AFL Week 1 Preview: Graz Giants @ Danube Dragons

AFL Kickoff Sunday. The Dragons are ready! © Florian Schellhorn from www.footballpics.info
AFL Kickoff Sunday. The Dragons are ready!
© Florian Schellhorn from www.footballpics.info

Kick-Off: Sunday 23/03, 14:00 GMT.

Records: First game of the year, both 0-0.

Last Meeting: AFL Week 10, 2013. The Giants dominated the second and third quarter with the now departed Alex Good running the show, literally, with three first half rushing touchdowns. The Dragons, despite putting up good offensive numbers, were never able to convert their chances into more points on the board and slumped to 3-7 on the year.

Player to Watch: Giants – Without any imports this year, the Giants are putting a lot of faith in their 19 year old quarterback, Christoph Gubisch. Another dual threat quarterback, Gubisch his lead the Austrian U19 to become European Junior Champions, scoring touchdowns with his running ability (70 yards) and passing, to defeat team France in the final. Whilst the Giants know that he’s not the finished product just yet, he will be carrying a lot of the team’s hopes this season.

Christop Grubisch
Grubisch in action for the Austrian national team.

Dragons – As highlight in my key players article, new-boy Cary Grossart is now the focal point of the Dragons offence. With the departure of both Tunde Ogun and Jonathan Dally, Grossart is going to have to lean heavily on the skills of his best wideout Thomas Haider to get the job done. The Giants defence wasn’t exactly stellar last year, so provided Grossart has gotten to grips with his offence quickly enough I would expect him to have a steady day on his debut.

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Key Matchup: Having not seen either instalment of the Dragon’s and Giant’s team this year it’s hard to call, but I would highlight the Dragon’s run defence against the Giant’s spread option attack. Whilst Gubisch is not a complete rookie when it comes to the AFL stage (having played against the Rangers last year), I expect that he will attempt to do the majority of the work with his feet on Sunday, but as ever in the option, the quarterbacks decision making is they key to success. If the Dragons get to the young quarterback early and give him some odd looks on defence, it could lead to some struggles in the run game.

PdL
One of the Giant’s best, WR Ponce de Leon.
© Florian Schellhorn from www.footballpics.info

Preview:  With both quarterbacks being somewhat of unknown identities in their offences this year (as well as to me), it’s tough for me to call who’s likely to have the better game, and with the shakiness of AFL defences, I wouldn’t like to put out a prediction on them either! The entities I am a little more certain on in this game is the wide receiving talent on both teams, so keep your eyes out for Ponce de Leon and Taurer for the Giants as well as Thomas Haider for the Dragons. As with every season, the opener is about which team can adjust to live game speed the quickest and begin to find a rhythm, and I believe in this game, whoever finds that early momentum will win the game.

Prediction: Giants win, 28-21.

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