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Sunday, July 25, 2021

AFL round 2 preview: Blockbusters galore

After an 83-day break the AFL restarts with several blockbusters for fans to salivate over in round 2.

It’s been a long wait for patient footy fans, but we’ve finally made it and a few lucky fans will even be allowed to attend some of the games in a sign that we’re getting back to normal.

So, without further ado let’s get into the round 2 fixtures.

Collingwood Magpies (2nd) vs Richmond Tigers (6th) – Thursday 11 June 7.40pm @MCG

What a blockbuster to restart the season between these two big Victorian clubs.

A match that would normally attract a crowd of up to 90,000 people will be without one this time but despite the lack of atmosphere this still promises to be a beauty.

The Magpies looked magnificent in round 1, thumping the Bulldogs by 52 points.

Brodie Grundy was the star that night and will be a handful for the Tigers in the midfield battle.

2018 Rising Star winner Jaidyn Stephenson has been left out for the Magpies in a sign of the depth in their list.

Mason Cox and Adam Treloar are their most notable outs as they recover from injuries sustained in the COVID period.

The Tigers are the reigning premiers and restart the season as rightful premiership favourites with a team chock full of stars.

None burn brighter than two-time Norm Smith medalist Dustin Martin, who was outstanding in their round 1 victory over the Blues.

Surprisingly the Tigers have dropped Toby Nankervis and trusted Canberran Ivan Soldo to go one-on-one with Grundy in the ruck.

The battle of the star-studded midfields will be a treat for fans with the likes of Martin, Trent Cotchin and Dion Prestia for the Tigers up against Scott Pendlebury, Grundy and Steele Sidebottom for the Magpies.

Geelong Cats (14th) vs Hawthorn Hawks (4th) – Friday 12 June 7.50pm @GMHBA Stadium

These teams have played in many thrillers over the past 15 years and their intense rivalry will be renewed for the first Friday Night Footy installment in over two months.

This is the first time since 2006 these sides have played in Geelong, where on that occasion the Hawks won by 52 points, but the Cats have an intimidating record at the ground since.

Geelong lost to a classy Giants side in round 1 but played well enough to give the impression they’ll be playing finals again this season.

Off-season recruit Jack Steven has been left our for the Cats after being hospitalised with stab wounds just 26 days ago.

The Hawks started the season with an emphatic victory over the Lions at the MCG, and with Brownlow medalist Tom Mitchell back in their midfield they look like finals contenders.

Unfortunately for Hawthorn star midfielder Jaeger O’Meara is out after suffering a facial fracture but should be available next week.

If any coach was going to come up with some master plan over the break you would back in Alistair Clarkson.

With the Cats playing at their true home ground they deserve to be favourites, but it’s hard to write off a Clarkson coached side.

The Cats and Hawks have played in many epic games over the past 15 years.

Brisbane Lions (15th) vs Fremantle Dockers (12th) – Saturday 13 June 1.45pm @Gabba

The Lions were the bolters of last year making finals for the first time since 2009, but disappointingly went out in straight sets.

They started the season with a loss to the Hawks but often play poorly at the MCG. They should feel more at home back at the Gabba.

Lions star Charlie Cameron is one of the most exciting players in the competition, so if they create enough chances for him to work his craft Brisbane should be too strong.

The Dockers were gutsy in defeat to the Bombers in round 1, and with two-time Brownlow medalist Nat Fyfe leading their midfield they are a slight chance of causing an upset here.

Jesse Hogan has been training after taking a break due to mental health but won’t play in this one so they will be relying on Rory Lobb, Michael Walters, Matt Taberner and Fyfe to kick a winning score.

Carlton Blues (13th) vs Melbourne Demons (16th) – Saturday 13 June 4.35pm @Marvel Stadium

Carlton and Melbourne have both been down the bottom of the ladder for most of the past 10 years, so they’d understandably be feeling pressure to do well this season.

The Blues battled manfully against the Tigers in round 1 but have said they no longer accept honourable losses, so nothing but a win against the Demons will satisfy.

Eddie Betts is expected to play his first game for the club since coming back from Adelaide in the off-season, and of course Patrick Cripps is the main man to watch out for.

The Demons had the season from hell last year dropping from 4th in 2018 to finish 17 in 2019.

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin is determined to return his to their 2018 form and a loss to the Blues would place him under immense pressure from the word go.

Goodwin has made 7 unforced changes to his round 1 side, including one of the great stories of the year so far.

Harley Bennell will play his first game for the club and just his third total since 2015. Bennell showed immense talent in his early years at the Suns but has suffered a staggering 25 calf tears. Hopefully he can stay injury free and we see the best of Bennell once again.

Gold Coast (18th) vs West Coast (3rd) – Saturday 13 June 7.40pm @Metricon Stadium

These teams are on different sides of the premiership window with Gold Coast in full perpetual rebuild mode while West Coast are pushing for another flag.

The Suns were smashed in round 1 against the Power and it’s hard to see such a young side being competitive in this one.

Watch for young guns Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson to see how they progress in their rookie seasons.

The Eagles touched up the Demons in round 1 and despite having to stay in a hub on the other side of the country, there is no excuse to drop this game.

Off-season recruit Tim Kelly comes in and strengthens an already star-studded midfield featuring Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo and Andrew Gaff.

Port Adelaide Power (1st) vs Adelaide Crows (11th) – Saturday 13 June 7.40pm @Adelaide Oval

The Showdown kicks things off for both Adelaide teams with a crowd of up to 2,000 people allowed at the glorious Adelaide Oval, with both sides looking to improve after missing finals last year.

Not sure how much you can take out of the Power’s round 1 victory over the Suns, but you can only beat who’s put in front of you.

The break will ensure the Power get some big guns back with Charlie Dixon and Robbie Gray named to play, while Ollie Wines is out after copping a one-match suspension for breaching the strict COVID-19 protocols.

Gray in particular is a huge inclusion. His presence up forward will have the Crows shaking in their boots as he looks to win an incredible 6th Showdown medal.

The Crows continued their post-2017 Grand Final loss spiral over the season shutdown with more off field drama.

Club legend Andrew McLeod said the culture at the club needed to change, and at training this week teammates Billy Frampton and Kyle Hartigan were caught throwing punches at each other.

Adelaide’s off-field drama seems to have translated into poor on-field performances with the Crows missing finals last year and losing to the Swans at home in round 1.

Robbie Gray has won a record 5 Showdown medals for best on ground in a Showdown.

GWS Giants (5th) vs North Melbourne Kangaroos (9th) – Sunday 14 June 1.05pm @Giants Stadium

Both sides had wins in round 1 although there appears to be a class difference between these sides.

The Giants have been deep in the finals the past few years while North Melbourne have had a change of coach and are rebuilding.

The Giants have stars all over the park but especially the midfield which is chock full of talent with the like of Coniglio, Josh Kelly, Lachie Whitfield and Jacob Hopper. While the Kangaroos are a tough footy side and will make the Giants work hard, their overwhelming aptitude should be enough to get them over the line.

Click here for the full preview.

Sydney Swans (8th) vs Essendon Bombers (7th) – Sunday 14 June 3.35pm @SCG

The Swans and Bombers both had nail biting victories in round 1 will play this week without their star key forwards.

Buddy Franklin pulled his hamstring at training and is expected to miss the first half of the season in a massive blow to the Swans finals chances.

They were without Franklin in round 1 and used a small forward line to good effect against the Crows with Isaac Heeney playing deep and kicking 4 goals.

Young guns Nick Blakey and Tom McCartin will do much of the heavy lifting up forward while Franklin and Sam Reid are out, with Tom Papley and Will Hayward to help hit the scoreboard.

The Bombers have long promised a run at the flag but haven’t managed to win a single final since 2004.

They certainly have the list capable of making a winning finals run, but they will be missing their forward fire power with Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia both out with injury.

In better news for Essendon, captain Dyson Heppell will make an early return from a foot injury to bolster their midfield.

The Swans will be relying on Isaac Heeney up forward without superstar Lance Franklin in the side.

St Kilda Saints (10th) vs Western Bulldogs (17th) – Sunday 14 June 6.05pm @Marvel Stadium

These sides had a fair bit to work in the break after disappointing round 1 losses.

The Saints looked home against an injury-hit Kangaroos side before squandering a 31-point lead to go down by 2.

In positive news from the game, young Max King looked good in his first game while new recruits Zak Jones and Bradley Hill added some much-needed spark to the St Kilda midfield.

The Bulldogs were spruiked as premiership contenders before the season started but were blown off the park by a dominant Magpies team in round 1.

The Bulldogs only managed 22 inside 50s for the match so will need more out of their big-name midfielders like Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Tom Liberatore.

They will be without vice-captain Lachie Hunter who is serving a four-game suspension after being caught drink-driving during the COVID break.

Canberra Weekly
Canberra Weekly

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