Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 3


Brisbane v Collingwood, Gabba, 4.30pm

It’s hard to believe the grand finalists from last year are facing a season-defining clash so early in 2024. That is exactly what awaits us though after the faulty starts from Collingwood (0-3) and Brisbane (0-2).

The Lions have had their way with the Magpies at home in this fixture in recent times and hit this game off a bye following the loss to Fremantle in Perth. Conversely, Collingwood have had no such time to reflect on what’s gone wrong, with their last-start effort opposed to St Kilda their most disappointing of the campaign.

Some of the Magpies’ great servants, including Scott Pendlebury, Darcy Moore and Jack Crisp, are below the level we have seen year in and year out. Now would be a great time for them to rediscover their best form.

VERDICT: Brisbane by 1-39 points


North Melbourne v Carlton, Marvel Stadium, 1.20pm

For the bulk of the first half against Fremantle, it appeared North Melbourne were on track to record an upset result. Then reality hit. Their inability to sustain an effort and some poor defending was exposed.It is relevant because Carlton are a tougher opponent than the Dockers and look like being boosted by the return from injury of key personnel. The Blues play a powerful brand at their best and if they have their way at the stoppages, the undersized Kangaroos defence could be filing overtime claims.

Charlie Curnow filled his boots against North in 2023 and along with an in-form and accurate Herry McKay, poses a massive threat to the Kangaroos.

VERDICT: Carlton to win + Game total over 174.5 points

Fremantle v Adelaide, Optus Stadium, 4.30pm

One of these days, Fremantle will start a match in slick style and establish a handy quarter-time lead. Adelaide better hope it isn’t this week because the Dockers at home again look like being an extremely difficult opponent.

Justin Longmuir’s men have been tardy again early on against Brisbane and North Melbourne, but once they have dialed in, their efficiency has been first class. Andrew Brayshaw warmed to his work beautifully against the Kangaroos, alongside Caleb Serong and Luke Jackson, arguably the form big man of the competition.

Adelaide have made a 0-2 start and the spotlight is quite rightly shining brightly on their form. It is imperative they at least break even in the midfield. Failure to do will see their wobbly defence asked too many questions.

VERDICT: Fremantle by 1-39 points


Essendon v St Kilda, Marvel Stadium, 1.20pm

St Kilda were one of the harder sides to get a handle on entering the season. Could they springboard off an encouraging first year under Ross Lyon or was 2023 simply a sugar hit?

On the evidence of their first two matches, they are well and truly capable of playing finals once more. The ability to cover personnel deficiencies remains a hallmark of Lyon-coached sides and it will need to be to the fore here with no Mason Wood (concussion) and Max King (suspension).

The Bombers are also going in minus key forward Peter Wright (suspension) and question marks over their team defence. Add that to the fact the Saints got them both times last year and it’s easy to make a case for St Kilda improving to 2-1.

VERDICT: St Kilda to win 

Port Adelaide v Melbourne, Adelaide Oval, 4.30pm

Melbourne key defender Jake Lever dodged a bullet earlier this week when scans revealed he had avoided a dreaded anterior cruciate ligament tear. His availability however for this match looks bright.

Steven May (broken ribs/vertebra fracture) wasn’t so fortunate and without him marshalling the Demons backline alongside Lever, Port Adelaide get presented with a wonderful opportunity to start 3-0.

Todd Marshall and Charlie Dixon are a potent one-two punch that become even more effective in the aerial stakes when Jeremy Finlayson is performing like he did against Richmond. This is Port’s game to lose.

VERDICT: Port Adelaide to win


Western Bulldogs v West Coast, Marvel Stadium, 10am

Having ticked the first box successfully, the Western Bulldogs cannot afford to make a mess of the second and last piece of a two-game stretch in this game against West Coast.

The Dogs needed to respond opposed to Gold Coast after being exposed (again) by Melbourne, with the dominance on all lines indisputable. The Eagles were inadequate against GWS, their skill errors and inefficiency forward of centre leading to a total that will not win games at the elite level.

West Coast stunned the Bulldogs late last year, a result that caught everyone by surprise. It would be a huge shock if the same thing occurred again inside 12 months.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 40 points or more 

Richmond v Sydney, MCG, 1pm

Aside from the first half against Gold Coast in the opening round, it’s hard to poke holes in the application of Richmond. But the AFL is a results-based industry and the cold, hard fact is the Tigers are 0-3 and long odds to play finals.

Conversely, Sydney have yet to taste defeat in 2024 and Isaac Heeney, Chad Warner and Errol Gulden continue to power a midfield in the absence of Callum Mills, Taylor Adams and Luke Parker.

The Swans’ ball movement remains elite and one thing the Tigers have battled with under Adem Yze is putting the clamps on their opposition. The forecast of fine weather and the surrounds of the MCG are perfect for the Swans.

VERDICT: Sydney by 1-39 points


Hawthorn v Geelong, MCG, 12.20pm

Sam Mitchell is very much his own man. He doesn’t suffer fools and has strong views on how the game should be played. His vision though on the manner in which Hawthorn went about their business against Melbourne has been savaged by most in the game.

The response in this traditional Easter Monday match-up will be fascinating. Does he try to free up his players, knowing full well that Geelong have the firepower to prove problematic for his suspect defence? Or does he hold firm and try to play a possession-based game?

Geelong coach Chris Scott will be ready for either. And the dual premiership coach will be content that his side only needs a few minutes to swing a contest in its favour. Just ask Adelaide.

VERDICT: Geelong by 1-39 points

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