Blues v Saints – Wednesday 7.10pm, Carlton

Notable absentees

Blues: Darcy Lang, Sam Docherty, Sam Rowe, Sam Kerridge
Saints: Jack Billings, Tom Hickey, Josh Bruce, Hugh Goddard

Blues and Saints supporters have endured a fair bit of heartache over the last few years, with the Saints last playing finals footy in 2011 and the Blues featuring most recently in 2013. The Blues were dealt a very cruel blow in November when star All-Australian halfback Sam Docherty suffered a season-ending ACL injury in an innocuous training accident. Not only did the rebounding defender earn All-Australian selection; but he won the Carlton B&F, broke the AFL record for most effective kicks in a season and registered the most uncontested marks in a season, ever. New recruits Aaron Mullett (Kangaroos) and Cam O’Shea (previously Power) will get their chance in the preseason to put forward their case to replace Docherty, while big man Harry McKay has been named at Full Forward for what could finally be his breakthrough season.
St Kilda have been relatively untroubled with injury and have named a strong side for their first JLT match, with midfielder David Armitage returning following a disappointing 2017 that saw him only feature in two games thanks to a persistent groin injury. The class of Armitage and a fully-fit Jack Steven is something to keep a close eye on in this game, as is the impact of much-maligned key forward Patty McCartin, who will have a lot of expectation resting on his shoulders after the retirement of Nick Riewoldt.
This match is easily the hardest to predict of any of the Week 1 JLT clashes, so the Wolf doesn’t think you should be parting with all of your savings account, but the price for Carlton is very tempting for a side containing some proven, exciting match-winners like Patrick Cripps, Marc Murphy and Charlie Curnow.
Best Bet:  Both Teams to Score 70 Points YES ($2.05)Value Bet: Carlton WIN ($2.40)
First Goalscorer: Maverick Weller ($17) / Charlie Curnow ($15)
Giants v Magpies – Thursday 7.10pm, Canberra
Notable absentees
Giants: Toby Greene, Rory Lobb, Brett Deledio, Tom Scully, Jacob Hopper, Zac Williams, Nick Haynes, Will Setterfield, Aidan Corr, Matt Buntine, Adam Kennedy
Magpies: Jordan DeGoey, Daniel Wells, Adam Treloar, Jamie Elliot, Darcy Moore, Levi Greenwood, Jeremy Howe, Alex Fasolo
The quality, and quantity, in the list of absentees from both side is staggering; although at least Jordan DeGoey’s dog has stayed out of the headlines this preseason. His owner, however, did not- and will be missing indefinitely. It is certainly a blow as the #5 pick from 2014 is a prodigious ball-winner, though the absence of Alex Fasolo and Jamie Elliot has far greater ramifications for the Magpies, who clearly struggled last season when the talented forward pair were missing. The preseason noise hasn’t been particularly loud this season, apart from the excitement surrounding Jaidyn Stephenson, the high draft pick of last season who could very well prove to be the pick of the draft, despite the worries surrounding his heart condition. How he, and the midfield of Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom, Taylor Adams, James Aish and Will Hoskin-Elliot perform will go a long way towards gauging the chances of the Pies in this clash, though the Wolf has some serious reservations about a forward line that was dysfunctional at best last year, even when they did have their star smalls. The targets in this game will be Mason Cox, Chris Mayne, Jarryd Blair and Brodie Grundy (when resting), and that doesn’t stack up well against a very solid Giants defence.
The Giants are missing some pretty classy cattle, and have been ravaged by injury (once again) this preseason- but there are certainly enough A-grade players in this side to get a sense of how they’ve improved after two successive prelim final exits. After rebounding half-back Zac Williams’ season ending achilles injury, his replacement is certainly something to keep an eye on throughout the JLT, with a fit-again Ryan Griffin and Lachie Whitfield both spending time there in intra-club and trial matches. Coach Leon Cameron has also nominated youngsters Harry Perryman and Isaac Cumming as players who could fill the breach- with Perryman named in the back pocket for this game.
A footy team is only as strong as its weakest link, and on this basis the Wolf thinks the Giants will make the Pies night in Canberra very miserable. The Magpies might need to head out to Mooseheads after the game to give themselves a pep up after this.
Best Bet: GWS Giants WIN ($1.33)Value Bet: GWS -20.5 ($1.90)
First Goalscorer: Will Hoskin-Elliot ($21) / Jonathan Patton ($9)

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