AFL ROUND 1
Richmond v Carlton
Wouldn't truly be 'On The Punt' if we weren't having a stab at the 2018 AFL season opener. As always, the Tigers and the Blues open the season on Thursday night and both teams had a healthy blow during the JLT pre-season series. Comprehensive victories in the JLT series for the Tigers show that they are perfectly poised to defend their fairy tale title premiership while the Blues gritty victories against the Hawks and Saints showed that they haven't gone backwards in their club rebuild, either.
The big issue the Blues have had ever since big Fev left was where their goals were going to come from? Unfortunately in the nine years since he's been gone, they haven't really addressed it. Consequently the Blues have ranked towards the bottom for offense efficiency in the proceeding years including last year as dead last in the competition. On the other end of the deck, however, the Blues backline in Jacob Weitering, Caleb Marchbank and Liam Jones are all expected to come on from last year and should be able to hold their own down back. Jones was rewarded with a contract renewal after his breakout season in 2017 and showed through the JLT series that he can shut down primary forwards. The Tigers' ranked first for defense efficiency during their premiership year and only allowed an average of 75 points per game against. Alex Rance runs a well oiled unit down back for the Tigers and they continue to chop off forward line entries and sweep on loose balls. . Even if the Blues had an offensive threat up forward, the Tigers would be making sure they didn't have a an easy time at it.
In true Brendan Bolton fashion, he'll set his squad do their best to lock this game down and make it a real struggle for the Tigers, as he has done so in the past. We'll be back the up-and-coming Blues defenders to battle Jack Riewoldt and co to make this a tight affair, for as long as possible, and hopefully get a low scoring game out of it.
Total Match Score Under 182.51.5 at 1.90-1.5
Hawthorn v Collingwood
The Pies quite literally limp into the round one clash against the Hawks with De Goey, Greenwood, Elliott, Wells and Fasolo all missing through injury. Buckley has already signaled that he'll be debuting two rookies, Jaidyn Stephenson and Sam Murray, this weekend against the Hawks to fill these holes. Not an ideal way to start for the Pies but will take solace knowing their three superstar midfielders in Pendles, Treloar and Adams will give their side every chance from the midfield. The Hawks will step into their Saturday clash at the 'G full strength. Most notably, Cyril Rioli will return to the Hawks forward line to partner up with Jarryd Roughead. I have doubts on if the Pies will be able to kick a winning score in this game. Fasolo and Elliott are big losses up forward and with Darcy Moore heading to the backline to pinch hit down there, the doubts on their ability to score are too great. Ryan Burton, who arguably should've won the Rising Star award last year, will feast on this inferior Collingwood forward line.
The Hawks have better depth in this matchup that extends to the coaches box which will allow them to dictate this game how they seem fit. The Hawks draw isn't kind to them after this weekend so they'll be doing everything they can to get their season off to a winning start while the Pies, and their fans, will be using injuries as their excuse for this round one loss.
Giants v Bulldogs
The Giants will open up their season by welcoming in the Dogs to UNSW Canberra. Technically not a home game for the Giants but they will have the luxury of not having to travel interstate.
These two squared off in round 21 late last year where the Giants thumped the Dogs off the park. Since then, the Dogs have not been able to recover their injury list and front up here very much in a very similar predicament to then. The Dogs are renowned for grinding their way through games and we can assume they'll do best to try and hang around for this one. Last year they lost six games under 20 points, however only two of them came after their mid-year bye. The Dogs average losing margin after the bye was 35+ in which that number is salvaged somewhat by their final two games of the regular season with losses of nine and 17. This is all for a team that did not even make the finals. The Giants were bundled out for the second consecutive year at the Preliminary Stage by the eventual premiers, two years running. The Giants still harbour a deep sting from being eliminated from the final series in late 2016 to the Dogs on their home deck and i'm tipping that the Giants will not be holding back on this match up. The real question of this game will be whether some of the Western Bulldog premiership players can return to their former form?
Unfortunately this game will not be a pretty sight for Dogs fans. Ravished with injuries, The Dogs are a shell of the team that went onto win the flag in 2016 and the Giants will ask the question of them here.
WEEK RESULTS STAKES ROI Round Four -2.1 6.5 -32% Round Three -0.35 5.5 -6% Round Two -1.5 6 -25% Round One +2.56 6 43% Total -1.39 24 -6%