Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 2.
Which team enters Round 2 under the most pressure?
NS: It's really hard to split Collingwood, West Coast, Melbourne and Adelaide considering since 2010, only three of 49 teams that have started a season 0-2 still played finals. Those preseason premiership fancies are already feeling the heat, but the one under most pressure is Melbourne after their mauling at the hands of Port. Playing Geelong at the narrower GMHBA Stadium may suit their contested brand of footy better than the open expanses at the G, but their leaders, including Jack Viney, Nathan Jones, Tom McDonald and Max Gawn, must lift in what is now a must-win game.
JM: Gee, there's certainly a few clubs that will be under the microscope this week, but it's hard to go past Melbourne. After bowing out in such disappointing fashion last year, the Dees -- one of the preseason flag fancies -- should have come out and made a statement against the Power at the MCG. What they dished up would barely have passed in the JLT series, let alone the home and away season. Simon Goodwin's side must improve against the Cats or some serious questions will be asked.
MW: It's a tough one because you could make a case for a number of teams, but both grand finalists could well be 0-2 and facing an uphill battle to make finals, let alone the top four. The Giants will fancy their chances against the Eagles in Perth, while Richmond will be seething after their prelim loss to the Pies and will come out swinging. Special mention to the Bombers as well, they were awful in almost every way and need to shape up for the Saints.
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Has the AFL gone soft on gut punches?
NS: One. Hundred. Percent. This was a perfect chance for the AFL to act on a pledge made during the off-season to crack down on so-called 'tummy taps' but instead, Match Review Officer Michael Christian took a short step or two. Ben Cunnington's forceful off-the-ball gut-punch on Fremantle's Nathan Wilson was graded by Christian as 'low impact'. Low impact - are you kidding me!? Talk about setting a terrible example for junior players across the country, not to mention setting a dangerous precedent for the rest of the season.
JM: Absolutely. It really is one of the ugliest looks in football and one the AFL could easily eradicate if it actually came down hard on players instead of letting them get off lightly. Yes, it's really that simple. Any intentional punch, regardless of force, impact or result should be met with a minimum one-week suspension. I guarantee that will stop these silly punches.
MW: For all the preseason rhetoric about cracking down on the tummy tap and jumper punches, the AFL pulled one of its own in not suspending Cunnington for his off-the-ball hit on Wilson, while, to a lesser extent, also whiffed on the chance to suspend Eagle Liam Ryan who reacted to a poor act from Brisbane's Darcy Gardiner. Little wonder there are fights in the crowd with examples like this on out TVs.
Can Richmond still win the flag without Alex Rance?
NS: Yes. Funnier things have happened. This league is so even and unpredictable that even without Rance, I can still see Richmond winning it. Remember, last year West Coast won the flag without two of their most important players in Andrew Gaff and Nic Naitanui, and the Tigers have enough talent and a proven game style and the 'bonus', if you can call it that, of Rance's injury is the fact it happened in Round 1, meaning they now have a full season to work out Plan B.
JM: Of course they can. There's no doubt Rance makes the Tigers a stronger and more intimidating side, but I have no doubt they can cover him and I'm a firm believer that one player doesn't make all the difference. We've seen a number of teams win Grand Finals in recent years that have battled through injury - the Bulldogs in 2016 and the Eagles last year, just to name a few.
MW: The Tigers have 21 games to find a plug for the Rance-sized hole in their backline, and they absolutely can win the flag. Whether they bring in another tall to cover him, or the next best player and adjust the setup in the back six, they'll be fine. However, just because they can win the premiership doesn't mean they will.
Do AFL clubs need to prioritise goal kicking?
NS: They have to, considering Round 1 saw set shot accuracy drop to 49.5 percent (no season has ever had a mark below 50 percent). ESPN's Alex Malcom wrote a brilliantly insightful piece in 2017 about AFL clubs' blasé attitude towards goalkicking which, from what we saw in Round 1, still seems to hold true. Maybe the next great coaching strategy will be finding a way to improve players' accuracy in front of the big sticks - it could be the difference between winning a Grand Final and just missing out.
JM: At the end of the day, teams that take their chances in front of goal have a far better chance of winning. If I was a coach I'd make sure every single one of my players -- not just the forwards -- spends a solid 90 minutes kicking for goal at every training session. This has to be viewed as the most important skill in football.
MW: You can be the straightest kicking club in the land, but if you can't run with your opponents for four quarters for 23+ weeks, then you're just making up the numbers, so it's little wonder clubs prioritise fitness and conditioning over basic skill execution. These blokes are professional athletes and shouldn't be missing rather simple kicks from 30 or 40 metres out. If you skimp on conditioning to work on set shots you're just robbing Peter to pay Paul. Strike a balance.