ESSENDON v WESTERN BULLDOGS – ETIHAD STADIUM (1.10pm AEDT)
LAST TIME: Western Bulldogs 17.5 (107) def Essendon 11.12 (78)
AT SELECTION: There is an unfamiliar look about this Bulldogs lineup that will be both exciting and unnerving to fans. Tall defender Lucas Markovic has been selected for his AFL debut at full back. Tom Liberatore will also make his debut, playing as a rover in the position his dad played for the same club in the 90’s. The Doggies could hand club debuts to a swag of recycled players including Justin Shermon, Nathan Djerkurra and Ed Barlow all named on an extended interchange bench. The Bombers Inexperienced players Brennan Stack and Liam Jones are more surprise selections. The Bombers have included highly touted youngster Dyson Heppell for his first match.
WHO IS MISSING? The Bulldogs are missing a raft of players in key defensive posts including Brian Lake, Ryan Hargrave and Lindsay Gilbee. The Bombers are also without a few of their best 22, with Andrew Welsh, Tayte Pears, Alwyn Davey and Henry Slattery all out of action.
PREVIEW: I had been anticipating a comfortable Doggies win all week. That was until the teams were announced on Thursday night. The inexperienced Western Bulldogs team took me by surprise and suddenly I wasn’t so sure about my tip. Essendon look to have a fully functioning forward line with Michael Hurley in top form, while Cale Hooker and Dustin Fletcher are taking care of business in the back half. The question mark for the Bombers is how they’ll cope in the middle against Cooney, Griffen, Boyd, Cross and Higgins. For too long, Jobe Watson has carried Essendon’s midfield on his own. I still don’t see where the support will come from. Essendon will be very spirited, but when things get tight in the second half, the Bulldogs grit will be too much.
TIP: Western Bulldogs by 9 points
ANDY’S BET: Western Bulldogs to win head to head @ 1.64 (Centrebet)
MELBOURNE v SYDNEY – MCG (2.10pm AEDT)
LAST TIME: Melbourne 22.10 (142) def Sydney 10.9 (69)
AT SELECTION: Melbourne hand an AFL debut to youthful midfielder Luke Tapscott, while Sydney have selected small forward Byron Sumner for his first full AFL appearance and given Andrejs Everitt a guernsey in the red and white for the first time.
WHO IS MISSING? The Dees a missing a host of players from all positions, defender James Frawley, midfielders Tom Scully and Cale Morton, plus forward Matthew Bate. Sydney are missing potent goal scorer Dniel Bradshaw as well as key defender Lewis Roberts-Thomson and running backs Nick Malceski and Tadgh Kennelly.
PREVIEW: I am looking forward to this game more than any other that will be played this weekend. It will be a humdinger between two sides with similar aspirations for 2011. Both clubs are eyeing off a finals appearance come September. The will he, won’t he saga surrounding Melbourne’s Tom Scully and his possible departure to Greater Western Sydney has overshadowed a fairly poor pre-season by the Demons on the field. Sydney play a tight, constricting game, which is suited to their home SCG turf, but not on the wide expanses of the MCG. This will still be an arm wrestle and Melbourne will need to quell the influence of Sydney master Adam Goodes, the one Swans player with an ability to break the game open. Melbourne have strong bodies of their own in Brent Moloney and Colin Sylvia, but I think Sydney have the slightly stronger scoring threat.
TIP: Sydney by 12 points
ANDY’S BET: Sydney to win head to head @ 2.10 (Centrebet)
WEST COAST v NORTH MELBOURNE – PATERSONS STADIUM (7.10pm AEDT)
LAST TIME: West Coast 14.10 (94) def by North Melbourne 16.14 (110)
AT SELECTION: West Coast hand a debut to precocious forward talent Jack Darling. While North have gone youth crazy. The Shinboners selecting youngsters Shaun Atley, Cameron Richardson, Cameron Pederson, while selecting ex-Eagle Ben McKinley for his first game in the blue and white vertical stripes.
WHO IS MISSING? Daniel Kerr has been surprisingly overlooked for the Eagles, who have the luxury of a full, fit and healthy list to choose from. The Kangas are missing key big men Hamish McIntosh (injury) and Drew Petrie (suspension). Nathan Grima, Ryan Bastinac and Matt Campbell are also out of action.
PREVIEW: North Melbourne have a young side, and that is a big danger when travelling interstate, especially to Perth where the young legs will struggle on the widest ground in the league. North are also missing their big ruckmen, meaning Todd Goldstein will take on West Coast tag team Dean Cox and Nick Naitanui alone. I think the ‘chief’ – Dean Cox – will run riot and dominate the game after completing his best pre-season in years. North’s young kids will benefit from this exposure and they will have a great side in 2-3 years, but not yet.
TIP: West Coast by 24 points
ANDY’S BET: West Coast to win by 12 or more points @ 2.00 (Sportingbet)