Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 2


Western Bulldogs v Carlton, Marvel Stadium, 4.30pm

It sounds a little extreme after just one week, but the Western Bulldogs are in desperate need of a victory. Just to quieten those who are watching intently about how Luke Beveridge and his charges are handling the spotlight that inevitably was directed in their direction after last week.

And don’t think for one moment Carlton wouldn’t be aware of that. Ash Hansen, stepping up tonight in the absence of Michael Voss (health and safety protocols), was a long-time assistant at the Bulldogs before crossing over to the Blues in the off-season. He knows better than most about what makes Beveridge tick.

The return of Sam Walsh helps offset the unavailability of Adam Cerra for Carlton, but last season’s runners-up are expected to have access to Marcus Bontempelli … and that in itself is significant. The Bulldogs’ key defensive stocks aren’t overflowing with options, which means their midfielders need to deny the Blues’ engine room from cranking up.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 15 points.


Sydney v Geelong, SCG, 4.50pm

There was no bigger statement in round one than Geelong’s demolition of Essendon. The Cats bullied the Bombers’ midfield, moved the ball with greater dare than we have seen from them in recent times and scored at will.

Jeremy Cameron was a factor early before he left the ground with suspected internal injuries. Scans over the weekend cleared him of major damage and he, quite remarkably, is a chance to line up here. His availability alongside Tom Hawkins in a contest where Mitch Duncan is tipped to return would be enormous.

As for the Swans, they should welcome back Jake Lloyd to a team that is fit and confident after standing GWS a start out at Accor Stadium and win running away. The forecast of a wet night will make this an arm-wrestle.

VERDICT: Sydney by 11 points


Collingwood v Adelaide, MCG, 10.45am

The margins in the AFL are so small. Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks would attest to that. Had his side closed the gate against Fremantle last Sunday, they would have been thinking a 2-0 start to the season was attainable.

Instead, they venture to the MCG hoping to square their ledger at 1-1 against a Collingwood outfit that upset St Kilda at Marvel Stadium and is entitled to think its best under rookie coach Craig McRae is ahead.

The Magpies adopted a more north-south approach with their ball movement than we had become accustomed to under Nathan Buckley and considering Adelaide coughed up 28 scoring shots against the Dockers in round one, it’s not inconceivable to think they can boot a big total here in perfect conditions.

VERDICT: Collingwood by 23 points

Essendon v Brisbane, Marvel Stadium, 1.35pm

Well, well, well. What are Essendon made of? How desperately does this current crop of Bombers want to play finals football? We will learn the answer to those questions after the final siren sounds in this game.

Essendon were insipid against Geelong last Saturday. The lack of competitiveness around the contest and inability to defend like we saw in the back half of last season left them exposed. At the other end of the ground, Nick Martin was a shining light with five goals. He misses this match though because of the league’s health and safety protocols.

Jake Stringer’s availability is timely, but he’ll need support midfield to counter the Brisbane running divisionvwhich warmed to its work late against Port Adelaide. Joe Daniher, Charlie Cameron and Lincoln McCarthy loom as handfuls also.

VERDICT: Brisbane by 17 points

Port Adelaide v Hawthorn, Adelaide Oval, 4.40pm

For large periods of last Saturday night, Port Adelaide were in the box seat against Brisbane and primed to chalk up a huge victory. One that could have propelled them into top-two calculations.

We all know how it ended, however. They lost the lead, then the four points and key players on top of that, chiefly Aliir Aliir to a serious ankle injury. Even without Aliir and question marks over Robbie Gray, Xavier Duursma and Trent McKenzie, the Power can’t afford to cough this one up.

Hawthorn did what they had to against North Melbourne. It wasn’t pretty and it didn’t signal they were going to be a force in 2022, but they did cash in late in the first half and during the third term when momentum swung. James Sicily and Jack Gunston reminded us they are elite.

VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 25 points

Gold Coast v Melbourne, Metricon Stadium, 5pm

First things first. Well done to Gold Coast for taking the opportunity presented last weekend against a depleted West Coast side at a less-than-half-full Optus Stadium.

Now for the sobering news. This assignment will be considerably tougher. A rested Melbourne are a different gravy than a banged-up Eagles, irrespective of where the match is being played. The Demons have weapons everywhere, albeit their defence is not at full tilt.

Gold Coast’s young midfielders Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson are going to be beauties (if they’re not already), and they will be even better again after coming up against the likes of Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw, James Harmes and co.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 27 points


North Melbourne v West Coast, Marvel Stadium, 10.10am

The cavalry is coming. West Coast coach Adam Simpson will welcome back a swag of proven performers, including Liam Ryan, Jack Darling and Tim Kelly, while skipper Luke Shuey is available for selection after overcoming his latest soft-tissue setback.

To say it is timely for Simpson to have a selection dilemma is an understatement. The Eagles simply have to take down North Melbourne, themselves chasing a first win for 2022, if they have any designs on playing finals football later in the year.

The Kangaroos will be hoping Josh Walker is available because the absence of Ben McKay (concussion) leaves them at the mercy of West Coast’s tall forward set-up, even in the absence of the COVID-19-impacted Josh Kennedy.

VERDICT: West Coast by 21 points

Richmond v GWS, MCG, 12.20pm

How often have you heard that football is a team sport? Many times? If the answer is yes, that is understandable. But remove one individual, in this case Dustin Martin, from the equation and his team Richmond’s prospects diminish noticeably.

That is how the betting markets right around the country felt when it became public this week that Martin was taking time away from the club to deal with personal issues. GWS were swiftly made favourites after opening the week as outsiders. That’s not to say he doesn’t play in round two, but the expectation is from those at Richmond is Martin could well be missing.

Conversely, GWS are increasingly confident that brilliant defender Nick Haynes and Jesse Hogan will be available to bolster a side that was overrun by Sydney last weekend.

VERDICT: GWS by 11 points

Fremantle v St Kilda, Optus Stadium, 3.20pm

A much-needed first-up win on the road. Tick. Now the challenge for Fremantle is to cash in on that confidence-building triumph and take care of a wounded St Kilda in inclement weather before their home fans.

The Saints are missing key bodies through the midfield and even though Dockers skipper Nat Fyfe will again be watching on as he recovers from a back injury, the hosts are entitled to think they are well placed in that area of the ground, especially with Sean Darcy set to return.

Whilst Fremantle escaped with the four points opposed to Adelaide, their inaccuracy in front of goal was an issue. It can’t continue if they have designs on being a top-six side.

VERDICT: Fremantle by 22 points

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