AFL Round 2 Preview: New Year — Same West Coast, Freo Fire Power

AFL Round 2 Preview
Breaking down the action ahead of AFL Round 2.

AFL Round 2 Preview: New Year — Same West Coast, Freo Fire Power

Breaking down the action ahead of AFL Round 2.
AFL Round 2 Preview
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As we head into Round 2 — the Pies are now 0-2, much to the delight of most AFL fans, Fremantle perhaps has silenced critics as the forward line fires against Brisbane and West Coast’s 2024 is looking like a rinse and repeat of 2023.

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Games to Watch

St Kilda vs. Collingwood

What’s the best cure for a hangover? Powerade, panadol, and processed foods? 

For the Pies, the only remedy is a win.

There has been non-stop chatter about a possible ‘premiership hangover’ for Collingwood since starting the season 0-2. But we should find out if it’s actually ‘real’ this Thursday.

They’ve lost to what looks to be two of the best teams in the competition in GWS (32 points) and Sydney (33), but how they went down has supporters concerned.

Sloppy disposal and bad decision-making have been a feature of the Magpies’ first two games. They were outscored by 47 points from turnovers on Friday night, which was their second-worst result under Craig McRae.  

McRae, however, says he’s unphased and has urged fans to “stay true”, as they’ll “turn this around at some stage.”

They’ll need to start turning it around pretty soon, too, with history already against them. No team this century has won a premiership after losing its first two games of the season.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Collingwood will end up winless from three efforts either, with their upcoming opponent impressing in a loss at the hands of Geelong last week. 

The Saints lost to the Cats by eight points in a nail-biting finish at GMHBA Stadium but were fearless, fast, and full of energy.

St Kilda has played just one game, not being part of the four-game opening round two weeks ago, so should have the stamina to play the intense game style required to match it with the Pies. 

Sydney’s high press gave the Saints a blueprint of how to beat Collingwood, and with the return of two-time best-and-fairest winner Jack Sinclair from a calf injury, there’s plenty of belief from St Kilda fans. 

This one is going to be a tight and tough contest, with a whole lot on the line already. Strap in!

PREDICTION: Another loss for Collingwood would be catastrophic. Can’t see Craig McRae allowing them to start the season 0-3. Magpies by 6 points. 

Sydney vs. Essendon 

The Swans demolished reigning premiers Collingwood by six goals after defeating the Demons by 22 points the week before. They go into Round 2 as a real flag contender with plenty of hype. 

Another victory — at what could be a second sold-out SCG for season 2024 — would see them fly above the pack as premiership favourites. Although to be fair, they practically are already. 

They’ve played high-scoring, entertaining footy for the first fortnight, despite missing key stars such as Callum Mills, Luke Parker, and Taylor Adams. Another four points here, and it couldn’t get much better for Sydney.

Essendon also goes into this one off a fairly comfortable 24-point win over Hawthorn, but faded in and out of the see-sawing contest. 

The Dons have added experienced players to its lineup this season, and its list demographic suggests they’re playing for now. The coach and club, however, insist it’s more of a long-term process. 

The fans, on the other hand, just want wins. And starting the season with a victory over an archrival in Hawthorn, and a Sydney side they lost to by just 2 points late last year, would have Bombers fans believing they could win their first final since 2004 by season’s end. 

No matter the result, this is going to be an entertaining watch.

PREDICTION: Swans should be too good. They look like the best team in the competition (by some distance) right now. Sydney by 25 points

West Coast Eagles vs. GWS Giants

Last Week

As expected, West Coast weren’t great. In fact, they were poor. 

The 50-point loss to Port Adelaide could have been a lot worse had the Power kicked straight. They registered 16 goals and an incredible 24 behinds — setting a new club record.

The energetic Eagles were up for the contest early but faded quickly. 

A positive, however, was the debut of the much-discussed No.1 draft pick, Harley Reid. He made a bright start early, with eight disposals and an important contribution in a goal-scoring chain in the first quarter, before finishing with 16 disposals, five clearances, and four inside 50s.

Before Round One, coach Adam Simpson said he wanted his side to be competitive. Unfortunately for the West Coast fans, they were anything but for major parts of the game. 

This Week

The Eagles face a tough matchup against GWS this week at Optus Stadium. 

The Giants are undefeated after two games, with wins against Collingwood (32 points) and North Melbourne (39).

Adam Kingsley’s men look like a true premiership contender, with stars performing all across the ground, as well as attacking power which has seen them kick over 100 points in both matches this season. 

West Coast will go into this one without co-captain Oscar Allen, after suffering from bone stress in his right knee. Scans on Tuesday revealed he’ll miss a few games in the coming weeks. 

Talking Points

  1. Will savage Simpson spark a response?  

Adam Simpson made a statement by subbing off Andrew Gaff shortly after half-time, before announcing early this week that he’d be dropped to the WAFL to “find some form.” 

His match tally of four disposals was the lowest he’s recorded in his illustrious 276-game career.

Simpson will be hoping it sends a message to the playing group, who dished up just 35 tackles for the game (4th worst record since 2021) and their worst second-half pressure rating since 2021. 

They’ll be destroyed by GWS if they come out with something similar. 

  1. Can the Eagles cut down tall Giants?

The Giant’s tall forwards were in full flight against North Melbourne and made the Kangaroos’ defence look amateur.

Jess Hogan kicked six, bringing his season total to ten, while Jake Riccardi finished with three, and Callum Brown and Aaron Cadman chipped in with two apiece.

The Eagles gave away 25 marks inside 50 last week against Port Adelaide, collecting just eight of their own. 

A similar defensive effort against the Giants could prove disastrous. 

  1. Will we Reid about it again? 

Harley Reid was one of the few positives for West Coast, but how much extra attention will he receive this week?

He was already involved in numerous scuffles, including one altercation with Charlie Dixon.

The 18-year-old handled it well, and as coach Adam Simpson said, “I think he’s at home when he’s on the ground and playing footy.”

Eagles fans and AFL neutrals will hope he can take his game to the next level week on week, despite his managed minutes of spells up forward. 

It will be interesting to see how much time the opposition puts into Reid this week, and if he can better his possession tally against a strong GWS midfield. 

PREDICTION: Giants will be too good. GWS by 35 points

Fremantle Dockers vs. North Melbourne Kangaroos

Last Week

Those Dockers were brilliant. 

Justin Longmuir’s men overcame a poor start and three devastating injuries to pile on eight unanswered goals in the middle stages of the game and register a 23-point win over Brisbane. 

Caleb Serong’s new club record of 46 disposals was a huge highlight in the victory over last year’s grand finalists, as well as Nat Fyfe’s and Hayden Young’s efforts in the midfield. 

Jye Amiss and Josh Treacy were the sparks up forward, kicking seven goals between them, but those second-half injuries, to Brennan Cox (hamstring), Oscar McDonald (knee), and Karl Worner (concussion), soured the win.

This Week

The Dockers are travelling to Marvel Stadium to take on North Melbourne this Saturday afternoon in what should be a comfortable win. 

Some would say the Kangaroos have improved and put in a decent performance during their loss to GWS last week. But they still went down by 39 points and were smashed in a lot of the key statistics, most notably contested possessions where they were -32 (113-145).

North finished second-last in 2023, and not many expect them to move much higher up the ladder this year. 

Freo should be flying back to Perth with four points and a whole lot of confidence after this one. 

Talking Points

  1. Can they back it up? 

There was a lot of speculation about Justin Longmuir and the Dockers coming into the season. 

Are they too young to play finals? Do they have the forwards to kick enough goals? Was Longmuir’s one-year extension just a PR stunt?

Then they beat the Lions. 

The whole narrative changed after Sunday’s upset win. 

They go into this game against North as strong favourites, rather than bullish underdogs. So will the win over Brisbane see them continue their impressive form in the game against the Roos? Or is this a possible danger game? 

It will be interesting to see if the Dockers can do a double. 

  1. Will he Amiss a beat? 

Jye Amiss took five marks inside 50 last week and kicked four goals — and this was against a defence that qualified for a grand final last year. 

This week is a chance for the key forward to bank some more majors. 

Amiss kicked the most goals for Fremantle in 2023, with 41 from 22 games. But starting with seven last week, and what could be a few more against a North Melbourne side that gave up 36 scoring shots last week, this year’s tally could be a whole lot bigger. 

  1. What will the backline look like?

Justin Longmuir is expected to change up the backline this week, with defender Brennan Cox undergoing surgery on a high-grade hamstring injury and backman Oscar McDonald sidelined for an extended period.

Half-back Karl Worner has entered concussion protocols, so he’ll also miss the trip to Melbourne. 

It means the coaching staff will have to shift around some players to fill the gaps. 

Backman Josh Draper is an option to come in, and small defender Brandon Walker is close to being available after building match fitness in the WAFL at the weekend.

Longmuir could also look at moving Luke Ryan and Ethan Hughes into roles on taller players if Alex Pearce needs a chop out. 

The new-look defence will be an interesting watch. 

PREDICTION: North hasn’t improved much. Freo has. Fremantle by 22 points

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Featured image: RICHARD WAINWRIGHT / AAP Image