Collingwood players get ready for the club's 2013 team photo
The Crows rested their 10 best players for their round one NAB Cup clashes against St Kilda and Port Adelaide. That opened the door for some young players, but also allowed those just outside the top 10 to take on a more important role. Midfielder Matthew Wright was the pick of the bunch, showing why he's likely to take a big step after a great 2012. The hard-at-it Aidan Riley also stood out. Wonderkid Brad Crouch enjoyed his first taste of AFL and backed it up as the club's highest possession-getter in Adelaide's trial against Fremantle at the weekend. Scott Thompson, Ben Rutten, Brent Reilly, Jason Porplyzia and Sam Jacobs could all play their first football for 2013 against Geelong on Saturday, while the race to fill Kurt Tippett's position as a forward/second ruck is still on in earnest, so expect Josh Jenkins, Shaun McKernan, Lewis Johnston and Angus Graham to keep pushing their cases.
The Lions made a perfect two-for-two start and gave coach Michael Voss a few selection headaches. With co-captain Jed Adcock to come back against GWS on Saturday, the half-back line is getting congested following excellent showings from Mitch Golby, Elliot Yeo and James Polkinghorne. Brent Moloney starred in his Lions' debut, while Pat Karnezis reveled in the midfield to put his hand up for regular selection. Jonathan Brown, Simon Black, Pearce Hanley and Brent Staker may still be missing, but the Lions have a shot at winning the pre-season competition now and want to keep the winning form going.
Mick Malthouse admitted his side will take a little while coming to grips with his new game-plan, but on Sunday the Blues had a few more avenues to goal which will please the new coach. The Blues appeared to kick long on most occasions and use the boundary line more, working towards key talls Sam Rowe and Levi Casboult. Having been through illness last year with testicular cancer, Rowe returned to show his marking and goalkicking ability in wins against Greater Western Sydney and the Sydney Swans. Another change under Malthouse could see Eddie Betts spend more time in the middle after some classy efforts there on the weekend.
The big debate at Collingwood this week is player management versus priorities. A win over West Coast at Patersons Stadium on Sunday night will likely mean that the winner of the game the following week against the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium makes the NAB Cup Grand Final. But there will be just six days between the two matches and a cross-country flight as well, so the likelihood is the Pies will take a younger squad to Perth on the weekend and spare some of their big names from playing in the expected 32-degree heat in Western Australia. Tyson Goldsack and Alex Fasolo returned from injury in last Friday's intra-club clash and can expect to be on the plane to Perth. Vice-captain Luke Ball's return from a knee reconstruction will come on Saturday week against the Lions.
The Bombers probably would have played a side closer to full-strength in the first round of the NAB Cup if not for injuries. But it didn't stop Essendon from looking pretty good against the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood on the opening night of the pre-season competition, with new recruit Brendon Goddard the standout. Goddard's skills through the midfield, coupled with his leadership, was evident from the moment he stepped onto Etihad Stadium and he looms as a huge part of Essendon's plans. Nick Kommer could push straight into the Bombers' starting line-up after an impressive start as a small forward and dogged midfielder.
Fremantle used just 26 players across its opening two NAB Cup matches before a further six – including key midfielders David Mundy and Nat Fyfe – were given match practice in a trial game against Adelaide last Saturday. With ruckman Aaron Sandilands (hamstring) sidelined for up to eight weeks, coach Ross Lyon will focus on building chemistry between his midfielders and ruckmen Jon Griffin, Zac Clarke and recruit Jack Hannath, who is an outside chance to play in round one. Captain Matthew Pavlich, who is back in full training after recovering from hip, back and Achilles tendon operations, could return against Carlton in round two, pending the birth of his first child. Michael Barlow, Stephen Hill and Michael Walters have impressed early.
The Cats welcomed a number of new players into their team when they took on West Coast and Fremantle on the opening weekend of the NAB Cup. Former Gold Coast midfielder Josh Caddy showed glimpses of his talent, kicking the first goal in the narrow victory over the Eagles, while ex-Melbourne defender Jared Rivers slotted nicely into Geelong's backline. Both Rivers and Caddy are likely to be picked for Saturday's clash with Adelaide at Simonds Stadium. Speedy midfielder Travis Varcoe will also take on the Crows. Varcoe, who was restricted to just one game last year due to a foot stress fracture, looked his old self against the Eagles, snapping a great goal late in the game. But a rolled ankle is set to keep Mathew Stokes on the sidelines this weekend.
It was a mixed bag in round one, but the good outweighed the bad. Rory Thompson locked down his key defensive post with an outstanding display against Lance Franklin, while Harley Bennell was full of class, former Fremantle defender Greg Broughton was solid, and young midfielders Jaeger O'Meara, Jesse Lonergan and Jack Martin showed enough to suggest the Suns are in good hands long term. There was a noticeable drop-off against the Lions when they rested centre square trio Zac Smith, captain Gary Ablett and Karmichael Hunt. Watch for Ablett and Michael Rischitelli to get more minutes against North Melbourne on Saturday after disrupted pre-seasons.
Greater Western Sydney
GWS made it clear leading up to round one of the NAB Cup its intention to pick its best available side and attempt to be extremely competitive. Following a two-point defeat to Carlton and a four-goal victory over the Sydney Swans, its mission has been accomplished so far. A host of youngsters, including Jonathon Patton, Adam Treloar, Anthony Miles, Adam Kennedy and Liam Sumner, quickly showed the benefits of pre-season training and are right on track for round one. No.1 draft pick Lachie Whitfield also performed well. Callan Ward (knee) and Bret Thornton (rested) should face the Brisbane Lions in Wagga this week and coach Kevin Sheedy will have some looming selection headaches due to the newfound depth at his disposal.
The Hawks won't be too concerned by the weekend's losses in Queensland, particularly given they left their entire frontline midfield at home. Coach Alastair Clarkson used Ryan Schoenmakers forward and Jarryd Roughead at centre half-back, and it wouldn't surprise to see those roles reprised at Etihad Stadium on Friday night against the Western Bulldogs. Rookie-listed small forward Derick Wanganeen and recruit Jonathan Simpkin both put their names up for further opportunities with good performances. Brian Lake will miss facing his old team because of calf soreness, while Cyril Rioli will be sidelined for at least two weeks with an ankle sprain. Small forward Paul Puopolo will also miss after suffering bone bruising to his knee late in the loss to Gold Coast, but the club seems optimistic he'll be fit for round one.
Melbourne threw 10 players into senior football in a Demons jumper for the first time in round one of the NAB Cup and you can expect a young team to head to Renmark for round two against Port Adelaide. Jesse Hogan – who is ineligible for senior football until 2014 – was most impressive. Jack Viney and Jimmy Toumpas have promising futures, while recycled players Chris Dawes, Shannon Byrnes and David Rodan looked organised and capable of giving their teammates confidence. Dean Kent, Matt Jones, Tom Gillies, James Magner, Neville Jetta and Aaron Davey will push their case for some early season AFL action in the next three weeks.
North's wealth of tall options seems to get richer by the game, with coach Brad Scott facing some selection dilemmas ahead of round one. Majak Daw added to his highlights reel against Melbourne and Richmond last Friday night and should get another chance to push his case against Gold Coast on Saturday. Ruckman Dan Currie also impressed last Friday night and, along with Daw, would appear to be vying with Lachie Hansen and Robbie Tarrant for two key-forward spots alongside Drew Petrie. Key defender Nathan Grima, forward Leigh Adams and former Gold Coast defender Taylor Hine missed Friday night's games but could return against the Suns.
Port fielded a new-look line-up in its NAB Cup games against the Crows and St Kilda with nine players debuting for the club. Angus Monfries looked in brilliant nick before injuring his hamstring and pocket rocket Jake Neade showed why post-trade wraps on him were so big with several impressive passages of play and a goal. Hamish Hartlett was strong and clever, Jay Schulz continued on from his five-goal half in the club's trial against its SANFL side, while rookie Kane Mitchell also raised some eyebrows. Against Melbourne in Renmark on Sunday, the Power could inject ruckman Matthew Lobbe into the side if his hamstring is up to it and would hope to see continued improvement by potential stars Jasper Pittard, Chad Wingard and Matthew Broadbent.
The Tigers fielded a strong squad in round one of the NAB Cup with only Jake King, Troy Chaplin, Nathan Foley, Dylan Grimes and Sam Lonergan out. All except for Foley are chances to play this week or next. Ricky Petterd, Ivan Maric and Aaron Edwards played one game each last Friday, with Matt White, Orren Stephenson and Luke McGuane replacing them in the second. Nick Vlastuin impressed in the middle and Chris Knights had eight disposals against North. Richmond would have loved to pinch the win against North but Damien Hardwick's decision to leave Trent Cotchin, Brett Deledio, Dustin Martin and Shane Tuck on the bench in the dying stages indicates it wasn't paramount.
Nick Riewoldt, Lenny Hayes, Sam Fisher, Sean Dempster and Adam Schneider were among those who didn't play against Adelaide and Port Adelaide but all are expected to feature over the next few weeks. The Saints thrashed a depleted Adelaide team before being belted by a fresh Power outfit in a searing South Australian heat that irked Scott Watters later on. WAFL recruit Tom Lee was better in the second game and former Gold Coast big man Tom Hickey acquitted himself well in the ruck, while the newly-named Beau Maister impressed with a pair of goals and strong marking.
A month behind some clubs due to its march to the 2012 premiership, the Swans still picked an extremely young, experimental line-up for round one of the NAB Cup to see who was ready for senior football. Two disappointing defeats were not what the coaching staff was seeking. Tony Armstrong and Luke Parker were two of the only players to stand out. While they tried some youngsters, the Swans are also well aware of the immediate need to get some miles into their veterans' legs. In the coming weeks, Nick Smith, Marty Mattner and Adam Goodes will be wheeled out. Coach John Longmire will also be expecting a far more competitive showing throughout the pre-season after the club failed to produce its trademark effort in week one.
Ruckman Dean Cox is expected to return from a finger injury against Collingwood in round two of the NAB Cup after missing the Eagles' opening clashes. With Cox and Nic Naitanui (groin) sidelined in round one of the pre-season competition, young ruckman Scott Lycett and recruit Callum Sinclair were given opportunities and both impressed. The club used 29 players across the two shortened matches against Geelong and Fremantle, including draftees Adam Carter and Mark Hutchings. The Eagles would still have been reviewing recruit Sharrod Wellingham's impressive start when it emerged he had damaged an ankle on a trampoline and would be ruled out for the rest of the NAB Cup.
The Bulldogs fielded near full-strength sides in the losses to Essendon and Collingwood but showed their best will be competitive in 2013. Prized recruit Jack Macrae impressed with his composure on debut while rookie Brett Goodes put his hand up for elevation to the senior list with a polished performance. Recycled additions Nick Lower and Tom Young showed they'll add grunt and a hard edge to Brendan McCartney's developing list. The Dogs look likely to use the remainder of the pre-season competition to introduce draftees Jake Stringer, Nathan Hrovat and Josh Prudden. Key defender Tom Williams will also need game time after an interrupted preparation due to a foot complaint.'