Can you smell freshly-cut grass and liniment oil? AFL football is almost back in full swing.
AS the third week of the pre-season rolls around, AFL coaches begin to show the rest of the competition a little bit more of what they will be focusing on throughout the year tactically, as well as rolling out some of their star power.
From a gambling standpoint, it is still somewhat dangerous to treat the NAB challenge like the regular season, as the threat of benching the better players to restrict the chance of injury is always a lingering threat.
The football week started last Thursday as the Crows travelled down to Geelong to tackle the Cats, who are in a transitional stage after competing for so long towards the top half of the ladder.
Despite only having the lead once in the contest, the Crows never really seemed to be in the match and went down by 19 points.
The two standouts from the game were the new recruits for the Cats, ex-Demon Mitch Clarke and draftee Nakia Cockatoo. Clarke booted six goals for the game, including three in the opening quarter, whilst Cockatoo showed why the Cats took a chance on him in the first round of the 2014 draft, putting his blistering pace and silky skills on display in an eye-catching second half performance.
Cockatoo possesses all the talents that the Rising Star award selectors look for – an award that seemingly favours the flashier players with only two winners in the last decade being key position players.
Sportsbet.com.au has Cockatoo at $12 to take out the 2015 Rising Star award.
Two days later across the border in Albury/Wodonga, Richmond handed a vastly undermanned Port Adelaide 66-point hiding.
The Tigers were able to turn the tables on their capitulation in last year’s finals series, with Dustin Martin running wild all day, gathering possessions at will against a Power team that was missing 10 players from the side that humbled their opponents in the corresponding game in September.
Martin’s form, as well as Richmond coach Damien Hardwick’s post-game admission that the tattooed Tiger will play significant midfield minutes in 2015, points towards a spike in possessions and time around the ball. When a player as dynamic as Martin is able to amass more possessions and impose himself on the contest, it equates to Brownlow medal votes.
WilliamHill.com.au currently has Dustin Martin at $67 to take home the AFL’s most prestigious award in 2015, with the each-way insurance giving you money if he is able to finish the night inside the top 3.
The Swans and the Dockers clashed in the Sydney inner-west suburb of Drummoyne to round out the weekend of pre-season action.
The Swans jumped out to a four-goal margin early in the contest and were never in danger of defeat, despite a late charge from the men from the West.
Sydney welcomed back a host of stars, including Lance Franklin, and it showed. The more mature bodies of the Swan midfielders proved too strong for the Dockers in the wet and windy conditions.
It was the regular contributors that got the job done for the Swans in the end, with Josh Kennedy standing out in the midfield as per usual.
Despite all the star power that the Swans were boasting however, it was one of their newest recruits, Isaac Heeney that was able to make the biggest impression.
The platinum-haired prodigy made his way onto the Swans’ list via their academy program, but many draft pundits suggested that he would go somewhere close to the top-10, and it has taken him only two pre-season games to make an impact.
The Sydney coaches are already raving about Heeney, which suggests he will pull on the red and white come round one – giving him the best possible opportunity to show the rest of the competition exactly what he can do.
WilliamHill.com.au currently has Isaac Heeney at $15 to take out the 2015 Rising Star award, while Josh Kennedy is $21 to take home the Brownlow medal.