Welcome ladies, gentlemen and all others inclusive to this week’s Mongrel Preview. This week we’re primed to see a few teams do battle against foes vying for similar spots on the ladder.

With almost half of last week’s games ending as anticipated blowouts, Round Six, being the Anzac round, is looking to provide us with some quality football from old rivals Essendon and Collingwood in the traditional Anzac Day game, as well as some modern-day beauties with the Dogs and the Giants set to rekindle the fiery encounters we’ve seen in season’s past.

One of the hottest tickets for the weekend will certainly be Melbourne vs Richmond at the MCG, with Melbourne maintaining their undefeated start to season 2021 and Richmond looking to claw their way back into the top four. Geelong vs West Coast down in Geelong and Carlton vs Brisbane at Docklands are also both shaping up to be great clashes from teams holding tight to their positions on the ladder.

Here’s what we can expect;

GWS vs Bulldogs (Greene vs Bontempelli 3.0)

When & Where?
Friday 23rd April, Manuka Oval.

Snapshot
When thinking of rivalries in the AFL, it’s quite plain to see which teams have a generations-old distaste for one another – we’ve all heard stories and seen the highlights. One current rivalry that’s in it’s infant years, however still built on a strong developed hatred for one another, stemming from tight finishes, upsets, a captain jumping ship and onfield controversy is that of the Giants and the Bulldogs.

Back in 2014 the Dog’s captain Ryan Griffen opted out and joined the Giants in a controversial trade, kickstarting the tensions between the teams. Jump to 2016 when the Dog’s narrowly edged out the Giants in a highly physical elimination final, where Toby Greene would be fined for his actions in attempting to nullify Marcus Bontempelli’s influence on the game. Last season was another boilover which ultimately saw 16 players receive fines for their efforts in the clash. This weekend’s game is shaping up to be another physical corker.

So what does it all mean?
Greater Western Sydney edged out Sydney last week in a last-minute thriller that sees them in 12th position on the ladder with a modest percentage. A win over the undefeated Bulldogs would surely be a massive boost to their so-far underwhelming start to the season. The Doggies beat the Suns last week to the tune of 10 goals, further distancing their percentage from the only other undefeated team this season – second-placed Melbourne, and etching themselves as clear front runners and a force to be reckoned with. They’ll be heading into this game as clear favourites, and with well-earnt confidence about themselves.

All eyes on:
Greene vs Machine – as eluded to previously, a lot of the hype around this rivalry stems from the clashing of Toby Greene and Marcus Bontempelli. I have no doubt that all eyes will be on these two individuals to see what spot fires can ignite. If there was to be any sense of showmanship and flair displayed in football, Greene would line up directly on Bontempelli from the first bounce. Both players have been in fine form this season to date. After kicking 1.7 last week, it would be a surprise to not see Greene pop up and affect the scoreboard.

Share the love – Bulldogs may just suffer some of the heartbreak we saw champion teams such as Geelong suffer in their previous years of dominance, where an array of talented midfielders that share the load in their games also share the load when it comes to Brownlow Medal votes. Dunkley, Macrae, Bontempelli, Treloar, Smith, Liberatore. All names that individually would comfortably slot into the top 10 players of almost any club in the league. It will be incredible seeing this midfield grow together and gel through experience.

Tall timbers – Giants have publically discussed their willingness to play tall, with the possible return of Jessie Hogan and expected return of Matt Flynn to bolster their ruck stocks against the in-form duo of Martin and English. How will this affect their scoring? Can they continue to cover the loss of gun forward Jeremy Cameron to Geelong in the offseason? With injuries starting to amount, the Giants may have their backs up against the wall early.

Gold Coast vs Sydney

When & Where?
Saturday 24th April, Metricon Stadium.

Snapshot
Sydney are narrowly edging out Port Adelaide to sit third on the ladder, after last week losing their first game of the season to crosstown adversary, Greater Western Sydney by two points in a very tight finish. Gold Coast have started a few games well this season and looked to provide a contest early, but a heavy injury list is starting to take its toll on a team that was climbing towards fielding a regular team capable of climbing the ladder and playing finals football.

So what does it all mean?
Pending results of other games, a loss to Sydney could see them pushed out of the top four by the end of the round, such is the closeness of the competition. A healthy win with a decent percentage boost would almost certainly stake their current position at third and hold nearing Port Adelaide at bay. A surprise win to the Suns would do their confidence a lot more than their finals aspirations, as 1-4 start to the season with only a win over lowly North Melbourne is hard to come back from. Especially given their current injury situation.

All eyes on:
Tom Papley – With only nine goals from his first five games and four of those coming against Richmond, small forward Tom Papley has to be due for a day out soon. This time last year he was one of the most mercurial forwards in the league. His start to this season has been underwhelming given the expectations on him. I’d love to see his tackle count higher! When Papley is on, his pressure as a small forward is elite. He runs, he chases, he tackles, he forces turnovers and he kicks goals. In the absence of Buddy Franklin and Isaac Heeney, he needs to rediscover that small forward craft that tantalised Carlton and lured them into making a play for him at draft time.

Sydney’s youth – How good have the swans looked this year? How much of that is thanks to first and second-year players? Having three of the first four rising star nominations of this season in their best 22, Sydney look to have drafted a crop of aspiring youngsters ready to play football at the top level. Errol Gulden finds the ball and kicks goals, Chad Warner has slotted into the midfield nicely and managed to hold his own against formidable opposition, Jake Rowbottom is another whose pressure in the midfield and around the ground is exceptional for a player just entering his third season, averaging eight tackles a game. This Sydney outfit all of a sudden has a rather high ceiling for a team that acknowledged being in a growth or “rebuild” period.

Suns set? – I mentioned it last week, but where would Gold Coast be this season without Hugh Greenwood, Jack Bowes and Brandon Ellis? The latter’s acquisition from Richmond has been a godsend for Gold Coast and poaching Greenwood after his four seasons with Adelaide has given their midfield some grunt. How will they fare this season missing such important cogs to injury? It’s hard to see anything but a write-off coming from their year ahead. It’ll get no easier as they travel to Melbourne to take on Collingwood at the MCG next week.

Geelong vs West Coast

When & Where?
Saturday 24th April, Alphabet Stadium (GMHBA)

Snapshot
One of my choice games for the round, this one could be a belter! Two teams in similar form this season, both battling for neighbouring positions on the ladder. Geelong have been backed in as favourites at the time of writing, but with Patrick Dangerfield being ruled out, the time is nigh for West Coast to end their 15-year drought of victory in Geelong. Since their draw in 2003, West Coast have played in Geelong eight times for seven losses and only one victory way back in 2006 when they came from 54 points down to win by three points. The Cat’s are coming off a somewhat unconvincing five-goal win over North Melbourne, and the Eagles are flying following their dismantling of Collingwood last week.

So what does it all mean?
A lot! Some games of football have very little bearing on the ladder and positioning of both teams involved. This game however is not one of those games. If Geelong are victorious they will remain in the eight and may push their claim closer to cracking the top four in weeks to come. If West Coast are successful they too will jump back into top four contention.

All eyes on:
Jeremy Cameron – Will the star recruit return to Geelong’s forward line this week? They desperately need him. Chris Scott called him a certainty to play, or is Scott pulling a ruse from the Kevin Sheedy coaching book of deception? Cameron being the sort of player who commands the attention of opposition coaches at the selection table, his inclusion in the side would surely free Tom Hawkins from the shackles of tag-teaming defenders. Especially with Shannon Hurn unlikely to play.

Tim Kelly – After being heavily tagged out of his past two games the Eagles will be looking to their star midfielder to have a strong influence against one of the stronger midfields in the competition on their home deck. He started the season with a bang and really flexed his skills in the first few games. In the absence of Patty Dangerfield, a big game from Kelly and a backup of last week’s herculean efforts from Duggan, Gaff and/or Redden will be what Adam Simpson is looking for to combat the potency of Selwood, Guthrie and Duncan.

Travel sickness – West Coast will look to break their current trend of not being able to win away from home. Their record in Melbourne as of late hasn’t been fruitful and their aforementioned dry spell in Geelong is something supporters would love to see quelled. With the 2020 season almost decried in terms of Home/Away losses due to Covid-19 enforced restrictions, the Eagle’s last win in Melbourne came against Carlton in round 20 of 2019.

Carlton vs Brisbane

When & Where?
Saturday 24th April, Marvel Stadium

Snapshot
Carlton have been competitive and close in a few of their losses. But competitive and close isn’t where they need to be as a team. They need to be winning games and pushing their credentials with the list that they currently have. They were in it til late in the piece against Collingwood and Richmond where late goals really inflated their losing margins. Wins came against Fremantle and Gold Coast but came crashing back down as Port Adelaide unravelled them last week. Brisbane too were in it until late in the piece in their loss to Geelong, but were bested by the Bulldogs and Sydney. A strong, healthy showing against Essendon in the wet last week should propel the Lions this week as they look to jump into the eight with their healthy percentage.

So what does it all mean?
Carton taking the win will keep them in touch with the top eight. David Teague has employed the services of John Worsfold in an advisory role that will hopefully aid the football GameDay department and see them improve from their 2-3 start to the season. The Lions winning would see a welcome change in direction to their season. Having not won back-to-back games since the end of last year’s home and away season, a win over Carlton paired with their near 10 goal demolition of Essendon last week will be a welcomed turnaround to their season.

All eyes on:
Daniel Rich- After almost 1000 metres gained last weekend against the Bombers, the Lions will be looking to their runner and cannon-leg to continue his rich vein of form (Pardon the pun. Or don’t – I knew exactly what I was typing). As the 31-year-old winds back the clock, continuing to play football and be amongst the Lion’s best each week. If he can get out behind Cripps and Co. Carlton may not have the player to go with him.

Carlton’s bookends- Hipwood and Daniher have kicked 12 goals across the last three weeks and looked the more productive talls throughout Brisbane’s forward line. If Weitering, Jones and Docherty can curb the influence of Brisbane’s forwards, especially with Charlie Cameron’s form almost warranting depiction as an absence. Likewise, at the other end, Carlton fans will be yearning for an all-round forward performance with a healthy goal haul spread amongst their forwards, curving the ever-growing reliance on Harry McKay to score.

Melbourne vs Richmond

When & Where?
Saturday 24th April, MCG

Snapshot
This! This is shaping up to be the match of the round. Melbourne are in red-hot form and join the Bulldogs as the only undefeated team this season, sitting them second on the ladder. Meanwhile, the Tigers have crept back to fifth after dismantling an abysmal St. Kilda side last week. In what is now an annual Anzac Day eve match since its inception in 2015, this season’s is looking to be one of the best yet! With club stalwarts, Mr. September; Dustin Martin celebrating his 250th game and “Mr. Would’ve-Won-A-Brownlow-If-He-Was-At-Another-Club” Nathan Jones celebrating his 300th game, the stage is set for one of the games of the year.

So what does it all mean?
Melbourne will be up and about, looking to maintain their undefeated start to the season in what will be their biggest test yet – Richmond at the ‘G. Before going on to face North the following week. If the Demons can accomplish a win here, their season could quite easily sit at 9-1 or 10-0 with a very favourable run ahead. This would definitely give us a glimpse as to whether they’re a serious threat this year, or just teasing us as we’ve seen in the past. The Tigers will face another big test next week when they meet the Bulldogs in a Friday night special at the MCG. A loss here could potentially see Richmond drop to the lower echelons of the top eight, such is the tightness of ladder positions currently. Regardless of who wins, a solid four-quarter effort will be needed to run this one out.

All eyes on:
Petracca vs Martin – What a showdown this could be. I know this term is thrown around a lot, but you would be hard-pressed to find two opponents who fit the bill as much as these two hardened bulls. Both love a contest, both love to break a tackle, both can hit the scoreboard, both win matches for their teams off their own boots. Seriously, what a contest this could be. One would think Dusty will go about his day and do Dusty-like things, and what a learning curve it will be for Petracca and this emerging Melbourne midfield. As Sydney showed us, win first possession and starve the Richmond midfield of the ball, move it quickly forward and you’re well on your way. Perhaps they got lucky on the day and caught the Tigers off guard at their MCG fortress, perhaps there’s a chink in their armour that Sydney exposed and exploited. Let’s see how Melbourne attack this one.

Clearance Clarry – Richmond’s game isn’t a ‘win clearances at all costs’ kind of game, Melbourne’s isn’t really either. However, it’s hard to not appear that way when you have the Clearance King Clayton Oliver in your starting six. Paired with hard nut Jack Viney who goes and wins his own ball with encroachment, the Demons have earned their place amongst the top teams for contested possessions this season, largely off the backs of Oliver and captain Max Gawn’s willingness to put their bodies on the line at the contest to win the clearance. The Demons back this up by having three players inside the current top 20 in the AFL for tackles (Viney, Oliver and Jordon).

Jack-in-the-box seat- It’s no state secret that Jack Riewoldt loves the big occasion. In the entire league, he’s currently second only to champion forward Buddy Franklin in career goals (681 at the time of writing). He’s a player who at times has been maligned throughout his career, but no-one can say he hasn’t shown up when needed. Over the years he matured where others said he wouldn’t, he’s flourished where others said he’d fail and he’s adapted his game where others said he’d go stale. The stakes are high in this game and no-one will realise this more than jumping Jack Riewoldt. If he can keep his emotions in check, if he can keep his head cool, on his shoulders and un-inflated, and if he can even remotely sense the occasion, he will fire and kick goals for fun. He may even have some support if his counterpart in Tom Lynch can also keep a level head, despite how frequently he finds himself lent to the contrary.

Nathan Jones- bonus content. No jokes, no puns, no-frills, just an admiration addition. How good is Nathan Jones? He’ll finish his career in the next few years as one of the best to ever chuck on a Demons jersey, and there’s been some ripper players to do that. Despite their lack of onfield success, their club’s financial lows, tanking allegations and years of heavy losses after heavy losses, Nathan Jones’ faith and loyalty to this club have never wavered. Despite the offers that came from rival clubs, his heart rang true for the red and the blue. If ever there was a fitting player to sing that verse of the theme song, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more-so than Jones. As an outsider looking in I was always jealous of a player that would keep going out week after week and putting his body on the line for his club. Hat’s off to him this week, he’s a bloody star.

Fremantle vs North Melbourne

When & Where?
Saturday 24th April, Optus Stadium

Snapshot
With absolutely no offence intended to fans of both Fremantle and North Melbourne, this assessment will be somewhat of a quick one. Not out of any lack of respect for either team, I strive to make a fair, unbiased preview for each of the 18 teams each week. However there is just not enough in this game for me to delve into compared to some others. Please don’t take it personally, please don’t feel hard done by, I’m sure your times will come.

Unfortunately, this game won’t be one of them.

Fremantle goes in as favourites at home after a couple of wins on the trot against Hawthorn and Adelaide. Sitting at ninth position, the Dockers are every chance to jump into the eight with a win over North, a loss shouldn’t see them slip too far down the ladder, given they’re sitting on three wins for the season. It will however see their ledger sit at 3-3 and with their current and perrenial injury crisis, any wins they can take early will be vital to them pushing for a top-eight finish later in the season. North Melbourne on the other hand won’t drop any lower than 18th with a loss, but a win, especially one outside of Melbourne, would do their team morale nothing but favours and give their supporters some glee.

So what does it all mean?
In the Grand scheme of things? Not a lot for North Melbourne. In the hearts of their supporters though? Absolutely everything. Every supporter likes to go into a game thinking that their team is something of a chance. North Melbourne’s time will come. They won’t be challenging for a flag this season, and it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be in that position next season. But their time will come. Their fans will be able to sing their song this season, eventually. For Fremantle, it’s all about keeping in touch with the top eight. If they can refrain from losing the easy ones and keep themselves in a decent position, then come the latter half of the season they’ll be primed to take the next step once a few of the players on their injury list return. They can play a bloody good brand of football, we saw that against Hawthorn and GWS.

All eyes on:
Jack Ziebell – it’s hard to have eyes on anyone else for the Shinboners when he’s the only one that shows up each week. That’s harsh, but it’s a reality. That and maybe Jed Anderson’s tackling are the only two constants for the Kangaroos thus far this season. I acknowledge that they’re going out with a young, developing side each week, and I’ll touch on that shortly. But from the most optimistic fan to the Mr. Statsheet Studier, other than future development in young players, “key learnings” if I’m pulling out my inner John Worsfold and the chance at a priority draft pick, you can’t see much else coming from this season.

Fremantle’s midfield – I believe I touched on this last week, but it deserves another shoutout. Fyfe has been far from his dual-Brownlow best this season, yet the Fremantle midfield has held their own. Benjamin Button (aka David Mundy) just keeps on keeping on and keeping on well. The youngsters in Brayshaw, Cerra and Serong impress me time and time again. Even Sean Darcy in the ruck and Luke Ryan down back are having strong seasons. I have a strong belief that this side has the bones to build a strong body in years to come. If only that body could stop being so damned injury prone! A healthy side with their best 22 on the park will see this Fremantle side contest in the next few years.

Dug deep – I had a really good look into this and even liaised with two optimistic Kangaroos supporters to find some more hard facts. Admittingly, I’ll have them chasing me with pitchforks if I don’t acknowledge Ben Cunnington – it wouldn’t be the first time. But no, it was made aware to me that their Magpie-throwaway recruit Jaidyn Stephenson has been trialled just about everywhere on the ground to find his optimal position. Upon checking his possession heatmaps, By George, they were onto something. After watching most of his clips from his past few matches, he has been trialled in the middle on the ball, on the wing, deep forward, high half forward and as some sort of a defensive, negating forward. His season to date hasn’t been terrible, he’s kicked goals and laid tackles and probably done most of what was asked of him. Will be interesting to see where he settles and what role that will entail.

Hawthorn vs Adelaide

When & Where?
Sunday April 25th, UTAS. (That would be the University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston. For those of you scratching your head and wondering where the F……inn McGuinness is UTAS)

Snapshot
Adelaide’s fairytale start to the season where most had them picked to finish bottom two hit a bit of a speedhump last week when Fremantle got the better of them. They’re still sitting inside the top eight, for now. Beating Hawthorn wouldn’t just keep them inside the eight, it would be another great achievement to tick off for their season to pinch one on the Hawk’s home away from home ground in Tasmania. If the Hawks were to win in icy cold Launceston, it wouldn’t propel them greatly up the ladder. In fact they may not move at all. But it will instil a little faith back in the questioning minds of those that aren’t quite sure of master-coach Clarko’s grand plans. Myself not being one of those doubters. Every time I’ve doubted Clarko in the past, he’s either proved me wrong with a vengeance or punched a hole in my wall.

So what does it all mean?
I kind of highlighted this already in my Snapshot.. man, I’m really getting good at botching my own preview template, aren’t I? I suppose if we cast our eyes ahead, Adelaide’s next two games are at home. Although, one of those is against their up-and-about arch-nemesis in Port, then they travel to Perth to play West Coast. I guess they will have a few strong tests of their fabric ahead. Finishing the month ahead with three or even two wins would have to be a huge pass mark for a team widely tipped to give little resistance this season. Hawthorn have a few very winnable games ahead of them in the way of St. Kilda and North Melbourne, and a decent challenge from West Coast, albeit at the MCG.

All eyes on:
Marty McFly – That was a terrible segway into an even worse joke. Something along the lines of winding back the clock? I’ll see myself to the door. But seriously though, where the hell has Tex Walker’s form come from? Did he just wake up one morning and decide to watch his tapes from the past two seasons and think, man, is that really what I’ve become? He’s doing his best Rocky Balboa impersonation and showing that for a bloke well into the latter half of his career, he’s winding down with some punches. 22.13 from 36 shots on goal in five games. Seriously. I’ll keep touching on him as long as he keeps surprising me and backing up his efforts with more goals. Because at the end of the day, who doesn’t love a big forward kicking bags of goals. As long as it’s not against your club, there can’t be many of you.

Mr. Ageless – Maybe I went the early crow a bit with this one, or should I say the early Hawk? Shaun Burgoyne’s start the season had me salivating. How could a bloke who’s played more games than 99.something percent of AFL players in history continue to remind us just where his nickname ‘Silk’ was earnt? But here we are. Five rounds in and his influence has somewhat dwindled. Is this indicative of Hawthorn’s current direction, where younger players are starting to hit their strides and quell his opportunity? Or is age starting to catch up to him? I hope it’s the former, I really do. He has miraculously survived each of Clarko’s end of year over-30s clearouts for the past few seasons, but as each week progresses, I fear he may be edging closer to the end. Even if that’s the case, he’ll go out as one of the greats of the modern era.

Lachie Scholl – I like this kid. I’ve watched his rising star odds drop each week that he plays. I’ve noticed in the past few games he’s had a crack at running with some of the opposition’s best mids. I’d love to see him have a run with Tom Mitchell this week. Not so much to tag him, as we’ve seen in the past it’s often fruitless to try and deny such a leather addict his fix at handling the football, but more so he gets a good look at what’s ahead of him as an on-baller. Even a good run with Jaeger O’Meara will do him very little harm in his second season.

Collingwood vs Essendon

When & Where?
Sunday 25th April, MCG.

Snapshot
One of my other choices for a potential game of the round (heard that a few times so far, hey?). It’s easy to try and devalue this game for what it is, due to both clubs poorer starts to the season. But in doing so you would be ignoring the beauties that lie in obscure coincidences. I won’t get into those right now, or else I’ll kick myself again when I go to write the next section. I will however set the scene. It’s Anzac Day, the biggest home and away game on the calendar and a staple for Essendon and Collingwood fans alike. If there’s one game you want to win for the season, it’s Anzac Day.

There is no atmosphere quite like it and those that disagree either haven’t experienced it, or haven’t won a final in a long time. Looking at you, Essendon fans. But in all seriousness, this game should be on the bucket list of every football fan to attend at least once in their lives. The respect and honour shown to our fallen soldiers, the money raised for suitable causes, hearing the last post played in front of 90,000+ dead-silent fans is spine-tingling. It’s just one of those occasions that you have to witness live to gauge a true feeling on just how amazing this spectacle really is.

So what does it all mean?
Speaking to a neutral fan in the lead up to this game, it interested me to hear that this game was highest on his choice to watch this week. Mulling it over we garnered some interesting perspectives. This will be a genuine make or break game for both of these club’s seasons. Sitting at 1-5 both teams backs are un-arguably up against the wall as it is. But you would have to say that whichever of these teams stares down the barrel of their season sitting at 1-6 can absolutely consider that season in the can. They will be playing in front of the largest crowd since Covid-19 restrictions were made and if it wasn’t already, their season is hook, bait and sinker on the line. You may argue that Essendon’s season hasn’t looked much more than a transition season into the next phase of their development, most notably since they lost multiple key players to injury.

Where most expected Collingwood to contend once again this year, what underlying causes have lead to their downfall thus far? A tumultuous offseason that saw them cop heavy flak for their handling of departing players leading up to the trade period? Their club President falling on his sword and quitting amongst major controversy surrounding the club? A coach who, as suggested by many, has lost his passion and dedication to the game? All of the above? Nonetheless, a win over their old rival on Anzac Day would do more for one of these two clubs, at this point in time than most any other win would.

All eyes on:
Dyson Heppell – In his return to football after off-season surgery against Hawthorn in round one, the Essendon captain looked right at home in his new role as a half-back sweeper. Clutching intercept marks, setting up exciting dashes from defence, chasing and tackling, we saw it all. Then, we didn’t see it any more. Fast forward to Round Six and he has almost been unsighted in the two games he played since round one (yes, I took into account the two games he missed to injury). Given the amount of outside pressure being heaped on him and questions amounting regarding his captaincy, where better of a time and place to stamp your authority and really win one back over your naysayers than in front of a massive MCG crowd, on Anzac Day, in front of so many supporters?

It’s time for Dyson Heppell to stand up and grab a game by the throat. The ‘good bloke factor’ only buys you a certain amount of reprieve. Dyson, it’s time. Stand up, lead your club into what would be a momentous and memorable Anzac Day win.

Ruck Me, this could get ugly – Which poor beggar will Essendon throw to the wolves this week? The wolves being Brodie Grundy and the poor beggar being one of Andrew Phillips, Peter Wright or youngster Nik Cox. Last year Phillips did an amicable job on Brodie Grundy, given he was the in-form ruckmen of the competition at the time and had come off four straight games of being in Collingwood’s top three, if not best player for the games.

We all know Peter Wright wasn’t picked up by Essendon as a ruckman, but given his height and size, one would think he would provide a better contest than a 19 year old, 200cm midfielder that affects the scales almost 15kgs less. Funny that. Back to my initial point, this could and almost certainly will get ugly for Bombers fans. Unless someone in their team can emulate Paddy Ryder’s Anzac Medal winning ruck efforts of 2009 in the absence of a recognised ruckman, and literally pull a miracle out of their backsides against one of the most dominant ruckman in the game, expect Collingwood’s on-ballers to get a very easy service of the ball from Brodie Grundy.

Injuries paint a different picture – with injuries to Collingwood forwards and Essendon defenders, it’s shaping to be an interesting, yet unknown teamsheet from both teams. Collingwood will be without Jamie Elliot still and Jordan DeGoey as their forward line will have a different look, they should however regain the dangerous Brody Mihocek. Essendon will be without star defender Jordan Ridley which is a massive blow to a team already stretched thin by the absence of tall defenders Michael Hurley and James Stewart with Patrick Ambrose still likely to play another few weeks in the VFL before returning from long-term injury.

Port Adelaide vs St. Kilda

When & Where?
Sunday 25th April, Adelaide Oval.

Snapshot
What a letdown St. Kilda have been this season. Other than a strong comeback win over the Eagles, of which the glory was short-lived as they were brought back to earth to the tune of almost 100 points by Richmond the following week, the Saints haven’t really shown much in the last month of football. I can’t see them making me eat humble pie this week either. Port Adelaide at home are just too big, too fast, too strong and their ladder position reflects that, having lost only the one game to West Coast so far this season. It truly will be a battle of fourth plays 13th this weekend.

So what does it all mean?
Depending on the margin, a strong win to Port could easily see them leapfrog Sydney on the ladder and cement themselves in outright third. A loss, however, could potentially see them land as low as sixth. I love how early days in the season can see drastic changes in ladder position with every win and loss, such is the tightness of the competition. That’s why it’s hard to get a good read on the season early on, once you pass the half way mark it usually becomes a lot clearer as the winners keep winning and the rest… well, they just hang around down there making up the numbers.

A win to St. Kilda won’t do their ladder positioning much good, it will however give their team some confidence heading into a fortnight of the closest thing they’ll find to winnable games, Hawthorn and Gold Coast. That’s IF they manage to get the win in Adelaide.

All eyes on:
So far, so good, so what? Port Adelaide’s start to the season has been a strong one by anyone’s standards. They more than accounted for Carlton last week, especially given the fact they lost a few dependable players to injury in the lead up to the game. Can they continue to cover for those losses? They have an interesting month ahead; Brisbane at the Gabba, Adelaide in the Derby, Bulldogs in Adelaide followed by Collingwood at the MCG. None of the first three are walk-up victories, yet it’s hard to pick just how they may fare. Port are every chance of seeing out the next month of football with an 8-2 or 9-1 record.

Return to sender – Returning Saints Rowan Marshall and Zak Jones will be welcomed by Saints fans if they make the final cut. You’ve heard it before, but this is a different team when Rowan Marshall plays. I don’t know if he affects teams balance and dynamic so exponentially, but they just seem to gel and flow when he’s in the ruck. That may not be the case so much this week given they’ll still be without Geary and Gresham in the midfield.

St. Jack – Patron Saint of clearances- After lowering their colours and losing the clearances 44-28 to Richmond last week, the Saints will look to the likes of Jack Steele and Zak Jones to rectify that gap. Even in their blowout against Essendon, their clearance numbers were a hell of a lot more respectable than last week. They were bullied all over the ground last week and it’s surely a trend that Brett Ratten will be looking to stamp out of their game.

And that sums up this week’s Mongrel Punt Preview! If you liked what you read, feel free to drop us a comment. Likewise, if you think I’m a jerk and want to disagree with me, also feel free to drop us a comment. Until then, I’m Jimmy Ayres and this has been another presentation by Mongrel’s Wide World of Previews.