Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 3.
Is Geelong the best team in Victoria?
NS: If you look at the ladder, then yes! They've been mightily impressive in beating two teams tipped to contend for the flag in Collingwood and Melbourne and they are no longer reliant on their handful of A-graders to drag them over the line each week. But the best Victorian team in my eyes is still Collingwood, whose midfield depth is just ridiculous. The Magpies will click soon, and it'll be scary.
JM: Sorry Tigers fans, but right now the Cats are neck-and-neck with Collingwood as the best team in the state. Chris Scott's side has already knocked off two preliminary finalists from 2018 and rightfully occupy top spot on the ladder, albeit after two rounds. Geelong have so much top-end talent that it was only a matter of time before they took the step to the next level and although it's still early, it looks as if they finally have. Pencil them in for a top four finish.
MW: I still think Collingwood is the benchmark team in Victoria. Having said that, I always bang on about a team's 'bottom five' players - those who aren't necessarily the first picked, and Geelong have upgraded this group out of sight. Last year the Cats found out you can have all the A-Grade talent in the world but still lack September impact without depth. Jordan Clark is productive, Charlie Constable is influential, Gary Rohan is having an impact and Luke Dahlhaus is class. I now have the Cats second, above Richmond.
Which 0-2 side has most cause for optimism?
NS: Melbourne - but only if they win on Friday night! The Demons' loss to Geelong was a real head-scratcher, with the Dees winning so many supposed key statistical areas. After so many off-season surgeries, Simon Goodwin's men do look underdone, but the talent is certainly there - they just need to scrounge a few wins together before it's too late.
JM: If I was a Melbourne fan I would be feeling two things after the first couple of weeks: frustrated yet optimistic. Round 1 always dishes up some curve balls and a trip to Geelong generally throws up some bizarre results as well, so I'm going to give the Dees a pass. However, their 2019 starts on Friday night against the Bombers. A win and all of a sudden they're back, but a loss, well, let's just wait and see.
MW: The Dees have the most reason to be optimistic, but they need to start clicking soon. It's little wonder they had a slow start considering all the off-season surgeries and shortened preparation (after making the preliminary finals), but winning the time in forward half by an average of nine minutes over the first two games and racking up 73 inside-50s against Geelong are stats that can't be ignored. They may well end up having a 2017 Sydney-like run.
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Should more teams consider playing two rucks?
NS: Maybe they should. The success of West Coast in 2018 and Port Adelaide so far this year -- Scott Lycett has to be the recruit of the season -- shows the value of playing two rucks who can also impact up forward. The value of quality centre clearances is also more pronounced with the 6-6-6 rule in place, meaning having a two-pronged ruck combo might be a strong advantage.
JM: Sure, the Ryder-Lycett combination is working well, but I don't think playing two ruckmen is something all teams should jump at. Call me crazy but ruckmen are a tad overrated and don't win that many games of footy. Give me another midfielder over a second ruckman every day of the week!
MW: Any time I see two genuine rucks named in a side, I get nervous, but maybe it shouldn't be the case. Port Adelaide have managed to play two rucks and it's working beautifully, while the reigning premiers have backed in the Nathan Vardy-Tom Hickey duo. The important thing is, however, not to pull out a knee-jerk reaction. Not all clubs -- and not all ruckmen -- are suited to this style of play.
Scores are down in 2019 - should we be worried?
NS: The new rules this season were brought in to ease congestion and increase scoring and -- small sample size aside -- they haven't worked. Congestion is still an issue and coaches still focus on defence rather than scoring, so goals are becoming rarer. If the trend continues, it will definitely be a worry, but let's see how it all looks come Round 23.
JM: High scoring games do not equal high quality games. I would much rather watch a tight contest where goals are at a premium than a game where they are booted every couple of minutes. We shouldn't be worried about scores being down, we should be concerned that the AFL truly believed their new rules would increase scoring.
MW: I've never understood the hate for low scoring games. If the contest is gruelling yet close, it's compelling viewing - much more so than a defensively-poor shootout. Of course, the league brought in a raft of rule changes to increase scoring and free-flowing footy, so that may concern some at AFL House, but ultimately I come back to two words: who cares?