Carlton v Richmond (MCG)
What were you doing back in 2001 because it was in this year that Richmond last played in the finals? It was the year Big Brother was launched as a hit TV show as reality TV took off, the Survivor 2nd series filmed in Australia (it has now had 26th season’s), Harry Potter released its first film, the Wimbledon Final was the highest rating sporting event of the year with Rafter losing to Goran Ivanisevic in five sets after beating Agassi in a 5 set thriller and the average six pack probably set back about $7 bucks. Ansett was the AFL Pre-season sponsor before going broke later in the year.

Ok probably got bit side tracked going down memory lane, but since Richmond played in the preliminary final in 2001 that have played in 242 home and away games. It is no surprise that this Season Chris Newman this year will most likely break the record of Most Games played without a final appearance (record currently held by Trevor Barker 230 games, Chris Newman currently is at 214 games).

Is much hope and expectation down at punt road that the Tigers will be featuring in finals this year, this not only the fans view but is backed up by many footy experts. I too expect them to sneak into the eight.

Last year Richmond struggled to get over the line in the close games losing seven games under twenty points. They have ideal pre-season is this regard having be tested in the close ones although can they prove they can step up in big moments during year?

Biggest changes at Carlton have been outside the playing arena as the Blues we not active in any trade moves and free agency signings. Compared to Richmond who recruited Chaplin, Knights and Edwards to support their Depth.

Key Stat: Carlton has won the last nine games against Richmond.

Bet: No Bet, Will be enjoying watching the first game in Melbourne. Disagree with AFL hierarchy that this game continues to be placed as the first game in Melbourne year after year. It’s good to see the season the AFL open in different parts of the country in last two years in what is a National Competition. Too many questions from Carlton poor NAB Cup final showing to back them in and not enough faith in Richmond just yet.

Early Look at the rest of the Week's games

Western Bulldogs v Brisbane Lions (ES)
When the markets were first put up for this match the Lions were much odds, and probably few smart punters have slowly over pre-season targeted this game. Now into $1.40 and clear favorites with news that M.Boyd will be missing. Lions were the only team to go undefeated during pre-season and should be too good for developing Bulldogs side.

GWS Giants v Sydney Swans (ANZ)
In my view it’s been hard to get involved with Giants and Gold Coast matches in their early few seasons. The Giants probably over the course of last year broke square or better when came to making under the line margin. Earlier line for is around 44 points mark and if I was setting line it would be too longer as expecting Swans win in 60-80pt range.

GWS has 36 Debutants in 2012 and will continue to debut a number of players this year. They obviously have the most inexperienced side heading into 2013 season and deserving spoon favorites.

Gold Coast v St Kilda (MS)
The Saints have an imposing record against the new teams in short period and have enjoyed playing against both competitions new entrants Giants & Suns. Nathan Bock is still a number of weeks away from appearing for Suns and he for mine is the 2nd most important player at the club. I will be very surprised if the Saints have much trouble in this game and deserving $1.28 favorites.

Melbourne v Port Adelaide (MCG)
This is closest market of the round $1.90 each of two. Both teams have made extended list changes in the off season and will most likely show up in Round 1 to be vastly different sides to what last took to field. I’m expecting a first up win for new coach in Ken Hinkley although would be much more comfortable having a bet if was in SA and not at the G.

North Melbourne v Collingwood (ES)
North won last clash between these two in Round 21 last year but lost the previous 4 games. The roos had a good track record at Etihad last year winning 10 of 13 at the ground compared to Pies who infrequently visit the venue but can’t discount their record prior to losing to North Melbourne last year they had were on a eight game winning streak at the ground.

Most week’s North go around in my opinion slightly over’s and it’s probably worse when it’s against Collingwood. Although have no conviction at this point time until both teams are named in this one.

Hawthorn v Geelong
The ‘trend is your friend’ is time-honoured saying and if you have continued to tip Geelong since the Kennett Curse you have clearly come out on top giving it is now nine game losing streak for Hawks.

Interesting stat is that the losing grand finalist has a 2 win and 4 loss record in the opening round in the last six years. I just enjoying going to this games for what they have to offer as last 8 of 10 games have had a margin of less than 2 goals. It is currently one of best sporting rivalries in Australian sport.

On the topic of Australian Sport it must be said that the Geelong succession planning has been greatly better handled than the Australian cricket team.

Friday March 22

Adelaide v Essendon (AAMI Stadium)

Who would have thought when each respective marketing departments were sitting down in 2013 to decide on slogan’s for 2013 that each club would come up with ‘Be the unfair advantage’ and ‘Whatever it Takes’ that they could stand for so much. With both clubs have turbulent off-seasons they will be happy to get the footy underway, the difference for mine is Adelaide were able to move on and concentrate on the pre-season post Tippett Crisis and largely didn’t involve the playing group compared to the Bombers which have yet to resolve their off-field issues. 
The Crows didn’t make any big additions to side in off-season after losing Kurt Tippett versus the Bombers who recruited the biggest signing in 2012 of Brendon Goddard. Watson was a star for the Bombers last time their met picking up the 3 Brownlow votes in losing match.

Both teams go into the match fielding strong sides, Adelaide pre-season form hasn’t been impressive compared to 2012 although they have taken a different game plan in getting ready for season proper. Hard to read Essendon lead-up form having its last game against a under strength GWS outfit and a comfortable win. 

Key stats: Adelaide has won last 6 of 7 versus Essendon. The Bombers lost their last seven games in 2012.

Best Bet:
The crows have looked poor defensively in the pre-season but the limited interchange cap hasn’t suited Sanderson style of game. I am expecting a high scoring game to start the season. The Crow’s have too much class through the midfield for the Bombers and am tipping the Crows to win at line or over the 15.5 point mark.  CROWS -15.5 $1.90

Saturday March 23

Fremantle vs West Coast Eagles (Patersons Stadium)

Most footy experts have the Eagles towards the top of ladder in predictions compared to Dockers which have varied predictions form in Top 4 to missing the eight. 

The Dockers finished last season in Semi-Final against Adelaide after beating Geelong in Final at G in an impressive performance.  They did win last eight of nine regular season games in 2012 but only two of eight wins were against top eight sides. They have had mixed pre-season form, they put one of their stronger sides on park in their most recent NAB Cup match against a young Bulldogs side and had an easy win. Fyfe was in dominant form and if fit for all the year I’d expect like many others he will be in Brownlow contention. 

In terms of the two lists the Eagles are in prime position to have great year for example they have 24 players
on their list who have played 50 more games the highest of any club in the AFL heading in this Season. The have right mix of talent from youngsters in Darling, Shuey, Gaff to the middle tier group of Waters, Hurn, Priddis to the experience of Cox and Glass. Add Mark LeCras to the picture who didn’t play last year and
new recruit Wellingham the Eagles look worthy title contenders. 

Key Stat: West Coast has won 3 of the last 4, although the Dockers won last encounter in Round 19 by 65pts.
Best Bet: I always find it hard to pick the local derby/showdowns, Fremantle have been backed in after starting outsiders. Expect West Coast to hold favouritism and hold on in a tight contest. West Coast 1-39 $2.25

No Best multi this week as only two games however look out for next weeks tips!