It would appear that, although after this round the home-and-away season will be more than 25 per cent completed, the punters are not convinced that the cream has risen to the top because in three of the four games to be completed on Saturday, the team currently lower on the ladder is a warm favourite to win.
Even in the other game where the clubhouse leader Port Adelaide reigns as the only undefeated club with a percentage more than 100 per cent better than their opponents, Brisbane, the Power are only rated a 50-50 chance of winning.
The first game of the day, West Coast Eagles versus Sydney, is critical for the Eagles as they have not won a game since all clubs returned from their sabbatical leave after Round 1, and while only four points away from the eight, they would be well aware that seven winners from the round will be teams currently ahead of them on the ladder.
Both teams have made two compulsory changes and dropped two others in an attempt to ignite a spark in their ranks. Sydney will be undermanned in the ruck, which augurs well for Nic Naitanui. The four ins for the Eagles are also quality players.
So despite Sydney being keen to celebrate Luke Parker’s 200th game for Sydney and Sam Gray’s 100th AFL game (only four of which will have been at Sydney), I believe West Coast will win, which will also be a disappointment for Swans coach John Longmire, who will be coaching Sydney for the 223rd time, bringing him level with former AFL coaches Neale Daniher (Melbourne) and Gary Ayres (Geelong and Adelaide).
If celebrations do count for anything and can spark extra effort from a team, then Geelong’s chances of winning the second Saturday game will be greatly enhanced as not only is superstar Gary Ablett celebrating his 350th AFL game, but teammates Joel Selwood (300) and John Henry (50) are celebrating milestone games for the Cats.
Ablett will move into equal 16th position on the AFL top 100 game players list with Bulldogs legend Doug Hawkins. Hawkins not only made the number seven jumper famous during his 329-game career at the Bulldogs but also had a part of the outer at Footscray named the Doug Hawkins Wing.
After he left the Bulldogs in 1994 after being a best and fairest (1985), leading goal-kicker (1991) and captain (1990-93), he played one season with Fitzroy, adding another 21 games and 11 goals to his tally.
Selwood will become the fifth Geelong player to play 300 games and join John ‘Sam’ Newman on that number. He will also join a posse of other players from the AFL top 100 game players list who finished their careers on that number.
The third game of the day sees the Western Bulldogs (13th) take on North Melbourne (ninth) in what could be a hard fought game. Both clubs have had periods of excellent skills and toughness and have shown enough to be serious contenders for a final eight position, but need to continue to build.
After a mauling from Collingwood in Round 1, the Bulldogs lost their Round 2 match against the much improved Saints but have now put together two good wins in a row. On this form, I believe they will have the measure of North Melbourne.
In the final game of the Saturday, we will see how much Port Adelaide have improved from 2019. The four teams they have played include the wooden spooners from last year and the three teams currently on the bottom of the ladder with one win between them.
Brisbane, who lost to Hawthorn before the break, are undefeated since and will test Port Adelaide in the game of the round that will answer the most questions about the make-up of the final eight.