Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 3


Western Bulldogs v Sydney, Marvel Stadium, 4.20pm

Are we 100 per cent certain Lance Franklin takes his place in the Swans’ line-up? If he has taken no harm from last Friday night’s seismic events at the SCG and the answer is yes, then the Western Bulldogs face the real prospect of starting the season 0-3.

Some would argue that is the case even if Franklin plays. Last year’s runners-up haven’t been terrible to open 2022, but they have precious little to show for their efforts against Melbourne and Carlton. Their reliance on Aaron Naughton (who is battling a corked calf) is undeniable and they remain susceptible in defence.

If Naughton is stifled somewhat by Sydney — and we know John Longmire-coached teams are defensively sound — it could be difficult for the Bulldogs to manufacture a winning total. They must take their chances in front of goal this week and hope the Swans come off a peg in that area after a clinical opening fortnight.

VERDICT: Sydney by 1-24 points


Melbourne v Essendon, MCG, 4.20pm

Essendon coach Ben Rutten did his best to explain the reasons behind the non-decision to tag Lachie Neale last weekend. Given what occurred, it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Because of his reticence to deviate from his pre-match planning and/or display any flexibility in the box, Rutten is now faced with a dilemma. Does he back in his system or use a run-with player to nullify either Christian Petracca or Clayton Oliver? If he doesn’t, the Bombers are going to be presented with a significant mountain to climb.

They already are when you factor in the absence of prolific midfielder Zach Merrett (ankle) and the manner in which Brisbane scored against them during the second quarter when they tidied up some areas. We have seen the Demons score heavily in clumps over the past nine months and that could well occur here.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 24+ points

Adelaide v Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, 5.20pm

Adelaide, aka “The pride of South Australia” against Port Adelaide who sing they’ve “Got the Power to win”. On face value, neither really applies in 2022.

The Crows are 0-2 and fresh off a mauling at the hands of a revitalised Collingwood, while Port are also winless having butchered an opportunity against Brisbane in round one before being turned over in embarrassing fashion by Hawthorn last Saturday night.

It is inconceivable to think Port could be 0-3 at the end of this weekend. Surely, they find enough football midfield and defend with greater intent, despite the fact their backline is a bit banged up, to hold out a Crows outfit that continues to make an alarming number of mistakes by foot.

VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 1-39 points


GWS v Gold Coast, Giants Stadium, 1.35pm

The spotlight was shining brightly in the direction of GWS coach Leon Cameron and his players in the wake of their poor round-two loss to Richmond. And that is fair enough, as harsh as it sounds.

The Giants refused to take the game on against a depleted Tigers team and when the hosts turned up the heat, the Giants’ players didn’t offer a great deal of resistance. It ensures the stakes are really raised for this clash with Gold Coast, who have handled themselves very well in the first fortnight.

The Suns’ midfield depth is impressive, as is their desire to work both ways. Whether Stuart Dew’s men have the overall class to handle what GWS will throw at them however is the query.

VERDICT: GWS by 1-39 points

Collingwood v Geelong, MCG, 4.25pm

Fresh from their support role in the Lance Franklin show, Geelong return home to Victoria in a bid to re-establish their top-four credentials. Doing so will be harder than many thought before the season started courtesy of Craig McRae’s rejuvenated Collingwood.

The Magpies have been ultra-impressive in the McRae era, their ability to impact the scoreboard giving them more avenues to victory. Jordan De Goey, following another eventful off-season, has knuckled down to be a quality performer midfield and forward of the ball.

His influence in both areas of the ground will be critical after the Cats midfield had a rare quiet night opposed to Sydney. Expect Geelong to get greater service from both Patrick Dangerfield and Mitch Duncan, especially on what is a special occasion for skipper Joel Selwood.

VERDICT: Geelong by 1-24 points

Brisbane v North Melbourne, Gabba, 5pm

In their two wins to launch the year, Brisbane have been both puzzling and awesome at various stages. Their first half against Port Adelaide was fair at best and the same could be said about their opening 30 minutes against Essendon.

But when they have flicked the switch, they have been dazzling. Healthy and comfortable in the knowledge their best is superior to most, the Lions are entitled to think they have North Melbourne covered.

Already missing Ben Cunnington from their midfield as he battles health issues, the Kangaroos now venture north minus Luke Davis-Uniacke (concussion) and Tarryn Thomas (internal injury). This could get ugly.

VERDICT: Brisbane by 40+ points


Carlton v Hawthorn, MCG, 11.10am

Supporters of Carlton and Hawthorn will venture to the MCG, or watch from the sanctuary of their loungerooms, fully believing that a 3-0 start to the season is attainable. And why wouldn’t they?

The Blues have been terrific in taking down Richmond and the Western Bulldogs, while Hawthorn’s first-up win over North Melbourne was encouraging, yet had nothing on last Saturday’s night’s absolute annihilation of Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.

Respective coaches Michael Voss and Sam Mitchell asked for and afforded no favours in their careers on-field and their hard-nosed approach is resonating with their respective players. Barring any late healthy and safety concerns, the Blues will unveil their souped-up midfield with the return of Adam Cerra, which only serves to increase expectations.

VERDICT: Carlton by 1-24 points

St Kilda v Richmond, Marvel Stadium, 1.20pm

For the third week in a row, St Kilda are being kept extremely safe in the market. Why that is so is a question for the bookmakers, but they were proven to be correct last weekend when the Saints rebounded from the loss to Collingwood to edge out Fremantle.

Talking of rebound, that is exactly what Richmond did against GWS and now are set to welcome back triple premiership heroes Jack Riewoldt and Dylan Grimes, helping offset the ongoing absence of Dustin Martin.

The Saints really dialed up their pressure against Fremantle and were rewarded. Ditto the Tigers against GWS. It might not be pretty, this encounter, but it is likely to have somewhat of a frenzied feel to it.

VERDICT: Richmond by 1-24 points

West Coast v Fremantle, Optus Stadium, 4.20pm

In the space of 60 minutes, Fremantle went from top-eight contenders to the crosshairs of critics. Such is the rollercoaster existence AFL clubs are required to ride.

The Dockers were fortunate to lead St Kilda at half-time and once the Saints took their chances, the hosts’ skill errors, poor decision making and stilted ball movement conspired against them. Their shoddy display came hours after West Coast earnt the respect of the footballing community for their courageous performance opposed to North Melbourne.

With that tumultuous week behind them, the Eagles are set to welcome back reinforcements in all areas of the ground. That is telling, especially considering Fremantle are unable to call on Nat Fyfe (back) and David Mundy (healthy and safety protocols), with question marks surrounding Sean Darcy (ankle).

VERDICT: West Coast by 1-24 points

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