The season is beginning to take shape with three rounds now in the can.
Some intriguing fixtures are set for Round 4, kicking off with the winless Port Adelaide in desperate need of a victory against Melbourne on Thursday night.
See who we think will win and why below.
All times AEDT
Port Adelaide v Melbourne
Thursday – 7:40pm – Adelaide Oval
It’s approaching do or die time for Port Adelaide. They have lost their first three games of the season and now face reigning premier Melbourne at the Adelaide Oval.
Making finals from 0-4 is a tough ask and the Power will feel the pressure against the Demons on Thursday night. Melbourne meanwhile are coming off a win, but overall average performance against Essendon. They will want to come out firing against a fellow Preliminary Finalist.
When these sides met last year, the Dees won by 31 points at the Adelaide Oval and restricted Port Adelaide to just 55 points.
Kysaiah Pickett, Tom McDonald and Christian Petracca combined for nine goals, while Ollie Wines picked up 33 disposals.
With Ben Brown and Jake Lever set to return for the Dees, can the Power cut through the unbeaten reigning premier? It’s hard to tip them given what we’ve seen so far this year and Melbourne’s performance against them last year.
Port Adelaide will put up a fight and will have every chance to bounce back as the season goes on, but the question will be how they kick a winning score without Charlie Dixon and up against the blue and red brick wall.
Tip: Melbourne by 20 points.
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Geelong v Brisbane
Friday – 7:50pm – GMHBA
A legitimate top four clash early in the season with a genuine home ground advantage for one of the sides.
Geelong host Brisbane at GMHBA Stadium in Friday night footy in what promises to be a quality affair.
The last time they met here it was exactly that with the Cats winning narrowly in dramatic fashion, before the Lions exacted revenge by 44 points in the return bout at the Gabba.
The home side come into this encounter on the back of a stirring come-from-behind victory over Collingwood, kicking the last eight goals, while Brisbane had a fill up in the form of a crushing 108-point win over North Melbourne.
Chris Scott’s Geelong loses skipper Joel Selwood, who has been rested, but will likely regain Gryan Miers and Mark O’Connor, who has been earmarked for a possible tagging role on Lachie Neale.
In Chris Fagan’s den, the Lions have a full book to choose from those who played on the weekend, and could go in unchanged.
The Cats being at home is not as much of a luxury as it has been in recent times, losing two of their last three at the ground, but they have still won 17 of their past 21 there. They play the ground pretty well.
They also have 11 wins from their last 14 meetings with Brisbane, but the Lions have clinched two of the last five.
This fixture pits the two highest scoring sides against each other and with both sides in winning form, it’s tricky to pick, but the Cats get the nod ever so slightly due to the odds being in their favor at Kardinia Park.
Tip: Geelong by 7 points.
Sydney v North Melbourne
Saturday – 2:40pm – SCG
After suffering their first loss of the season against a dominant Bulldogs side, Sydney will play host to a North Melbourne outfit that has been poor in 2022.
The Swans have had a strong start to the season, overpowering the Giants in Round 1 and completely outclassing Geelong in Round 2, and they’ll be looking for a percentage boost at home.
Both sides have had contrasting starts to the season and this clash shapes as a one-sided affair in favor of the Swans.
North head into this Round 4 fixture on the back of an absolute hammering at the hands of Brisbane and will no doubt be looking to show some heart after receiving some constructive criticism from coach David Noble following the loss.
Unfortunately for the Kangaroos, the Swans simply have more talent in their line-up and that should see them notch a fifth straight win over their opponents.
Isaac Heeney, Lance Franklin, Nick Blakey, Luke Parker, Tom McCartin, Callum Mills and Dane Rampe are all stars or stars in progress – do North Melbourne have the players to match them?
Containing Sydney’s firepower, on paper, should be too much to handle for North Melbourne.
Tip: Sydney by 60 points.
Collingwood v West Coast
Saturday – 4:35pm – Marvel Stadium
It’s been contrasting starts to 2022 for Collingwood and West Coast.
The Magpies look rejuvenated under first-year coach Craig McRae, while the Eagles have been decimated by COVID and injuries.
McRae’s side were overrun by Geelong last week, squandering a 37-point lead to fall to a 13-point loss, their first defeat of the season.
While they would be disappointed with their final quarter fade-out, the Magpies are playing an exciting brand of football and look an ultra-competitive side at this early stage.
As for the Eagles, their season continues to slip away, going down to rivals Fremantle by 55 points in the Western Derby to slump to a 0-3 start for the first time since 2010.
Despite having used almost 40 players already, West Coast coach Adam Simpson is staying positive, refusing to give up on the season despite the winning start.
“I know there’s a lot of stats about you’re 0-3 and whatever percentage you are of not making finals, but you never know. We’re up for the fight,” Simpson told reporters.
“We’ve got some really good players on our list who will come back, and we’ll get them as fit as we can, and we’ll have a swing.”
Collingwood will be without key pair Taylor Adams (COVID) and Jordan De Goey (suspended), but go in as favorites with the game being in Melbourne.
Tip: Collingwood by 18 points.
Richmond v Western Bulldogs
Saturday – 7:25pm – MCG
Not many would’ve predicted these teams to be 1-2 after three rounds, but here we are, after both sides stumbled out of the blocks in 2022.
Like the Dogs, Richmond looked second-rate in their two losses, but both teams have also shown that their best can match it with just about anyone.
The Bulldogs entered this year with loftier expectations than the Tigers and they’ll be desperate to even the ledger and make a tilt for the premiership, while Richmond will have to go the long road to finals if they start 1-3.
Last time out it was Richmond who got the win head-to-head, taking care of the Dogs by 22 points at the MCG in Round 7 last year, while they’ve also won three of the last four.
Despite this, the Bulldogs will be licking their lips knowing they’re coming up against a depleted Richmond midfield with the likes of Dustin Martin, Kane Lambert and Dion Prestia out – and that’s where this battle can be won by Luke Beveridge’s men.
While this looks like as close as you’ll get to a 50-50 on paper, the Bulldogs should simply have too much ball winning ability at the source via the likes of Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli, Bailey Smith and Josh Dunkley, allowing them to dictate field position and generate more scoring opportunities.
It’s a must-win for both teams, but it’ll be the Dogs here, just.
Tip: Western Bulldogs by 10 points.
Fremantle v GWS
Saturday – 7:25pm – Optus Stadium
Saturday’s encounter between Fremantle and GWS shapes as a close battle.
The Dockers and Giants had been shaky prior to Round 3, however emphatic performances against West Coast and Gold Coast respectively were important in the context of their seasons.
What worked for the Giants against the Suns was their midfield – Stephen Coniglio was back to his best, while Tim Taranto and Tom Green were both in the top five players on the ground.
With Nat Fyfe thought to still be at least a couple of weeks away, it’ll be hard for the Dockers to win the midfield battle. They’ve played Adelaide, St Kilda and West Coast in the first three rounds and are yet to face a midfield test that the Giants present.
When they have been able to get on top around the ball, it’s allowed them to set up strongly behind the contest, conceding just 112 points across their last two weeks.
However, if the Giants can get the early upper hand, it’ll put the Dockers in an unfamiliar position, one that could see them in trouble.
That being said, they’ll be no walk over at home.
Tip: GWS by 8 points.
Essendon v Adelaide
Sunday – 1:10pm – Marvel Stadium
It’s only Round 4, but Essendon’s season is already on the line.
The Bombers are languishing at the bottom of the ladder with a 0-3 record – a 55-year first – and are in desperate need of a win to get their year up and going.
While it’s been a tough start for Essendon having played three of last year’s preliminary finalists – Geelong, Brisbane and Melbourne – three defeats to start 2022 has them precariously placed heading into their Round 4 match against Adelaide.
The Crows are coming off an epic Showdown win over crosstown rivals Port Adelaide, their first victory of 2022.
Prized recruit Jordan Dawson was the hero for Adelaide, converting a set shot after the siren to send the pro-Crows Adelaide Oval crowd into hysterics.
The thrilling Showdown victory is just what the Crows needed after dropping their opening two games which led to strong criticism from board member and club great Mark Ricciuto.
Essendon have won their last four games against Adelaide, including last year’s match by 63 points, keeping the Crows to just two goals.
With Marvel Stadium to host Sunday’s game, it’s simply a must win for the Bombers, who will be without coach Ben Rutten due to COVID.
Making the finals from a 0-4 start is a rarity.
Tip: Essendon by 25 points.
Hawthorn v St Kilda
Sunday – 3:20pm – MCG
St Kilda and Hawthorn both enter this clash with 2-1 records after three rounds.
While the Hawks lost and the Saints won in Round 3, both sides impressed and would’ve left their respective games pleased with their performances, adding extra intrigue to this contest.
These two sides haven’t played at the MCG since Round 7, 2014, where the Hawks won by 145 points, but over the last few years it’s St Kilda who have had the better of this head-to-head match-up, winning the last four encounters.
The most recent of these came in Round 7 of last year as the Saints won by 69 points, but the Hawks are much improved from 12 months prior.
Sam Mitchell has his side bouncing off half-back and dangerous in attack, with their ability to kick winning scores coming to the fore.
Conversely, St Kilda have teased in the season’s first three weeks but have occasionally pieced quarters of football that look as good as any in the competition.
While the Hawks have been the more consistent of the two sides, it’s hard to look past the Saints if they and Max King can get anywhere close to how they performed in the second half against Richmond last Sunday.
Expect the Hawks to compete, but St Kilda are probably a step ahead of them at this stage and should get the chocolates.
Tip: St Kilda by 14 points.
Gold Coast v Carlton
Sunday – 4:10pm – Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast hosts Carlton in a Sunday evening meeting which could set up the season for one of the sides.
The Blues take a 3-0 win-loss record with them at Metricon Stadium and will feel like a fourth straight victory is well within their grasp.
They held on for dear life against Hawthorn last weekend, winning by one point after bursting out to a 41-point lead in the second term, and no doubt learned a lot from that.
The Suns on the other hand have lost their last two after kicking off the season with a win over West Coast. They were easily cast aside by GWS last weekend and the task is in front of them to get their campaign back on track.
Stuart Dew will be calling for swift improvement in the midfield after his Suns were beaten in the contested ball and at the stoppage by the Giants. It gets no easier against a Blues side led in that area by Patrick Cripps, George Hewett and Matthew Kennedy who all sit in the top 20 for clearances in the competition.
While the opportunity is there for the Suns to play a more competitive brand, they’ll need to be a lot better if they want to knock off the undefeated Blues, who have the weapons in midfield and too much firepower up forward.
Tips: Carlton by 22 points.