Richmond ($1.29) V Carlton ($3.80)

odds via TopSport

MCG, Thursday, March 24, 7.20pm AEDT

Finally, the footy is back! Round 1 kicks off the traditional Richmond V Carlton clash at the MCG on Thursday night.

The Tigers have the weight of the world on their shoulders this season, after losing in the first round of the finals the past three years in a row. Richmond have the perfect first up match to get off to a flyer in 2016 and finally pay back the fans after years of heartbreak.

Carlton are facing another long rebuild with new coach Brendon Bolton at the helm, however, there is cause for optimism, with No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering making his debut and former Crow Sam Kerridge also impressive during the NAB Challenge.

Richmond have won the last three matches between the two sides and should make it a fourth this week. Richmond will be missing Grigg, Deledio, Maric, Conca and Yarran through injury for Round 1, while Carlton are missing Dale Thomas (suspended), as well as Armfield, McKay and Plowman through injury.

Prediction: Richmond by 38

Melbourne ($2.25) V GWS ($1.65)

MCG, Saturday, March 25, 1.40pm AEDT

Both sides will be full of optimism heading into 2016, with the Giants close to cracking the top eight for the first time last season and the Demons are coming off three consecutive wins in the NAB Challenge to record some confidence boosting wins.

The Giants have won four of the last five clashes with the Demons, but will be without star forward Jeremy Cameron, who has been slapped with a four match ban by the MRP as well as Cam McCarthy, making for a depleted forward line. Adam Treloar will also leave a gaping hole in the Giants’ midfield.

The Demons are likely to blood highly rated draftee Clayton Oliver, while former Pie Ben Kennedy is also a chance to make his debut for the red and blue.

Bernie Vince had 38 disposals the last time the two sides met, while captain Nathan Jones recorded 36.

Prediction: Melbourne by 8

Gold Coast ($1.15) V Essendon ($5.50)

Metricon Stadium, Saturday, March 26, 3.35pm AEST 

It’s hard to see Essendon winning many games this season, if any, and the pain will start will a fired up Gary Ablett leading the Suns to a big win on the Gold Coast in Round 1.

Ablett has missed the best part of 18 months of footy due to knee and shoulders injuries and no doubt be primed for a huge game.

The Suns recorded a thrilling two point win over Essendon in round 21 last season, with Jack Martin and Tom Lynch kicking three goals each and Aaron hall collecting 31 disposals.

Essendon do have one advantage though, with former Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna returning to Metricon as an assistant coach with Essendon, providing some inside knowledge on the expansion club.

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The Suns were ranked last for clean disposals in 2015 and also struggled to kick a winning score, averaging just 74 points per game, meaning the Bombers could be in the game for longer than many expect, but it won’t be enough to come away with the four points.

Prediction: Gold Coast by 47

North Melbourne ($1.50) V Adelaide ($2.60)

Etihad Stadium, Saturday, March 26, 7.25pm AEDT 

The Crows enjoyed a thumping 77 point win over the Kangaroos in Round 1 last season and have also won four of the last five matches between the two sides. Roos’ coach Brad Scott has also never won a Round 1 match from six attempts.

However, Adelaide will be without new Cats’ recruit Patrick Dangerfield, leaving a huge hoe in the midfield. North Melbourne enjoyed a brilliant finish to 205, reaching the club’s second preliminary final in as many years and will be keen for finally get off to a positive start.

Fans at Etihad Stadium on Saturday will be treated to a fierce battle between two of the best ruckmen in the competition in Todd Goldstein and Sam Jacobs. Whoever claims the honour will go a long way to giving their midfield first use and ensuring a important Round 1 win.

Prediction: North Melbourne by 11

Sydney ($1.65) V Collingwood ($2.25)

SCG, Saturday 7.25pm AEDT

This match will have some extra spice in it after Sydney’s decision to relocate the game to the SCG from ANZ Stadium angered the Magpies. This should advantage the Swans who have 13 of their last 16 matches at the SCG, while the Magpies have only played at the venue once since 2001, losing by 13 points.

Sydney will also enjoy the advantage in attack, with Franklin and Tippett kicking 91 goals between them in 2015, compared to Collingwood’s top two goal scorers (Cloke and Elliott) kicking just 69 goals between them.

The Swans will be without co-captain Jarrad McVeigh, key tall Sam Reid and Gary Rohan, while Collingwood is missing Travis Varcoe, Jamie Elliott and Jeremy Howe.

Prediction: Sydney by 12

Western Bulldogs ($1.78) V Fremantle ($2.02)

Etihad Stadium, Sunday, March 27, 1.10pm AEDT

The jury is still out on both of these sides in 2016. Can the Dockers finally taste the ultimate success? Can the Bulldogs back up their inspired 2015 with another top eight finish?

Regardless of what happens for the remainder of the season, one thing is certain on Saturday night, this will no doubt be a brillaint match.

The last time these two sides met, Fremantle won by 13 points in a highly entertaining match at Etihad Stadium. Nat Fyfe starred with 30 possessions and three goals, while Tory Dickson booted a career best seven goals.

The Dockers have now won five of the last six matches against the Dogs, including the last four, but that could be reversed this weekend. The Western Bulldogs won 11 of 13 matches at Etihad last season.

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Will Minson is the only injusry concern for the Dogs, with the big ruckman set to miss this week’s clash with a hamstring strain.

Fremantle will be without Aaron Sandilands (suspended), as well as harley Bennel, Anthony Morabito and highly rated draftee Harley Balic.

Prediction: Western Bulldogs by 14

Port Adelaide ($1.19) V St Kilda ($4.75)

Adelaide Oval, Sunday, March 27, 2.50pm ACDT

Season 2016 is a huge year for the Power after a disappointing 2015. St Kilda have struggled at Adelaide Oval, losing all four of their matches at the venue, by an average of 50 points.

The Power have also won the last four matches between the two sides, including a 63 point thumping in Round 18 last season.

Robbie Gray enjoyed 37 possessions in the Power’s win over the Saints last season, while Chad Wingard kicked four goals.

St Kilda conceding the fourth most goals in 2015 and new Port recruit Charlie Dixon will be hoping to inflict further pain to impress his new fans at home.

Port Adelaide’s mall forwards, in Robbie Gray and Chad Wingard kicking 77 goals between them last year.

Prediction: Port Adelaide by 27

West Coast ($1.05)  V Brisbane ($10.00)

Domain Stadium, Sunday, March 27, 4.40pm AWST 

Many have tipped West Coast to go one better this season after falling at the final hurdle against Hawthorn in the Grand Final last year.

The Eagles should comfortably account for the Lions, who managed just four wins in 2015. West Coast won 12 of 14 matches at Domain Stadium last season, outscoring their opponents by 58 points on average. Brisbane has not won in Perth since 2010.

West Coast has won the last four matches against the Lions.

Prediction: West Coast by 38

Geelong ($2.38) V Hawthorn ($1.61)

MCG, Monday, March 28, 3.20pm AEST

Arguably the most anticipated match of the round, a beefed up Geelong after the trade period, take on the reigning premiers and arch rivals, Hawthorn.

All eyes will be on star recruit Patrick Dangerfield, after his much publicised move to the Kardina Park in the off-season. And if his NAB Challenge form is anything to go by, he is almost certain to deliver in his opening game for his new club.

After a dominant 11-game winning streak over the Hawks from 2009 to 2013, Geelong has now lost five of the past six against Hawthorn.

The Cats only average 88 points per game in 2015, its lowest return since 2003, while to Hawthorn was rtanked ranked No.1 in this area, averaging 109 points per game.

Prediction: Geelong by 10