afl round 2

Pete Roberts from Behind The Footy is sharing some of his great content with us for the 2021 AFL season. Pete spent fifteen years in AFL coaching boxes as an analyst. He now shares those insights with footy fans. Here’s his AFL Round 2 Preview.

Only one round complete and we already have several teams under pressure – one of the Blues or Magpies will end up 0-2 on Thursday night, while top-four fancies Geelong and Brisbane face off after shock losses last weekend.

Don’t be fooled by the shallow “only five of the past 58 0-2 teams have made finals” rhetoric – there are so many holes in that angle it’s hard to know where to start.

In the other games there look to be a few mismatches on paper, but if we learned anything from last week it’s that anything could happen.

Best Matchup Geelong v Brisbane

Best Underdog West Coast

Team Under Pressure Collingwood

Player To Watch Logan McDonald: three goals against the Lions last week, back at home against an undermanned Crows defence. As long as the rain stays away, McDonald should be great to watch again.

AFL Round 2: Carlton v Collingwood

Which loss was better last week? Collingwood were pretty flattered by the scoreboard against the Bulldogs, while the Blues gave us Groundhog Day with another honourable loss to the Tigers.

The best approach here might be to stack up both defences – clearly we are big fans of Collingwood’s ability to find a way to limit opposition scoring. Holding the Bulldogs under 70 points was a huge effort considering their lack of potency up the other end.

The Dogs had 47 midfield turnovers and managed only three goals. Convinced Collingwood still has the discipline to keep themselves in the game thanks to their defensive structure.

Carlton, on the other hand, leaked 75 (yes, 75) inside 50s against the Tigers last Thursday night. If they go anywhere near that again, the very average Collingwood offence will score by accident.

Not everything can be addressed in a week: the Blues would have tried tightening up their defence. The Pies would have spent all week figuring out how to generate more scores. Will we see a new forward setup? Does Sidebottom return to a small forward role?

Can’t wait for that first bounce. This is a total coin flip – winner gains some confidence, loser feels the heat from the blowtorch all week long.

Pick: Collingwood by 6

AFL Round 2: Geelong v Brisbane

What a game this could be. Both sides are reeling from their Round 1 losses – the timing couldn’t be better for fans to see how they respond.

The conditions look dry for Friday night at GMHBA Stadium. The perfect setup for two quality sides to go at it.

So who wins?

If this was a Round 1 matchup, most would be siding with Geelong at home over basically any opponent. Now that we’ve seen both teams lose their first game, does it change our impression of either side, or do we treat last week as a blip on the radar?

Ignoring Round 1 seems the logical play. Geelong don’t lose at home too often, and obviously they haven’t lost to the Lions down there for quite some time (even though we don’t put too much weight on past results further than 12 months ago given they are completely different sides).

Needless to say, the Cats need a fast start. Giving up 4.4 to Adelaide last Saturday immediately put them on the back foot. Even in 2020 they went 10-7 in first quarters so it hasn’t been a strength for a while. Their focus will be to get on top early, get the crowd involved and build from there.

The Lions best way to win is through speed of ball movement through the midfield and allowing their forwards to get to work. Daniher and Hipwood help with their structure but a lot will rest on the shoulders of Cameron, Bailey, McCarthy and Zorko to score from ground level. And be ACCURATE away from home.

Neither result would surprise but leaning towards the Cats to prove that last week was out of character. If they lose, get ready for the argument that the longer quarters and rule changes promoting speed might be working against them.

Pick: Geelong by 13

AFL Round 2: Sydney v Adelaide

As impressive as both sides were last week, we can’t get too carried away. The Swans youngsters are already being compared to Port Adelaide’s crop from 2018. The Crows are suddenly considered on the up. Let’s wait and see.

The scoring profile of both teams from last week makes for interesting reading – Sydney went 11.3 from 40m+ against the Lions. 8.3 from set shots. More than half their score from that far out with a well above average expected score.

The Crows did nearly the exact same thing – 8.6 from 40+, 4.0 from set shots outside the 50m arc. More than half their score from greater than 40m out.

Talk about shooting the lights out!

The Crows dealt with a slow-ish side in Geelong quite well but come up against a completely different outfit this week. Sydney looked amazing playing with speed and using their kicking game to slice up the Lions. If they do it again this week and don’t get stuck in a grind when the Crows try to slow them down, they win.

While the first four quarters of the Swans season was impressive we can’t make the leap that they are suddenly top eight or top four contenders just yet. Having said that, happy to be on their side against the Crows at the SCG.

Pick: Sydney by 23

AFL Round 2: Port Adelaide v Essendon

The first of the real mismatches here. Port get one of the softest starts you could find and face the vulnerable Bombers at the perfect time. Get ready for the parochial Port Adelaide crowd to give them absolute hell.

The Bombers caught fire in the second quarter last weekend, basically because the Hawks just couldn’t get their hands on the footy. Port Adelaide won’t have any issues winning the ball against Essendon. Anything other than a +10 inside 50 count in Port’s favour would be a surprise.

Complacency would be Port Adelaide’s worst enemy. If they are anywhere near their best they will take care of the Bombers and head into an important fortnight with two wins on the board.

Pick: Port Adelaide by 32

AFL Round 2: St Kilda v Melbourne

One of the most intriguing matchups of the round, this one. The undermanned Saints were ultra brave in winning an arm wrestle against the Giants, while it’s hard to draw any conclusions on the Demons form given they played a side who find it very difficult to score.

We were ready for a slight overreaction to the Saints win last weekend, and that’s exactly what seems to have happened. This game could definitely go either way so it’s surprising to see St Kilda such heavy favourites.

Both midfields look evenly matched aside from the ruck battle – Gawn should be able to assert his dominance over second-gamer Paul Hunter, a massive tick in the Dees’ favour. Melbourne has to win the clearance battle – even though games at Marvel Stadium tend to resemble a turnover/ball movement style, the territory battle from stoppage can help enormously early on if a team gets on top.

May and Lever up against King and Membrey will be fascinating up forward for the Saints. Perhaps it’s the small forwards for St Kilda who can cause more trouble than some might think – expect Butler, Billings, Higgins and Lonie to be Melbourne’s biggest problem on the night.

Even a questionable (as well as injury-affected) Saints defence should cope with Melbourne’s forwards well enough – can Gawn, Oliver, Petracca and Viney make a contribution on the scoreboard? Would be surprised if 80 points is enough this weekend.

Saints with a little more speed and polished ball movement tips the odds in their favour, but hard to be confident in any result.

Pick: St Kilda by 5

AFL Round 2: Gold Coast v North Melbourne

The Suns arrive back home as hot favourites against North Melbourne. Sounds a bit strange even though it’s not unexpected. Gold Coast just lacked a bit of polish late in the game against West Coast. North Melbourne were brave but outclassed against Port Adelaide.

Just get the feeling the Suns will really enjoy getting to play their style of footy on their home deck. They will still have to do the basics well – often in these lopsided matchups it becomes an exercise in who can become the most seduced by the goal posts and forget about the team.

Can the Roos take anything away from Gold Coast to make it hard for them? Hard to see it happening, even allowing for the loss of Matt Rowell. At the moment the burden falls to only a few North players – unless they pull out a game for the ages, they will find this one pretty tough.

Pick: Gold Coast by 27

AFL Round 2: Hawthorn v Richmond

Quite enjoyed seeing the Hawks play a bunch of kids last week – all of them looked pretty excited to just play footy. Clarko hasn’t sucked the flair out of them just yet.

The Tigers will be a much tougher test for the Hawks, however. If they gave up 64 inside 50s against Essendon, what sort of total could Richmond achieve?

The Hawks did a fair bit right last weekend outside of their second quarter lapse. They definitely have enough weapons and some youthful energy to compete. Can they do it for four quarters? You’d also hope they have a plan for Dustin Martin…

One metric that is often used internally at club level is Repeat Entries – the Tigers are so well-drilled at sending the ball inside 50 and setting up to defend if it comes back out. Often the opposition just launches the ball back to them and they go again. Ultimately it can wear down defences over time, which we saw in the season opener last Thursday.

If the Hawks can’t find an exit kick when they do manage to win it back in defence, then the Tigers will just keep grinding away and post a winning score. They might not be the kind of side to blow teams away early on, but they will get you eventually.

Pick: Richmond by 30

AFL Round 2: Western Bulldogs v West Coast

Shocked to see the Eagles so unfancied here. The best tall forward combination in the league up against Alex Keath and Ryan Gardner. Under a roof.

Keen to see the teams – surely another key defender comes into the mix for the Bulldogs…Easton Wood?

Granted, the Dogs midfield bats much deeper than the Eagles (especially since Shuey and Yeo are still absent) and their speed could be a massive problem. Is it that much of an advantage though? If the Eagles can nearly break even at the contest they are right in the game.

The Naitanui v English / Martin battle will be the most interesting matchup of the day – if Nic Nat explodes then the Eagles mids might just need to launch it inside 50 and let the forwards do the rest. If it comes to ground they have arguably the best small forward in the game at their feet in Liam Ryan.

Up the other end the Dogs didn’t quite click against the Pies despite a lot of opportunities. Could be a case of typical Round 1 cobwebs, so it wouldn’t surprise if they are far more efficient this weekend. They much prefer Marvel Stadium to the MCG that’s for sure. The Eagles would probably say the same thing.

The theme is speed vs aerial power in this matchup. Keen to go out on a limb and see if the Eagles can come out on top.

Pick: West Coast by 4

AFL Round 2: Fremantle v GWS

Might be pretty hard to get enthusiastic about this one after a long weekend of footy. The Dockers have been slammed with injury, so much so that Alex Pearce started the game up forward against Melbourne before being injured himself.

Can they find avenues to score? Is it Taberner or bust? Bloody hard game to win if you can’t keep the scoreboard ticking over.

The one saving grace might be the home crowd cheering them on, but even then they need to be given something to cheer about other than some disciplined defence and good coaching.

The Giants have enough firepower to give them a hell of a lot of trouble. Clearly ball movement was an issue for them last season and we couldn’t get a glimpse of what might have changed due to the wet conditions last weekend. Giving the Giants a chance here based on the fact their forward line is far more potent and their midfield can match it with the young Dockers well enough.

Pick: GWS by 10

AFL Round 2 Burning Question:

Is there a crucial detail missing in the tribunal interpretation of a “bump”?

No one likes seeing players suspended (well, at least neutral supporters don’t). And of course no one likes seeing players concussed, injured and missing games.

Do we just need to tweak the ruling on bumps and tackles to take into account a player is largely defenceless when in the act of kicking or handballing? That way if you choose to make contact with them then your duty of care is to protect the head.

In marking contests and contested situations when the ball is up for grabs, the onus is on every player to protect themselves and not go in recklessly to win the ball (the same sentiment as to why the contact below the knees rule was brought in).

When a player is in possession, however, their most vulnerable moment is when kicking or handballing. If the AFL community can agree on that aspect then it becomes easier to judge when something has gone wrong.

And let’s not forget that AFL footy is an inherently dangerous sport no matter which way you look at it…

Best Matchup Geelong v Brisbane

Best Underdog West Coast

Team Under Pressure Collingwood

Player To Watch Logan McDonald: three goals against the Lions last week, back at home against an undermanned Crows defence. As long as the rain stays away, McDonald should be great to watch again.

Can’t wait for another great round of footy. How good is Carlton v Collingwood shaping up to be?!

Pete Roberts from Behind The Footy is sharing some of his great content with us for the 2021 AFL season. Pete spent fifteen years in AFL coaching boxes as an analyst. He now shares those insights with footy fans.

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