Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 4.
Right now, who is the best key forward in the game?
NS: Lance Franklin. Much like his team, he's been slow out of the blocks this season but if I had to pick one key forward to win a game, it's still Buddy. He still makes defenders extremely nervous when the ball is in his area and he is one of the biggest match-winners to grace an AFL field in the past decade. I'm backing him to return to his best well before the season's out.
JM: Jeremy Cameron. And yes, I still would have said Cameron before his 30-possession, seven-goal game against Richmond. Don't forget, Cameron could have won the Coleman Medal last year if not for his five-game suspension for striking Brisbane's Harris Andrews, and after three games in 2019 he's already established a nice lead in the race for most goals. Add in the fact he's the purest kick for goal amongst the competition's key forwards and it's really an easy choice.
MW: It's hard to go past Tom Hawkins, who has become possibly the most consistent key forward in the game. He's scored at least one goal in his last 20 games, kicked 60 goals and just 29 behinds last year, and ranked elite for goal assists (1.3 per game) and score involvements (8 per game) in 2019. He's only kicked 6.2 so far this year but he's reliable, accurate and selfless.
Will Richmond and/or Melbourne play finals?
NS: Ask me after this weekend! But right now, I've got enormous reservations about both teams. The Tigers are facing an injury crisis they haven't had to endure in recent memory while the Demons have enormous issues all over the park. I see both teams missing the eight because you can only trust what you see right in front of you - and that's two clubs with a lot of ground to make up.
JM: I'm going to ignore recent history and say that both the Tigers and Demons will feature in September. There's still 19 games left in the season and both sides are more than capable of getting on a run and dislodging the many teams currently in the top eight that probably aren't good enough to hold their spots.
MW: Whether Richmond, Melbourne, both or neither play finals might not even be up to them. If they keep falling behind the pack, they may need to rely on other teams to falter. Sure, they could both get on a roll but will they? Probably not. Richmond are in strife with a number of prime movers missing, while the Dees have a lot of defensive deficiencies. At this rate, neither will feature in September.
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What grade would you give Carlton after three rounds?
NS: D+. As we discussed on our podcast, the Blues are somehow avoiding the scrutiny that fellow 'owens' Melbourne and North Melbourne are copping. While the Blues have put up three decent efforts, the cold reality is they're winless and still struggling to kick winning scores. The pressure on Brendon Bolton will go through the roof should they lose to the Suns at Metricon on Sunday.
JM: C. There's going to be plenty of people who think Carlton have been better than that, but honourable losses only take you so far in my books. This year, the Blues are scoring 10 points less than any other side, have trailed in games more than anyone and, most importantly, are still winless. I'm not saying Bolton is under pressure, but he'd want to find a win very, very soon.
MW: C-. Carlton are neither here nor there so far in 2019. It's too early to slap them with an F, but their performances haven't been consistent enough to warrant anything higher. They may well take the four points this week and all of a sudden the pressure will be off. Can they remember how to win, though?
What's a pass mark for the Saints in 2019?
NS: It's amazing to think the Saints could be 3-0 if they had a touch of luck against Freo, and there's a trio of winnable contests to come in the next three rounds: the Hawks, Demons and Crows. Finals are out of the question, in my opinion, but St Kilda should certainly be aiming for nine wins and a percentage of at least 90 after just four victories (percentage of 76) in 2018.
JM: The Saints have been pretty impressive this year and I really liked how they fought back from five goals down against the Dockers on the road. Finals is still unrealistic at this point but a seven or eight win season would be a solid result for Alan Richardson and a great improvement from the four wins in 2018.
MW: Considering many people had the Saints in their bottom four at the start of the season, surely anything above that is a pass mark? They've started brightly, but with Hawthorn, Melbourne, Port Adelaide, GWS, West Coast and Collingwood their next six opponents, reality will hit sooner rather than later.