So after three rounds what have we learn’t this season? The Cats, while not firing on all cylinders are atop the ladder and it is the Hawks as expected and the Bullies perhaps unexpectedly leading the challengers. Collingwood, Adelaide and Sydney remain strong and the Saints are about the place without dominating. North, Brisbane, Essendon and Port have played some reasonable footy at times with mixed results and Melbourne, Richmond and Carlton remain basket cases. For me the big surprise is West Coast. I didn’t dare to believe that our nemesis from the West could be so toothless. With Cox on one foot and Ashley Hansen leading the ‘hide and seek’ medal voting so far this season they look decidedly suspect. In 1979 Kiss’ Dynasty album stayed in the charts for well over 52 weeks and this has in fact outlasted the Eagles dynasty. Shame that.

Another six last week has me a respectable if not brilliant 17 for the season. You have to be worried when you only lead The Ox by one. Unlike the Ox though, I don’t put money on my tips (surely the soundest advice I’ll be offering all year in REB’s Rubbish). I’m still kicking myself for picking bloody Carlton what was I thinking? Never again!!

Essendon vs. Western Bulldogs Telstra Dome

The Dogs seem to have rediscovered the ‘spirit of 06’ and they’ve added a bit of mongrel into this year’s breed while they are at it. Ben Hudson has been an immediate success, Scotty Welsh takes enormous pressure of Brad Johnson and Aker is fit and making a much larger contribution to the team so far this season. In the midfield guys like Adam Cooney has really stepped up and the return to fitness of Mitch Hahn has the Dogs barking again. Dare we suggest that this team is ready to ‘do a Geelong’? While that might not be the case they should be more than ready to do Essendon. Already unbalanced by the loss of key forward Scotty Lucas, they are further hampered by the loss of Matthew Lloyd and their hopes will take a dive as a result. Playing open and running football might work ok against Carlton but Essendon don’t have the weapons that the Dogs have at their disposal. With the Dogs off the leash, they’ll put the bite on the Bombers in this match.

Western Bulldogs by 48 points.

North Melbourne vs. Melbourne MCG

This is a match that the Roos just can’t afford to drop. While the Cats were half asleep and managed to steal the points that won’t be possible for the Roos. If they have any let down at all after their tough match against Hawthorn then Melbourne will be all over them. I rate Melbourne a real chance in this match but the Roos have the edge in class and I can see them sneaking over the line by a couple of goals. I think Melbourne will struggle to cover the big bodies of Brown, Thompson, Edwards and Jones as they don’t exactly have a multitude of tall options in the back half. The Dees will give a yelp but their penchant for making mistakes will prove to be critical here. Look out for Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson who haven’t noticed that the Roos aren’t keen on moving North and turn up at Carrara – the original venue for this match.

North Melbourne by 11 points.

St Kilda vs. Geelong Telstra Dome

While a loss is never a good thing, the timing of last week’s defeat for St Kilda could not have been worse. Coming up to face the premier at 3-0 was the script and the Bulldogs tore up that as well as the Saint midfield in an electric display. Making matters worse for the Saints is that Geelong put in its worst effort for 18 months and plenty of players would have got Bomber’s boot fair up the clacker for some truly bad decision making and disposal skills against this year’s whipping boys. While the Saints best players match the Cats it is the next rotation of players that cause the problems. This puts enormous pressure on every Saint who has a shot at goal as only the maximum efficiency will do against Geelong. Former Cat Steven King takes on his former protege in Mark Blake in one of the many highlights of this match. I expect Blake do well at the centre bounces but King to be more influential around the ground. I also expect a comfortable Cat victory at a venue that the Kitties like even more than their home ground.

Geelong by 35 points.

Sydney vs. West Coast

An unsettled West Coast limps into Sydney this week to take on a rejuvenated Swannies team that has the benefit of its best pre-season preparation in years. Sydney have finally begun to play some youth and the old hands in Okeefe, Hall, Goodes, O’Loughlin and Kirk continue to do the business. Roosy has even shocked us all by showing that his mob can actually kick goals from time to time. Meanwhile the West Coast ship has fallen astern of the field because there hasn’t been enough crew ready to man the lifeboats. With injury and poor form hitting the Eagles, it is hard to see them pulling out of their early season slump and Sydney will be very keen to boot the Eagles while they are down. The Eagles have been leaking goals in recent weeks so it might be another day out for a suddenly formidable looking Swans forward line. Whodathunkit?

Sydney by 41 points.

Port vs. Brisbane AAMI Stadium

A desperate Port Adelaide will open its account against the Lions at home this Saturday night. The Lions haven’t had all that much joy at AAMI in recent seasons and it will be game over for the Power should they drop this and go 0-4. Brisbane are in a similar boat to Port in the fact that they have played good opposition and are at the wrong end of the ladder in the early stages of a list rebuild. Port are a more even team across the ground but it might only be the home ground advantage that gets them across the line in what should be one of the closest matches of the round. If this prediction comes true look out for some really gutsy football between two pretty good sides who just can’t afford another loss at this stage of the season. It’s Port for mine, but not by much.

Port by 9 points.

Hawthorn vs. Adelaide Aurora Stadium

On paper this looks to be one of the matches of the round but I’m expecting a pretty dour encounter here due to a large ‘letdown’ factor for both sides coming off tough grudge matches in the last match. Both sides will be nursing plenty of sore bodies from last weekend’s matches but the Hawks have to take one less plane and have had one more day to heal. It is for this reason I’m selecting the Hawks to remain undefeated even though Adelaide have generally had the better of the Hawks in recent seasons. Buddy Franklin will again cause match up problems for Craig but at least Massie won’t be trotting out to join him as he is out injured. Adelaide will again give a good account of itself but I reckon they might run out of steam in the end.

Hawthorn by 22 points.

Carlton vs. Collingwood MCG

The AFL’s mission to get the leading crowd puller into this year’s finals series will take another step closer to being completed when Collingwood complete their regulation win over the battling Blues. Carlton are actually a very good side to watch play but you don’t want to be supporting, backing or tipping the buggers cos my grandma could kick a goal against the most underwhelming defence I’ve ever seen in four decades of watching football. Instead of Bruce Doull doing Toyota ads the brains trust at Princes Park should be getting the Flying Doormat to suit up and patrol the backline. I’ll be turning the sound down though because if I hear Bruce McAvaney have another orgasm over Alan Didak I’ll probably heave. Collingwood have far too many options and will rack up a Cricket score, but Carlton will do the same.

Collingwood by 29 points.

Fremantle vs. Richmond Subiaco

Freo have a great opportunity to square the Heath Ledger and go 2-2 against a Richmond side that still struggles to put four quarters of good football together. With McPharlin and Decoy Tarrant back in, that makes three large forw
ards for the Tigers defense to cover and I don’t think they have the cattle to do so. Tarrant might even stun the world and kick a sausage roll this weekend but 0.3 is probably the more realistic return. Richmond will need to start off a bit quicker than they did last week against the Pies or the crowd factor will weigh them down. The Tigers have put up some plucky efforts in Perth at times in recent years but Freo need to put on their bully suits and slam the paper tigers here…and I reckon they’ll do just that.

Fremantle by 37 points.