GEELONG v ST KILDA – MCG (7.45pm AEDT)
LAST TIME: Geelong 11.13 (79) def by St Kilda 12.11 (83), Qualifying Final, 2010
AT SELECTION: The selection highlight is the inclusion of ex-cat Ryan Gamble for his first game in the red, white and black. The cats have named some inexperienced players, notably debutant Cameron Guthrie who will likely play a defensive role.
WHO IS MISSING? Geelong are missing Midfield tagger Cameron Ling, forward flanker Shannon Byrnes, full forward James Podsiadly and gun utility Paul Chapman who has curiously been named on the bench. I can almost smell a late change. The Saints are missing some tall timber in ruckman Michael Gardiner and forward/ruckman Justin Koschitzke. Goal sneak Adam Schneider is also out.
PREVIEW: Both of these league powerhouses will look to flex their muscles in this opening round clash. Both sides have named a solid back six, the saints look to have the advantage in midfield, while the cats hold a larger spread of goalkickers in attack. A lot will depend on Saints ruckman Ben McEvoy who will carry the ruck duties solo in the absence of Michael Gardiner and Justin Koschitzke. The cats will look to use this to their advantage by rotating both Brad Ottens and Tom Hawkins against him. The Nick Riewoldt and Harry Taylor match up will be worth the price of admission alone. Taylor nullified Riewoldt in the 2009 Grand Final, while Riewoldt got his revenge with a breathtaking display in last season’s Preliminary Final. I think Riewoldt has got the fitness to run Taylor ragged up the ground and then do some damage doubling back into the forward 50. If Geelong can break even in the middle, they might sneak a minor surprise.
TIP: Geelong by 7 points
ANDY’S BET: Geelong to win head to head @ 2.29 (Centrebet)
COLLINGWOOD v PORT ADELAIDE – ETIHAD STADIUM (2.10pm AEDT)
LAST TIME: Port Adelaide 12.7 (79) def by Collingwood 16.9 (105), R15, 2010
AT SELECTION: The Magpies have picked a strong side with 18 of last years premiership 22 selected. Simon Buckley and Andrew Krakouer will play their first games for Collingwood. The Power side is full of youth with young defenders Jasper Pittard and Cameron O’Shea as well as rookie midfielder Jarrod Irons all to make their AFL debuts. Interestingly, Chad Cornes was overlooked.
WHO IS MISSING? The four Collingwood premiership players not playing on Saturday are Nick Maxwell, Nathan Brown and Tyson Goldsack through injury and Brent McCaffer omitted due to his slightly poor pre season form. Port are missing Chad Cornes, goalkickers Daniel Motlop and Brett Ebert, and midfield runners Jacob Surjan, Jason Davenport and Hamish Hartlett.
PREVIEW: The Power will be lively up until half time, but they Pies will be too good across the park. Travis Boak and Jay Schulz are the Port’s danger players. Look for Wellingham to follow Boak everywhere and Tarrant to get the job on Schulz. Both should reduce the influence of those key players. Port might be able to put effort into stopping one of Collingwood’s midfielders, but you can’t stop all of Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury, Alan Didak and Dale Thomas. The Pies also have a greater spread of potential goalkickers. The odds on a Collingwood win are too short to back though.
TIP: Collingwood by 40 points
ANDY’S BET: None
ADELAIDE v HAWTHORN – AAMI STADIUM (7.40pm AEDT)
LAST TIME: Hawthorn 19.10 (124) def Adelaide 8.15 (63), R12, 2010
AT SELECTION: The Hawks pulled a surprise by leaving out star player Luke Hodge. The Hawthorn match committee decided he had not returned to full fitness following an interrupted pre-season marred by an achilles injury. Much maligned ex-Richmond midfielder Richard Tambling will make his Crows debut and the South Australians have also handed an AFL debut to Brodie Smith. Ruckman David Hale and running defender Cameron Bruce will play their first games in the brown and gold of Hawthorn.
WHO IS MISSING? As mentioned above, Hodge is a big out for the Hawks. They have also left out defenders Xavier Ellis, Brent Guerra, Tom Murphy and Ryan Schoenmakers. The crows are without key big men Kurt Tippett and Sam Jacobs, while mature age recruit Ian Callinan misses with a pectorial injury after an impressive start to the pre-season.
PREVIEW: Much like the Geelong and St Kilda match, this game will see a pivotal centre half forward v centre half back battle. Hawk forward Lance Franklin is a noted matchwinner and used to be picked up by Nathan Bock in these fixtures. Bock is now at the Gold Coast, so Phil Davis is likely to be given first crack. Hawthorn have quality players in midfield and attack, but may be shaky at the back. The crows don’t have as many stars, but have an even and improving squad. I think the Hawks should get home on the back of some Franklin heroics.
TIP: Hawthorn by 17 points
ANDY’S BET: Hawthorn to win head to head @ 1.97 (Centrebet)
BRISBANE v FREMANTLE – GABBA (8.10pm AEDT)
LAST TIME: Brisbane 15.10 (100) def by Fremantle 15.23 (113), R7, 2010
AT SELECTION: Both teams are handing debuts to two young players. Utility Ryan Lester and midfielder Rohan Bewick get a go for the Lions, while midfielders Nick Lower and Jayden Pitt will be welcomed into the Freo lineup.
WHO IS MISSING? The lions are missing a trio of defenders, Josh Drummond, Matt Maguire and Xavier Clarke. Fremantle are without a host of regulars inculding Michael Barlow, Roger Hayden, Byron Schammer, Garrick Ibbotson, Alex Silvagni and Jack Anthony.
PREVIEW: The Lions have been written off by all of the media pundits prior to the start of the season, but I think they might just sneak a victory against an undermanned Fremantle. Brisbane won their last two pre season games against the Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast. Brisbane forward Jonathan Brown always seems to fire early in the season before his bulky frame seems to get injured. Expect him to fire with 4-5 goals. Fremantle will rely on the usual suspects in Sandilands and Pavlich, but Brisbane have a decent ruck combination to combat big ‘Sandi’.
TIP: Brisbane by 8 points
ANDY’S BET: Brisbane to win @ 2.20 (Sportingbet)
ANDY’S BET: Jonathan Brown most goals @ approx 3.00 (TAB Sportsbet – Odds not yet fixed)