mattys123′s NAB Cup Round 1 Preview

Feb 13th, 2013 | By | Category: AFL Match Preview

FOOTY’S BACK, and not a moment too soon either, as the AFL has had to endure one of the worst off season’s in the codes history, with everything from tanking to systematic use of performance enhancing drugs being investigated since that epic Grand Final back in September. Rather than focus on what has gone wrong in the off season, I’ll choose to move forward here and look at what is coming up, and that is the first fixture of the NAB Cup for 2013 involving Collingwood, Essendon and the Western Bulldogs on Friday Night. Yep, that’s right, the AFL has chosen once again to bring back the three team round robin fixture, although football fans will only have to sit through one split round of weird fixtures before somewhat normal football returns in the pre season competition. Once again though there are plenty of experimental and rules that can only be explained as there for entertainment value, such as the nine pointer for a goal outside 50, but it’s the NAB Cup and that’s what fans have come to expect, and accept.

On Friday Night at Etihad Stadium, the season begins with the Dogs, Bombers and Pies going head to head against each other in the pre season opener, and if you ignore all the off season problems associated with at least two of the clubs involved, the three scheduled games actually have a rather enticing look to them. In one corner you have the young and precocious Bulldogs, a side that has struggled since sacking long time coach Rodney Eade, but who most agree is building up a very good young list that could fight for premiership contention in a few years time. The Dogs don’t have much of a choice, they really can’t afford to entice big name free agents to the club, they have to build their future up the hard way through the draft and through smart recruiting, and with some of the most talented young players in the AFL on their list, they seem to be on the right track, long term at least.

In the other corner we have Essendon, a side who at once stage last year looked like a top four, and therefore a premiership threat, before a plethora of soft tissue injuries made them uncompetitive against just about any side in the second half of the 2012 home and away season, as they fell away to miss the finals and have yet another early end to their season. The 2012 Bombers showed the talent they have when they have close to their best 22 on the park, but also showed their unhealthy reliance on just a few players, and thus there was the necessity to recruit at least one big name, and that big name came in the form of St Kilda’s drawn Grand Final hero Brendan Goddard, who made the move from the Saints to the Bombers in the free agency period last year.

And last, but not least we have Collingwood, the biggest club in the land, who after the 2010 premiership win and the 2011 Grand Final loss, had a year they’d like to forget as just about everything that could go wrong did, with long term injuries and in house suspensions and the sad death of an ex team mate derailing their chances of premiership glory. The Magpies season ended away from home in the Preliminary Final with a loss to eventual premiers Sydney, and they will be wanting to improve on that in 2013. After a thorough review, the club’s football department knew that the current list wasn’t going to win them another premiership, so the Magpies approached the trade and free agency period with gusto, in the process losing two premiership players (Sharrod Wellingham and Chris Dawes), but somehow managing to pick up two other premiership players (Clinton Young and Quinten Lynch), as well as another experienced footballer (Jordan Russell) and three first round draft picks which if early results are any example have been put to sensational use. Magpie fans are obviously looking forward to getting their first look at the mature aged recruits from other clubs, including a group of VFL rookie listed players, but one youngster has caught the eye of those that have watched pre season training and the intra club matches, and that is Tim Broomhead. Recruited with pick 20 in the National Draft the Port Adelaide native wasn’t expected to go as high as he did, but Collingwood recruiting chief Derek Hine has a knack for drafting players who turn out to be stars despite not being rated too highly by the experts, and already Broomhead looks like one of those ‘Hine Specials’. One player I haven’t mentioned yet is Ben Hudson, who at the ripe old age of 33 has come out of semi retirement to be rookie listed as experienced backup for Darren Jolly, and to assist the development of the young rucks at Collingwood. He has impressed in the pre season, even matching Jolly in the ruck and dominating the youngsters on several occasions. All of these moves added depth to the list and has been seen as a deliberate attempt to enable the coaching staff to rotate up to and over 30 players in and out of the AFL season throughout the home and away rounds, which in turn will maximising the chance of the best 22 being available in September. Each side can play up to 34 players on the weekend and you’d expect Collingwood to take full advantage of that, with just about every fit player making an appearance.

There’s also been talk in the last few days that the Magpies will make a dramatic change to their famous ‘around the boundary’ ball movement style and instead endeavour to use the corridor more when attacking. This will be a massive change to the successful gameplan that Mick Malthouse implemented and used for his 12 seasons with the club, but in his second season head coach Nathan Buckley has always wanted to put his stamp on this team, and this may be the beginning of that branding. Out of all the three teams to take to Etihad Stadium on Friday Night, the rest of the competition will be watching the Magpies the closest just to see how the likely premiership contenders are looking after 5 months of soul searching and redevelopment.

Players who will be missing for the Pies include Dale Thomas, Tyson Goldsack, Lachlan Keefe, Luke Ball and young ruck Brodie Grundy.

Opposition Analysis.

Western Bulldogs

Going into this season the Western Bulldogs have been written off by just about every media outlet that has conducted a pre season preview, yet apart from last season when they fell down the ladder to 15th this club has managed to punch above it’s weight in just about every season for as far back as I can remember. Last year was a horror year for the Dogs though, injuries and form problems hit them hard, and while they’ve lost a supposed top line player in Brian Lake to the Hawks, one may argue that the club’s harmony may well now be better after his departure.

The Bulldogs are in the middle of a rebuild, there’s no secret in that, but what they do possess is some of the best young talent in the AFL, and they topped that talent up very well via the most recent national draft, picking up names like Stringer, Macrae and Hrovat to add to an already impressive list that includes Wallis, Liberatore, Wood, Jones, Cordy and Dalhaus, with all showing last year that the Dogs are heading in the right direction. Although for the Bulldogs to be competitive in 2013 they will rely on their more experienced players to lead the way, and two players that are as vital to them as anyone is Adam Cooney and Ryan Griffen, who at their best are elite standard midfielders who can take control of a game and make a real impact on the scoreboard as well.

One of the main strengths of the Dogs is their ability to win the hard ball as they were ranked 5th for clearances last year, mainly due to the tough work done by stalwarts Matthew Boyd and Daniel Cross, who have formed a partnership that is as tough at the contested ball as just about any in football at the moment. But if you were to point out their biggest weakness, it may actually have been in their game plan in 2012, as despite gather the 3rd most total possessions in the home and away rounds they were ranked 13th for total kicks, which led them to being ranked 16th for goals per game, something which their supporters who have been used to a high scoring side found hard to swallow in 2012.

Whether or not the Western Bulldogs can improve enough in the areas of greatest concern won’t be determined during this Friday night’s fixture, but it may just give us a glimpse into what the Dogs of 2013 can do on the field to start their rise up the ladder once again.


Take away the last few weeks and the chaos that has ensued and Essendon fans were looking forward towards the 2013 season with hope and promise after a good pre season, both in terms or recruitment and preparation for the new season. How the problems the club faces over the coming weeks and months will effect their 2013 season can not be fully estimated, so it may be wise to just assess what they have at the moment, rather than what they might face down the road.

The Essendon side of 2012 showed that when near it’s full capacity it could be a threat to anyone in the competition, and in 2013 they should only improve due to an increase in depth and the recruitment of the big two, in Brendan Goddard and Joe Daniher. In Daniher they have a player that every Essendon supporter wants to speak about, at 201cm and with the ability to cover ground like a player in the low 190′s height range, Daniher surely would have gone to GWS in the first three picks if the Dons had not had first crack at him under the father/son rule. The club will look to take the pressure of the youngster in 2013 and beyond but the club needs a key forward to hang it’s hat on, and surely the son of Anthony will be that man.

At the moment though, the Bombers starting midfield looks on paper to be one of their strengths, with reigning Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson ably assisted by the likes of Stanton, Heppell and now Goddard. But as strong as those names are, they do lack to depth to support them, with the Bombers only ranked 14th for clearances and 13th for overall disposals last year.

Their greatest strength may be their ruck stocks, with choice again between Patrick Ryder, Tom Bellchambers and David Hille Essendon could lay claim to one of the best ruck departments in the AFL, and that showed last year as 5th in hitouts for and 2nd in allowed hitouts against.

Football these days relies on the strength of your midfield as much, if not more than any other area so Essendon will have to hope some of their youngsters can take that next step and assist the big names in the middle.


Coming soon.


In the first match Essendon faces the Western Bulldogs in a matchup between two young lists that is very likely to be closely fought out. How the Bombers players react after the last two weeks of off field upheaval is unpredictable, but I believe it may just tip the scales to the Dogs who will want to make an impression first up. Dogs by 8 points.

The second match sees the Bulldogs back up to take on Collingwood as the Bombers get a rest. Collingwood are probably the worst hit of the teams for injuries, but will still go in as favourites against a Bulldogs outfit that might tire towards the end of the second half, their fourth quarter. Basically for that reason I’ll tip Collingwood by 11 points.

The third match and obviously the final one of the evening sees an ANZAC day preview of sorts and a rematch of the 2011 NAB Cup Grand Final as heavyweights Collingwood and Essendon go head to head. One would suspect the Bombers may actually play better in their second match as they’ll of had the time to get all nerves and tension out of their bodies in the first hitout versus the Dogs. I expect this game to be very close, but just suspect that the superior Collingwood midfield and backline will be the difference in a tight game, Collingwood by 4 points.

You Can read more of  mattys123 previews and other sports related posting over on his site at SportsMatt 

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