Sydney vs Essendon
Thursday April 8, SCG, 7:20pm AEST
The Swans will welcome back Lance Franklin to the side after he was rested from their shock Round 3triumph over Richmond, with versatile tall Hayden McLean the unlucky player to make way. Their kids are flying, with Chad Warner the third player in the red and white to earn a Rising Star nomination this season in as many weeks.
The Bombers have some good news on the personnel front, bringing back captain Dyson Heppell after there was a problem discovered with his back following the Round 1 loss to Hawthorn – he hasn’t played since. Mason Redman has a hamstring complaint and will miss, whilst David Zaharakis has been named as an emergency.
Prediction: Whilst Essendon were able to string a four-quarter performance together last week, it’ll be a much harder task this week with the Swans at home. Sydney by 4 points
Port Adelaide vs Richmond
Friday April 9, Adelaide Oval, 7:50pm AEST
Team News: The preliminary final rematch that will have Port Adelaide up and about for this one after dropping the golden ticket to the Grand Final last year. The Power copped a rude wake-up call from the Eagles in Perth last week, whilst Richmond suffered their first loss of the season to the Swans.
The Power will unveil their prized draft pick from last year in Lachie Jones, who was their Academy selection – taken with the 16th pick in last year’s AFL Draft. Jones is a mid-sized defender with a strong body that is already tailor-made for AFL Football. Coach Ken Hinkley confirmed in his press conference that Peter Ladhams will be dropped in the only change that will be made.
The Tigers have named two debutants themselves in Will Martyn and Rhyan Mansell ahead of this clash. Martyn was pick 44 in the 2019 AFL Draft after captaining Brisbane’s academy side that year. Mansell was picked up by the Tigers as a supplemental pick, coming via Woodville West Torrens in the SANFL. Bachar Houli will also play his first game for the Tigers this season, whilst Kamdyn McIntosh will miss with a concussion and likewise with Dion Prestia, who injured his hamstring last week.
Prediction: Tough one to predict with both sides coming off bad losses. Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval look a more tantalizing proposition. Port Adelaide by 7 points
Western Bulldogs vs Brisbane
Saturday April 10, Mars Stadium, 1:35pm AEST
Team News: After getting their first win of the season last Thursday night in a close one, the Brisbane Lions remain in Victoria for another week, albeit they must travel West to the city of Ballarat. The unbeaten Western Bulldogs await in the domain that is Mars Stadium, with the game also being advertised as a sell-out, so it should be a cracking contest.
So far the only forced change that the Western Bulldogs must make is a replacement for Ryan Gardner, who will miss the next two months after sustaining an AC joint in the opening minute of their win against North Melbourne, requiring surgery. Options include Zaine Cordy, who has been playing VFL since the start of the AFL season, Lewis Young who hasn’t been sighted at AFL level since Round 1 last year or the untried Buku Khamis.
Brisbane could be bolstered in the ruck with the return of Oscar McInerney after he missed the win against Collingwood with an ankle injury. Although the team won the match, the pair of Connor Ballenden and Tom Fullarton struggled to contain Magpies star Brodie Grundy. The Lions could also be boosted with the returns of midfielder Jarrod Berry and defender Darcy Gardiner.
Prediction: Last time the Lions were in Ballarat, they struggled to adapt to the conditions. Maybe the long stay in Victoria has helped them here, but the Dogs have found the confidence and their groove. Western Bulldogs by 18 points
St Kilda vs West Coast
Saturday April 10, Marvel Stadium, 4:35pm AEST
Team News: After losing to the Bulldogs in Round 2, the Eagles bounced back in emphatic fashion, disposing of preliminary finalists Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium. West Coast have found an opportune time to notch win number three on the board as they tackle a St Kilda side that are struggling to find their feet to start the year.
The Saints do lose Jade Gresham for the season with an Achilles injury, but in some good fortune, Rowan Marshall has been named to take on Nic Naitanui, whilst Paddy Ryder returned to training earlier this week after taking personal leave on the eve of the season. Zak Jones should be available for selection after a light week on the training track, whilst Jack Bytel and Ben Long could be in the mix for a recall.
The only downside to the Eagles’ victory was the injury to captain Luke Shuey, who will face at least a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Xavier O’Neill was dropped from the side ahead of Round 3 and put in a strong shift in the WAFL to possibly earn a recall, whilst Brendon Ah Chee was a late out with hamstring tightness and could earn a reprieve.
Prediction: How much impact will Marshall have on the contest and on Nic Nat? His ruck craft is in red hot form and his service to the Eagles’ midfielders will carve up the Saints. West Coast by 38 points
Gold Coast vs Carlton
Saturday April 10, Metricon Stadium, 7:25pm AEST
Team News: After winning their first game in emphatic fashion last week, pressure has eased on Carlton as they look to go two in a row when they head North to the Gold Coast. The Suns have been good, despite what the 1-2 record might suggest, but internally they’d be disappointed with themselves for letting their game against Adelaide slip from them.
It won’t get much easier on the injury front this week at the Suns, with co-captain Jarrod Witts confirmed to miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury. With Zac Smith (PCL) and untried big man Matt Conroy (ACL) also unavailable, it leaves their ruck stocks bare. The Suns could opt for 195cm key defender Caleb Graham as a makeshift option, whilst Chris Burgess could hold on to his spot as a pinch-hitting ruck.
Will Setterfield was a late out for the Blues last week, suffering from a bout of gastro and should return this week. Adam Saad has been on restricted duties at training with a sore knee and will face a fitness test before the game Saturday night. Mitch McGovern kicked 3.2 in just over a half of footy in the VFL as he builds form and Tom Williamson showed plenty off the half-back line in the same game.
Prediction: Carlton could and should look to exploit the Suns’ ruck issues. Pittonet’s a good enough ruckman and even with the resistance around the ground, the Blues should pick up a good win on the road. Carlton by 21 points
Collingwood vs GWS
Saturday April 10, MCG, 7:25pm AEST
Team News: There’s been a feeling brewing all week that whichever coach loses this game on Saturday night will face extreme pressure to keep their job for next year. The Pies threw one away against Brisbane last Thursday night and GWS have been largely disappointing in their first three weeks, as they are yet to win in 2021.
After being named as the emergency sub last round, Nathan Buckley has confirmed that Beau McCreery will start for the Pies this weekend. However, one player that will not be in considerations is Nathan Murphy, who suffered a concussion in the Pies’ VFL practice match and will miss the next couple of weeks. It does seem that the Magpies will go in without many changes, but Nathan Buckley has said that Darcy Cameron has been one that is continuing to put his hand up to be selected.
GWS will be forced to make at least three changes with injuries sustained to captain Stephen Coniglio (syndesmosis), Phil Davis (calf) and Matt de Boer (hamstring) in their loss to the Demons in Canberra – all three will be out for a significant period of time. Harry Perryman (glandular fever) will also miss the next fortnight, but expect Brent Daniels to return from an ankle injury and whilst Jesse Hogan is available for selection, it’s likely he’ll be making his return via the VFL to work back from a quad injury. Tanner Bruhn is a chance to return, as is Zach Sproule, while Connor Stone and Ryan Angwin could be possible debutant chances.
Prediction: Collingwood are going to be a team that struggles at times this season to put a winning score on the board, but should be able to put in a decent performance against a depleted Giants side. Collingwood by 30 points
North Melbourne vs Adelaide
Sunday April 11, Marvel Stadium, 1:10pm AEST
Team News: The battle of the teams who finished 17th and 18th last season could not have a more stark contrast in terms of how their stories are shaping this season. Roos are last with an ugly percentage of 37.4 following their 128-point loss to the Bulldogs on Good Friday. Conversely, the Crows have won two of their first three games in 2021 after losing their first 13 games last year.
The Roos have a number of players returning from injury, but will face fitness tests for Sunday. This list includes Aiden Bonar (adductor), Luke McDonald (quad), Curtis Taylor (concussion) and Trent Dumont (calf). Jared Polec was subbed out of the loss last Friday with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to be fit this weekend. It is also unclear whether or not Jed Anderson will be right to play after suffering an ankle injury in the same game. Atu Bosenavulagi put in a strong shift in the VFL and could be in line for a North debut.
David Mackay could be in line for a return to the line-up after missing the win over Gold Coast last Friday due to hamstring tightness, however will be subjected to a fitness test. There is no time frame on Matt Crouch’s return, whilst Daniel Talia will miss another eight to 10 weeks due to surgery on his foot. Tom Lynch is also nursing a sore toe, but the club expects he’ll play. Jackson Hately and Josh Worrell have mounted their cases for senior footy with strong games in the SANFL.
Prediction: You’d hope that North put in a better effort this week, but with Taylor Walker in the form of his career and Rory Sloane off one of his best games in a while, it sounds like it’ll just be a question of how big the margin is and how much the ‘Texan’ kicks. Adelaide by 60 points
Melbourne vs Geelong
Sunday April 11, MCG, 3:20pm AEST
Team News: This will be a true test of how legitimate Melbourne are. Yes the Cats aren’t full strength, but are still strong enough to get through three rounds with two wins on the board. The Demons have been impressive with their ball movement, but have only beaten Fremantle, GWS and St Kilda so far in 2021, and none of those sides have looked likely thus far in their games to date.
The Demons will have Ben Brown (knee) and Sam Weideman (leg) to look forward to, both are returning via the VFL this weekend and have had Mitch Brown, Jay Lockhart and Joel Smith return through the VFL last weekend, however James Harmes is still a few weeks away with a broken wrist. Jake Melksham was the medical sub last week and could make a return to the starting side this week.
In the aftermath of their Easter Monday thriller with Hawthorn, the Cats will miss Shaun Higgins for the next month with a hamstring injury, whilst small forward Francis Evans suffered an ankle syndesmosis injury, meaning he won’t be back until after mid-season. The Cats should regain Sam Menegola this week after missing the past couple of weeks with a shoulder complaint and will most likely get Jeremy Cameron (hamstring) back the following week
Prediction: Geelong’s slow ball movement on Easter Monday will be their undoing against the better sides, Adelaide sliced them up in Round 1 and if Melbourne can do the same, they should get the job done here. Melbourne by 14 points
Fremantle vs Hawthorn
Sunday April 11, Optus Stadium, 4:40pm AEST
Team News: On the back of a dismal performance away from home, Fremantle have a golden opportunity to even the ledger at 2-2 as they host a Hawthorn side who despite being 1-2, have shown plenty of fight and hunger for the contest. Only their movement going forward of centre has been the only thing that has been disappointing.
Fremantle will be hoping captain Nat Fyfe will fly through concussion protocols and be ready in time for Sunday. Fyfe missed last Sunday’s clash after being knocked out by GWS’ Sam Reid the week previous. Hayden Young will be out for up to 12 weeks after suffering a severe hamstring injury in the loss to the Blues, whilst Lachie Schultz won’t be playing after being concussed in the same game. Sam Sturt is expected to be recalled as well after making his return through the WAFL whilst Griffin Logue (hamstring) will return through the WAFL. Impressing forward Sam Switkowski has been sidelined for an extended period after undergoing surgery on his finger.
Hawthorn got through their game on Easter Monday unscathed, but will be without last year’s top draft pick Denver Grainger-Barras for a month with a minor knee injury, whilst Jack Gunston is still a month away himself with a back complaint. Emerson Jeka kicked six for Box Hill in the VFL, but expect the Hawks to make minimum changes to their side.
Prediction: I think the Hawks can get one here in an upset, despite the Dockers playing Optus Stadium really well. They’ve cracked in against the two Grand Final sides over the past two weeks and could put this injury-plagued Dockers team to the sword if they can click up forward. Hawthorn by 15 points