Welcome to the Round 1 (part 1) AFL preview. The footy is back! Thankfully we have been treated with a far less controversial offseason and come into Round 1 with a focus on what is going to happen on the ground. 2014 sees the season start earlier than previous years with the AFL looking to reduce the free publicity rival codes have had in the past. It sees a split first round, beginning with four games in the opening week and the remaining five next week to close the round out.
Unfortunately, the unavailability of the MCG due to cricket commitments means there aren’t any blockbuster encounters to get excited about. The season will start with an interesting game between Collingwood and Fremantle at Etihad Stadium, while GWS and Sydney are again matched up for a Round 1 “Battle of the Bridge” contest which will see Buddy Franklin line up in the red and white for the first time.
Fremantle to win @ $1.65
COLLINGWOOD ($2.35) vs FREMANTLE ($1.62)
ETIHAD STADIUM, FRIDAY 14/03/2014, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Fremantle 15.10 (100) defeated Collingwood 10.13 (73) at PS, R7 2013.
Line: Collingwood +8.5, Fremantle -8.5
It is fair to say that Collingwood would have preferred to have this game drawn for the second week of Round 1. It has a number players on the list that could have done with an extra week and with Nathan Buckley looking to put players on the ground who are 100% fit, some important names will miss. The likes of Paul Seedsman, Josh Thomas and first round draft picks Matt Scharenberg and Nathan Freeman were always too far off for this encounter, but the loss of Jesse White and Ben Reid are vital. They were key cogs of a restructured forward line to reduce the reliance of Travis Cloke which is now going to have to be put on hold.
The Dockers look in far better shape injury wise with only Ibbottson 2-3 weeks away, while Suban will miss the first week due to suspension. In a welcomed sight for Fremantle supporters, Sandilands, Pavlich and McPharlin are all available for selection. Sandilands in particular has been in menacing form throughout the NAB Challenge, dominating anyone he has come up against. The Dockers form hasn’t been great, but we all know that Ross Lyon holds little respect for preseason results and is far more interested in having his side ready for Round 1.
Collingwood have won four of the last five against Fremantle, but the Dockers had a comfortable victory in Round 7 last year. The Collingwood big man injuries are defining, while Grundy is likely to have a torrid time against a fully fit Sandilands. The Dockers look too experienced and value at $1.65 considering Collingwood’s injuries.
FREMANTLE TO WIN BY 15 POINTS
GWS ($12.00) vs SYDNEY ($1.04)
SPOTLESS STADIUM (Sydney Showgrounds), SATURDAY 15/03/2014, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Sydney 24.27 (171) defeated GWS 5.12 (42) at the SCG, R16 2013.
Line: GWS +50.5, Sydney -50.5
GWS are still looking to register its first ever win against cross town rivals the Sydney Swans. There will be no better time to notch up that important victory than Saturday when the first “Battle of the Bridge” at the Giants home base at the Sydney Showgrounds (now named Spotless Stadium) is contested. GWS have been busy over the offseason recruiting mature aged bodies with Heath Shaw, Shane Mumford, Josh Hunt and Dylan Addison all named to make their debuts for the club. It will certainly add consistency to an inexperienced Giants line up and we’ll get a greater indication of the impact they’ll have on Saturday night. Fortunately, All Australian forward Jeremy Cameron has been named despite being in doubt with an ankle injury.
The major attraction of this match will be the unveiling for star Sydney recruit Lance Franklin. Buddy shocked the football world in October by signing an unprecedented nine year contract with the Swans. Unfortunately for Sydney, they will be without the big signing of the previous offseason, with Kurt Tippett on the side lines for another month due to a knee injury.
The Swans have won all four encounters against the Giants to date and don’t expect that unbeaten record to be tarnished. It will be interesting to see how far the Giants have come over the preseason.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 39 POINTS
GOLD COAST ($2.75) vs RICHMOND ($1.47)
METRICON STADIUM, SATURDAY 15/03/2014, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Richmond 6.17 (53) defeated Gold Coast 6.8 (44) at Cairns, R16 2013.
Line: Gold Coast +14.5, Richmond -14.5
The Gold Coast Suns will enter the 2014 season with optimism as the talented young squad continues to develop and mature. It certainly won’t hold any fear coming up against Richmond, having had its most success against last year’s Elimination Finalist. It will however be the first encounter between the two sides away from Cairns’ Cazaly Stadium, where the Tigers had sold three home games in the original hope of some guaranteed victories and simple cash. The Suns gave Richmond officials serious headaches by defeating the Tigers in 2011 and 2012, while 2013 nearly produced another upset. Gold Coast go into the match with minimal injuries.
The Tigers went down to Melbourne in the opening NAB Challenge game, but were outstanding in the following two matches against Collingwood and Essendon. Trent Cotchin has been enormous throughout the preseason, racking up large amounts of disposals and more importantly kicking goals. After a minor dip in 2013, he looks set for bigger and better things. The Tigers have a small injury list, but the loss of number one ruckman Ivan Maric to an ankle injury for 1-2 months isn’t ideal. It certainly gives Carlton recruit Shaun Hampson a perfect opportunity to make an immediate impact at his new club.
This is an extremely tight match to predict. I feel Gold Coast should be shorter, yet I’m not game to tip them to win. Expect a tight contest.
RICHMOND TO WIN BY 5 POINTS
CARLTON ($1.62) vs PORT ADELAIDE ($2.30)
ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 16/03/2014, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Port 15.13 (103) lost to Carlton 15.14 (104) at AAMI, R23 2013.
Line: Carlton -8.5, Port +8.5
It has been a slightly underwhelming preseason campaign for the Blues where it beat the highly rated North Melbourne first up, but followed with poor showings against Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs. Whether Mick Malthouse had his side in Round 1 preparation mode or not, more would have been expected. Carlton go into the game with only three players on the injury list, but they are three who they’d love to have on the park in Brownlow Medallist Chris Judd, veteran tagger Andrew Cazzarro and new recruit Sam Docherty. Dale Thomas will make his debut for the Blues and add much needed pace.
Port Adelaide are one of the more interesting teams coming into the 2014. It is a common belief amongst most observers that the Power over achieved last season, but their courage and determination was difficult to ignore. A tough draw presents many challenges for last year’s Semi Finalists and the perfect start would be gaining revenge on Carlton ruining the Round 23 farewell celebrations of Football Park. Key forward Jay Schulz is in a race against time to be ready for Sunday with a foot injury, but has been named.
Carlton have a good recent record against Port Adelaide and will be looking to get off to a good start in Melbourne. Without enormous confidence, Carlton should be too strong.
CARLTON TO WIN BY 13 POINTS
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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