Essendon captain Dyson Heppell.
Essendon captain Dyson Heppell. DAVID CROSLING

AFL previews for round one



At the MCG, 6.50pm (AEST)


RECENT RECORD: Bulldogs 4 Coll 6


LAST TIME: R21 2016: Bulldogs 14.11 (95) d Coll 14.8 (92) at Docklands


THE Dogs are expected to be without at least four of their premiership players, but it's a handy group that will replace them - skipper Bob Murphy, Matt Suckling, Stewart Crameri and, of course, Trav Cloke. All eyes will be on the big fella as he takes on his former side and slots into a revamped forward line alongside Jake Stringer and Crameri. Delisted Sun and now Magpie defender Henry Schade may have a big task on his hands. The Dogs are gunning for a fifth straight win over a Collingwood side hit hard by injury. Levi Greenwood, Jamie Elliott and Daniel Wells are all sidelined.


Sydney Swans player Lance Franklin.
Sydney Swans player Lance Franklin. PAUL MILLER



At the SCG, 3.35pm (AEST)


RECENT RECORD: Sydney 9 Port 1


LAST TIME: R20 2016: Sydney 14.16 (100) d Port 4.9 (33) at the SCG


SYDNEY may be a little understrength, but at home should still be too good for the visiting Port. The SCG has been a graveyard for the Power, not having beaten the Swans there since 2006. Overall, it has lost 13 of its past 14 matches against Sydney. Isaac Heeney, Jarrad McVeigh, Tom Papley and Gary Rohan are set to miss for the Swans, but with the likes of Lance Franklin and Josh Kennedy still at their disposal, the Swans are hardly short on stars.


At Etihad Stadium, 3.35pm (AEST)


RECENT RECORD: St Kilda 10 Melb 0


LAST TIME: R17 2016: St Kilda 15.20 (110) d Melb 11.8 (74) at Docklands


THE two expected big improvers go head to head. But one step ahead of the Demons in their development, the Saints will go in slight favourites and aiming to claim a 15th straight win over their rivals. While the Dees' midfield looks stronger with Jordan Lewis in, and Leigh Montagna (hamstring) out for the Saints, the hosts could have too much firepower with Josh Bruce in top form and the visitors missing Sam Frost, Colin Garland and Michael Hibberd from their backline. The Dees have won only once at Docklands in their past 25 matches.


At the MCG, 6.25pm (AEST)




LAST TIME: R12 2016: Haw 23.13 (151) d Ess 6.7 (43) at Docklands


EXPECT this to be a little closer than last time. There is, of course, the re-injection into the Bombers line-up of Dyson Heppell, Jobe Watson, Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley from their doping bans, and the arrival of James Stewart from GWS. Then we've got not one, not two, but three Hawks champs missing - departed pair Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, and Luke Hodge due to a club-imposed ban. It will be an emotional outing for both teams however, with those Bombers back and Jarryd Roughead returning to lead the Hawks after his cancer battle.


At Metricon Stadium, 7.05pm (AEST)


RECENT RECORD: GC 4 Brisbane 6


LAST TIME: R16 2016: GC 22.7 (139) d Brisbane 17.11 (113) at Metricon Stadium


IT COULD be a tough start to Chris Fagan's coaching reign at Brisbane. Gold Coast should make it four wins from the past five QClashes. Key forwards Tom Lynch and Peter Wright had a field day last time, combining for 10 goals, and will have no Dan Merrett (retired) or new Lion Jack Frost (suspended) to have to contend with. They should get plenty of supply with Gary Ablett back and joined in the midfield by Pearce Hanley and Michael Barlow. Spare a thought for young Harris Andrews in the Lions defence.



At Etihad Stadium, 12.10pm (AEST)




LAST TIME: R16 2016: WC 16.8 (104) d North 11.6 (72) at Domain Stadium


IT'S NOT often a couple of 34-year-old 300-gamers make their debut for a club. In this case it'll be Sam Mitchell and Drew Petrie - another against his former club - when they run out for West Coast. While Petrie won't be short on incentive to perform well in front of the man who sent him packing, Roos coach Brad Scott, Mitchell is the key in the middle where the Eagles look too strong against what is now a far more youthful North side. The Eagles have won seven of their past nine encounters.


Eddie Betts of the Crows.
Eddie Betts of the Crows. TRACEY NEARMY


At the Adelaide Oval, 2.50pm (AEST)




LAST TIME: R10 2016: Adelaide 15.17 (107) d GWS 13.7 (85) at Adelaide Oval


IF ALL guns are blazing this promises to be a shoot-out for the ages. They were the two highest scoring teams of 2016, the Crows averaging 112 per game, the Giants 106. Eddie Betts and captain Taylor Walker combined for 10 goals for the Crows last time they met, while Josh Jenkins could also tear the game apart. Down the other end, Jon Patton, Jeremy Cameron, Toby Greene and Steve Johnson are always dangerous. The Crows have won 16 of their past 18 at home.


At Domain Stadium, 6.40pm (AEST)


RECENT RECORD: Frem 5 Geelong 5


LAST TIME: R17, 2016, Geelong 11.12 (78) d Frem 9.7 (61) at Domain Stadium


IT'S the rematch we've waited two years for - Patrick Dangerfield v Nat Fyfe. It was round nine of 2015 when they racked up 78 touches and five Brownlow votes directly opposed to each other, Fyfe with 40 possessions and three votes, Danger (then a Crow) 38 and two. After returning from that broken leg, the new Dockers skipper can hit the ground running in his bid take back the "No.1 player" tag from the star Cat. The match itself will play second fiddle, but there is genuine intrigue in how Freo will stack up with the likes of Cam McCarthy and ex-Cat Shane Kersten added to the attack.

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