Three finals hopefuls are staring down the barrel of a 0-3 start to the 2021 AFL season. Will they avoid it this weekend?

Collingwood v Brisbane Lions @ Marvel Stadium

Thursday 1st April, 19:40 (AEDT)

B.Maynard, J.Roughead, J.MadgenBR.Lester, H.Andrews, J.Payne
HBJ.Noble, D.Moore, J.HoweHBD.Rich, G.Birchall, Z.Bailey
CJ.Crisp, S.Pendlebury, T.BrownCD.Zorko, L.Neale, M.Robinson
HFC.Brown, B.Mihocek, J.De GoeyHFC.Cameron, E.Hipwood, C.Ah Chee
FW.Hoskin-Elliott, M.Cox, J.ThomasFL.McCarthy, J.Daniher, T.Berry
FOLB.Grundy, T.Adams, S.SidebottomFOLC.Ballenden, J.Lyons, H.McCluggage
I/CC.Mayne, I.Quaynor, J.Daicos, B.SierI/CD.Robertson, T.Fullarton, B.Starcevich, M.Adams

Played 48: Collingwood 28 v Brisbane 20

Last Meeting: AFL Round 15, 2020: Brisbane (42) def Collingwood (34)

Final Thoughts: A Covid outbreak in Brisbane has meant this game — originally scheduled for the Gabba — will be played in Melbourne, a move that swings it to the Pies favour in the head-to-head markets. Nathan Buckley’s side were brilliant in their Round 2 win over the Blues, and all of a sudden are considered back in the finals hunt. A week is a long time in footy.

Despite the loss to Geelong which saw them reduced to 0-2, there were plenty of promising signs for the Lions in their Round 2 performance. In fact, if not for a big umpiring error late, they would be sitting 1-1. Nevertheless, it signalled a return to the tenacity and running-game that was missing in a Round 1 loss to the Swans. Backs to the wall this week in unexpected territory, it may just be the clash that kick-starts their season.

Tip: H2H Brisbane @ $2.05

North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs @ Marvel Stadium

Friday 2nd April, 16:20 (AEDT)

North MelbourneWestern Bulldogs
B.Scott, B.McKay, S.AtleyBB.Williams, R.Gardner, C.Daniel
HBJ.Ziebell, La.Young, J.PolecHBT.Duryea, A.Keath, B.Dale
CC.Lazzaro, L.Davies-Uniacke, T.PowellCL.Vandermeer, B.Smith, L.Hunter
HFK.Turner, J.Walker, J.AndersonHFA.Treloar, A.Naughton, J.Dunkley
FC.Zurhaar, N.Larkey, J.StephensonFT.English, J.Bruce, M.Bontempelli
FOLT.Goldstein, B.Cunnington, J.SimpkinFOLS.Martin, J.Macrae, T.Liberatore
I/CJ.Mahony, T.Thomas, W.Phillips, A.HallI/CA.Scott, J.Johannisen, L.McNeil, E.Wood

Played 163: North Melbourne 79 v Western Bulldogs 81 (3 draws)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 5, 2020: Western Bulldogs (87) def North Melbourne (38)

Final Thoughts: The Dogs put triple-figures past an impressive Eagles outfit in Round 2, while North (for want of a better phrase) stunk it up on the Gold Coast. As such, the markets won’t be overly kind on David Noble’s side here. In fact, the pre-game line (as of Wednesday afternoon) is already at 42.5 points.  Luke Beveridge has his side playing the slick handball game that defined their 2016 premiership season, and if they execute here as they have in the first few rounds, that line is very much in play.

The Roos simply need to be competitive in what is their highest-profile game of the year. Good Friday, everyone watching — it’s time to show fans what the next crop of players are really like. Midfielder Ben Cunnington should return in what would be a big boost.

Tip: Total Points: Over 176.5 @ $1.88

Adelaide v Gold Coast Suns @ Adelaide Oval

Friday 2nd April, 19:50 (AEDT)

AdelaideGold Coast
A.McPherson, J.Butts, L.BrownBJ.Harbrow, S.Collins, S.Lemmens
HBT.Doedee, B.Smith, W.HamillHBO.Markov, C.Ballard, J.Lukosius
CL.Sholl, R.Sloane, P.SeedsmanCB.Ellis, H.Greenwood, N.Anderson
HFJ.Rowe, B.Frampton, N.McHenryHFD.Swallow, C.Burgess, W.Powell
FS.McAdam, T.Walker, L.MurphyFI.Rankine, B.King, D.MacPherson
FOLR.O’Brien, R.Laird, B.KeaysFOLJ.Witts, B.Ainsworth, T.Miller
I/CT.Lynch, S.Berry, H.Schoenberg, J.KellyI/CJ.Bowes, W.Brodie, A.Sexton, L.Weller

Played 14: Adelaide 13 v Gold Coast 1

Last Meeting: AFL Round 3, 2020: Gold Coast (82) def Adelaide (29)

Final Thoughts: The Crows have surpassed expectations in their opening two rounds and, had they have kicked straighter against the Swans, might have been a chance to go 2-0. Pleasingly for Matthew Nicks, they had 33 scoring shots against the Bloods — less pleasingly, they kicked just 11.22. Spearhead Taylor Walker kicked six of those, and he now leads the Coleman Medal tally (in from $81 to $8 with Palmerbet). If the Crows are to cause an upset here, Tex will need to fire.

For the Suns, they’ll go in confident after knocking off the Crows by a healthy 53 points last season. However, knee injuries to Connor Budarick and Sam Day means coach Stuart Dew will have to swing the changes.

Tip: Margin: Gold Coast by 1-39 @ $2.37

Richmond v Sydney @ MCG

Saturday 3rd April, 13:45 (AEDT)

D.Astbury, N.Balta, D.GrimesBH.Cunningham, T.McCartin, J.Dawson
HBL.Baker, N.Broad, J.ShortHBJ.Lloyd, D.Rampe, B.Campbell
CK.McIntosh, T.Cotchin, M.PickettCO.Florent, L.Parker, N.Blakey
HFS.Bolton, S.Edwards, J.CastagnaHFE.Gulden, H.McLean, I.Heeney
FT.Lynch, D.Martin, J.RiewoldtFS.Wicks, L.McDonald, S.Reid
FOLT.Nankervis, D.Prestia, K.LambertFOLT.Hickey, C.Mills, C.Warner
I/CJ.Aarts, D.Eggmolesse-Smith, J.Graham, J.CaddyI/CG.Hewett, J.Kennedy, J.McInerney, T.Papley


History: Played 197: Richmond 109 v Sydney 87 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 6, 2020: Richmond (34) def Sydney (26)

Final Thoughts: After two rounds, there’s absolutely zero indication Richmond has lost any hunger despite having won three of the last four Grand Finals. In fact, every indication is that it may just have gone up a notch. The Tigers have been brilliant in early season wins over Carlton and Hawthorn, and have a different challenge on their hands this Saturday in what’s set to be a rare 30+ degree April day in Melbourne. While Richmond’s defence is the competition’s best, a Swans forward line featuring Franklin, Heeney, Papley, McDonald and Gulden will test them.

The Swans, too, have been electric in the opening fortnight of the season and have been the surprise packet to date. However despite the win over Adelaide in Round 2, they did concede a whopping 33 scoring shots. If they’re any chance of an upset win at the MCG, they’ll need to tighten up quick smart.

Tip: Line: Sydney +24.5 @ $1.90

Essendon v St Kilda @ Marvel Stadium

Saturday 3rd April, 16:35 (AEDT)

EssendonSt Kilda
J.Laverde, B.Zerk-Thatcher, A.FrancisBN.Coffield, D.Howard, C.Wilkie
HBM.Guelfi, J.Ridley, N.HindHBD.McKenzie, J.Sinclair, H.Clark
CA.McGrath, Z.Merrett, N.CoxCJ.Billings, S.Ross, B.Hill
HFD.Smith, C.Hooker, A.PerkinsHFD.Butler, J.Higgins, J.Gresham
FA.McDonald-Tipungwuti, H.Jones, A.WatermanFJ.Battle, M.King, T.Membrey
FOLP.Wright, D.Parish, B.HamFOLS.McKernan, J.Steele, Z.Jones
I/CM.Redman, K.Langford, W.Snelling, J.StringerI/CJ.Carlisle, M.Wood, B.Crouch, J.Lonie

Played 216: Essendon 142 v St Kilda 70 (4 draws)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 12, 2020: St Kilda (68) def Essendon (33)

Final Thoughts: The Saints have won their last two clashes against the Bombers, and start strong favourites in this one. Brett Ratten’s side were outclassed by the Dees in Round 2 but there were few real matters for concern, with several key players remaining on the sidelines. Adelaide recruit Brad Crouch is finally available after serving his two-match suspension, and should come in to bolster the Saints midfield.

Conversely for the Bombers, there is genuine cause for concern. Not only have they slumped to 0-2, they’ve now lost Sam Draper, Jye Caldwell and Dylan Shiel to long-term injuries. Jake Stringer, however, should return after two games in the VFL.

Tip: Margin: St Kilda 40+ @ $3.00

West Coast v Port Adelaide @ Optus Stadium

Saturday 3rd April, 20:10 (AEDT)

West CoastPort Adelaide
J.Rotham, T.Barrass, S.HurnBR.Burton, T.Clurey, D.Houston
HBT.Cole, J.McGovern, B.SheppardHBA.Aliir, T.Jonas, D.Byrne-Jones
CA.Gaff, T.Kelly, L.DugganCX.Duursma, O.Wines, K.Amon
HFJ.Redden, J.Darling, L.RyanHFO.Fantasia, P.Ladhams, S.Motlop
FJ.Cripps, J.Kennedy, O.AllenFZ.Butters, C.Dixon, R.Gray
FOLN.Naitanui, D.Sheed, L.ShueyFOLS.Lycett, W.Drew, T.Boak
I/C (from)J.Petriccelle, J.Nelson, J.Jones, B.Ah CheeI/C (from)R.Marshall, H.Hartlett, M.Georgiades, C.Rozee


History: Played 35: West Coast 15 v Port Adelaide 20

Last Meeting: AFL Round 4, 2020: Port Adelaide (89) def West Coast (41)

Final Thoughts: Match of the round, without doubt, and the tightest pre-game markets to pick from. The Eagles did just about everything except win on Sunday against the Dogs, and will be looking to avoid going 1-2 with games against the Saints, Collingwood and Geelong to come. Captain Luke Shuey is expected to return from a hamstring injury if he pulls up well from training this week, which would be a huge boost.

You only have to look at Port Adelaide’s percentage (181.5) to know they’ve been dominant in the opening rounds, but this is their first real challenge. The wins against North and Essendon were strong, but those clubs could both finish bottom four. This, by contrast, is one of footy’s toughest assignments — the Eagles at Optus. Young gun Connor Rozee is likely to return.

Tip: Total Points: Over 169.5 @ $1.88

Carlton v Fremantle @ Marvel Stadium

Sunday 4th April, 15:20 (AEST)

L.Parks, L.Jones, L.PlowmanBE.Hughes, B.Cox, H.Young
HBS.Docherty, J.Weitering, A.SaadHBR.Conca, L.Ryan, N.Wilson
CW.Setterfield, S.Walsh, J.NewnesCJ.Aish, D.Mundy, B.Acres
HFL.Fogarty, H.McKay, J.SilvagniHFL.Schultz, S.Darcy, M.Frederick
FE.Betts, L.Casboult, Z.WilliamsFS.Switkowski, M.Taberner, M.Walters
FOLM.Pittonet, P.Dow, P.CrippsFOLL.Meek, A.Brayshaw, A.Cerra
I/C (from)S.Petrevski-Seton, E.Curnow, M.Gibbons, M.MurphyI/C (from)T.Colyer, S.Giro, C.Serong, H.Chapman


History: Played 35: Carlton 15 v Fremantle 20

Last Meeting: AFL Round 12, 2020: Fremantle (36) def by Carlton (40)

Final Thoughts: It’s an all too familiar feeling for Blues fans. For a ninth straight season, they’ve slumped to 0-2, and behind the eight ball for a Top 8 spot in what’s set to be an ultra-competitive bunch of mid-ladder clubs. In 20 of the last 30 games, Carlton have conceded a 30-point swing to the opposition. It’s a body of work that’s now become a huge concern for David Teague and need’s to be addressed quick smart. To add salt to the wound, young guns Jack Martin and Zac Fisher are both expected to miss six weeks. Jack Silvagni and Eddie Betts look set to replace them.

The Dockers by contrast were impressive in their win over the Giants but will hugely miss two-time Brownlow Medalist Nat Fyfe’s presence in this one. Star forward Michael Walters, however, looks set to return.

Tip: Margin: Carlton 1-39 @ $2.10

GWS Giants v Melbourne @ Manuka Oval

Sunday 4th April, 18:10 (AEST)

S.Taylor, L.Keeffe, M.BuntineBN.Jetta, S.May, J.Lever
HBI.Cumming, N.Haynes, L.AshHBC.Salem, A.Tomlinson, J.Hunt
CJ.Kelly, S.Coniglio, J.BuckleyCE.Langdon, C.Petracca, N.Jones
HFT.Taranto, T.Greene, BoerHFK.Pickett, T.McDonald, A.Neal-Bullen
FB.Hill, H.Himmelberg, B.DanielsFC.Spargo, L.Jackson, B.Fritsch
FOLM.Flynn, J.Hopper, C.WardFOLM.Gawn, C.Oliver, J.Viney
I/C (from)P.Davis, T.Green, C.Idun, X.O’HalloranI/C (from)A.Brayshaw, J.Jordon, T.Rivers, T.Sparrow


History: Played 13: GWS 6 v Melbourne 7

Last Meeting: AFL Round 17, 2020: GWS (74) def by Melbourne (79)

Final Thoughts: What’s going on at the Giants? Grand Finalists in 2019, Leon Cameron’s side slumped to 10th last season. And the lacklustre form has continued into 2021, with defeats to St Kilda and Fremantle to start. It’s the same old story — no one is doubting their talent, but their ability to bring the heat each weekend is certainly in question. As a result, they’ve already slipped from $2 to $3 in Palmerbet’s AFL Top 8 market.

The Dees caused the only upset of the weekend in Round 2, knocking off the Saints in an exciting contest. And by contrast with the Giants, they’ve shortened in the finals markets, now $2 to make the Top 8 after starting the season at $2.50. It’s a mark of their form that they start this one as favourites away from home.

Tip: Margin: Melbourne 1-39 @ $2.20

Geelong v Hawthorn @ MCG

Monday 5th April, 15:20 (AEDT)

L.Henderson, M.Blicavs, M.O’ConnorBS.Frost, K.Hartigan, C.Jiath
HBT.Atkins, T.Stewart, J.KolodjashnijHBJ.Scrimshaw, B.Hardwick, H.Morrison
CI.Smith, C.Guthrie, Z.TuohyCD.Moore, J.O’Meara, L.Shiels
HFM.Duncan, S.Higgins, L.DahlhausHFL.Breust, C.Wingard, T.Phillips
FF.Evans, T.Hawkins, G.MiersFM.Lewis, J.Ceglar, T.Brockman
FOLR.Stanley, B.Parfitt, J.SelwoodFOLB.McEvoy, T.Mitchell, S.Burgoyne
I/C (from)J.Bews, M.Holmes, J.Clark, J.HenryI/C (from)J.Koschitzke, D.Howe, J.Worpel, J.Impey


History: Played 167: Geelong 91 v Hawthorn 75 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 2, 2020: Geelong (108) def Hawthorn (47)

Final Thoughts: The Cats have won three of the last four Easter Monday clashes at the MCG and start solid favourites in the 2021 iteration of the rivalry. After a first-up slip up against the Crows, Chris Scott’s side responded well last week against the Lions, although had luck on their side in the one-point win. Mitch Duncan and Sam Menegola are chances to return this week (aided by the later game in the round), although Gary Rohan will miss through suspension.

For the Hawks, the loss of young gun Will Day is a substantial one. Last week’s medical sub Jack Scrimshaw is his most likely replacement.

Tip: To score 2+ goals: Gryan Miers (Geelong) @ $2.37