Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Opening Round


Sydney v Melbourne, SCG, 4.30pm

The pre-season campaigns of Sydney and Melbourne haven’t gone according to plan. That much is obvious. The great unknown is which side is going to overcome the adversity and prevail in a match which launches the 2024 home-and-away campaign.

The bookmakers would suggest it is going to be Melbourne. Despite the dramas surrounding Joel Smith and Clayton Oliver, the Demons have seen their price trim up markedly for this clash after a quality community series performance opposed to Carlton and the inclusion of Oliver, their four-time club champion.

Sadly for the Swans, they are minus three of their premier midfielders in Callum Mills, Luke Parker and Taylor Adams through injury, placing enormous pressure on Chad Warner and Errol Gulden to be the best version of themselves at the feet of Brodie Grundy in his Sydney debut.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 1-39 points


Brisbane v Carlton, Gabba, 4.40pm

AFL House shouldn’t expect a Christmas card from Carlton. The Blues have been sent back to the Gabba, the scene of their 2023 preliminary final humbling, to launch their new campaign.

Taking down Brisbane at their Queensland fortress is an unenviable task. The Lions just don’t know how to play badly at the Gabba and the fact they would love to hit the ground running after a heartbreaking grand final loss, only complicates matters for the Blues.

Carlton venture north without Sam Walsh (back) and with question marks lingering over Harry McKay’s goalkicking. Conversely, Brisbane look healthy and hungry.

VERDICT: Brisbane to win by 16 points or more


Gold Coast v Richmond, Heritage Bank Stadium, 1.20pm

The Damien Hardwick Gold Coast era is upon us. Unsurprisingly, the arrival of the triple Richmond premiership coach has led many to believe the Suns’ finals drought could be broken straight away.

As fate would have it, Hardwick’s first game in charge of his adopted club is against his old one, now led by Adem Yze. The Tigers appear to be a work in progress, a list in transition if you like. Their best 22 is still formidable, but we aren’t going to see that this weekend, with doubts surrounding Dustin Martin’s fitness.

The Suns were underwhelming in the pre-season, but you’d like to think they will bring their A-game here. Coupled with this match being played in conditions that can be challenging for interstate sides and many things point to a Suns win.

VERDICT: Gold Coast by 1-39 points

GWS v Collingwood, Giants Stadium, 4.30pm

If, in the aftermath of the one-point preliminary final loss to Collingwood, you asked GWS who they would like to meet in round one, 2024, the answer would almost certainly have been the Magpies.

You can understand why. Collingwood emerged triumphant in a classic, with the vision of Toby Greene sobbing uncontrollably in the changerooms post-match an image that is impossible to forget. Don’t think he won’t be nice and revved up for this clash.

The Magpies are set to be without Nathan Murphy (concussion) and Jeremy Howe (quad), leaving a quality backline light-on for talent and experience. The Giants were only getting stronger as 2023 progressed and if their trajectory continues, they are going to be a tough nut to crack in 2024.


Market Market