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Sunday, July 25, 2021

AFL round 3 preview: A response is required

The first round back threw up some questions about premiership contenders so it will be fascinating to see how they respond this weekend.

Both the GWS Giants and West Coast Eagles had their colours lowered last round and face challenging assignments to bounce back against the Western Bulldogs and Brisbane Lions respectively.

There are some other big tests for sides with the St Kilda Saints trying to prove themselves against the Collingwood Magpies and the Melbourne Demons looking to back up against the undefeated Essendon Bombers. So, let’s get into it.

Richmond Tigers (5th) vs Hawthorn Hawks (13th) Thursday 18 June 7.40pm @MCG

The Tigers have won their last 4 encounters against the Hawks and should go into this one with plenty of confidence.

Despite only drawing with the Pies last week after a slow start, the Tigers famous pressure was on full display as they kept Collingwood goalless in the second half.

They will be without their star player Dusty Martin after he was ruled out with injury which will hurt their firepower in attack.

Hawks coach Alistair Clarkson said his midfield brigade were ‘smacked’ by the Cats and despite the absence of Martin, the Tigers still have enough class to worry the Hawks.

In a huge boost for the Hawks, they get Jaeger O’Meara back who will play a pivotal role in that all-important midfield battle.

Western Bulldogs (18th) vs GWS Giants (8th) Friday 19 June 7.50pm @Marvel Stadium

There has been a bit of rivalry between these sides since 2016 and with both sides coming off a loss, they should be fired up and ready for battle.

The Bulldogs were many people’s pick as premiership contenders before the season started but find themselves dead last after two heavy defeats.

They were blown off the park by a Saints side that showed more effort and intensity than the Dogs.

They now face a big test in the Giants, the same side that knocked them out of the finals last year.

The Giants are also coming off a disappointing loss after being outplayed by a resurgent Kangaroos side.

Many of their star players were below their best but they rarely play two bad games in a row so you would expect them to be right up for this one.

The Giants were all over the Dogs in last years final and will be keen to repeat the dose this weekend.

North Melbourne Kangaroos (2nd) vs Sydney Swans (9th) Saturday 20 June 1.45pm @Marvel Stadium

The Kangaroos were superb last week, knocking off the more fancied Giants side and should go into this match full of confidence.

It was a mix of youth and experience that got the job done with young guns Jy Simpkin and Cameron Zurhaar starring alongside veterans Todd Goldstein and Shaun Higgins.

Their midfield group got on top of the talented Giants midfield and if they can repeat that effort, they should be winning this one.

The Swans were disappointing last week with several basic skill errors costing them against the Bombers.

Buddy Franklin’s loss was felt with the young tall forwards failing to have an impact.

The Swans will also be sweating on the fitness of ruckman Sam Naithsmith with the challenge of an in-form Goldstein awaiting.

Collingwood Magpies (4th) vs St Kilda Saints (6th) Saturday 20 June 4.35pm @MCG

The Magpies looked sensational for the first 40 minutes against the Tigers but then failed to kick a goal in the second half as they held on for a draw.

Captain Scott Pendlebury just keeps performing at an elite level while Jeremy Howe was superb down back.

The Saints showed a real intensity in their win against the Bulldogs and look like a climb up the ladder may be on the cards.

They’ve recruited well the past couple of seasons and Zak Jones, Bradley Hill and Dan Hannebery all add a touch of class and some much-needed finals experience to the Saints.

The Pies and Saints will face off at the MCG again this weekend but with a slightly smaller crowd.

Brisbane Lions (11th) vs West Coast Eagles (12th) Saturday 20 June 7.40pm @Gabba

The Lions hung on for an important win against the Dockers last week behind quality performances from their stars Lachie Neale and Charlie Cameron.

This is their second of four straight matches at the Gabba so they need to make the most of it as they will have to play more away matches later in the year to make up for it.

The Eagles were the most disappointing side in round 1 getting smashed by the Gold Coast Suns.

It was a poor way to start their time in the Gold Coast hub and now face the daunting task of spending the next three weeks away from home.

If they are to be the premiership contenders we expect them to be, they need to bounce back in a big way against the Lions.

Geelong Cats (7th) vs Carlton Blues (16th) Saturday 20 June 7.40pm @GMHBA Stadium

Geelong were super impressive against the Hawks last week at home and will be extremely tough to beat there again this week.

It was their experienced brigade that came back in fine order with Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett all starring in the win.

The Blues were outscored 32-0 in the first quarter last week and simply cannot afford to start that poorly against the Cats this week or it could get ugly.

Patrick Dangerfield was superb last week and will look to continue that form against the Blues.

Gold Coast Suns (10th) vs Adelaide Crows (17th) Sunday 21 June 1.05pm @Metricon Stadium

Well who would’ve thought the Suns would go into this match expected to win?

The Suns had one of the biggest wins in the club’s history and their future is starting to look much brighter with youngsters like Matthew Rowell, Noah Anderson and Ben Ainsworth all playing big roles.

It was a completely different story for the Crows who crashed to a heavy defeat in the Showdown against the Power.

They still have enough quality players to win this match with the likes of Rory Sloane, Brad and Matt Crouch and Rory Laird but will need to lift their pressure game to beat the confident Suns.

Essendon Bombers (3rd) vs Melbourne Demons (14th) Sunday 21 June 3.35pm @MCG

The Bombers have won both of their matches by one straight kick and will go into this match as favourites to go 3-0.

Their backline was strong last week while Dylan Shiel and Zach Merrett provided run and class to their midfield.

The Demons looked sensational for the first 40 minutes against the Blues last week but were lucky to hold on in the end.

Christian Petracca looks to have gone to a new level this season with extra time in the midfield allowing him to showcase his ball-winning talents.

The Dees and Bombers will be looking to continue their winning ways when they face off this weekend.

Fremantle Dockers (15th) vs Port Adelaide Power (1st) Sunday 21 June 6.05pm @Metricon Stadium

The Dockers are unlucky to be sitting 15th on the ladder after two close losses to open their season.

After a quiet first quarter last week, their skipper Nat Fyfe turned it on, kicking three goals while Michael Walters was sensational as well.

While their star players performed well, they need more out of their bottom tier players to beat the better teams.

The Power sit on top of the ladder with a whopping 290.6% after two big wins over the Suns and Crows.

After moving into the Gold Coast hub, this matchup will be their biggest test this season and nothing short of a comfortable win will prove whether they’re genuine premiership contenders in 2020.

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