MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 12: Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs fends off Mason Cox of the Magpies during the 2019 AFL round 04 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Western Bulldogs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 12, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)
  1. Richmond v Carlton

Two of the league’s biggest clubs, fighting it out on Thursday night. It’s become a tradition for a reason. The Tigers have dominated the fixture, winning the past five season openers, however, the Blues showed encouraging signs in last year’s encounter. Following the shock retirement of premiership-winning defender, Alex Rance, the Tigers will once again be out to replicate the form that saw them win 12 games straight on their way to the premiership last season.

While for Carlton, the match again serves as a wonderful opportunity for a gutsy, underdog style performance. Can the likes of Cripps and Walsh eclipse the premiership Tigers, or will Damien Hardwick’s men start 2020 off with a roar?

  1. GWS v Geelong

Last year’s minor premiers taking on last season’s grand finalist. While 2019 ended on a sour note for both sides, the Cats and Giants are primed for another tilt at silverware come September. Josh Jenkins is set to make his debut for the Cats, who in the eyes of many took a punt when they signed the former Crow.

At 31, this is ultimately Jenkins’s last shot at resurrecting his AFL career, and he will hope to make a smooth transition into a Cats forward line led by veteran, Tom Hawkins. The Giants, on the other hand, will be hoping to leave the pain of 2019 behind them as they push to go one step further this season. Wouldn’t be surprised if the game is dominated by two strong defences.

  1. Western Bulldogs v Collingwood

Another huge game between two powerhouse clubs, the Dogs and Pies will open their season under the roof at Marvel Stadium. With both clubs fancied to go deep into September, neither side will want to concede early ground in the premiership race. The Pies will be without gun midfielder Adam Treloar, who injured his hamstring in last weekend’s pre-season hit out against the Tigers.

In Treloar’s absence, could the Dogs' big midfield three of Bontempelli, Dunkley and Macrae be the difference in this one? If last season’s results between these two are anything to go by, we are once again in for a close one.

  1. Hawthorn v Brisbane

The Lions take on the Hawks in unfamiliar territory - in Melbourne for the first time since 2012. Following their straight-sets final exit, the Lions will feel as though they have a lot to prove, while the Hawks will be looking to improve on their ninth-place finish in 2019. The Hawks will be hoping to unleash former Giant and reborn forward Jonathan Patton.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 01: Stefan Martin of the Lions and Marc Pittonet of the Hawks challenge for the ball during the round 11 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Hawthorn Hawks at The Gabba on June 01, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

Patton who has struggled with knee injuries since being taken as pick number one in the 2011 national draft will when fit, spearhead the Hawks forward line and compliment encouraging youngster Mitchell Lewis. These two clubs have created somewhat of a rivalry in recent years, with the Lions luring Hawks legend Luke Hodge and former assistant coach, Chris Fagan north to the Gabba.

Grant Birchall became the newest member of the Hawthorn to Brisbane club over the summer, so expect some fire and passion from the Hawks if their former premiership teammate is named to make his Lions debut. The Lions have had the wood on the Hawks recently, however, the young Brisbane side is yet to prove themselves in Melbourne. Will be a fascinating contest.

  1. West Coast v Melbourne

In a rematch of the 2018 Preliminary Final, the Demons travel over to the West in the hope of starting their 2020 season on the front foot. Much has been made of the Dees troubles last season and their comeback story, however, a big defeat in the West will surely have even the most optimistic of fans concerned.

For the Eagles, their opening game serves as a huge opportunity to once again make Optus Stadium a ground feared by opposition sides. The match will also see the debut of the Eagle’s prized acquisition, Tim Kelly. Expect the Eagle’s faithful to be loud and passionate in the hopes of singing their new and improved club song…

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