Round 3: So, What Does Round Three Really Mean?

At the end of Round 1 of the AFL season all teams were still a chance of finals action, according to their adoring fans. Since then, Round 2 has come and gone and teams are facing the realities of what a win or loss might mean.

A look through this weekend’s games illustrates divergent possible pathways.

Collingwood were towelled up nicely last weekend by Adelaide. It sits them at 1-1. The old fashioned 50/50 split where a win now puts them in the black, a loss sees them in the red (though the following week they see red and black!). For Collingwood, as with all 18 teams, this win is vital. Hit by injuries and suspensions, a win will see them back in the eight most likely without ever having been at full strength – a good result. A loss, however, will prey on their minds. A 1-2 record going into ANZAC Day is not idea. Collingwood has to win.

The Saints went up to Metricon with most pundits tipping against them. “Good”, thought the Saints, and they proceeded to demolish the Suns for a first win. Now they face a Collingwood outfit suffering from an identity crisis. St Kilda are not favourites, but that suits them nicely. Another win and they will sit 2-1 and better than most predicted.

Carlton seems to be having a season of change and uncertainty. Coach speculation, injuries, new players settling in – there is plenty going on.  Since quarter time in Round 1 when they led the Tigers handsomely, little has gone right. A loss to the resurgent Bombers would signal a 0-3 start to the season. A win is absolutely vital for the Blues, otherwise this season could begin to get away.

Essendon’s stirring win against the Hawks made the football world sit up and take notice – including Carlton. They would be super-keen for a win, but this is where the Bombers have fallen in the past. Coming off a big win, then falling to a lesser foe the following match. It will be a test of Essendon’s mental strength after all that has transpired over two years. They need this win, and a surprise loss could be damaging to the psyche.

The Adelaide Crows are on a roll. Two excellent wins – at home and away –sees them the toast of the AFL. A third win is expected, and most likely at the Adelaide Oval “fortress”. But it is a sign of a good team that they play like a good team. They should bury Melbourne based on form, but anything less will raise questions about the Crow’s legitimacy as a top four contender.

Melbourne, on the other hand, have had a riches to rags opening to the season. A great win in Round 1 against the Suns was cancelled out dramatically with a hiding against the Giants – including 14 unanswered goals. So what is the new Melbourne? Maybe an upset against the Crows will see then in the black, but not really likely. A 1-2 record after three rounds would not be tragic, but it would make the job harder – both in winning a finals place and winning over public support for a new Demons era.

The Sydney Swans have tolerated their younger sibling, GWS, since their arrival in AFL ranks, even accepting a first-time loss. But things are different now and the Swans will not be as accommodating to their slightly grown-up neighbours.  Sydney murdered Essendon with one quarter of football and silenced the Adelaide Oval festivities with a stifling of Port Adelaide. They are looking good and are not going to allow the Giants to ruin their current run.

The Giants have two handy scalps in the bag are always searching, like an optimistic beachcomber at Bondi, for more. Rather than digging up an old coin or relic, they are likely to unearth a very nasty-looking Swans outfit. GWS would love another win to be 3-0, but it is a long shot. But they have looked impressive to date and a surprise cannot be ruled out – especially if Sydney opt again to play less than four quarters.

North Melbourne are now 1-1 and were impressive last weekend destroying the Brisbane Lions. Another win against the Power would set them up well, but a loss would undermine all of last weekend’s good work.  It seems silly to plan finals from just round three, but the ‘Roos will consider this. Twelve wins is the widely accepted amount of wins to see finals. A win tomorrow means the North need to win just 10 of their remaining 19 games to see finals…more wins than that sets up top four. But a loss would see them need to win 11 out of 19…just that much more pressure.

Port Adelaide faces a very real crisis. A win against the ‘Roos will have them back in the mix. A loss would be a 0-3 start and alarm bells will ring. No longer are they a “surprise packet”. Other teams know to counter their run. They would need to win 12 of their remaining 19 games to reach the finals – possible but bloody difficult. Much is on the line for Ken Hinkley’s charges, but last year they rose from the ashes (often) and could do so again. A huge match.

The Brisbane Lions simply need to win this – no questions asked. Forty minutes of footy against Collingwood was not enough to win, despite an exciting fightback. But their hiding to the ‘Roos last weekend bordered on insipid at times. They are back at the Gabba for this round and have a chance against Richmond for that reason alone. Still, to win, Brisbane needs to find four quarters of relentless pressure – not just occasional token acts. An interesting match, but a 0-3 start faces the Lions.

Richmond’s finals credentials took a hit from the Western Bulldogs in a game the Tigers were expected to win. It says something that their first win against winless Carlton preceded the ‘Dogs outing. Is Richmond the real deal?  Many believe they are and a big win against the Lions would silence the critics – for a week or so. In such a tight competition, Richmond simply cannot be at 1-2 by Sunday night.

Make no bones about it. Hawthorn was stung last weekend against Essendon. Not a run-of-the-mill mosquito sting, but a European Wasp-type sting. They were expected to beat Essendon (by everyone, it seems, but maniacal Essendon people) and didn’t. All is hardly lost as a result, but watch the Hawks brush that loss off this weekend. However, they meet Luke’s Doggies – a harder bunch now – and it won’t be a cakewalk. But Hawthorn wants to be 2-1 by the end of the weekend – nothing less.

The Bulldogs sit in the upper echelons now. Two wins from two matches – largely against predictions – and have a fantastic chance to really test where they are against the Hawks. Luke Beveridge has instilled a tougher, more resilient mindset already. They know it is a tall order to beat the Hawks, but at the same time they know they can scrap and scrape with the best of them now.  Above all, the Bulldogs will be fighting to keep building respect – win, lose or draw.

Is that really Geelong sitting on the bottom of the ladder facing the prospect of a 0-3 start to the season? Well, yes it is, but things are not quite so bleak. For a start they aren’t playing a Hawthorn or Fremantle-type outfit. The Gold Coast Suns have hardly set the world on fire and should present a chance for the Cats to redeem themselves. Also, Geelong at Skilled Stadium is a dangerous proposition (unless you are Fremantle). The Cats need to fire, but should.

The Gold Coast Suns will eventually come around to Rodney Eade’s ways, and eventually find a life path without G. Ablett.  But until then their future is as certain as erratic can be. They are a chance against a Geelong outfit experiencing one of their worst starts for nearly a decade. Tom Lynch is better for the run up forward and a few players would have received a “rocket” (pun intended) after last week’s capitulation (“Five goals in five minutes does not a victory make” – Shakespeare).

Fremantle ground Geelong into the Skilled Stadium turf last weekend after having outlasted Port Adelaide the previous week. Ross Lyon is aware that the premiership window is open (at least for this year) and will be expecting nothing less than 100% from all. At home in Perth they grow taller, but this match is the derby against a willing West Coast and a damaging Josh Kennedy. So there is more than just four points on offer in the W.A showdown. Fremantle at 3-0 will be hard to stop as the season rolls on.

The West Coast crew were delighted last weekend as they crunched a Carlton side suffering from both stage-fright and homesickness – a lethal combination. Josh Kennedy keeps finding ways to haunt the Blues, but West Coast is not a one-man show. Kennedy was the recipient of some very slick and meaningful entry into the Forward 50. In a season where 12 wins can see finals, and there are roughly that many home matches in Perth, this derby takes on huge mathematical connotations – a home ground loss would be damaging. West Coast will fight like men possessed for this one.

Again, a round full of interest and intrigue. Come Sunday night, some patterns will be clearer, others emerging. Some teams will be delighted, others reassessing like crazy. Some coaches will be the toast of home towns, others will be toasted…the bad way.

Can’t hardly wait.

About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.


  1. Collingwood would be relatively happy after last night.

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