Home sides to prevail
Alastair Clarkson’s men are hell-bent on making amends
Tony Keen believes the smart money is on the home sides in the first week of the NAB Cup.
West Coast v Essendon, Subiaco, Friday, 5.45pm
Since losing the 2005 pre-season grand final to Carlton, West Coast has made four first-round exits in a row.
Regardless, the Eagles will fancy their chances of progressing through to the second round of the NAB Cup given the clear edge they boast up forward. West Coast's top six goal kickers from last year--Mark LeCras, Josh Kennedy, Ben McKinley, Quinten Lynch, Andrew Embley and Ashley Hansen--will play on Friday night.
In comparison, Essendon will be without four of their six leading goal kickers from 2009, with Matthew Lloyd and Scott Lucas retired, Andrew Lovett now at St Kilda and Jay Neagle sidelined with a groin strain. Two of the players earmarked to fill the significant void left by Lloyd and Lucas, Scott Gumbleton and Michael Hurley, will miss out due to back spasms and disciplinary reasons respectively.
With an exciting young midfield led by Daniel Kerr, who is reportedly in the best shape he has been in for two years, the Eagles forwards should receive enough quality supply to kick a winning score.
Adelaide v Port Adelaide, AAMI Stadium, Saturday 4.10pm
Clashes between Adelaide and Port Adelaide are always hotly-contested and you wouldn't expect this clash to be any different, even though there aren't four premiership points on the line. These two sides have met in the pre-season competition four times in the past eight years, with the honours being shared.
A key part of Adelaide's success last season was their ability to share the workload when it came to kicking goals, with 12 players kicking 10 or more goals. Of those, only Jason Porplyzia (pelvis) and Scott Thompson (rested) won't be playing on Saturday.
Expect the Crows' multi-pronged attack to kick enough goals against a Port defence, fourth worst in the AFL in 2009, to get over the line in what shapes as being a tight struggle.
Hawthorn v Richmond, Aurora Stadium, Saturday 7.40pm
Hawthorn was bitterly disappointing in 2009, becoming the first reigning premiers since Adelaide in 1999 to miss the finals the following season.
Alastair Clarkson's men are hell-bent on making amends and, unlike last year when they were on the back foot from the outset due to injuries to key players, they will have virtually a full-strength squad for their first hit-out of 2010, with star recruit Shaun Burgoyne and classy forward Cyril Rioli the only notable absentees.
While Hawthorn boasts a strong line-up, Richmond will be fielding several inexperienced players as they look to re-build under new coach Damien Hardwick. Hawks skipper Sam Mitchell, Brad Sewell, Jordan Lewis and Luke Hodge will outmuscle their less experienced opponents at the stoppages and provide star forwards Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead with silver service all night.
Western Bulldogs v Brisbane Lions, Manuka Oval, Sunday 4.40pm
This match marks Brendan Fevola's debut as a Brisbane Lion, while Barry Hall will have to wait at least another week to make his official debut as a Western Bulldog with the club electing to rest him.
Several other high-profile players from both sides will also be missing. The Dogs will be without captain Brad Johnson (Achilles) and Jason Akermanis (rested), while the Lions will be missing skipper Jonathan Brown and classy midfielders Simon Black and Luke Power.
The absence of Black and Power will be felt against a Western Bulldogs on-ball division at full-strength. Brisbane will be competitive for a half before the class of Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Cross comes to the fore.