Round One: The Season Openers of 2012
The wait is over.
Football has arrived ladies and gents and is back in Ontario starting at Humber College South, kicking off early Saturday morning.
It's been a difficult pre-season to really predict the fortunes of all the OAFL clubs for 2012. It's something we like to do, but rarely is it spot on. Some clubs have stayed the same, others have seen some key departures (which has left holes in structures) and some clubs continue to re-build. We won't really know how teams are really tracking until mid-season. At least this week we get to see full squads out on the park; it helps gauge (somewhat) what other clubs can expect from their rivals each week.
So what can we expect this weekend? Expect clangers. Expect low scores. Expect tired bodies. Expect a lot of behinds. But, who cares? It's round one. Round one is usually a test for all clubs as no one is match ready. The best football -- normally -- is reserved for post July. What we will see though, is lots of tackling, lots of contested work and players diving on the ball. We're going to see coaches go the "simple" route and break it down to the basics. That's what round one footy is all about.
Also, each new season brings in new Canadian talent.It's always exciting to see a fresh-faced Canuck breaking open a pack in his first game, or kicking a goal or laying a game-lifting tackle. It's why we play football here in Canada, and, on the eve of yet another OAFL season, we wish all teams the best of luck in 2012!
Don't forget: get on Twitter! Tweet your results from the weekend! Use the #oaflr1 hashtag for this week.
Here's what we say. (drumroll please!)
Round One, Saturday May.5
Toronto Eagles vs Hamilton Wildcats
Couldn’t have picked two tougher teams to kick off the OAFL season – and kick the stuffing out of each other in the process. Both teams have lost Australians in the off-season, but the Eagles have added Troy Marsh and perhaps a few others. Hamilton has already played a full game, after they defeated Guelph in Guelph last weekend by nine points during a practice match.Kudes to both those teams! I wonder if there were any injuries from that game? Anyway. Back to this. Expect early morning dewy conditions for the Eagles-Wildcats clash. This will make for low scoring, so, I'm guessing this will be an arm wrestle for three-quarters. Even though the Eagles' veterans have the experience, there is a changing culture at the Wildcats. They've worked out how to win tough games which is why they finished second before the finals last season. This sprited culture will get them over the line this week.
Tip: Wildcats by 15pts
Toronto Rebels vs Ottawa Swans
Wouldn’t it be great if both of these teams made the Grand Final this year? As football fans, you’d be delighted. Maybe we should put some ice on that thought for now, but come Saturday, these two teams will be playing a finals-like game. It won’t be for a trophy, but instead, four points will be up for grabs. The Rebels will start favourites, playing at home, but don’t expect the Swannies to lie down easily. No one likes dangling at the bottom of the ladder, so expect both teams to go at it “hammer and tongs” to prove their worth.The Swans will want to break their "can't win away from home" tag and the Rebels want to get their season off on the right foot with a win in Toronto. Fabs and Morgs will have their work cut out for them, but will be the difference between the two teams by the fouth quarter.
Tip: Rebels by 10 pts
Broadview Hawks vs Central Blues
It’s the battle of the Australians in this one. Both sides are rebuilding their Canadian stock, but boast some excellent foreign talent. It’s probably going to nullify the “Oz” battle and will – of course—come down to their Canadians. From all reports, the Blues will improve greatly this year and the Hawks could be similar to last year’s form, making this match hard to call. It sounds cliche, but, gut feeling says it'll come down to who can kick 12 goals. In this league, if you can kick 10 more, 90 per cent of the time, you'll win the game. I think the Hawks might have too much fire-power for this one.
Tip: Hawks by 12 pts
Toronto Dingos vs Guelph Gargoyles
We have here another tough match to call. It’s fifth matching up against sixth from last year’s standings; Guelph finished with eight wins to the Dingo’s six. Last year Guelph also defeated the Dingos by 27 points. But that was last year. Both teams start 2012 with a clean slate and the Toronto Dingos are keen to make amends for their recent shoddy form against Guelph. It’s going to be a hard ask for Guelph to claim four points for the win -- a late afternoon game in Toronto– but if anyone’s up for a challenge it’s the Gargs. Watch for the experienced Dingos to step up when it counts most on Saturday.
Tip: Dingos by 15 pts
***Match of the round***
High Park Demons vs Etobicoke Roos
It’s the Grand Final rematch we’ve waited six months for. I bet the High Park Demons are ready to square the ledger in the opening round this Sunday. The Demons continue to build on their young squad and have apparently picked up a Ben Cousins clone (this news just in, in the late mail). The Roos have lost three –four key players, but have gained a former AFL player and Emile Studham is rumored to have committed to a full season. It'll be interesting to see how the Roos cope with the loss of some of their leaders, and how the Demons' 18-year old mosquito feet fare up against the bigger bodies of the Roos. We have to give the reigning premiers the benefit of the doubt in this match, as they still boast a stellar line up. The Roos will start favourites, but the winner of this game is sure to be red-hot favourites for the 2012 flag.
Tip: Roos by 23pts