Footy is back! And while games will be played in front of no crowds, it will still be a damn good sight to see.
Here is our round one preview and check out SportsChamps for 2020 AFL season tournament betting.
Thursday March 19
Richmond vs Carlton, MCG, Thursday 7:25pm (all times AEDT)
Richmond come in with an almost injury-free list with only Bachar Houli ruled out due to injury. Of last year’s grand final team, Houli and Brandon Ellis come out for Sydney Stack and Jack Gram
For Carlton, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay will create a hole in the forward line, while the Blues’ defence will be stretched due to Caleb Marchbank suffering an injury in Carlton’s Marsh Cup clash against Brisbane two weeks ago. Returning Blue Eddie Betts will also miss while fellow recruits Jack Martin and Jack Newnes come in for their club debuts. Sam Petresvski-Seton comes in after playing in last week’s VFL practice match.
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Expect an almost fully fit Richmond to flex its muscle against the young Blues. However, the lack of a 90,000 plus crowd might aid the Blues and level the playing field with the Tigers.
Prediction: Tigers by 22 points
Western Bulldogs vs Collingwood, Marvel Stadium, Friday 7:50pm
Bulldogs young gun Aaron Naughton has gotten himself fit from a serious knee injury and will play . New recruits Alex Keath and Josh Bruce will make their club debuts after strong pre-seasons, with perhaps the main selection headache being who replaces suspended wingman Will Hayes. Matt Suckling could fill the void there, while Roarke Smith and Toby Mclean look set to miss as Lewis Young is likely to play in a tall forward line.
Collingwood will be missing star midfielder Adam Treloar and key defender Tom Langdon due to injury, opening the door for Josh Daicos and John Noble to feature. Rupert Wills will likely be named after a strong pre-season with recruit Darcy Cameron likely to be named as an emergency despite impressing in the Marsh Community Series. The Pies announced earlier this wee that Tyler Brown will make his debut.
This has the potential to be the closest game of the round with the Bulldogs looking to move into the top four territory Collingwood has occupied the last two seasons. Expect the game to be won in the middle with the Dogs’ mids just edging out the Pies’ group.
Prediction: Bulldogs by 4 points
Essendon vs Fremantle, Marvel Stadium, Saturday 1:45pm
Essendon will be lacking up forward due to Joe Daniher and Cale Hooker’s injuries, with Tom Cutler set to debut for the Bombers in a forward role. Brandon Zerk-Thatcher looks set to line up at fullback to cover Mitch Hibbert’s injury while Andrew Phillips is set for his first game for the Bombers in the ruck with no 1 choice Tom Bellchambers missing due to a knee injury.
Fremantle will likely play Cam McCarthy after he impressed on the wing in the second Marsh Cup match with Caleb Serong and Sam Sturt set to make their AFL debut after a strong pre-season. Injuries to key trio Joel Hamling, Stephen Hill and David Mundy will affect the Dockers with recruit James Aish set to line up in the midfield to help mitigate these losses.
Despite Essendon’s large injury list, which includes captain Dyson Heppell, expect them to have too much firepower for the Dockers, with their youth and new coach Justin Longmuir proving to be a deciding factor.
Prediction: Bombers by 35 points
Adelaide vs Sydney, Adelaide Oval, Saturday 4:35pm
Tom Doedee looks set to be the only noticeable absentee for the Crows with debutant Fischer McAsey set to replace him after a strong showing against Gold Coast in the pre-season. Ben Davis, Darcy Fogarty and Tyson Stengle will also look set to cement their place in the Crows’ squad.
After strong pre-season showings Sam Gray, Kaiden Brand and Lewis Taylor all look set to be named for Sydney with Brand look set to fill in Lewis Melican’s role in defence with him missing due to a hamstring injury. Draftee Dylan Stephens is on standby for Sam Reid, who looks set to play but may be a late out due to a calf issue while star forward Buddy Franklin is still out with his knee injury.
Adelaide will bring in a drastically different 22 to last season with the lockout of fans mitigating a large home field advantage. Despite Franklin’s injury, Sydney should be too strong over a Crows squad still needing time to gel.
Prediction: Sydney by 32 points
Gold Coast vs Port Adelaide, Metricon Stadium, Saturday 7:25pm
Gold Coast will unleash plenty of fresh faces, with Brandon Ellis and Hugh Greenwood expected to be named, while Noah Anderson, Izak Rankine and Matt Rowell all should debut for the Suns. Sean Lemmens looks to be unlucky to miss after a strong pre-season with Alex Sexton set to miss one more week in his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Mitch Georgiades looks set to debut for Port Adelaide but may be a late exclusion if the Power don’t opt to play three tall forwards, with Kane Farrell coming in there. Sam Powell-Pepper’s impressive form as a forward looks set to push out Brad Ebert while Ollie Wines and Jack Watts look set to be the main exclusions for the Power.
Gold Coast were the talk of the pre-season with two wins in their Marsh Community Series games and should give Port Adelaide some headaches at home. Port Adelaide’s experience looks set to be the main factor in this one though
Prediction: Port Adelaide by 20 points
Greater Western Sydney vs Geelong, Giants Stadium, Saturday 7:25pm
Giants star defender Zac Williams looks set to miss Saturday’s clash with Lachie Ash or Isaac Cumming set to replace him down back. Key midfield duo Tim Taranto and Callan Ward will miss so Marsh standouts Brent Daniels and Jackson Hatley should be named, while rookie Tom Green is set to make his debut. Sam Jacobs will make his debut for the Giants in the ruck and looks set to make a big impact.
Chris Scott revealed that Jack Steven won’t make his debut, but Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan will both play. Esava Ratugolea will line up for his first premiership match in nine months, reuniting a successful forward partnership duo with Tom Hawkins. Mark O’Connor and Rhys Stanley unlucky to miss the 22.
The Giants will want to start the season with a bang, proving that their grand final thrashing at the hands of Richmond was a fluke. Geelong lost both preseason matches and their aging list might not bode well for the season ahead. The Giants should be too good at home.
Prediction: Giants by 25 points
North Melbourne vs St Kilda, Marvel Stadium, Sunday 1:10pm
North have a few selection headaches with Paul Ahern and Aaron Hall fighting for a spot after Hall made a strong case in the second Marsh Series match. Curtis Taylor will also likely play due to a strong pre-season while Josh Walker will replace the injured Luke Davies-Uniacke. GWS recruit Aiden Bonnar the unluckiest to miss.
Change is the story for St Kilda as despite having a clean injury list, six changes to their best 22 last season are likely. Recruits Dan Butler, Brad Hill, Zak Jones, Dougal Howard and Paddy Ryder will play while the much-hyped Max King set to debut at full-forward. With skipper Jarryn Geary and fellow defender Dylan Robertson returning to full fitness, Shane Savage and Jack Sinclair could be the unlucky ones to make way.
St Kilda have a full list available and should be emboldened after a strong pre-season showing. North were a mixed bag in their games and the in-form Saints should be too strong for North.
Prediction: St Kilda by 16 points.
Hawthorn vs Brisbane, MCG, Sunday 3:20pm
Key forward duo Jack Gunston and Mitch Lewis look set to be named for Hawthorn despite both coming off injuries that affected their Marsh Series campaigns. Connor Nash looks to be the likely inclusion if either are ruled out. Jackson Ross may be an outside chance to debut while Jon Patton and Sam Frost should debut for the Hawks. Jack Scrimshaw and James Cousins the unluckiest to miss.
Brisbane had the most settled of 2019 and bring that to the start of 2020 with no injuries ruling anyone out of the side. As such, only recruit Grant Birchall fits into their 22, replacing the retired Luke Hodge at half-back. Fellow recruit Callum Ah Chee looks set to be the unluckiest to miss with Noah Answerth retaining his backline spot after a strong pre-season.
The lack of crowds may have the biggest effect on this game, with the Lions having a poor record at the MCG this past decade however Hawthorn have lost their last four to the Lions, but none of which were at the MCG. Expect a close one.
Prediction: Lions by 7 points
West Coast vs Melbourne, Optus Stadium, Sunday 6:20pm
Nic Naitanui is set to be named and go head to head with Max Gawn, with Eagle Bailey Williams likely to nab the second ruck spot ahead of Nathan Vardy. Jarrod Brander is a certain starter after a great pre-season while Will Schofield and Brendon Ah Chee are the unluckiest to miss with the Eagles having a full-strength backline.
Melbourne look set to debut Kysaiah Pickett after a strong pre-season while off-season recruits in Ed Langdon and Adam Tomlinson should also be named. The toughest call will come for the second ruck spot with draftee Luke Jackson likely to play over Sam Weideman. Jayden Hunt and Weideman the unluckiest to miss.
Despite showing improvement in the pre-season, the Demons should be no match for the Eagles’ firepower at all areas of the ground as West Coast look set to make their case as a premiership tilt.
Prediction: Eagles by 35 points