The Roar’s AFL expert tips and predictions: Round 1

It has been six long months of patient waiting, pretending to be interested in the pre-season and having to sate our desire for games by hearing about which of our team’s starts are tearing up the track, have never been fitter and are set to take 2023 by storm.

But at long last, AFL men’s action will be back tonight!

And, like always, that means it’s time to relaunch The Roar’s AFL tipping competition – and with it, our expert tipping column.

Joining me once again for the new year will be Liam Salter, Dem Panopoulos and Cameron Rose to shed some light on the nine clubs who will finish every week singing their team song in the rooms.

At least, we’ll do our best: for the second year in a row, The Crowd pipped all of us ‘experts’ to take top spot in our little competition. Speaking of which, if you haven’t signed up for this year, make sure you do it now, and get your tips in before 5pm tonight to be counted in The Crowd’s tips for the week.

After last year’s bizarre Wednesday night season opener, we’re back to normal this year, with Richmond and Carlton to duke it out under the Thursday night lights to kick things off in 2023.

Good luck everyone, and may the best tipster win!

Jeremy Cameron of the Geelong Cats celebrates.

Jeremy Cameron of the Geelong Cats celebrates. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Tim Miller

Carlton, Geelong, West Coast, Brisbane, Western Bulldogs, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Essendon, Fremantle

Round 1 is always the hardest of the season to tip – no one has any real idea who’s good and who sucks, we’ve only got a couple of pre-season games to go off, and the surprise packets and big sliders are yet to reveal themselves.

So last year, I turned around my usual strategy and went for whoever I wouldn’t usually tip – and I landed myself an 8. Granted, my year never got better from a tipping perspective than that, but it’s still a system I’ll happily use again this year.

So for starters, the Blues will knock off the Tigers in the season opener. I’m big on Richmond this year and slightly cooler on Carlton than most, but the Tiges will need time for Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper to gel in their system and develop chemistry with their forwards. Plus, Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow is a hell of an assignment for a backline missing Robbie Tarrant and Josh Gibcus – plus Dylan Grimes is looking decidedly spent.

Friday night could genuinely depend on whether Jeremy Cameron plays a full game or if his wife goes into labour before or during the match. With Tom Hawkins under an injury cloud, the Cats will surely struggle to adapt on the fly to losing both their spearheads – and Collingwood’s chaotic game plan came very close to unsettling the premiers both times they played last year.

I’ll stick with Geelong, but not confidently.

I’m excited to see what Alastair Clarkson brings to the table at North, and anticipate a few sneaky new tactics that catch the odd team off guard in the early rounds before everyone figures them out. Nevertheless, it’s the Eagles here for me – they’ll be heaps better than they were in 2022, and I remember them nearly knocking off the Roos early last year with a WAFL 22. Whoever loses here is set for a looooong season.

Trust the AFL to schedule the round’s most fascinating match for Saturday twilight. Brisbane have an incredible recent record against Port, love the Adelaide Oval, and have a host of shiny new toys to show off in the real stuff, not least No.1 pick Will Ashcroft. The Power, on the other hand, have a golden opportunity to start the year with a statement win in front of their home fans to start their path to redeeming their shocker of a 2022, and ease some pressure on Ken Hinkley.

Normally, I’d pick the Power to get it done at home, so in the spirit of my new strategy, it’s the Lions for me here.

I’m a big believer that there’s no point in entering a tipping comp if you’re going to regularly pick against your own mob – so I’m backing my Bulldogs to take down Melbourne and looking for a way to justify it. What I’ve come up with is this: the Dees don’t have the tall forwards to really trouble the Dogs aerially like some other sides did last year, and it’s yet to be proven whether the Max Gawn-Brodie Grundy combination can work in the real stuff.

If one of Rory Lobb, Aaron Naughton, Sam Darcy and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan can basically serve as a decoy to keep Steven May under wraps, then there will be plenty of opportunity for the others to kick a match-winning score. Plus, the weather looks absolutely gorgeous for Saturday night.

Then comes my big upset for the round – Gold Coast have a remarkable recent record against Sydney, downing them in each of the last three seasons, and are building an imposing record at Metricon Heritage Bank Stadium. With Ben King back, they’re primed to take a major scalp and boost their finals credentials… before inevitably letting everyone who loves them down later in the season.

There’s always a storyline out of Round 1, and my tip is everyone will be analysing the Swans for a premiership hangover after a shock loss, only for them to go on and be absolutely fine for the rest of the year.

As for Sunday, GWS being favourites against Adelaide doesn’t surprise me, but I’ve hitched my wagon to the Crows with my big AFL Oracle call for them to make the eight, and I ain’t backing down from them now, even though the Giants have an awesome recent record against them.

The most boring match of the round will probably be Hawthorn-Essendon in prime time on Sunday arvo – the Bombers have a better midfield, a new coach to impress, and no Mitch Lewis to contend with in defence, so if they don’t win, it’s pretty much a disaster.

And last of all, Ross Lyon would be a miracle worker to find a way to kick a winning score with a Tim Membrey-less, Max King-less, Jack Hayes-less forward line against a miserly Freo defence. And kicking a winning score has always been a thorn in the side for Ross the Boss.

Richmond and Carlton players wrestle at the three-quarter time break.

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Dem Panopoulos

Richmond, Geelong, North Melbourne, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Essendon, Fremantle

Any Eric Bischoff fans will know that these words ring true – I’m back and better than ever.

Of course, it isn’t too hard to look upward after last year’s performance, but let’s face it, 2023 just feels like the most exciting AFL season yet.

As such, the tides are turning and so are my tipping fortunes, so let’s get stuck in.

The opening fixture, as usual, seems to be a belter; and now that the Blues have beaten the Tigers in Round 1 in the last 10 years, it feels like a genuine coin flip. This won’t be a blowout in either direction, but like most games in the opening round, it’s hard to predict. The Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto boost might be enough for the Tigers.

Do the Cats suffer from a premiership hangover? Are the Magpies legit? Lots of questions to ask about this opening-roun blockbuster; and in 2022, Geelong’s toughest opponent was Collingwood.

Whether Tom Hawkins is fit will play a big role, as will Jeremy Cameron’s availability for the entire game. I’ll assume both are around, and if so, the Cats just sneak over the line.

Recent history would indicate that the battle between the Kangaroos and Eagles will be low-scoring and, to a lot of neutral fans, uninteresting. Alastair Clarkson should get a win straight away.

Brisbane loves to play against Port Adelaide and have a great recent record at Adelaide Oval. That, on top of their bevy of star recruits, should have them heavily favoured to knock the Power off again.

Does Bevo play four key forwards at the MCG? If he does, then we can expect to see a lot more of Max Gawn behind the ball than in front of it, meaning a big job for Brodie Grundy.

There’s a decent chance Melbourne goes undefeated for a long time again if they negotiate this fixture. One suspects that might: it’s hard to see them falling short of the flag again.

All eyes will be on the Swans after last year’s grand final, and the fact they’ve drawn the Suns is probably their worst-case scenario – Sydney has only won two of the last six between the clubs. Both teams feature in my top eight so I’m expecting a good contest, but one where the Swans eke out a narrow victory.

As for Sunday, Adelaide will beat GWS – I’m not sure what all the fuss is about here, or why the Giants are favourites.

Hawks/Bombers fixtures have lost their lustre a little in recent times, and both teams look set to be in for long seasons. I’ll lean towards the Bombers here only because of Jordan Ridley’s preseason form, and the absence of Mitch Lewis should hurt the Hawks.

Finally, Fremantle should handle St Kilda easily. They’ll be featured deep into September, after all.

Tim English of the Bulldogs and Max Gawn of the Demons compete for the bal;

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Cameron Rose

Carlton, Geelong, North Melbourne, Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Essendon, Fremantle

We’re back – and after last year, I’m keen to keep it simple in 2023. So here’s one sentence why every team gets the points in Round 1.

Carlton will knock over Richmond – the Blues’ twin towers in Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow will prove too strong for the Tigers’ defence, and a strong midfield will make for a tough initiation for Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper.

Geelong will take down Collingwood in a thriller – the Cats were the only side last year to regularly out-clutch the Pies, and even with Tom Hawkins unlikely and Jeremy Cameron a possibility to be subbed out mid-match, they’ll be too strong defensively to let the Magpies kick a winning score.

North Melbourne will beat West Coast – teams usually start well with a new coach at the helm, and the Eagles’ recent record away from home (and, last year, at home too) is diabolical.

Brisbane to edge Port Adelaide – this’ll be close, but the Lions love playing at Adelaide Oval and have the wood over the Power, and Port’s defence will struggle to contain the Lions’ forward line monsters.

Melbourne to take care of the Bulldogs – in a clash of the giants, ‘Gawndy’ will make mincemeat of Tim English in the ruck and Steven May and Harrison Petty will be too good for the Dogs’ army of forward line talls.

Gold Coast to upset Sydney – the Suns have an incredible recent record against the Swans, are getting harder and harder to beat at home, and basically always start a new season well, which all spells trouble for the 2022 runners-up.

Adelaide to get a road win over GWS – the Crows are underdogs here, but in a crucial season for Matthew Nicks, should have the strength at the coalface to overpower the Giants’ youngsters in midfield and get enough supply to their forwards for a winning score.

Essendon to down Hawthorn – the Bombers won’t be great this year, but will be a darn sight better than a Hawks outfit missing their most important player in Mitch Lewis.

Lastly, Fremantle to knock over St Kilda – this would have been a cracker if the Saints hadn’t seen their entire forward line go down injured, but they’re going to have a hard time scoring now against the best defence in the game.

Matt Rowell of the Suns is tackled by Luke Parker of the Swans.

(Photo by Matt King/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Liam Salter

Carlton, Geelong, North Melbourne, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Essendon, Fremantle

Thank god, footy’s back! I can finally stop watching Fremantle’s come-from-behind finals win against the
Bulldogs on repeat (that was the one and only final played last year, of course).

I’m really, really excited for this year, and the show gets started tonight, as always, at the MCG with the Tigers hosting the Blues – but we’ll get to that.

Picking up where they collected the premiership cup six months ago, the Cats open their season on Friday night against Collingwood. Lightning struck not once, not twice, but nine times last year for the Magpies, who rode a streak of impressively narrow wins to make it a literal point away from a grand final spot.

Geelong’s forward line may yet be an enigma – at the time of writing, neither Jeremy Cameron nor Tom Hawkins is a guaranteed starter, which could open the door for the Pies to avenge their qualifying final loss.

I’m expecting the Magpies to, again, be a tough team to beat this year – but tomorrow night’s points will go the way of the premiers in a thriller.

Saturday gets underway with a decisively less thrilling match: the Kangaroos hosting West Coast. Neither were in any way strong last year, and neither are expected to be strong this season either, but the rejuvenated Roos
should win here in Alastair Clarkson’s first match in charge.

As will the Lions in their opener against Port Adelaide – despite a wishy-washy away record last year and this being an almost-necessity to win for Port given their tricky early-season fixture, the Lions will be keen to start the year on a high note (which, coincidentally, is something they typically struggle to do in September).

Saturday gets a little more intriguing as we head into the evening, with Melbourne starting as my warm favourites for their season opener against the Bulldogs. I do not rate the Dogs this year, and honestly think things might get a little uncomfy for Luke Beveridge if they underperform this season.

The Dees, for their part, have to avenge a straight-sets September exit last year and I can’t see them letting a win slip here.

And as much as Gold Coast are my sentimental finals smokies, getting past Sydney is a big ask – even if seven of the Suns’ ten wins in 2022 came at Carrara.

Sunday’s a little meh for neutrals: the Crows could go a long way to proving Tim’s controversial finals prediction
for them by winning here, and, honestly, I’m backing them.

Essendon have a new coach in Brad Scott, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll propel them into the scrap for finals. I do think they’ll beat the Hawks, who remain equally enigmatic under the helm of Sam Mitchell.

To finish the round, Freo should comfortably beat the Saints who, despite the new/returning Ross Lyon shine, have injury concerns that demt their hopes here.

And back to that season opener: Richmond appear to be favourites, though Carlton confounds expectations so
much that I hereby refuse to be definitive in voicing any prospects for them… except to say that they could –
and should – be accumulating win one of many(?) tonight.

Who knows.

Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw of the Dockers celebrate.

Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw of the Dockers celebrate. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

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