Freo couldn’t have asked for a more testing round one clash then that against the reigning premiers.
Ross Lyon’s first pre-season at the helm produced some topsy-turvy results, with wins against Essendon and Richmond but losses to Port, West Coast and Hawthorn. The Dockers will be wanting to kick their season off to a strong start with a win against the Cats.
A positive that the home team can take out of the pre-season were the changes introduced by Lyon that seems to have worked. Hayden Ballantyne looks at home running around the midfield, where he is sure to get his nose into more than a few niggles, and Matthew Pavlich has plugged a giant hole up forward.
Snagging Lachie Neale (who I have dubbed mini-ballas) at pick 58 could prove to be a steal for Freo, who impressed me a lot with his ability in the pre-season and who I think will easily slot into this team once his ankle injury heals.
While Geelong have lost a handful of premier players to retirement, I think Freo still have their work cut out for them trying to pip this premiership team, but what I think works in their favour is their recent run against the Cats at Patersons Stadium.
In Round 2, 2011, Geelong got off to a flying start before Freo put on the brakes, giving the Cats a massive scare despite falling a few points short. This was almost a carbon copy to Round 3, 2010 (a game etched into the top three best games of most Dockers fans) when Paul Duffield’s last minute goal gave the home team the win.
While I think it will be a good, close match (for most of the game anyway), I think the well oiled structure of Geelong, despite the recent retirements, will be too well-versed for a Freo team still tying to find their feet and rhythm under a new coach.
My prediction: Geelong by 16.