Round 2 of the 2022 AFL season is almost upon us and it starts with a mouth-watering clash between Western Bulldogs and Carlton on Thursday night.
Friday night could see Lance Franklin kick his 1000th goal at the SCG, while there’s two big Saturday night matches scheduled for the first time this season.
See who we think will win and why below.
All times AEDT
Western Bulldogs v Carlton
Thursday - 7:25pm - Marvel Stadium
Thursday night footy is back for Round 2 and with it comes a genuine 50-50 contest under lights at Marvel Stadium.
The Blues have had to deal with all manner of COVID-related disruptions in the days after their opening-round win over Richmond, with coach Michael Voss as well as Adam Cerra and Jack Martin both entering AFL health and safety protocols.
Senior assistant Ash Hansen will take the reins and coach against Luke Beveridge, the man he worked under until last season before making the move to Carlton during the off-season.
In better selection news for the Blues, Sam Walsh returns in a big boost for Carlton’s chances of making it two wins from two to start the season.
In their last meeting, the Blues had Western Bulldogs on the ropes before surrendering a 27-point lead to lose by 16 points.
We’ll tip Carlton to win in an extremely tight game, but this could genuinely go either way.
Tip: Carlton by 5 points.
Sydney v Geelong
Friday - 7:50pm - SCG
Sydney and Geelong have played out two absolute thrillers in their most recent meetings.
The Swans beat the Cats in a two-point cliffhanger in Round 7 last year with Tom Papley’s dramatic late goal putting the Bloods in front after they trailed at one stage by 29 points.
Geelong got the better of the Swans by six points on neutral territory at Metricon Stadium in Round 18 of the 2020 season.
It promises to be another cracking encounter on Friday night.
The Cats smashed Essendon by 66 points in a statement Round 1 win at the MCG thanks to dominant performances from Patrick Dangerfield (31 disposals) and Tom Hawkins (four goals).
Tyson Stengle was sharp in his first game for his third club, kicking four goals and collecting 20 touches in a terrific first-up display for the Cats.
The Swans also recorded a Round 1 victory, defeating cross-town rivals GWS by 20 points at Accor Stadium, with co-captain Luke Parker in exceptional form.
Parker finished with 21 possessions and booted a game-high five goals to win his fourth Brett Kirk Medal as best afield in the Sydney Derby.
With Lance Franklin requiring just four more goals to crack the magical 1000-goal milestone, it could be an historic night at the SCG.
Tip: Sydney by 6 points.
Collingwood v Adelaide
Saturday - 1:45pm - MCG
Collingwood plays host to Adelaide on Saturday afternoon at the MCG as they look to remain unbeaten in 2022.
In their last meeting, the Magpies won by five points in a thriller, their fourth straight win head-to-head dating back to 2017.
The Crows will be looking to bounce back after being overrun by Fremantle in a thriller at home, coughing up a 19-point fourth-quarter lead.
The Pies were super-impressive against St Kilda in Craig McRae’s first official match sending a subtle reminder to the competition that they still have a bit of 'go' in them.
Nick Daicos looked at home with 27 disposals on debut while recruit Patrick Lipinski appreciated being a permanent midfielder.
While Adelaide’s effort can’t be questioned, the Pies have more top-end talent within their ranks.
Darcy Moore, Jeremy Howe, Scott Pendlebury, Brodie Grundy, Taylor Adams, Jordan De Goey are all star players - do the Crows have the A-grade players to match them?
There was plenty to like about Adelaide’s performance against Freo, unearthing some young stars like Josh Rachele, but containing the Pies’ firepower should prove very tough for the Crows to handle.
Collingwood will be too good in this clash.
Tip: Collingwood by 34 points.
Essendon v Brisbane
Saturday - 4:35pm - Marvel Stadium
Essendon hosts Brisbane on Saturday afternoon and will be hoping to bounce back after being demolished by Geelong in Round 1. The Lions meanwhile dug deep to overrun Port Adelaide in a scrappy affair.
The Lions will be without wingman Mitch Robinson and will be hoping skipper Dayne Zorko overcomes an injury niggle to play. The Bombers should get back star playmaker Jake Stringer, but will lose Kyle Langford (hamstring).
Lachie Neale has been an absolute menace in recent encounters between these sides, averaging 37 disposals per game in their last three meetings. Brisbane also demolished Essendon 102-45 in 2021 and 91-28 in 2020.
Clearly, the Bombers have struggled to score against the Lions and it’s hard to see that changing given the absences of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Harrison Jones, and even factoring in the retirement of Cale Hooker. Stringer returns and will be a huge addition, of course.
Given Essendon’s injuries and their performance against the Cats, it’s impossible to tip them in this one and Brisbane should be too strong.
Tip: Brisbane by 38 points.
Port Adelaide v Hawthorn
Saturday - 7:40pm - Adelaide Oval
While these teams are predicted to sit poles apart come the end of the season, it’s top-four fancy Port Adelaide who sit 0-1 and bottom-four chance Hawthorn who earned a win in Round 1.
Although the Hawks kicked their year off with a win, this trip across the border looms as a far tougher task, especially against a Power side keen to earn their first victory of 2022.
Last time out, Port Adelaide won in Round 16 by 35 points, with Brownlow Medallist Ollie Wines dominating in the centre with 43 disposals and 13 clearances.
As Hawthorn were beaten on-ball last week in their win over North Melbourne, expect the likes of Wines, Travis Boak, Zak Butters and Karl Amon to fill their boots against a Hawks midfield that doesn’t have the same firepower.
Coming off a loss, Port Adelaide will be hoping for greater efficiency up forward and a potential return of Charlie Dixon could help remedy that issue.
Even if Dixon is given another week to get his body right, the likes of Todd Marshall and Mitch Georgiades should offer a route to goal that allows the Power to put a winning score on the Hawks.
Port Adelaide are in a different class than Hawthorn in 2022, expect them to get the job done quite comfortably at home.
Tip: Port Adelaide by 32 points.
Gold Coast v Melbourne
Sunday - 8:00pm - Metricon Stadium
Melbourne have dominated Gold Coast in recent times.
The Demons have won their past nine meetings with the Suns, including the most recent encounter by 98 points in Round 20 last year.
Both clubs opened their 2022 campaigns with Round 1 wins.
Melbourne got the better of the Western Bulldogs in the Grand Final rematch, winning the season-opening clash by 26 points at the MCG.
The reigning premiers got the job done without a host of premiership stars in an ominous warning to the rest of the competition.
Demons star Christian Petracca was instrumental in the win, finishing with 38 disposals, nine clearances and two goals – almost identical numbers to his Norm Smith Medal performance in last year’s Grand Final.
As for the Suns, they got their 2022 season off to the perfect start, beating West Coast in Perth for the first time in the club’s history, kicking seven of the last eight goals of the match.
The hard-fought 27-point win over a decimated Eagles side was Gold Coast’s first Round 1 win in four years, with young midfielder Matthew Rowell (33 touches and 10 clearances) rediscovering his best form.
Co-captain Touk Miller (29 and eight clearances) and Izak Rankine (four goals) also starred in the season-opening victory.
Can the Suns build on their first-up win and take it up to the Demons?
Tip: Melbourne by 23 points.
North Melbourne v West Coast
Sunday - 1:10pm - Marvel Stadium
Both coming off losses in Round 1, North Melbourne and West Coast will be looking to get their first win of 2022 on the board on Sunday.
David Noble conceded the Roos were a little disappointing when going down to Hawthorn’s youngest side since 2005 last week, while the Eagles fought gallantly but were undermanned against the Suns.
What shapes as crucial is the reinforcements the Eagles could receive this week. Liam Ryan and Tim Kelly should return from health and safety protocols, while Alex Witherden is also available after being suspended for Round 1.
Meanwhile, captain Luke Shuey could be available and Jack Darling remains a chance to make an early return as well.
If all four play, the Eagles look likely to win at Marvel Stadium.
The fact they kicked 80 points despite missing three of their best forwards and being smashed around the contest is a big plus, and with North Melbourne’s midfield lacking the star power of the Suns, they should find it easier once again.
Meanwhile, the Roos only managed 58 points against the Hawks. Coming up against a stronger Eagles’ backline, they’ll need to find several extra goals.
Ultimately, it’s pretty easy to tip the Eagles, but Noble’s men must put up a fight early in the season.
Tip: West Coast by 25 points.
Richmond v GWS
Sunday - 3:20pm - MCG
The two finals contenders will be desperate for a win here after both losing their respective Round 1 fixtures.
Richmond were ran over the top of late by a revitalised Carlton outfit, while GWS were reasonable in defeat to a strong Sydney side.
This will be the first time these two sides have met at the MCG since the 2019 Grand Final, but it’s the Giants who have held sway head-to-head since they were dismantled by Richmond on that fateful day.
GWS have won two of the last three against Richmond since that encounter, also claiming the last match-up by 39 points in 2021 at Marvel Stadium.
In that clash, the Giants got it inside 50 more than their opponents and were ultimately more efficient when they got there - they’ll be hoping to go about this one in similar fashion.
One key area of dominance for the Giants in this battle is their midfield, particularly as Richmond will be without Dion Prestia.
Without Prestia, Richmond will need to bounce back from a poor on-ball performance in Round 1, that’s easier said than done against the likes of Tom Green, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Josh Kelly, Callan Ward and Stephen Coniglio.
While the Tigers will back in their system to get the job done, it’s tough to see them getting close to drawing level in the centre of the ground.
Expect a strong response from Richmond, but GWS should win this game if their midfield unit controls the stoppage and wins the clearance battle.
Tip: GWS by 14 points.
Fremantle v St Kilda
Sunday - 6:20pm - Optus Stadium
Fremantle host St Kilda with both sides entering the Sunday evening contest with differing fortunes on the back of Round 1.
The Dockers managed to fight back to score a one-point win over Adelaide, thanks to some defensive ingenuity from Heath Chapman, while the Saints went down to Collingwood in what was a major disappointment to start their season.
Justin Longmuir’s Dockers were wasteful in their win, returning 11.17 from 55 inside 50s, so they will be looking to straighten up and take their chances this weekend. Brett Ratten’s Saints, despite being underwhelming for much of their season opener, did play some attractive footy at times and will take some heart from that.
The Saints will be eager to swiftly recoil in a bid to get things back on track and it all starts in the midfield where they must get on top so they can feed Max King in attack. There is scope for that to occur after the Dockers on-ball brigade was tested by a Rory Laird-less Crows midfield.
The ‘home’ team has won the past five encounters – including St Kilda’s win in Hobart last year and Freo’s victory at Metricon in 2020 – which advantages the Dockers in the comforting surrounds of Optus Stadium.
While the Saints will have plenty to prove, including some doubters wrong, Fremantle should be good enough to win at home and set up their season with a 2-0 start.
Tip: Fremantle by 7 points.