It’s now or never for Richmond.
Ever the tease over the past three years, the Tigers, as usual, open the season against long-time rival Carlton.
Despite missing Brett Deledio, Ivan Maric, and new recruit Chris Yarran, they are still expected to beat them – and do it easily.
However, Carlton is the least of Richmond’s worries in 2016.
After losing the last three elimination finals, winning a final is the bare minimum for them this year.
The club has extended coach Damien Hardwick’s contract for another two years and will hope midfielder Dustin Martin continues his excellent form.
The difference between the Tigers being successful or not this year lies with Trent Cotchin, though.
If he can return to his 2012 form that almost saw him win a Brownlow Medal, Richmond will almost certainly take another step closer to winning their next premiership.
The Weekend Preview
The Easter Monday blockbuster between Hawthorn and Geelong. Despite this contest favouring Hawthorn in recent years, you can’t help but feel it’ll be much closer this time as the Cats have added serious quality to their list. This should be close.
Most at Stake
Richmond. Yes, they have some stars out, but they should still beat Carlton convincingly. Talkback radio will be flooded with calls and angry fans if the Tigers stutter.
The Bulldogs to beat Fremantle – and fairly comfortably. If the Dogs are a good thing this year, and if they are going to live up to the hype, then they need to beat the Dockers on their home track at Etihad Stadium.
Essendon won’t get within 10 goals of Gold Coast. It might be an easy call to make, but it must be said. This is going to be the start of a long season for Essendon.
One to Watch
Clayton Oliver from Melbourne. This young, tough midfielder has had a fantastic pre-season and I expect him to back it up in a win against GWS. He’ll go close to winning the Rising Star Award this year.
Slimmer key forwards. Jack Riewoldt has never been the most robust forward, but he has trimmed down significantly over the off-season and is moving better than ever. Is this something we will see from other forwards this season?
Feeling the Heat
Collingwood’s Travis Cloke. In the last year of his current contract, he’d want to perform or potentially find himself on the trade table at season’s end. Kicking 50 goals should be the expectation.
Carlton’s Nick Graham has been banging the door down to get picked over pre-season. He’s lacked regular opportunities since being drafted, but has performed well over the last month. He well and truly deserves his spot against the Tigers.
Which talented midfielder of a high-profile Melbourne-based club was told to lose 10 kilograms in the off-season or be banished to the reserves?
Don’t Set the IQ
Gold Coast versus Essendon. This will be an absolute blowout. Do something better with your time!
John Feeney also writes for www.footyprophet.com – football and fantasy analysis unravelled.