Carlton v Richmond
MCG, 7.20pm Thursday March 21
Team News: Carlton have already confirmed six club debutants, including Sam Walsh and Will Setterfield, alongside impressive recruit Nic Newman. The Blues will be stoked to have gun midfielder Marc Murphy back in the side after getting through the preseason unscathed.
Richmond announced prized recruit Tom Lynch will line up for Thursday’s season opener. The power forward had off-season surgery on his knee and resumed full-contact training with the Tigers group in early March. Midfielder-turned-makeshift-ruckman Shaun Grigg (knee) and forward Josh Caddy (ankle) will both miss the start of 2019.
Prediction: Carlton have made a lot of improvements to their team over the off-season and have even looked good at times throughout the JLT preseason games. Expect the Blues to surprise a few and keep it a contest for most of the night, but the Tigers to run out comfortable victors, which fit in perfectly with Superbru tippers, with 85% backing the Tigers to prevail. Tigers by 28.
Collingwood v Geelong
MCG, 7.50pm Friday March 22
Team News: Dayne Beams returns to the Magpies’ midfield after four years in Brisbane, while ex-Bulldog Jordan Roughead is a strong chance to make his Pies debut to line up on Tom Hawkins. Taylor Adams will miss the first few weeks with a finger injury, but young gun Jordan De Goey will be fit to play.
Jordan Clark looks set to make his AFL debut in front of a massive crowd after Chris Scott indicated that the No.15 draft pick will lineup against the Pies. Meanwhile, Charlie Constable has impressed throughout the JLT series, averaging 21.5 disposal to also pose a question to the Cats’ selection committee. Recruits Luke Dahlhaus and Gary Rohan should both be named in the Geelong 22.
Prediction: This matchup will be a treat to watch in the midfield, as we see Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood, Tim Kelly and Gary Ablett up against Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar, Dayne Beams and Steele Sidebottom. According to 69% of Zero Hanger’s tipping pool, last year’s runner up might just be too strong for the Cats. Pies by 20.
Melbourne v Port Adelaide
MCG, 1.45pm Saturday March 23
Team News: Ken Hinkley announced on Tuesday that the Power outfit to line up in round one would feature eleven changes from their round 23 side from 2018, including four debutants. Draft picks Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma will all be selected, along with third-year midfielder Willem Drew. Meanwhile, key recruits Scott Lycett and Ryan Burton will also take their place in the side. A decision on whether Paddy Ryder plays will be made later in the week, while captain Ollie Wines will miss with a shoulder injury and power forward Charlie Dixon is set to be sidelined for a significant chunk of time with leg and ankle issues.
Steven May’s Melbourne debut will be delayed by a week after being suspended for a week for an incident in the Demons’ final JLT match. Meanwhile, neither of May’s fellow recruits Kade Kolodjashnij and Braydon Preuss will play after the latter injured his groin in a VFL practice match. Kolodjashnij has been hampered by a hamstring complaint throughout the preseason. Jack Viney faces a race to prove his fitness after suffering a corkie.
Prediction: The Demons will be fired up in front of a big crowd after their successful 2018 campaign and should run over the top of a young, inexperienced Power unit. If the Demons apply scoreboard pressure early, this match has blowout written all over it. 71% of tippers agree with us. Demons by 48.
Adelaide vs Hawthorn
Adelaide Oval, 4:05pm Saturday March 23
Team news: Crows forward Josh Jenkins told SEN that draftee Chayce Jones could lineup against the Hawks following a finger injury to Paul Seedsman. Adelaide will go in as close to full strength as it gets, with Luke Brown (ankle) the only other player on their injury list.
Meanwhile, Hawthorn are expected to blood plenty of youngsters, with midfield opportunities opening up for James Cousins, James Worpel and Harry Morrison following Tom Mitchell’s ACL injury. Jack Scrimshaw should also come in for his club debut. Chad Wingard and Tom Scully are still a few weeks away, while there is a question mark over Jack Gunston’s fitness.
Prediction: After a disappointing 2018 that saw the Crows tumble all the way out of the eight, Don Pyke’s team will be keen to wipe the slate clean and start the new season on a high. An inexperienced Hawks outfit will be up against it. Believe it or not this is the closest contest of the round according to Superbru, with a 62-38 split favouring the home side. Crows by 35.
Western Bulldogs vs Sydney
Marvel Stadium, 7:25pm Saturday March 23
Team news: Bailey Smith will come in for his AFL debut and there a big wraps on the seventh overall pick. The Dogs will be reeling from the loss of Dale Morris (ACL), as Fletcher Roberts and Zaine Cordy look to feel the void down back. Aaron Naughton could also switch back to defence. Jason Johannisen (ankle) and Lin Jong (hamstring) will miss another fortnight.
For the Swans, Lance Franklin is pleading to be chosen despite a limited pre-season, while Daniel Menzel is unlikely with a groin problem. Ryan Clarke and Jackson Thurlow are in line for their club debuts. Isaac Heeney looks to have overcome an ankle injury in the JLT.
Prediction: Despite being dubbed a bottom four team, Luke Beveridge’s young pups will give the Swans a fair shake at Marvel. Sydney might just have a bit too much star power, and 72% agree. Swans by 18.
Brisbane vs West Coast
Gabba, 7:20pm Saturday March 23
Team news: The Lions are out to end a 10-year finals drought this season behind new recruits Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons and Lincoln McCarthy. Marcus Adams won’t feature for the first few weeks a knee injury. Brisbane are in good shape health wise, with Darcy Gardiner (knee) their only other notable player in doubt.
The reigning premiers will lineup with a similar 22 to the team that took down the Magpies in the Grand Final. Tom Hickey will come in to give Nathan Vardy a chop out in the ruck as with Nic Naitanui (ACL) set to miss the first half of the season. Andrew Gaff (suspension) won’t feature until round three. Jamie Cripps could miss with a toe injury, while Jack Petruccelle could come into the forward line to fill the void of the retired Mark LeCras.
Prediction: The Lions are every chance of pinching an early win here on their home deck and prove that they are the real deal. But you couldn’t go against the reigning premiers, well, 21% of tipsters have (we’re not game enough to though). Eagles by 10.
St Kilda vs Gold Coast
Marvel Stadium, 1:10pm Sunday March 24
Team news: The Saints have been seriously cruelled by injuries over the pre-season, losing Jake Carlisle (back), Dan Hannebery (hamstring), Paddy McCartin (concussion), Dylan Roberton (heart) and Jack Steven (mental health). Steven looks set to play in this one, while newly-signed Jonathon Marsh will help bolster the club’s defensive stocks. Matthew Parker and Dean Kent also figure to make their debuts for St Kilda.
The Suns will unveil a new-look team this season, featuring a crop of youngsters. Prized draftee Jack Lukosius will make his debut, while Gold Coast will have to wait six to eight weeks to see Izaak Rankine (hamstring). Sam Collins, Chris Burgess, Jordan Murdoch, George Horlin-Smith should all be a regular part of the Suns’ best 22 this season.
Prediction: This could be one of the Suns’ biggest opportunities to scrape four points with the Saints badly banged up, particularly in defence. Anything less than a win for St Kilda here would be a disaster which shows, given it’s as one-sided as the Richmond-Carlton clash with 85% backing the Saints. Saints by 20.
GWS vs Essendon
Sydney Showground Stadium, 3:20pm Sunday March 24
Team news: The Giants will have to get through the first few weeks of the season without Shane Mumford and Callan Ward, but are notorious for plugging in handy replacements. Youngster Jye Caldwell will miss one to two weeks with a groin issue.
The Bombers will be without Cale Hooker and Joe Daniher, while Zach Merrett (ankle), Dyson Heppell (hamstring) and Orazio Fantasia (quad) could be underdone having undergone limited pre-seasons. However, Dylan Shiel will make his club debut against his old side and gives John Worsfold’s midfield class and depth.
Prediction: A very even match-up on paper, although 66% of tippers are backing the Giants. GWS are tough to beat in Sydney and there are enough question marks over the Bombers. Giants by 15.
Fremantle vs North Melbourne
Optus Stadium, 3:20pm Sunday March 24
Team news: Fremantle have the longest injury list in the competition, including Connor Blakely (hamstring), Bradley Hill (calf), Stephen Hill (quad), Jesse Hogan (mental health), Brandon Matera (suspension) and Matt Taberner (calf). Even skipper Nat Fyfe recently had minor elbow surgery. Reece Conca and Travis Colyer will likely come in for their first game at the club.
Robbie Tarrant (AC joint) is touch and go for the Roos, while Jed Anderson (hamstring), Ben Jacobs (sinusitis) and Majak Daw (pelvis) won’t feature in the early parts of the season. Dom Tyson, Aaron Hall, Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard should all don the blue and white stripes for the first time.
Prediction: Beating Fremantle at Optus Stadium is never easy, as 63% of fans agree. However, not all is well at the Dockers and the Roos’ revamped lineup should get the get job done. Roos by 18.