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2024 Toyota AFL Premiership
Walyalup v Kuwarna
Round 3 •
69 9.15
Kennedy - Official Timekeeper Full Time
34 4.10
Dockers Won By 35
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    R3 preview: Winless Grand Finalists do battle in huge match-up

    Collingwood travels to Brisbane in what is shaping as a season-defining clash

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    Darcy Moore and Harris Andrews pose with the premiership cup during AFL Captains Day at Marvel Stadium on February 26, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

    SIX months after one of the greatest Grand Finals of all time, Collingwood and Brisbane have become the first two teams to play off in the decider then both back it up with a 0-2 start.

    The Magpies have even gone one worse with a third straight loss while the Lions were licking their wounds last week during a bye. 

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    One of the Grand Finalists will at least break through for a first win of the season, unless there is a draw, when the two sides open round three at the Gabba on Thursday, March 28.

    Arch-rivals Hawthorn and Geelong have been evenly matched with four wins each over the past six years and will complete the round with the traditional Easter Monday blockbuster.

    Here is who and what to look out for across round three, as well as a tip for each of the matches.

    22:27

    Brisbane v Collingwood, Gabba
    Thursday, March 28, 6:30pm AEST

    Last time: Collingwood 12.18 (90) d Brisbane 13.8 (86), Grand Final 2023

    What it means
    Brisbane (0-2) has blown hot and cold, then hot again, in its two losses this season. Scintillating starts have been followed by poor second and third terms that have left the Lions with too much to do in belated fightbacks. A return to the Gabba, where Brisbane's loss to Carlton in Opening Round was its first at the venue in 15 matches, should only boost a side looking to bounce back in the Grand Final rematch.

    Collingwood (0-3) has become just the fifth reigning premier to lose the first three matches of the following season and is quickly running out of time to turn its form around. History is already against the Magpies as no side has been 0-3 then made the top four since 2007, while you have to go back to 1976 to find the last similarly sluggish starter that reached the Grand Final.

    Josh Daicos and his teammates walk off the ground after the R2 match between Collingwood and St Kilda at the MCG on March 21, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

    Game shapers
    Brisbane was outmuscled by Fremantle's midfield while losing the clearance and contested ball counts in its defeat before the bye. Hugh McCluggage had the opportunity to lead the way in the absence of dual Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale, and while the smooth mover found enough of the ball on the outside he should be out to have a similar impact at the coalface in this high-stakes clash.

    The blowtorch has turned onto Collingwood captain Darcy Moore as the leader of a defence that has seen an average of 103 points kicked against them in three defeats this season. Moore can be a master of reading the play and sets up the way that the Magpies like to play from the backline, but might need to go back to basics with their season in danger of drifting away.

    Early tip: Brisbane by 11 points

    02:02

    North Melbourne v Carlton, Marvel Stadium
    Friday, March 29, 4:20pm AEDT

    Last time: Carlton 16.11 (107) d North Melbourne 11.18 (84), R4 2023

    What it means
    North Melbourne (0-2) gave a glimpse into the future with a blazing start against Fremantle that might have looked even hotter but for some wayward set shots. The Kangaroos then returned to the familiar problems of the past as they were quickly overrun in the second half, making a four-quarter effort in the seventh Good Friday SuperClash even more crucial if only to show progress in their landmark match.

    Carlton (2-0) went into its early-season bye with two narrow wins in the bag but surely well aware that its record could just as easily have been flipped. The Blues now have an opportunity to entrench their place near the top of the ladder against the young Kangaroos, while the return bout in round 19 will be the first time the teams have played each other twice in a season since 2008.

    Players from North Melbourne and Carlton run through a joint banner before the R4 match at Marvel Stadium on Good Friday on April 7, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Game shapers
    North Melbourne powerhouse Cameron Zurhaar has shown in the past that he can perform on the big stage and booted 3.4 against Carlton in last year's Good Friday SuperClash. The restricted free agent has three goals from two matches so far this season but Zurhaar will need to have more impact for the Roos to stun the Blues. 

    Charlie Curnow generally punished the poorer teams in his back-to-back Coleman Medal seasons, including with nine goals in two matches against North Melbourne. The Blues' spearhead will be eyeing another bag against the Roos' inexperienced defence while needing one major to have kicked at least a goal in 50 consecutive matches.

    Early tip: Carlton by 22 points

    01:39

    Fremantle v Adelaide, Optus Stadium
    Friday, March 29, 4:30pm AWST

    Last time: Adelaide 17.9 (111) d Fremantle 10.12 (72), R4 2023

    What it means
    Fremantle (2-0) has been one of the surprise packets with two victories after overcoming slow starts. While the Dockers will gladly bank the eight points from their upset over Brisbane and an expected win against North Melbourne, they now have an opportunity to make a strong statement against fellow finals hopefuls on their own home deck.

    Steady progression from Adelaide (0-2) over the past four seasons was broadly expected to continue this year in the push for a first finals appearance since 2017. But the Crows are already on the ropes and need to turn around a 2-9 record away from Adelaide Oval since the start of last year, to start winning on the road and stay in touch with the top eight.

    Brandon Walker tackles Izak Rankine during the R4 match between Fremantle and Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on April 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Game shapers
    Fremantle settled back into its preferred forward set-up with the return of Matt Taberner alongside Jye Amiss and Josh Treacy last week. Luke Jackson is another goal threat but Amiss looms as the Dockers' long-term focal point, although the sharpshooter that goals with almost 70 per cent of his scoring shots will want to make amends for a rare off-day with 1.3 against North Melbourne.

    Adelaide is the top clearance team so far this season with an average of 45 and has also had the equal-most inside 50s with 60 a game. But the Crows' midfield needs a spark and slicker skills from the likes of Izak Rankine to make the most of their strength around stoppages that has led to only 13 marks inside 50 – the fewest of all teams.

    Early tip: Fremantle by 14 points

    02:02

    Essendon v St Kilda, Marvel Stadium
    Saturday, March 30, 4:20pm AEDT

    Last time: St Kilda 14.8 (92) d Essendon 11.8 (74), R3 2023

    What it means
    Essendon (1-1) has drawn a line in the sand with its intention to play with a physical edge but now needs to back it up on the scoreboard even when the tide is against the side. The Bombers were unable to contain Sydney's speed on transitions as they leaked 36 scores, and will have to tighten up their defence against a St Kilda outfit looking to play much the same way. 

    St Kilda (1-1) has impressed with its pacey play in its opening two matches, but benefited as much from full-field defence against Collingwood as it led tackles inside 50 by 10-1. The Saints were also able to slow down the reigning premier's ball movement while knowing when to put the foot down themselves, and have the slick ball carriers to test the Bombers' injury-hit defence. 

    Liam Stocker celebrates during the round two match between St Kilda and Collingwood at the MCG, March 21, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

    Game shapers
    While Peter Wright and Sam Draper made their presence felt against Sydney, Zach Merrett was leading the attack in his own determined way. The Bombers skipper added two goals to his typical haul of disposals against the Swans, and is winning more of his own ball than ever before this season with an average 11 contested disposals as well as 5.5 tackles a game. 

    St Kilda is looking to get the ball into Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera's hands at any opportunity as the 21-year-old and his sublime skills become critical to turning defence into attack. Wanganeen-Milera had 32 disposals against Collingwood while again showing that his classy ball use is a key strength for the Saints.  

    Early tip: St Kilda by 17 points

    03:11

    Port Adelaide v Melbourne, Adelaide Oval
    Saturday, March 30, 7:00pm ACDT

    Last time: Port Adelaide 11.14 (80) d Melbourne 11.10 (76), R10 2023

    What it means
    Port Adelaide (2-0) faces arguably its first true test of its season after brushing aside West Coast and Richmond despite some wayward kicking for goal. The Power's midfield is popping with Zac Butters and Connor Rozee in sublime touch, while key forwards Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall and Jeremy Finlayson have already combined for 12 goals.

    Melbourne (2-1) is up and running with a pair of comfortable victories over Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs but will now take on a fellow top-four hopeful with issues at both ends. Injuries to Steven May and Jack Lever might not be as bad as first feared but will still disrupt the Demons' strength in defence while perhaps limiting their options in attack.

    00:57

    Game shapers
    Charlie Dixon's eyes will be lighting up at the prospect of taking on a Melbourne defence hit by injury as Port Adelaide's key forward looks to continue his bright start to the campaign. Dixon has five goals from the Power's opening two matches as he remains a tough match-up whether near goal or pinch-hitting in the ruck.

    Melbourne has been waiting to add Harrison Petty to its forward mix since he was sidelined a couple of weeks after booting six goals against Richmond late last year. But Petty returned to his original role with the Demons' backline ravaged by injury last week, and looks set to help shore up the defence again before being given further opportunities near goal.

    Early tip: Port Adelaide by five points

    02:45

    Western Bulldogs v West Coast, Marvel Stadium
    Sunday, March 31, 1:00pm AEDT

    Last time: West Coast 14.8 (92) d Western Bulldogs 12.13 (85), R23 2023

    What it means
    The Western Bulldogs (1-1) will need little reminder of the threat that an under-fire West Coast can pose after paying a hefty price for a shock defeat when the sides met in round 23 last year. The Bulldogs missed the finals, then began this season with clouds hanging over them after a lacklustre loss to Melbourne, but have finally kickstarted their campaign with a resounding win over Gold Coast.

    There were worrying signs for West Coast (0-2) as it was stuck on two goals until the final term against the high-flying GWS, but a spirited showing from there at least stopped the bleeding. The Eagles will be looking for small wins at this stage and outscoring the opposition in a quarter for the first time this season currently seems like a reasonable goal.

    Jamie Cripps celebrates a goal during West Coast's clash against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium in round 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Game shapers
    The Bulldogs have a surplus of tall forwards to choose from but it was livewire Cody Weightman who booted the first two goals of the clash with Gold Coast to light up the match. Weightman had four majors before the first change and finished with an equal career-high six, and will be licking his lips at the possibility of another bag against the inexperienced West Coast defence.

    West Coach veteran Jeremy McGovern is set to see more of the ball than he would like this season but there are few players better positioned to teach a young defence how to set up. McGovern has been sidelined for significant periods in every season since 2019, but turned back the clock against GWS and should relish the challenge against the Bulldogs' multiple key forwards.

    Early tip: Western Bulldogs by 42 points

    02:33

    Richmond v Sydney, MCG
    Sunday, March 31, 4:00pm AEDT

    Last time: Richmond 12.16 (88) d Sydney 11.9 (75), R17 2023

    What it means
    Richmond (0-3) will be sick of the honourable losses but faces a tough test to break the pattern against an in-form Sydney. The Tigers' surge style that served them so well in their three-premiership era is being tweaked under new coach Adem Yze, but they need to quickly find fresh ways to move the ball forward with only West Coast having a worse inside 50 differential than their -15.3.

    Sydney (3-0) is making the most of having attacking weapons all over the field as it continues to impress during an undefeated opening to the season. The Swans look sharp and are finding goals from the midfield as well as their enviable mix of forwards, and it feels like only complacency might dull their bright start.

    00:36

    Game shapers
    Liam Baker led the way as Richmond made a late charge against Port Adelaide and finished with three goals as well as 23 disposals. The versatile Baker is now winning more of his own ball at stoppages and around the ground, but this week might be more focused on limiting the impact of the Swans' prime movers.

    Sydney has been able to rely on a spread of goalkickers and it was Tom Papley's turn to load up against Essendon. Papley booted four majors as well as gathering 24 disposals, but arguably did as much damage when tripling-down on post-match comments about the Bombers' physical approach. The small forward is more likely than most to relish the extra attention and can be expected to back it up his words with action on the MCG.

    Early tip: Sydney by 33 points

    02:21

    Hawthorn v Geelong, MCG
    Monday, April 1, 3:20pm AEDT

    Last time: Geelong 19.13 (127) d Hawthorn 6.9 (45), R4 2023

    What it means
    Hawthorn (0-2) tried and failed to paper over the cracks with a controlled and cautious approach against Melbourne but would be better served by focusing on lifting its intensity around the ball. The Hawks have the worst average clearance differential this season at -10.5 while also sitting last for tackle differential at -20, but have an opportunity to tidy up both areas against their heated rivals.

    Geelong (2-0) has made an ominous start to the season with a pair of victories over other top-eight hopefuls despite injuries and late withdrawals to important players. The Cats will have to overcome more injury concerns with captain Patrick Dangerfield sidelined, but are showing enough signs that they are purring even with their best still to come.

    Ollie Henry marks in front of Blake Hardwick during the R4 match between Geelong and Hawthorn at the MCG on April 10, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

    Game shapers
    Hawthorn skipper James Sicily will be out to inspire a side looking down in several areas but also needs to get his own game humming after a couple of disappointing displays. Sicily is at his best when he finds the right balance between defence and attack, and will have little choice but to mind an opponent this week against the Cats' twin towers. 

    Power forward Tom Hawkins is showing few signs of slowing down as he reaches 350 games when Geelong faces Hawthorn on Easter Monday. Hawkins booted four goals against Adelaide, including three in 12 minutes as the Cats pulled away in the third term, in a reminder of the impact he can have even at the age of 35.

    Early tip: Geelong by 38 points

    02:20

    Dockers extend unbeaten run with victory over winless Crows

    Fremantle remains undefeated after securing a 35-point win for Adelaide on Good Friday

    Jye Amiss celebrates after scoring a goal during the match between Fremantle and Adelaide at Optus Stadium in round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

    FREMANTLE has continued its undefeated start to the season, beating Adelaide by 35 points at Optus Stadium in a Good Friday scrap, leaving the Crows winless as they prepare to launch Gather Round in six days.

    In a low-scoring game full of skill errors and missed opportunities, it was the Dockers who composed themselves when the game was on the line, winning 9.15 (69) to 4.10 (34) and celebrating their best start to a season since 2015.

    DOCKERS v CROWS Full match coerage and stats

    Only 10 points separated the teams at three-quarter time after neither could capitalise on their chances in the third term, but the Dockers were ruthless in the run home, kicking four unanswered goals as a bumper crowd of 51,037 made Good Friday football in Perth a success.

    06:11

    Bailey Banfield, Josh Treacy, Matt Taberner and Michael Frederick all kept their cool when chances presented and slotted goals, while a brilliant, in-form backline kept the Crows at bay during their forays forward.

    Captain Alex Pearce and sidekick Luke Ryan continued excellent starts to the season, keeping Taylor Walker and Darcy Fogarty to a combined 0.3 while also setting up the Dockers' attack with their intercepting ability.

    01:22

    Speedster Jordan Clark (26 and seven marks) put his pressure game and composure with the ball to good use, while midfielder Hayden Young (32 and eight clearances) built strongly into the game to become the main architect of the Dockers' ball movement through the middle with his piercing kicking skills and strong body.

    Michael Walters was electric early and could have kicked a big bag if not for inaccuracy, finishing with 2.4 from 21 disposals, with Taberner and Jye Amiss adding two each as the game's only other multiple goalkickers.

    00:47

    Adelaide is now 0-3 for the first time since coach Matthew Nicks' first season in 2020 and launches Gather Round against Melbourne next Thursday night in a crunch game for the club.

    They are also at risk of going into that clash without defender Wayne Milera and substitute Lachlan Murphy, who each suffered knee injuries that will require scans. Milera's looked particularly concerning after he was helped from the ground by trainers after landing awkwardly in a marking contest.

    00:57

    The Crows brought pressure and intensity to the contest, but their ability to link up from the midfield with their forward line was well off again, resulting in their lowest score since round 17, 2021.

    With neither Fremantle or Adelaide able to win an opening quarter so far this season and determined to reverse that trend, the pressure was on from the opening bounce as players attacked the contested ball and laid strong tackles.

    Clark's chasedown of Ned McHenry was a highlight in his 50th game for the Dockers, while the Crows forced their opponents into skill errors with their own pressure.

    Both teams looked their best when they could move quickly and kick through the congestion, with Ben Keays kicking the opener after Walker and Josh Rachele pierced through the Dockers with quick transition on the way to a three-point lead at the first break.

    00:42

    The Dockers dominated a second quarter that was full of feeling, if not getting full reward on the scoreboard. They controlled field position with 16 inside 50s to seven, and were the better team in the contest.

    They kicked four behinds in a row, however, before Walters snapped accurately to give the Dockers their first lead of the day. When Young split through a stoppage on the wing and kicked long, Amiss converted off the ground to give Freo an eight-point lead at the main break.

    00:46

    Only two goals were kicked in a scrappy third term, with the game still on the line early in the fourth when the Dockers stepped up and delivered, banking their second straight win off a six-day break to set up a Gather Round blockbuster with 3-0 Carlton next Saturday.

    00:34

    Clark trade paying off for Freo
    During a period in which the focus has been on the players Fremantle has lost, the club's pick-up of Jordan Clark at the end of 2021 is one worth noting. Clark played his 50th game for the Dockers on Friday night and was terrific, continuing a strong third season for the club. The 23-year-old finished with 26 disposals and seven marks, with his clean hands, speed and composure under pressure valuable. It was his chase-down tackle on Ned McHenry in the first quarter, however, that the Dockers will highlight. The price of pick No.22 and a swap of later picks with the Cats was one well worth paying.

    Luke Ryan and Jordan Clark after Fremantle's win over Adelaide at Optus Stadium in round three, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

    Crows forwards in a rut
    The Crows were the highest scoring team of 2023, but on Friday night their firepower was neutralised. It's been a concerning element of the team's 0-3 start, and there are connection issues between the midfield and forward line that clearly impact the ability of Taylor Walker and Darcy Fogarty to hit the scoreboard. But combining for just 0.3 is a major concern. The key duo fell victim to the in-form pairing of Alex Pearce and Luke Ryan, who were stars, but half-forwards Josh Rachele and Izak Rankine were also unable to fire in a game that Freo forced into an armwrestle. 

    Dockers trademark emerging 
    A full-length smother from Sam Switkowski in round one has set the tone for a high-pressure game style that is playing a significant role in the Dockers' 3-0 start to the season. Tom Emmett has followed up with similar efforts, and on Friday night there were desperate chasedown tackles and pressure acts galore as the Dockers become a team intent on doing the little things for each other. While less involved offensively than he has been in the opening two rounds, Caleb Serong led the way with 26 pressure acts, with the tackle count of 62-43 at the end of the game telling a significant story.

    Caleb Serong tackles Jake Soligo during the match between Fremantle and Adelaide at Optus Stadium in round three, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

    ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS

    FREMANTLE        2.2     4.7     5.12    9.15 (69)  
    ADELAIDE           2.5     3.5     4.8     4.10 (34)  

    GOALS
    Fremantle: Taberner 2, Walters 2, Amiss 2, Banfield, Frederick, Treacy
    Adelaide: Burgess, Keays, McHenry, Sholl

    BEST
    Fremantle: Young, Pearce, Ryan, Clark, Fyfe, Walters
    Adelaide: Crouch, Keane, Soligo, Laird, Dawson 

    INJURIES
    Fremantle: Nil
    Adelaide: Milera (knee), Murphy (knee)

    SUBSTITUTES
    Fremantle: Jaeger O'Meara (replaced Tom Emmett at three-quarter time)
    Adelaide:
    Lachlan Murphy (replaced Luke Pedler in the third quarter)

    Crowd: 51,037 at Optus Stadium

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