AFL Round 3 Preview: Freo Aim For 3-0, West Coast Long Season Ahead

AFL Round 3 - Andrew Brayshaw
Breaking down the action ahead of AFL Round 3.

AFL Round 3 Preview: Freo Aim For 3-0, West Coast Long Season Ahead

Breaking down the action ahead of AFL Round 3.
AFL Round 3 - Andrew Brayshaw
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And just like that, April is here and with April comes Easter. And with Easter comes a long weekend of AFL action.

Collingwood is now 0-3 and Brisbane is 0-2… who would have picked that both Grand Finalists from last season would have a terrible start to the season. One thing is for sure though, at the end of Round 3 — either Collingwood or Brisbane will have their first win of the season.

Despite continuing last season’s trend of slow starts into this season, Fremantle are 2-0 and with a favourable matchup against Adelaide, could see the Purple Army fans thinking FLAGmantle with a 3-0 start to the season.

We all predicted a bloodbath at Optus on the weekend and for the first ten minutes, it seemed that might not have been the case. GWS, however, came out firing in the second and third quarters to put the game well out of West Coast’s reach in what ultimately did end as a bit of a blood bath.

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Games To Watch

Brisbane vs. Collingwood (Gabba, Thursday night)

Not many people would have expected both of last year’s grand finalists to come into Round 3 without a win to their name; yet here we are.

All eyes will be on this blockbuster at the Gabba on Thursday night to see if Collingwood’s nightmare can get any worse, or if the Lions aren’t ready to make that next step in 2024.

It’s early days, but a winless first month of footy kills confidence for any side.

Pies’ coach Craig McRae described his side’s performance in the 15-point loss to St Kilda last week as ‘sloppy, rusty and clunky’. And that was probably being kind.

Collingwood don’t look themselves, and can’t seem to shake the footy public’s belief they’re suffering a ‘premiership hangover’.

The likes of Steele Sidebottom, Scott Pendlebury, Darcy Moore and Nick Daicos have all been criticised by the media, and it will be interesting to see how the stars and their coach respond after such scrutiny.

They’ll head into the game as underdogs, despite Brisbane losing both their opening games before a bye last week.

The Lions went down to Fremantle in Perth in their most recent game by 23 points, but will most likely regain Lachie Neale from a hamstring issue.

Brisbane has won six of its past seven matches over Collingwood, although the one they lost during that time happened to be the most important game of all — the 2023 Grand Final.

The two sides played out one of the all-time great deciders, in what resulted in a four-point win for the Pies, and fans will be hoping for another classic.

The stakes are high for both clubs, with history against them already. No team that has started the season 0-3 has; made the top four since 2007, made the grand final since 1976, or won the premiership since 1975.

We’ll find out a lot about the mentality of these clubs on Thursday night.

PREDICTION: You can’t be confident in Collingwood. They’re out of form, and the Lions have won their past four at the Gabba against the Pies. Brisbane should get the job done. Lions by 10 points

Essendon vs. St Kilda (Marvel Stadium, Saturday afternoon)

All the talk this week has been about Essendon’s ‘edge’.

Are they actually a tough team? Or is it all a ‘facade’, as suggested by Swans forward Tom Papley post-game?

The Bombers came out all guns blazing against Sydney last week, looking to make a statement. Peter Wright received a four-week suspension for contact in a marking contest, before numerous incidents of push and shove throughout the night.

Essendon lost by 30 points and was accused of worrying too much about trying to be tough, rather than the actual ball.

They’ll be keen to prove the doubters wrong with a strong victory this week, heading in with a win (over Hawthorn) and a loss to start the season.

St Kilda should feel slighted by all the Collingwood talk, after beating them by three goals last week.

The Saints’ pressure and speedy ball movement rattled the Pies, but the focus has been entirely on the reigning premier’s poor start, rather than St Kilda’s impressive performance.

Ross Lyon’s men were also gallant in their slim defeat to Geelong the week prior. A win over Essendon here and the footy world will really start to take notice.

Young guns, like Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera who had an outstanding 32-disposal game, are starting to flourish, while Lyon looks to have his troops playing the way he wants.

It’s a huge game for both teams who are sitting 1-1 with a lot to prove this season.

PREDICTION: St Kilda looked too good to ignore last week. They’ll surely have the confidence to run over the top of a side they’ve won four of their past five against. Saints by 15 points

Hawthorn vs. Geelong (MCG, Monday afternoon)

While you wouldn’t really consider it a ‘blockbuster’ clash, it’s an extremely important occasion for both sides.

Tom Hawkins will become just the second Geelong player to run out for their 350th game and is just the 24th player in VFL/AFL history to reach the milestone.

He’ll do it off the back of a brilliant four-goal game last weekend, in the Cats’ 19-point win over Adelaide, still producing solid football at 35 years of age, in season No.18.

In the traditional Easter Monday clash, which has produced some classics over the years, Hawthorn will be aiming to bounce back from a disappointing showing against Melbourne last week.
Their ball movement turned slow and stale after being smashed in contested ball, kicking just five goals for the game.

Coach Sam Mitchell has been pushing the message that he wants his team to be competitive in every game this season, although they were anything but.

Geelong will go in as strong favourites, with the side looking like a real 2024 contender after a poor season last year.

PREDICTION: Cats should be too good. Hawthorn has been disappointing so far. Geelong by 30 points

Fremantle Dockers vs. Adelaide Crows

Fremantle is flying.

Yes, they got off to yet another poor start, but how they worked their way back into the contest, to beat North Melbourne by 22 points, was impressive.

The Dockers trailed by 32 points halfway through the second quarter, before slotting nine consecutive goals at Marvel Stadium.

Luke Jackson and Andrew Brayshaw were the main stars in the fightback, while Justin Longmuir praised the whole team’s “maturity” after “keeping their heads” while trailing.

It’s the first time Fremantle has won its opening two games of the season since 2015 – the year they claimed the minor premiership.

Good signs!


The Dockers will host Adelaide at Optus Oval this Friday night after the Crows went down to Geelong by four goals last week.

Adelaide showed glimpses of good footy throughout the night but wasted crucial opportunities late in the game.

They also allowed Tom Stewart to intercept at will in his 150th game, while Tom Hawkins dominated with four goals.

Midfielders Matt Crouch (38 disposals), Rory Laird (29) and Jordan Dawson (26 and 12 tackles) fought hard all night, but it wasn’t enough to make a difference on the scoreboard.

The Crows have now lost both their opening games, and question marks are starting to surround coach Matthew Nicks, who just signed a two-year contract extension last week.

He’ll be keen for an upset win to silence the doubters.

Talking Points

Good start on Good Friday?

The Dockers have started both of their games this season in terrible fashion.

They gave up the first four goals of the game against Brisbane in round 1, before allowing the Kangaroos to get out to a six-goal lead early in the second quarter on Saturday.

The fans would have loved the way the side has worked back into the game both times, but slow starts are worrying. There are only so many times teams can come back from the dead.

They’ll be focusing on a fast start against the Crows this week, to give themselves the best opportunity to begin the season 3-0.

Jackson standing tall

Luke Jackson has had a brilliant start to the season, putting together one of the best games of his career against North Melbourne.

The 22-year-old, as the standalone ruckman, collected 24 possessions, seven clearances, six tackles and two goals in the 26-point victory,

This was after kicking two against Brisbane the week before.

He’s dominating at the moment, and it will be interesting to see how much attention he’s given from Adelaide ruckman Reilly O’Brien and his teammates.

Can his good form continue? If it does, it will go a long way in making sure the Dockers get the win.

How many can Caleb collect?

How much more could this guy touch the footy? Caleb Strong has picked up an incredible total of 81 disposals in his two matches so far.

His club record of 46 disposals against Brisbane came with 10 clearances, while the 35 he recorded last week, along with eight clearances, were crucial in helping the Dockers get over the line.

The 23-year-old looks unstoppable at the moment, and it will be fascinating to see how the Crows go about minimising his influence.

Adelaide will need to be more proactive in stopping the opposition’s stars than they were last week against the Cats.

PREDICTION: Fremantle has won three of their past four games against the Crows, and won the only time they met at Optus Stadium. Adelaide looks out of form. Dockers by 15 points

West Coast Eagles vs. Western Bulldogs

Despite getting convincingly beaten again, this time by 65 points at the hands of GWS, most of the 42,401 who came out to Optus Stadium stuck it out until the end.

The loyal supporter base saw glimpses of positive signs, but the Eagles were outplayed for most of the day.

Harley Reid was again a shining light, providing some highlights and a nice ‘don’t argue’ fend-off along the wing, while Rueben Ginbey is continuing to show signs of a promising career.

Elliott Yeo, Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern also did all they could to stop the domination of the Giants, but to no avail.

Although a competitive final term saw them kick three goals to five, to ensure the margin didn’t blow out to as much as first feared.

Still not a great day at the office.


The Eagles are coming up against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on Easter Sunday.

The Dogs came out snarling against Gold Coast at Mars Stadium in Ballarat last week to end up 48-point winners, after going down to the Demons by six goals the week before.

Cody Weightman (six goals) and Marcus Bontempelli (32 disposals, two goals and 11 clearances) were the best for the Bulldogs.

Luke Beveridge’s men go in as strong favourites, but there might be a hint of confidence for the Eagles after defeating the Dogs at the same venue last time they played.

Talking Points

Chance of an Upset?

Adam Simpson would surely be reminding his troops about the last time they faced the Bulldogs.

The Eagles won the game by seven points at Marvel Stadium in the final round of last season, in arguably the upset of the year.

The Dogs needed to win that game to keep their finals chances alive and were stunned by a courageous West Coast outfit who trailed at three-quarter time but failed to give up.

The fact the Eagles were able to get the win, in a game with so much on the line for the Doggies, means there’s no reason they can’t do it again.

At least that’s what they’d be telling themselves.

West Coast has won just five matches since the start of 2022, losing 42 of their past 47 matches.

It’s unlikely, but it’s possible!


“It was basic fundamentals,” coach Adam Simpson said of last week’s mistakes.

The Eagles just need to get the basics right.

You could see the signs of a new game plan, with quicker ball movement and courage to take the ball through the middle of the ground. But it was sloppy skill errors that continued to hand GWS opportunities to punish the Eagles on the scoreboard.

West Coast conceded 11 goals off turnovers, making it nearly impossible to stay in the contest.

If they can fix up some of the basic fundamentals, as highlighted by Simpson, it will go a long way in giving the side a chance of notching up its first win of the season.

Young guns

All eyes are on youth at the moment, while West Coast continues to build for the future.

There has been a hell of a lot of talk about Harley Reid, but we’re starting to see what all the fuss was about.

He’s building confidence week after week, and the last round’s 17 possession game excited the fans. As did Reuben Gibney’s performances in one of the best games of his short career, collecting 22 possessions and four clearances.

Tyler Brockman, who came over from Hawthorn in the summer, also showed signs of a long-term contributor.

A win would be nice for the fans, but if the team can stay competitive and the youngsters can continue to flourish, the supporters should be happy.

PREDICTION: An upset wouldn’t be a complete shock, but the Dogs look to have too much experience and class. Western Bulldogs by 30 points

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Featured image: AAP Image / JONATHAN DI MAGGIO