2024 ROUND 0/Opening Round/Round A/Pre Round 1 AFL Preview

Well didn’t this just sneak up quickly?  Long though the summer may have been, once footy season starts, it heralds the start of a new weather pattern.  One where dark clouds of annoyance gather in households as footy mad partners stop doing chores on the weekends.  One where children assume their footy mad parents have gone into hibernation as they are barely seen except to mysteriously deliver a nightly dinner to the table…unless their team is playing, then it’s take out night.  The off-seasons are getting shorter and shorter and they seem somewhat filled with sport.  Cricket, in its various forms starts almost immediately after footy season ends and footy season is now starting so early there is competition with cricket at which grounds to host things.  I recall the good ol’ days when there was a break between the end of one sport and the beginning of the another and those two special Saturdays where the TV lineup was filled to the brim with Elvis movies and Gilligan’s Island re-runs.

The AFL is kicking us off with, what they are calling “Opening Round” which translates to a restaurant “Soft Opening”.  You know when you go along and not everything is running quite as smoothly and there is a limited menu to choose from.  That’s exactly what’s happening here this week.  The AFL thought they were being sneaky and, while the NRL was off in Vegas doing some kind of season launch, they would creep up behind those Northern states and try to pinch their fans.  “They’ll have to come...what else are they going to go to on that weekend?” was the justification spoken in the boardroom.  It’s a bit like saying, “They’ll like what we tell them to like.”

Opening Round is the Marketing vernacular as Round 0 has its own connotations.  Not negative ones, otherwise it would have been Round -1, but zero has a certain value all of its own.  Marketing is smart, they realised zero doesn’t fly.  Not even calendars have a year zero, which is a real problem for time travelers because when you want to go back to BC time, you are always out by 1 year.  Frustrates me no end! 

Anyway, proof the break was too short is that Jimmy Webster put in an application for a longer break.  A very compelling argument by all accounts and he should be enjoying a longer than usual pre-season.

And so, the pre-seasons are done for some, injuries are already mounting, and we can turn our attention to the four games constituting the soft opening.  Good Luck with your tips this year, if you want to have a chance, don’t take the following advice.  But read it anyway…

Sydney vs Melbourne   SCG        Thursday Night

Both of these teams will be very keen to make a hot start.  Most journalists are saying that Melbourne had the most disruptive off-season of any team.  I suspect that this was simply because those same journalists were writing lots of “there’s disruption here” stories to keep football at the front of mind of the average mug like me.  Certainly not ideal with a bit of kerfuffle around Clayton Olivers antics, but as these things tend to do, they right themselves just as the season starts.  Brayshaw also retired, which was a very sad fact and we do wish him all the best.  It is sad when good footballers have to go early.  As Jimmy Webster will no doubt find out the shift in opinion around these kinds of incidents in the wake of the Brayshaw retirement will mean if anyone knocks a head, intentionally or not, they can expect a few consecutive unfixtutured byes (CUB) in their future. 

Sydney on the other hand has different issues to deal with.  Prize recruit Brodie Grundy will be raring to go but may not have anybody in the midfield to tap it to as their senior statesman in there are all amiss (not Jye) with various serious osteo-structural issues.  Other than that, they have experienced their usual “fly under the radar because we are in a non-football state” approach to the season start that they often enjoy.

But that midfield is a concern, and it is for that reason, with Melbourne getting the band back together in time, that I think it will be Melbourne by 24 points.

Brisbane vs Carlton         Gabba   Friday Night

What more can one say?  The defeated Grand Finalist versus the Preliminary Finalist they vanquished to get there.  You could say that Carlton will be keen to right that wrong.  But then you’d be wrong about that righting of wrongs because right in the middle of the equation is The Gabba.  Alright? No matter how charged up Brisbane will be as they seek to capitalise on the window that is inching closed, the one undeniable truth in this bout is that The Gabba is a factor.  Carlton haven’t won there against Brisbane in 11 years.  They have won there, but that was against North Melbourne in Covid times.  Pressure will be mounting on the Blues and Voss almost immediately this year…but what’s new about that?  Brisbane by 32 points.

Gold Coast vs Richmond               Carrara Saturday Twilight

Give me a D…D, Give me a I…I, Give me an M…M, Give me another M…M, Give me an A…A, what does it spell?  Damien.  This match is all about Hardwick and Suns.  A match up no doubt concocted in a 2am boardroom session at AFL House and the fixturing department would have earned themselves a nice Chablis after pulling this out for Round 0.  Dimma up against his children from his previous marriage and their new Dad, Adem Yze.  We’ll get to see what the AFL learned from the Superbowl and Taylor Swift as each time Richmond does something, the camera is bound to pan to Dimma for a reaction piece.  I’m hoping halfway through the second quarter they will pan to Dimma and he will down a schooner of beer for pure entertainments sake.  Other than that, I’m not sure how much interest this will hold.  When in doubt pick the home team.    Gold Coast by 8 points.

GWS vs Collingwood     GIANTS Stadium              Saturday Night

Just like the Gabba match, we have the Grand Finalist versus the Prelim vanquished.  Collingwood are punters favourites to take out the whole thing again this year, but then, what would punters know?  My Statistical Leviathan thinks GWS will get the chocolates so it’s a battle of Stats versus Punters this year too.  GWS will be keen to establish a good start in a home match and they too have enjoyed a secretive off-season due to lack of local interest so I’m unsure how healthy their list is.  Collingwood have had a few early setbacks but are probably looking to ease into the season rather than going full Hulk from the get-go.  I’m not sure that an early season matchup between these two will be reflective of any long term signals of success or failure and while a win would be nice, both teams will be content to walk away with a healthy list.  GWS by 16 points.


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