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Carlton’s misfiring start to the AFL season has suffered another major setback, with star ruckman Matthew Kreuzer sidelined for at least three months.

Fierce rivals Essendon have their own drama ahead of Sunday’s blockbuster at the MCG – the Bombers have suspended defender Courtenay Dempsey from the senior side for not upholding team standards.

The Blues decided the only solution to Kreuzer’s ongoing foot injury was to put him in for more surgery.

He will be out of action for 12-14 weeks.

In a busy week for team news:

* Brett Deledio’s ankle injury puts him out of the Richmond team for the first time since 2007.

* The Tigers also have lost top ruckman Shaun Hampson for Saturday’s match against the Western Bulldogs, but reigning club best and fairest winner Daniel Jackson will play his first senior game this year.

* With Ivan Maric also injured, Orren Stephenson will be Richmond’s top ruckman.

* Geelong youngster George Burbury has made a quick comeback from the broken jaw he suffered in the pre-season win over Collingwood. He will return on Saturday night, also against the Magpies.

* Collingwood’s Alex Fasolo is back for his first senior game in nearly a year.

* `Pies backman Lachlan Keeffe will come in for Nathan Brown (shoulder) and Ben Sinclair has a hamstring injury.

* Hawthorn regained Sam Mitchell (calf), but lost captain Luke Hodge (groin) for Friday night’s grand final rematch against Fremantle. The Hawks also brought in Matt Spangher for Tim O’Brien.

* Fremantle brought in Garrick Ibbotson, Lachie Neale and Alex Silvagni for suspended pair Nathan Fyfe and Zac Dawson and Michael Barlow (knee).

* Melbourne have dropped Viv Michie and Jimmy Toumpas for Sunday’s game against Greater Western Sydney.

* Essendon have lost ruckman Patrick Ryder (ankle) for Sunday night’s blockbuster against Carlton and dropped Zach Merrett.

* North Melbourne vice-captain Jack Ziebell (shoulder) did not train on Thursday and is no certainty for Sunday’s game against Port Adelaide.


Hawthorn v Fremantle at MCG 7.20pm

Head to Head: Hawks 21 Dockers 7 Drawn 0

Last clash: Grand Final 2013 – Hawks 11.11 (77) bt Dockers 8.14 (62) at MCG

Tab Sportsbet: Hawks $1.75 Dockers $2.10

Sportingbet: Hawks $1.76 Dockers $2.10

The grand final re-match is intriguing on a number of fronts. Both clubs are unbeaten, both remain competition pacesetters. Fremantle must succeed in their desire to kick higher scores without two key midfielders – Nat Fyfe (suspended) and Michael Barlow (injured). The Dockers’ renowned ability to suffocate opposition continues, they’ve conceded just 85 points in two games this season. But Hawthorn’s multi-faceted attack looms the sternest test yet. The Hawks are a different beast from their grand final side, with new names such as Langford, Litherland, Cheney and O’Brien – how will the newcomers fare against Fremantle’s hyped-up pressure?

Key: Spearhead Jarryd Roughead and fleet-footed Luke Breust are Hawthorn’s attacking trump-cards and must be curtailed for the Dockers to prevail.

Tip: Dockers by 15 points



Western Bulldogs v Richmond at Etihad Stadium 1.15pm

Head to Head: Bulldogs 69 Tigers 78 Drawn 2

Last clash: Round 13 2013 – Tigers 17.19 (121) bt Bulldogs 8.13 (61) at Etihad Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Bulldogs $3.90 Tigers $1.26

Sportingbet: Bulldogs $3.60 Tigers $1.30

The winless Bulldogs are struggling to kick a score, with their forward line crying out for a potent threat -it’s only two rounds in, but they’re 17th for scores this season, ahead of only Melbourne. They’ll be underdogs against a Richmond side which is yet to live up to their expectations of being in the league’s top echelon. But the Tigers possess game-breakers such as Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin and their defence is tidy enough to swamp the Bulldogs.

Key: Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt has kicked just two goals and had only 19 disposals in a sluggish start to the season – but surely he’s due for a big game.

Tip: Tigers by 42 points


Adelaide v Sydney at Adelaide Oval 1.40pm

Head to Head: Crows 22 Swans 12 Drawn 0

Last clash: Round 11 2013 – Swans 19.13 (127) bt Crows 6.14 (50) at AAMI Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Crows $2.25 Swans $1.65

Sportingbet: Crows $2.20 Swans $1.68

A round three encounter could barely be more crucial for both these clubs, yet to win this season. Adelaide’s forward line is malfunctioning and their two defeats have been notable for alarming skill errors and a leaky defence – the Crows have conceded more points than any side this year. And while Sydney’s attack is also misfiring despite the presence of Lance Franklin, the Swans showed some signs of improvement against Collingwood last start and their ability to win contested ball gives them the edge, despite the match being the Crows’ first home game at Adelaide Oval.

Key: Adelaide defender Daniel Talia continues to suppress talented forwards, but whether he can control Sydney’s Franklin could determine the Crows’ fate.

Tip: Swans by 10 points


Gold Coast v Brisbane Lions at Metricon Stadium 4.10pm

Head to Head: Suns 1 Lions 5 Drawn 0

Last clash: Round 15 2013 – Lions 17.14 (116) bt Suns 12.11 (83) at Gabba

Tab Sportsbet: Suns $1.60 Lions $2.35

Sportingbet: Suns $1.63 Lions $2.30

The Suns will carry favouritism into this meeting of the Queensland rivals, with Brisbane’s defence a major worry for their coach Justin Leppitsch. The Lions have had 21 and 13 goals (in last week’s wet) kicked against them, albeit by quality sides Hawthorn and Geelong. The emerging Gold Coast hold ambitions of pressing for finals contention, and to do so, it relies on winning games like this on their home ground.

Key: Is Gary Ablett ever not the key for the Suns? Do Brisbane have a tagger who can quell the peerless midfielder?

Tip: Suns by 24 points


West Coast v St Kilda at Patersons Stadium 7.10pm

Head to Head: Eagles 29 Saints 15 Drawn 1

Last clash: Round 11 2013 – Eagles 12.12 (84) bt Saints 11.14 (80) at Etihad Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Eagles $1.02 Saints $14.00

Sportingbet: Eagles $1.04 Saints $1.63

West Coast’s dreamy fixture continues – they’ve beaten Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and now meet the Saints, all sides widely tipped to struggle. But the manner in which the Eagles are winning is impressive, with stars Dean Cox and Mark LeCras finding early form. St Kilda are also unbeaten, though victories against Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney are not compelling evidence of a club on the rise – but a win is a win.

Key: St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt has been at his inspirational best, lifting his side to consecutive wins, and looms as the major threat to an Eagles win.

Tip: Eagles by 66 points


Collingwood v Geelong at MCG 7.10pm

Head to Head: Magpies 129 Cats 95 Drawn 1

Last clash: Round 8 2013 – Magpies 15.12 (102) bt Cats 14.12 (96) at MCG

Tab Sportsbet: Magpies $2.10 Cats $1.60

Sportingbet: Magpies $2.35 Cats $1.63

Collingwood showed their renowned ticker in an away win against Sydney last start which proved they’re still a more than capable outfit. But Geelong remain one of the league’s ultimate challenges and take an unbeaten formline into this blockbuster. The Cats have captain Joel Selwood and Stevie Johnson both winning plenty of the ball, but they’ll face a dangerous Magpie midfield headed by the sublime talents of Scott Pendlebury.

Key: Can Collingwood’s tagger Brent Macaffer subdue Geelong maestro Johnson, who has excelled in consecutive weeks, collecting 31 and 37 disposals?

Tip: Cats by 24 points



Greater Western Sydney v Melbourne at Spotless Stadium 1.10pm

Head to Head: Giants 1 Demons 3 Drawn 0

Last clash: Round 19 2013 – Giants 19.10 (124) bt Demons 12.15 (87) at Spotless Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Giants $1.28 Demons $3.70

Sportingbet: Giants $1.30 Demons $3.88

Melbourne coach Paul Roos got a severe reality check last week when the Demons returned to their woeful ways in a dismal loss to West Coast. Roos couldn’t hide his alarm and not even the sustained excellence of co-captain Nathan Jones, who has the most disposals in the league, helped. The Giants were gallant yet defeated by St Kilda last weekend but are firm favourites to win this game, and currently are ranked third in the league for winning contested possessions.

Key: Can Melbourne show some spirit? And can they somehow stop the Giants’ key forward Jeremy Cameron from kicking a bag of goals?

Tip: Giants by 42 points


North Melbourne v Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium 3.40pm

Head to Head: Kangaroos 20 Power 8 Drawn 0

Last clash: Round 6 2013 – Kangaroos 14.9 (93) bt Power 12.11 (83) at Blundstone Arena

Tab Sportsbet: Kangaroos $2.10 Power $1.75

Sportingbet: Kangaroos $2.12 Power $1.73

Port can’t have started the season any better: consecutive wins against Carlton and Adelaide which have the Power firming as a top four contender. They’re the second-highest scorers in the competition with a forward the envy of most featuring Jay Shulz, Justin Westhoff, Angus Monfries, Robbie Gray and Chad Wingard. The Kangaroos have a mean defence and if they can clean up their disposals – they have made the most clangers of any club this season – they’re a chance.

Key: Port defender Jackson Trengove faces a crucial battle against North’s Drew Petrie. If the Power backman can’t control Petrie, it spells trouble for the visitors.

Tip: Power by 24 points


Essendon v Carlton at MCG 6.40pm

Head to Head: Bombers 113 Blues 121 Drawn 5

Last clash: Round 22 2013 – Bombers 12.10 (82) bt Blues 9.22 (76) at MCG

Tab Sportsbet: Bombers $1.58 Blues $2.40

Sportingbet: Bombers $1.55 Blues $2.45

Carlton’s winless start to the season is easily traced: they’re not finding the footy enough. The Blues have the least disposals of any club. And they confront an Essendon team which has collected the most disposals of any club. If that trend continues, the Bombers will endlessly toy their long-term rivals and create enough scoring chances to bank a win.

Key: Can Carlton’s Jarrad Waite create headlines for goal-kicking, not acting? After being sanctioned for staging, the Blues badly need their key forward to fire.

Tip: Bombers by 42 points


HAWTHORN 6.2 12.5 17.7 21.11 (137)
FREMANTLE 1.2 2.8 5.10 11.13 (79)
Goals: Hawthorn: I Smith 3 L Breust 3 P Puopolo 3 C Rioli 2 J Gunston 2 J Roughead 2 B Hill D Hale G Birchall L Shiels M Suckling W Langford. Fremantle: M Pavlich 4 P Duffield 2 A Sandilands C Mayne D Pearce H Ballantyne R Crowley.
Best: Hawthorn: J Lewis S Mitchell C Rioli I Smith B Hill L Shiels L Breust. Fremantle: M Pavlich S Hill A Sandilands.
Umpires: Brett Rosebury, Luke Farmer, Nicholas Foot.
Official Crowd: 43,583 at MCG.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 5.4 9.5 11.9 15.10 (100)
RICHMOND 2.4 3.4 9.6 15.8 (98)
Goals: Western Bulldogs: L Jones 3 D Giansiracusa 2 L Jong 2 S Crameri 2 A Cooney J Macrae J Stringer L Dahlhaus L Hunter S Higgins. Richmond: J Riewoldt 4 B Griffiths 2 T Vickery 2 D Jackson D Martin J King N Gordon R Petterd S Grigg T Cotchin.
Best: Western Bulldogs: J Macrae M Boyd T Liberatore D Morris W Minson S Higgins S Crameri. Richmond: T Cotchin D Jackson S Morris J Riewoldt R Conca M Thomas.
Injuries: Western Bulldogs: J Roughead (shoulder). Richmond: N Vlastuin (concussion).
Reports: Nil.
Umpires: Matt Stevic, David Harris, Leigh Fisher.
Official Crowd: 31,724 at Etihad Stadium.

SYDNEY 6.2 9.2 14.5 21.8 (134)
ADELAIDE 2.2 5.7 9.10 9.17 (71)
Goals: Sydney: L Franklin 4 L Parker 4 H Cunningham 3 D Hannebery 2 K Jack 2 B McGlynn G Rohan J Laidler J McVeigh L Roberts-Thomson T Mitchell. Adelaide: M Grigg 2 D Mackay E Betts J Podsiadly M Jaensch P Dangerfield R Douglas R Sloane.
Best: Sydney: L Parker L Franklin J Kennedy J McVeigh N Malceski K Jack B McGlynn. Adelaide: R Douglas M Jaensch P Dangerfield J Podsiadly R Sloane.
Injuries: Sydney: Nil. Adelaide: M Grigg (groin) S Kerridge (eye) S Thompson (corked thigh).
Reports: Sydney: J McVeigh (Sydney) reported for rough conduct on M Jaensch (Adelaide) in the first quarter. Adelaide: Nil.
Umpires: Mathew Nicholls, Dean Margetts, Brendan Hosking.
Venue: Adelaide Oval.

GOLD COAST 2.2 5.6 12.10 17.12 (114)
BRISBANE LIONS 1.2 3.4 6.4 9.7 (61)
Goals: Gold Coast: S Day 4 G Ablett 3 B Matera 2 D Swallow 2 J Harbrow J O’Meara K Kolodjashnij M Shaw S Lemmens T Lynch. Brisbane Lions: T Rockliff 3 M Paparone 2 J Aish L Taylor P Hanley S Mayes.
Best: Gold Coast: G Ablett D Prestia D Swallow S Day K Kolodjashnij J Harbrow. Brisbane Lions: T Rockliff J Redden B Moloney M Paparone M Golby T West.
Injuries: Gold Coast: Nil. Brisbane Lions: D Rich (knee).
Reports: Nil.
Umpires: Scott Jeffery, Chris Kamolins, Heath Ryan.
Venue: Metricon Stadium.

GEELONG 3.5 6.7 9.12 12.15 (87)
COLLINGWOOD 0.4 6.7 8.9 11.10 (76)
Goals: Geelong: T Hawkins 4 A Mackie C Guthrie G Horlin-Smith H McIntosh J Murdoch M Stokes S Johnson T Varcoe. Collingwood: J Elliott 5 J White 2 A Toovey J Blair S Sidebottom T Goldsack.
Best: Geelong: J Selwood M Duncan T Hawkins T Lonergan M Stokes A Mackie C Guthrie. Collingwood: J Elliott S Sidebottom N Maxwell D Beams H Lumumba B Macaffer.
Injuries: Geelong: C Enright (ankle) replaced in selected side by J Sheringham. Collingwood: S Dwyer (leg).
Reports: Nil.
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Sam Hay, Shane McInerney.
Official Crowd: 63,152 at MCG.

WEST COAST 3.2 5.4 8.8 12.11 (83)
ST KILDA 1.5 6.6 7.8 8.10 (58)
Goals: West Coast: J Cripps 2 J Kennedy 2 X Ellis 2 C Sinclair D Cox J Darling L Shuey M Brown M Priddis. St Kilda: L Dunstan 2 L Montagna 2 N Riewoldt 2 B Maister E Templeton.
Best: West Coast: M Priddis D Cox J Darling A Gaff L Shuey. St Kilda: L Dunstan L Montagna L Hayes F Ray N Riewoldt.
Injuries: West Coast: C Masten (corked thigh) M LeCras (arm) S Selwood (ankle) S Wellingham (general soreness) replaced in selected side by W Schofield. St Kilda: L Montagna (leg) S Gilbert (foot).
Reports: Nil.
Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Jacob Mollison, Andrew Mitchell.
Official Crowd: 36,448 at Patersons Stadium.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.2 2.7 5.12 10.19 (79)
MELBOURNE 0.2 1.5 5.5 7.5 (47)
Goals: Greater Western Sydney: J Cameron 2 J Kelly 2 J Patton 2 A Treloar D Smith S Coniglio S Mumford. Melbourne: J Watts 2 L Dunn 2 D Kent J Frawley M Jones.
Best: Greater Western Sydney: S Mumford A Treloar C Ward S Coniglio J Kelly H Shaw. Melbourne: M Jones J Frawley J Howe J Watts M Evans D Cross.
Injuries: Nil.
Reports: Nil.
Umpires: Ben Ryan, Simon Meredith, Ray Chamberlain.
Official Crowd: 7,016 at Spotless Stadium.

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