a revelation since joining the Demons. He should provide many highlights during his time in the AFL. I am also looking forward to seeing how Liam Ryan goes with another AFL pre-season under his belt.
You guessed it… the home team wins out again.
West Coast by 32 points


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