Etihad Stadium, Saturday March 3, 7.40pm AEDT
Television: FoxFooty 7.30pm
Radio: SEN, 3AW, Triple M.
One gets the feeling that both Melbourne and Collingwood will be welcoming the roof of Etihad Stadium with open arms tomorrow night in their Round 2 clash of the NAB Cup.
Both sides struggled in the first round under trying conditions and will be looking to impress in what is sure to be the perfect environment.
Although the Magpies managed to win both their contests, neither victory was convincing with the Pies needing a freakish late goal from Jackson Paine to beat newcomers Greater Western Sydney by three points.
Slippery conditions saw most players struggle with clean possession which caused basic handling errors, something Melbourne’s first round contest was also rife with.
Torrential rain before the game left Metricon Stadium a pool, leaving Melbourne in a dour struggle which saw them splitting victories with Brisbane and Gold Coast.
With both sides ravaged by injuries throughout the pre-season, one senses that both will be content to leave Etihad Stadium without further injury concerns, no matter what the result may be.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Scott Pendlebury, Collingwood: In his first hit-out for the year, the 2010 Norm Smith Medallist will be looking to start his year in the same fashion he finished his last – at the complete peak of his skills. When he is in form he can mesmerise with deft ball use around stoppages and can be a nightmare to contain. If Melbourne want to win they need to limit his output.
James Magnar, Melbourne: The only experience Magnar has at the AFL level is from last week, yet expectations are quickly rising due to his impressive performance in wet conditions. With Melbourne’s injury list allowing a few potential rookie elevations, another quality game from Magnar could see him quickly in the running for a Round 1 spot in the Demons side.
Marty Clarke, Collingwood: A lot of eyes will be on the Irishman and whether he will slot straight back into a strong Magpies lineup to fill the position left vacant by Leon Davis’ departure. Clarke needs to show he can still adapt to the Australian game after spending the last two years playing Gaelic Football in his home country.
After several years languishing at the bottom of the ladder, new coach Mark Neeld will be looking for a consistent four-quarter effort to showcase that Melbourne is finally ready to contend for finals once again.
Collingwood is expected to finish in the top four this season so they provide the perfect opportunity for Melbourne to evaluate their players on the cusp of their best 22.
With several new recruits impressing last week, players such as Jamie Bennell and Lynden Dunn need to play well in order to remain in contention for a Round 1 spot.
Having lost Brent Macaffer and Andrew Krakeour to serious ACL injuries last week, several spots have now opened up in what was a settled Collingwood side.
Although the Pies will bring back premiership stars Scott Pendlebury, Travis Cloke, Sharrod Wellingham and Ben Reid, the major focal point for the match will be whether Collingwood’s emerging stars can continue to develop.
Tom Young, Peter Yagmoor, Shae McNamara and Jarrod Witts all showed signs of being capable AFL players, and with Collingwood’s injury woes continuing, there are spots available if they perform to the standard set last round.
With Collingwood regaining several stars into the line up for their first competitive match of 2012, it is hard to see a developing Melbourne side winning.
The Magpies ooze class all over the field, and with Melbourne missing co-captains Jack Trengove and Jack Grimes, Collingwood should overwhelm the Demons.
Against an experienced side that will likely play deep into September; Neeld should be quite happy with his side remaining competitive. However, Collingwood appear too strong for Melbourne to stay with them for four quarters.
Collingwood by 46 points.
1. Alex Fasolo, 5. Nick Maxwell, 9. Martin Clarke, 10. Scott Pendlebury, 12. Luke Ball, 13. Dale Thomas, 14. Luke Rounds, 18. Darren Jolly, 20. Ben Reid, 21. Sharrod Wellingham, 22. Steele Sidebottom, 23. Lachlan Keeffe, 25. Tom Young, 27. Simon Buckley, 28. Ben Sinclair, 29. Jonathan Ceglar, 31. Chris Dawes, 32. Travis Cloke, 33. Jackson Paine, 34. Alan Toovey, 36. Dane Swan, 37. Kirk Ugle, 38. Peter Yagmoor. 39. Heath Shaw, 46. Marley Williams, 47. Michael Hartley, 48. Caolan Mooney, 49. Paul Cribbin, 50. Shae McNamara
2. Nathan Jones, 4. Jack Watts, 5. Jordan Gysberts, 6. Matthew Bate, 7. Jamie Bennell, 8. James Frawley, 12. Colin Sylvia, 14. Lynden Dunn, 15. Ricky Petterd, 17. Sam Blease, 18. Brad Green, 20. Colin Garland, 21. Lucas Cook, 25.Tom McDonald, 26. Daniel Nicholson, 28. Joel MacDonald, 30. James Sellar, 34. Stefan Martin, 36. Aaron Davey, 38. Jeremy Howe, 40. Mark Jamar, 41. Troy Davis, 44. Rohan Bail, 45. Kelvin Lawrence, 46. Josh Tynan, 47. Tom Couch, 48. Jack Fitzpatrick, 49. James Magner, 50. Jai Sheahan