Round 1 Preview: Another year for the Tiger?

Greetings All and welcome to the season of hope,


Much goings on over the summer with an Ashes Test Series that appears to be folly compared with the serious stuff going on in South Africa!  Not sure about the overturning of Rabada’s suspension, but the contest will be better with his presence.  Normally would be pumped for the start of the test match, but the Blues-Tigers opener has more of my attention!


Prior to pontification over this week’s fixtures some pontification of how the season might unfold.


The Top Tier









While Sydney and GWS will be strong, Adelaide and Geelong really will get their spots based on their favourable home ground advantage.  Sydney is some risk with the loss of Naismith, assuming that is overcome through the use of Allir Allir and or Sam Reid to back up Sinclair they will still prove tough.  The Giants have lost some run out of the backline with Wilson and Williams gone, but the big loss is Mummy banking Lobb to land in the right spot for them.  Some early injury worries, they are loaded with class to make up for it though.  The Cats and Crows will survive in the top four, despite holes in their line ups they will win enough “gimme” games at home to gain a plumb spot.  Gibbs and Ablett will be assets, losses of critical defenders in Mackie, Lever and Smith will hurt.  If this is the top four the flag race does open up as none of them appear to have an effective MCG game style.  The same can’t be said of the next two.  If Richmond have the same good fortune and the same lack of respect from the opposition, they could do it again.  I suspect coaches might put some time into them this year and I doubt they will have the same dream run with injuries.  Still the opposition have to deal with Dusty, Jack, Cotch and Rance who would all be lynchpins at other clubs.  The Dees are the ones that can jump up, slightly disadvantaged as there are not many “gimmes” at the G, the time is nigh for some of the talent they have assembled to deliver.


The Fair to Middling Bunch


Port Adelaide





West Coast


Tough to sort out the rest and the fixtures give Freo, Hawthorn and West Coast a bit of helping hand.  The teams out West are both conundrums, they should have fit stars in Naitanui and Fyfe but just worried about the depth.  The other risk for them is whether the new stadium will deliver an advantage immediately.  Suspect it will, but we will have wait and see.  Freo get an extra home game with Gold Coast having to play a home game in Perth during the Commonwealth Games.  Plenty seem to be talking the Hawks up, not exactly sure why.  They need a few of their younger players to take up the slack.  Cyril, Roughy and Burgoyne will get them through the lower teams, don’t think they have evenness across to board to be a threat.  Essendon and Port have gone “All In” with their recruiting and will probably be better for it.  Suspect it will turn out to be fool’s gold for both outfits – while they will be better I doubt they will be able to reach top four and be a flag threat.  Joe Daniher could be the one to make me wrong!  The Dogs will be marginally better, provided some of the hungover players find their form from 2016.  Schache could make a big difference.


The Laggards




Gold Coast

St Kilda


North Melbourne


Perhaps The Pies should be rated higher, they have one of the strongest midfields in the competition, deficiencies at either end of the ground though are too often exposed.  Probably would have rated Gold Coast higher if not for the challenge of not playing at home for the first half of the season.  The return of Sam Day provides one of the strongest spines in the competition, if the meat on the bones develops into muscle I might have them underrated.  Gibbs and Docherty takes away a lot of foot skills from the Blues, but think they can take a couple of baby steps up the ladder with the maturing of the likes of Silvagni, Charlie Curnow, Weitering, Fisher and more.  A few of the smaller brigade need to get more of the footy, will be interesting to see if they can play a more attacking brand.  Gees I hope so!  Have predicted the Saints to take a tumble in order to go forward, too many average players but no stars.  Could have Brisbane all wrong – they have picked up some talent and Charlie Cameron will make a difference.  Worried about their contested footy and losing Rockliff doesn’t do anything for that – this year.  Jury out for me on the Hodge recruitment – thought he was cooked last year.  North suffering from the Saints disease and have cleared house.  Can either of them land the big fish they are hunting in the years ahead?  A massive headache for City Hall if they can’t.


So what about this week where we are looking at about 400,000 going through the turnstiles.


The Champs ($1.20) v Kreuzing ($5.60)


While the flag unfurls I will be looking for the respite of an ale – the Tiger Army will be in full voice and the team almost at full strength.  They have been impressive in their showings so far and it is hard to see how the Blues can win.  They have also looked promising in their practice matches but neither of their opponents are well fancied.  Kreuzer playing is critical, the addition of Kennedy to the midfield will provide more grunt and give flexibility with the use of Cripps who could become a threat going forward.  Doubt that the Blues can pull the upset off, but both teams are on level points at the moment.  Picking the Tigers, but Blues at over $5 is worth a shekel.


Strung Up ($2.06) v The Bryce is Right ($1.92)


The Bombers will unveil the trio of Stringer, Smith and Saad – all who can play and will make them better.  Add Big Joe and Little Jackson and there no doubt the top end is good enough, the question remains about the depth.  Adelaide gets to unveil Gibbs who will add some polish to the midfield.  McGovern and Jenkins should provide a good contest up forward and stretch the Bomber defenders, while at the other end the Crows need to find someone to fill the shoes left by Lever.  This game is a toss of the coin for mine and it has come up Bombers – might throw it up a few more times before Friday night!


Nicked Off ($1.33) v Rayneman ($3.85)


At one end the Saints look to the future without Nick Reiwoldt while Brisbane look to their with the young bull in Cam Rayner.  These teams are pretty closely match to my eye and the satchel swingers don’t seem to have these odds quite right.  Playing in the Loungeroom will favour St Kilda, the Lions though are fair value at anything over $3.


Ready to Rockliff ($1.27) v The Fyfedom ($4.70)


Joining Tommy at Port Adelaide are Steven Motlop and Jack Watts to bump them up the ladder and they should get a nice start against Freo.  Hopefully we see a fully fit Nat Fyfe this year and if Herman can stay healthy they could pull some interesting results.  Just not in this one Power at home will be too good.


MayDay ($1.94) v The Back Daw ($2.04)


Gold Coast take their powerful Goal-to-Goal line featuring May, Day, Lynch and 2 Metre Peter up to Cairns for the opener in the middle of cyclone season.  Not sure all the tall timber will be required.  Meanwhile the Roos are experimenting with their own tall timber seeing if Majak Daw can play as a defender.  A good test for both outfits, suspect that North will be out to flex that Shinboner Spirit and are my selection – at the moment.


Jeff Off ($1.95) v Buck’s Fizz ($2.02)


Waiting for Jeff to propose a one team competition, while Buckley will be under the microscope again.  Another tough one to pick, both teams not really set for prime time but they do have the support feature in it.  Collingwood have the midfield power to match it with Hawk dynamos Mitchell, Burgoyne and O’Meara and with that should get enough forward entries to manufacture a winning score despite not having Jamie Elliott.


The Kelly Gang ($1.45) v Schached Up ($3.15)


Josh Kelly decided to stay and quite fortunately too for the Giants who are nursing injuries to important players.  The Bulldogs are barking with pundits predicting a resurgence of the 2016 premiers.  If Schache can fulfil his potential along with Tom Boyd there could be a forward line to reckoned with, bigger concern down back though with long term injuries to Marcus Adams and Dale Morris.  Concern about the Giants going into a season without Mummy, but they should be too strong for the Dogs in the Capital.


The Team Most Likely ($1.98) v Return of the King ($2.00)


Gazza returns to the Cats on the biggest stage and up against the spruik team of the pre-season.  Melbourne have every right to be spruiked, now they simply must win the games they should and pinch a few they shouldn’t.  Their attack with Hogan, Petracca, Garlett and more will really challenge the Cat defence who have lost Mackie and will be missing Henderson.  All could be OK for Geelong though if Dangerfield’s hamstring comes up – I don’t think they will take the risk.  The coin came up Demons.


Nic Nat Back ($3.15) vs Syd ($1.45)


A tale of flipping fortunes in the ruck with Nic Nat returning from his knee reconstruction for the Eagles while Naismith requires one for the Swans.  They are left with Callum Sinclair to take mantle.  How they handle the spare parts ruckman will be of interest.  For West Coast while Nic Nat is back Priddis and Mitchell will not be as easy to replace, no Josh Kennedy either.  Swans to get off to a much better start than last year.


Friday Night Lights and Sinking the Slipper


The Final Melbourne Group 1 race for the season is at the Valley on Friday before giving way to the drought breaking Sydney Carnival with the Golden Slipper this Saturday.


Friday Night – Moonee Valley Race 7


The William Reid Stakes (G1, 1200m, WFA) is that final Group 1, with probably a Group 1½ field.  She Will Reign (9) has the drawn the gun alley with a key rival Secret Agenda (6) drawn toward the outside.  Catchy (10) would be competitive at her best, has not fired in two runs this preparation perhaps will be ready third up.  Hellbent (2) ran a ripper in the Oakleigh Plate but has drawn wide.


Selections – 9-6-10-2


Saturday – Rosehill


The weather gods are not smiling again with rain predicted right through to Saturday so the search is on for the Mudders despite the track manager’s indications to the contrary.


Race 4


The Ranvet Stakes (G1, 2000m, WFA) kicks off the big ones with a good collision of Melbourne and Sydney form with a touch of NZ thrown in.  Reckon the Melbourne form stands up here with Gailo Chop (1) throw in 3 from 3 on heavy tracks and the term “moral” comes to mind.  Single Gaze (8) is very consistent, she ran well in the Australian Cup against the pattern of the day.  Prized Icon (4) the best from Sydney form for me and the NZ mare Consensus (9) might have conditions to suit.


Selections – 1-8-4-9


Race 5


The George Ryder Stakes (G1, 1500m, WFA) is a gimme for the last leg of the Early Quaddie with Winx (4) another term for a “moral”.  Scared off the opposition, though Kementari (6) is probably as well credentialed as any recent challengers.  Happy Clapper (1) is a glutton for punishment but picks up good races in between beatings from Winx (4).


Selections – 4-6-1-2


Race 6


The three year olds stretch out in the Rosehill Guineas (G1, 2000m, 3yo SW)Cliff’s Edge (4) is as tough as they come and will make this a solid test, just not sure he can hold them out.  It is a wide open affair with plenty of good form.  My top two are Villermont (9) and Kaonic (10), favouring the former with a better barrier although on a wet track the outside might be better by this time of the day.  Ace High (1) has the Spring Champion and VRC Derby under his belt and must be considered.  Lots of good NZ derby form, but not sure about them coming back from 2400m.


Selections – 9-10-1-4


Race 7


The Golden Slipper (G1, 1200m, 2yo SW) is a race that has grown on me, despite my misgivings about the amount of prize money up for grabs for horses that have very short records.  Should the winner be complete it will probably be his last race!  Written By (1) and Sunlight (10) have been exceptional, leaning to the colt Written By (1) who has a win in heavy conditions on his CV.  Sunlight (10) could handle the going but it is a query.  Hughie Bowman took a tumble on Performer (5) a couple of weeks ago and has decided to stay on board, that’s a pretty good sign to me and I reckon he might be the one especially if wider draws are favourable.  Oohood (12) is still a maiden though yet to miss a place, she is tough and reckon will fill a hole again.


Selections – 5-1-10-12


Race 8


Either this race The Galaxy (G1, 1100m, HCP) or the William Reid will be decimated by scratchings with a number of dual nominations.  Godolphin’s Viridine (13) looks well placed here on the minimum weight, unbeaten on the track, unbeaten over the distance and unbeaten 2nd up.  Secret Agenda (4) looms as a threat with a wide draw being a potential advantage.  Snitty Kitty (10) and Jungle Edge (2) will make sure it is a true test just not sure they will be able to hang on.  In Her Time (3) has a good first up record and can win if she handles the conditions.


Selections – 13-4-3-2


Quaddie Time


A difficult affair this week so we will try and stay alive and have some hope in the last.  The Early Quaddie could get you a little bank with bright red figures for Gailo Chop and Winx in the 3rd and 4th leg s respectively.


Leg 1 – 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 10

Leg 2 – 1, 2, 5, 10, 12

Leg 3 – 2, 3, 4, 10, 13

Leg 4 – 3, 6


300 Combinations, $30 investment will pay 10% of the dividend.


Friar Time


The pre-season is up and running with 3 wins out of 4 over arch-rival Aquinas which included regaining the Strike-Wilkinson Cup.  The Girls lost in a close contest.  This week the Women’s team play in the VAFA Lightning Premiership while the Under 19s, Reserves and Seniors take on EFL Division 2 club Mulgrave at Friar Park.  Round 1 is on April 7.


Go Blues, Go Friars,


Cheers, Sal



  1. Love the depth of your analysis Sal. Reckon my Eagles will be laggards this season. I just want lots of kids getting 20 games. No future in getting beaten by 6 playing LeCras et al. Might as well get beaten by 10 and give kids experience.
    No forwards other than Kennedy and we won’t see him for at least a month (and then on no pre-season). NicNait adds a lot of midfield grunt and taps, but I’ll be happy if he plays home games only and doesn’t break down again given his body weight and leap.
    Your Carlton or Saints to creep up into middling in our spot for mine. Reckon Richmond’s season hinges entirely around Dusty. Reminds me of Carey at North. Other coaches will adapt to their game plan, but Dusty seemed physically unconquerable – much like Carey at his prime. Wonder where his head will be at this season? I reckon the rest of their list is ok but not outstanding. They all walk 10 feet taller when Dusty is dominating. Intriguing.
    Good to have you back Sal. Serious analysis among all the conventional media bumfff.

  2. Saints disease?
    Majak not selected. He is a prime example of poor list management.

  3. Sal Ciardulli says

    Thanks PB,

    West Coast are certainly a conundrum, reckon the coach might be in job preservation mode and take the honourable losses.

    The Blues looked like you might right and creep into the bottom, but the skill errors of the bottom few in the team will hold up progress.

    Smokie – Saints disease – will be a key topic in the weeks coming up. North and St Kilda desperately want to catch a big fish but aren’t able to get them to bite. eg Martin and Kelly. Lethlean reckons he will have the cash to splurge, but I don’t reckon it will be enough. Paying 92.5% per year for a team playing at 75% compared to the best makes it very difficult

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