The 2021 AFL season is well and truly underway, and our experts tackle some of the burning questions ahead of Round 4.
Who has more to lose this week out of Port Adelaide and Richmond?
Rohan Connolly: I think Port Adelaide, simply because we've seen the Tigers recover from a comparative slump even in each of their flag years and know how good they are at hitting a peak when most required. The Power's resilience (since their re-emergence as a force last year) hasn't really been tested in that regard, on top all of last season and never dropping consecutive games. Would a second loss start eating away at their confidence? More of a danger for them, I think.
Jake Michaels: Definitely Port Adelaide. The Tigers have proven they can overcome the occasional poor performance, and with some key players set to miss this week's blockbuster clash, the pressure is well and truly on Port. Ken Hinkley's side has only beaten North Melbourne and Essendon and were absolutely outclassed by West Coast in Round 3. We're about to find out what they're made of in 2021.
Matt Walsh: The Power, purely because we've seen Richmond recover from lapses in-season before - many times. They're a unit you know can shake off a bad performance quickly and professionally, and while Port were minor premiers last year, they aren't as trustworthy as the Tigers just yet.
Jarryd Barca: Port Adelaide has more to lose, particularly after last week's horror show at Optus Stadium. It's the Power who still need to prove they're a premiership contender, and beating North Melbourne and Essendon -- albeit looking slick in doing so -- won't cut it. Good sides know how to respond and this is their chance to do so.
Is a player kicking 10 goals in a match good for the game?
RC: Can you seriously argue it's not? Of course it is. You only had to hear the crowd noise any time Josh Bruce went near the ball on Good Friday as his goal tally grew to realise again how much footy fans love seeing big goal hauls and big goalkickers. It's more than 20 years after their departure from the game the names Lockett, Ablett, Dunstall, Modra etc. are still so revered. All we've done is restore some balance, it's not like we're seeing basketball-type shootouts, is it?
JM: Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing all the Dogs players getting around Josh Bruce after his big haul, but do I want to see it every week? No. Kicking a bag of 10 shouldn't be something which happens weekly, otherwise it totally cheapens the achievement. I'm happy for it to be a once or twice per year occurance.
MW: I see what Jake is saying, but it's a unique vibe when a player is on track to bag 10 goals. There's an air of anticipation in the crowd, the coach often clears out the forward line and -- if a player is a chance to kick 10 -- it breathes life into what would normally be a dead game. It's exciting!
JB: There's not many better sights than seeing players kick goals for fun, so I think it's great for the game! But I do hope a forward reaching the double digits remains a rare event. The key forward-friendly rule changes have been great for our stay-at-home goal kickers, but heaven forbid it becomes too easy for them!
Will the Saints play finals this year?
RC: I'll back them in. It's certainly been a pretty horrendous start, hardly helped by various injuries and disruptions, but I think their cattle is of very good quality, and we still are yet to see key players in the structure like Rowan Marshall, Paddy Ryder and Dan Hannebery. Most of all, we've seen just three games. Would have thought the remaining 19 still left enough time to turn things around.
JM: I had them in the eight before the season started but if you were letting me make changes to my ladder, they would definitely be dropping out. The lack of pressure and intensity against the Bombers was disgraceful and the loss of star midfielder Jade Gresham will only make things harder. Have a look at their upcoming games and they could easily be 1-5. I doubt they're making it from there.
MW: I had them just squeezing in before the season, but their upcoming fixture could have them in a 1-5 hole (West Coast at home, Richmond at home, Port Adelaide away) which is going to be tough to recover from. Their skills are lacking at the moment, and Brett Ratten can't seem to apply the defensive clamps when needed. There are too many 'middle of the pack' teams better than them right now, so I think they miss.
JB: Nope. I had them missing the eight prior to the season and now it's an officially line through their name. I know we're only three rounds in and there's time for the Saints to improve (drastically), but based on the damning evidence from Saturday night, they're simply nowhere near it.
What will be the main storyline out of the Gold Coast-Carlton game?
RC: I don't see anything particularly headline-grabbing short of an unexpected injury to a star to be honest. I see them both as teams on the improve but nothing special particularly. Given the Suns' injury woes (Jarrod Witts is a massive loss) you'd expect the Blues to win this time, but a loss to Gold Coast at Metricon isn't exactly a shock result these days given their competitiveness.
JM: Move over Matt Rowell, Sam Walsh is the best player in the AFL aged under 21 and a player who is on track for All-Australian selection. In many ways, Rowell's arrival last year saw us forget about Walsh, but the No. 1 draft pick of 2018 is improving at a rapid rate. He dominated last week against the Dockers and I expect his elite running power to be too much for the Suns to handle.
MW: Harry McKay has kicked 10 goals. No joke, given the Suns' big issues with rucks (Witts, Zac Smith and backup Matt Conroy are all injured), the Blues should dominate centre clearances and give Harry silver service. We saw Tex last week kick another five against the Suns - Harry may go bigger.
JB: Charlie who? McKay's the man. Carlton spearhead Harry McKay kicking seven goals on the weekend was just the beginning. The 204cm contested marking beast is near impossible to negate with the new rules and I have no doubts he will continue to slaughter teams this year - the battered Suns next on his hit list. Curnow may have hogged up all the hype in their rebuild, but big Harry is the number one forward.