There is always going to be a ‘first’ in the 2018 AFL season, and it’s the first Saturday night blockbuster of the year. Yes, it’s the ‘battle of the birds’, hawk against magpie, Hawthorn against Collingwood. These two teams didn’t achieve much in 2017, but that season is all over, and we can’t unetch the record books. Those books will show that Hawthorn finished 12th, and Collingwood finished 13th – Hawthorn having a drop from the finals for the first time since 2010, and Collingwood fell to their lower position in coach Nathan Buckley’s six seasons, and have not reached the finals since 2013.
But, redemption comes at the commencement of each season or, at least, the opportunity for redemption. The punters are no predicting very much for either of these teams but that’s understandable: people bet their hard earned cash and usually base their predictions on the performances in the previous season – the safe bet.
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But we like to do things differently at The Protected Zone. One of our learned commentators predicted a Essendon/Collingwood Grand Final this year, much to the mirth of virtually everyone in the AFL community. But there is a old saying: the one that laughs last, laughs loudest, so let’s wait until the end of the season to see who has the last laugh.
Collingwood will surprise this year but, how much, we’re not actually sure. But first up, they need a win against Hawthorn, a team Nathan Buckley has had many problems coaching against. So many problems that he’s lost every game against Hawthorn coach, Alastair Clarkson – all nine of them. Will it be 10 out of 10? Records don’t go on for ever, and we think Buckley will break his duck.
Hawthorn has a much older team now: Cyril Rioli and Shaun Burgoyne are getting to end of their careers, but they have a mixture of the old and the new: James Frawley, Isaac Smith, Jarryd Roughead, Jack Gunston, Shane McEvoy, Luke Breust and Dylan Shiels are the wise heads, mixed in with the newish: Daniel Howe, Ryan Burton and James Sicily. How will they meld in 2018?
Collingwood have a similar mix of old and new: Scott Pendlebury, Ben Reid, Steele Sidebottom, Travis Varcoe, with dashes of the new: Sam Murray (who will make his debut), Mason Cox, Darcy Moore and Tom Phillips. They’ve got a little bit of unpredictability about them and look a little bit quicker than Hawthorn.
Collingwood can win this game, and we’re expecting a close one, with Collingwood just edging past Hawthorn in the final stages of the game.
- Round 15, 2017. Hawthorn 18.10 defeated Collingwood 14.10.
- Eddy Jay: Collingwood, 14 points
- Lintang Enam: Collingwood, 4 points
- Computer says: Collingwood, 1 point