With half a round down and 16 and a half rounds to go, the TAC Cup is still in the infant stages of the 2015 season.
Last week we saw Metro Round kick off the season as it so often has, with the six metro teams going tit-for-tat to try and evaluate where they stand at the end of the preseason.
Ultimately, the two most impressive sides on paper, Calder Cannons and Eastern Ranges stood up and delivered blows to their opposition, while Oakleigh Chargers showed they will do everything in their power to win their third flag in four years.
On the other end of the scale, both Northern Knights and Western Jets were bitterly disappointing, with very few match winning types, unable to cope with some of the offensive moves by their highly rated opposition.
While both clubs have solid players, some of which will find AFL clubs at the end of the year, they need a couple more stars to really be competitive against the top teams.
Sandringham Dragons were not much better despite having some classy ball winners and scoring options.
They made the margin respectable in the second half, but they were absolutely torn to shreds when the heat was in the battle early on.
This round will do two things for viewers: Firstly, it will introduce the country teams for the first time this season, while secondly, it will also give the metro teams a second chance to prove whether the first round result was an abnormality or if it was the start of something good or bad in season 2015.
Calder Cannons vs Northern Knights
Round two kicks off with two teams who could not have had different starts to the season if they tried.
Calder looked superb and hungry to bounce back from last year’s Grand Final loss.
Nick O’Kearney didn’t star, but they still controlled the midfield, which shows how deep they go.
Up forward they have enough options to worry teams, while in the talls department, they have Mark Kovacevic in the ruck and a number of solid talls such as Callum Moore (who unfortunately will miss six to eight weeks), Tom Gawthorp and Hisham Kerbatieh (who isn’t a tall, but can play tall).
Northern on the otherhand, were bitterly disappointing in the first round.
They stuck around for a quarter or so, then were just blown away by Oakleigh in perfect conditions.
While the Knights have a number of goers, they simply don’t have enough outside players to hit up the scoring targets up forward.
Gippsland Power vs Dandenong Stingrays
Gippsland and Dandenong are the first country sides to meet this year, with both teams seemingly having strong lists.
Both midfields are quite strong with classy players able to run across the ground.
Most eyes will be on Dandenong’s Jacob Weitering, while Sydney fans might have one eye on Gippsland’s star midfielder Josh Dunkley.
An under-achiever to keep an eye on is Tate Marsh who may look about 12 years old, but the kid has serious talent.
It’s tough to pick a winner here, because Dandenong may have the slightly better side around the field, but Gippsland have the home ground advantage, and Morwell is a very different ground to others.
In this clash however, Dandenong should get the job done by a few points, with absolutely no confidence in picking either side.
Murray Bushrangers vs Bendigo Pioneers
Two sides that haven’t done a lot in the last few years, particularly the Pioneers.
Murray always seem to be thereabouts in the finals, but with a stronger side this year, they will be another pushing for a home elimination final.
There has been much talk about Eastern’s Sam Weideman, but keep an eye out for Bushrangers key forward Josh Schache, who might well end up the best key forward in this draft.
He played two seasons ago as a 15-year-old and kicked four goals in a game, so he is a really special talent.
For the Pioneers, they have two members in the AIS Academy squad for the first time since Ollie Wines and Jake Stringer, in Tom Cole and Aidyn Johnson.
The new Pioneers coach is quietly confident that his gamestyle will see an improved team, but only time will tell.
If any side is desperate to play finals, the long-suffering Pioneers have not made it past August in a decade.
The Pioneers seem ready for this clash, but they’ll need to win the midfield battle.
Murray would be the favourites here, but in this case, the tip will swing to the Pioneers because they are confident they will be a cohesive unit in 2015.
Oakleigh Chargers vs Eastern Ranges
In the first two games of the season, these two teams impressed watchers at IKON Park with their ability to get the ball forward and at times, score at will.
Oakleigh were the best side in the pressure stakes for the round, while Eastern had so many options up forward.
The key to this game is whether or not Oakleigh can choke the Eastern midfield into not having free options across the half forward line and making them earn their kicks.
If Eastern have too much space, they will cut any side apart with their dominant forward line.
Oakleigh unearthed a couple of key forwards in Harry Thompson and Nick Lardy last week, but the onus will be on whether they can be a consistent duo up forward.
Eastern’s forward line of Weideman, Blake Hardwick and James Parsons is just too dominant and that’s the side that will go in favourites and should win.
Western Jets vs Sandringham Dragons
Unfortunately both the Jets and Dragons could not have been less impressive, with bad losses to kick off their seasons.
The Jets were torn open in their opening match and seemed a bit lost and helpless in defence when Eastern were pinpointing passes and running forward in groups.
Their key players are up forward, but as they found out on the weekend, they cannot have an influence if the ball does not go there, so they will need the midfield to lift.
Sandringham has enough classy players to scrape into finals this year, but last week ultimately succumbed to a much stronger and rounded Cannons outfit.
Harry Balic is the name on most draft watchers lips and he will be the one they look to for a spark.
The Dragons should win this with their class, but cannot afford to have another first half like last week or the strength in attack for the Jets will trouble them.
Geelong Falcons vs North Ballarat Rebels
In the final game of the round, two sides that finished top four but were bundled out in straight sets last finals series, get to meet at Simmonds Stadium.
The Falcons once again have an impressive side with the likes of Darcy Parish and Rhys Mathieson leading the charge once again.
Another player to watch out for is Harrison Kol who is secretly underrated but could be one to shoot up the draft order late in the year with a solid season.
For the first time in three years, the Rebels have a rounded team that could legitimately cause problems for their opposition.
Jacob Hopper and Darcy Tucker are the names that have clubs licking their lips.
Unfortunately for them, Hopper is firmly in Greater Western Sydney’s sights, being an academy player.
Tucker on the other hand, is well and truly up for offer and he’ll be one to watch throughout the season.
They might not have as bigger names as the Geelong list, but they’re a bit stronger than the last couple of years and may surprise in 2015.
Geelong Falcons should still get the job done on Saturday, but it will be closer than many might think, and could be only a few goals in it.
Peter Williams’ tips: Calder, Gippsland, Bendigo, Eastern, Sandringham, Geelong (2/3 so far)
Jourdan Canil’s tips: Calder, Gippsland, Bendigo, Eastern, Sandringham, Geelong (3/3 so far)
Paige Cardona’s tips: Calder, Dandenong, Murray, Eastern, Sandringham, North Ballarat (3/3 so far)