Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and all others inclusive to this week’s Mongrel Preview. But before we embark on such a journey let’s briefly cast our eyes over what was a captivating round of footy. There were upsets, there were blowouts, there were blockbusters and a world record post-pandemic attendance broken.

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit, it was great for footy to see such a large and passionate crowd packed into the MCG, and what a back and forth battle they would bear witness to with the Bombers edging out the Magpies late to claim an historical victory. Ladder leading Bulldogs kicked away in the fourth to retain their position atop, whilst the Demons further proved their credentials with a 34 point win over AFL heavyweight Richmond. A tight battle between the Crows and the Hawks ensued, where a stout five-goal debut game by Riley Thilthorpe wasn’t enough to hold off a fast-finishing Hawks outfit with young forward Jacob Koschitzke also starring, bagging himself five goals.

Both at home, the Dockers and the Power easily accounted for the Roos and the Saints respectively. The Suns rose over the Swans to the tune of 40 points and the Lions ran away three goal victors as the Blues fell short. The round’s blowout occurred in Geelong where the Cats, featuring a previously untried, up and coming young forward by the name of Cameron, made light work of a *HEAVILY INJURY STRICKEN Eagles outfit. With the Anzac round now on past horizons, we focus our radar on round seven.

*Heaven’s forbid I neglect to mention the entire injury list taking it’s toll on the Eagles. Josh Kennedy, Shannon Hurn, Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo, Liam Ryan, Brendon Ah Chee, Tom Cole, Josh Rotham, Daniel Venables, Jack Petruccelle and now potentially Jeremy McGovern. Six All Australian players missing from this side!
(All injuries were currently reported and accurately checked at the time of writing)

Another week to trouble the tipsters kicks off with a Friday night special from the MCG where the Bulldogs will face a Richmond side with a point to prove. How much fight will the Tigers have a week after being well held by the Demons at their once impenetrable fortress? Will they be out for blood? And will the losses of Josh Dunkley and Tim English prove too big of a hole in this imposing Bulldogs side? Or have Richmond got enough injury worries of their own, with the potential to line-up at the MCG light of Martin, Lambert, Prestia and Grimes?

In a week devoid of Thursday night football, we’ll see five games to be contested on Saturday, starting with Collingwood taking on Gold Coast at the MCG and Adelaide, looking for their fourth win, will face off against Greater Western Sydney at Adelaide Oval. Later that afternoon, the once rampaging Saints and Clarko’s Hawks will both be chasing their third win of the season. Saturday evening’s double header will feature Sydney versing Geelong in a skirmish as fourth meets fifth, and Brisbane minus Brownlow Medalist Lachie Neale hosting an up-and-about Port Adelaide. Sunday kicks off with a Tasmanian tussle as North Melbourne are chasing their elusive first win of the season over undefeated Melbourne at Blundstone Arena in Hobart, followed by an ancient rivalry at the ‘G as Essendon do battle with old foe Carlton. A West Australian Derby to round out the weekend has West Coast looking to climb back up the ladder against Fremantle after dropping from sixth to tenth following their heavy loss to Geelong.

Here’s what we can expect;

Teams

Richmond vs Western Bulldogs

When & Where?
Friday 30th April, MCG

Snapshot
Following their victory over GWS, the Bulldogs rest high and mightily above all others as ladder leaders with a healthy percentage, but for how much longer? They’ve fended off all comers thus far, but perhaps their biggest test is yet to come? Richmond at the MCG hasn’t been an easy task for quite a while, but without His Royal Majesty, Dustin Martin, fellow midfielders Kane Lambert and Dion Prestia, as well as key defender Dylan Grimes being able to take the field, there may have not been a better time for the Dogs to launch an assault on the team that they haven’t tasted an MCG victory against since 2015.

That’s all well and good in theory, but as I’ve learnt over the last few weeks; undersell a team’s injury woes, and you’re at the mercy of their supporter base. That being said, the Bulldogs have their own injury woes. Josh Dunkley will be sidelined for months with a shoulder injury, Lin Jong looks to have done his hamstring a mischief upon his return to football and Tim English is having his jaw assessed after copping a hefty blow against the Giants and subsequently being subbed out under concussion protocols.

So what does it all mean?
It’s a simple equation for the Dogs; win, and stay atop of the ladder. Lose, and Melbourne will overtake you the very moment that they defeat North Melbourne. For Richmond it’s only a little more complicated; win, and you keep yourself in touch with the top eight. Lose, and there’s every chance of you slipping out.

All eyes on:
Last Man Standing- There will be a lot of eyes on the Richmond midfield this week as they set their sights on one of the fastest, and most prolific midfields currently in the competition. Shai Bolton, Marlion Pickett, Jack Graham, Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards and potentially Josh Caddy will have it all in front of them in the absence of Martin, Lambert and Prestia. Are they a chance to send Caddy in a negating role on someone like Marcus Bontempelli as we’ve seen in game’s past? Or are we likely to see a bigger body like Marlion Pickett with that legspeed to match someone like Treloar? It’s shaping to be a bit of an unknown. The Bulldogs are the number one ranked team for not just disposals, but also disposal efficiency. On top of their disposal, they’ve kicked more goals than any other team.

Differential Locker – Here’s one for the Numbers Nerds that love an obscure stat, I stumbled across this whilst perusing the stats sheets.

The Bulldogs scoring averages so far this season are 105 points scored for and only 60 points scored against, giving them a points differential of +45. Compared to that of Richmond’s 85 points scored for and 75 scored against is a points differential of +10. This will be the largest disparity of this stat for any game this season that hasn’t involved North Melbourne. To further break down their scoring, the Bulldogs are hitting the scoreboard at a league-high 56% of the times they enter their forward 50, Richmond are at 46%. This is a simplistic, but clear example of why Luke Beveridge has been heard commending his side for their ability to hit the scoreboard and make the most of their opportunities once up forward. Will Tim English’s omission due to concussion affect their potency up forward? On the evidence so far they have more than enough firepower up forward and in the ruck to cover his absence.

Teams

Collingwood vs Gold Coast

When & Where?
Saturday 1st May, MCG.

Snapshot
On the back of a demoralising loss on Anzac Day, the seventeenth-placed pies will take on the eleventh-placed Suns at the MCG. If you haven’t chucked the captaincy jocks on Brodie Grundy for Supercoach yet, then this may just be your week. He has his side averaging a league high 48 hit-outs per week, largely off the back of his own personal average of 42. (For interest sake, as expected the only team that comes close to those numbers would be Melbourne thanks to Max Gawn) The pies will also look to welcome back Jordan DeGoey and Chris Mayne from concussion-related omissions.

The Suns will enter the game with a strut of confidence after easily accounting for Sydney by 40 points over the weekend, and it was their young gun Suns that shone brightest! Five goals to Ben King, three goals and plenty more to Ben Ainsworth and solid hitouts from Rankine and Lukosius were catalyst amongst the solidarity of their more senior players.

So what does it all mean?
For the Pies? Not a great lot other than regaining some humility and keeping the media wolves away from Buckley’s door for another week. History tells us that any team who starts their season 1-5 has a cinder in snow’s chance of turning their season around. For the Sun’s a win would put them one step closer to cracking the top eight. They would require a few more wins on the trot to do so, but a down and out Collingwood scalp at the MCG would certainly light a fire back up in their season.

All eyes on:
Moore or less- You’ve seen it time and time again over the years. A club has a budding young defender/forward who either starts his career like a house on fire and fizzles out prematurely, or he takes too long to fit the bill in that position, so an adjustment is made for team dynamics. Sometimes they work for the better, we’ve seen it pay dividends in the cases of Josh Bruce, Liam Jones, Cale Hooker, Jeremy Howe and Lachie Henderson in recent years. Some almost to the point of completely rejuvenating their careers once finding their feet in a new role. It isn’t always beer and Skittles though. Sometimes the changes just don’t work out.

Essendon found themselves lacking in the forward department, so tall defender Jake Carlisle made his way up the other end as a quick fix. Although he played a few memorable games up there, he was eventually traded to St. Kilda where he is played back in his natural position as a key defender. So with all that being said, where is Darcy Moore at? Or more importantly, where do Collingwood have him ‘at’? He started his career as a forward and found himself playing at a whole new level once swapped to defense. An all Australian level for that matter. He carried that form into this season and looked superb in the early rounds. That was before he was thrown forward, and then back in defence, and then tried up forward again, and then thrown back in defence when it doesn’t work. He managed three goals and looked solid against West Coast, but after looking strong down back in the early parts of the first quarter against Essendon, Moore was again thrown forward and failed to greatly influence the game at all.

After half time he returned to the backline but struggled to have any affect on the game. If Collingwood are to have any hope of rejoining the winner’s list this season, they need to settle hard and fast on Moore and cease using him to plug holes.

Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V- Gold Coast would love an exact Copy and Paste of last week’s effort against Sydney. Across the board they saw key emergences in their younger brigade and constant reliability amongst their seasoned campaigners. Not only that, but they hit the ground running early on. If the Sun’s carry this level of intensity into the MCG against Collingwood, the levels that saw young Izak Rankine kick two early goals, or Touk Miller rack up 16 first quarter possessions on the ball, then they’ll be every chance of leaving Melbourne with their third win of the season.

Teams

Adelaide vs GWS

When & Where?
Saturday 1st May, Adelaide Oval.

Snapshot
After a valiant start to the season where most had them finishing bottom two, the Adelaide Crows have found themselves sitting at ninth on the ladder with three wins, three losses and a percentage that’s healthy enough to aid them in a climb back up – if they can win the games. Three quarters of football the Giants spent pushing ladder leaders the Bulldogs to their limits, before being blown away in the last. They find themselves at fourteenth and not really looking like the same club that made it to the big dance only two seasons ago. They’ll travel to Adelaide this week, but will they have the stock to limit Adelaide’s forward line? Will they have the legs to run out four quarters? Have they got another avenue to goal without the reliance on Greene and Himmelberg?

So what does it all mean?
For the Crows, the possibility of jumping back into the eight is entirely feasible. If they could hold off GWS at home, or better yet, win by a sizeable margin, they could boost their percentage enough to find themselves back in the eight by the end of the round.

If GWS are to have any chance of finding themselves back in the eight, these are the games that they need to win. They need to make the teams around them accountable and win more games interstate, as they did against Collingwood two weeks ago. The possible debut of Jesse Hogan will be a warm welcome to a Giants forward line that’s too dependant on the same few.

All eyes on:
Adelaide’s Forwards- in just his first game of AFL football, Riley Thilthorpe tantalised us with an incredible display of five goals – the most of any current player upon debut. He was such a highly touted draft prospect that it’s no surprise that he was floated by many punters as a possible number one draft pick. Adelaide will look to further progress his development and cement his spot in their forward line for years to come. I’ve mentioned it before but Tex has rediscovered the form of his youth and Shane McAdam is averaging a little over two goals a game for a young, small forward in a developing side. Adelaide have a few good foundation blocks to build this list back into that of a contender.

Know a good mechanic?- Taking into account his time spent up forward this year, Josh Kelly’s form has really tapered this season. He played a run-with role on Bailey Smith against the Bulldogs a few weeks ago and he looked miles off the pace. Hardly a whisper of the form that warranted North Melbourne and various other teams to throw ridiculous figures at him for his signature. Has the emergence of Tim Taranto as their premier on-baller stunted his performance and caused the Giants to reassess his post? If GWS are to attempt a resurrection of their season, they will depend on their “Rolls Royce” to be wheels back on, check straps lubed, oil level correct, lights checked and ready to drive off the hoist, straight into the thick of the midfield and win his team the ball with the class and poise that we have come to expect from him.

Teams

St. Kilda vs Hawthorn

When & Where?
Saturday 1st May, Marvel Stadium

Snapshot
It’s fifteenth playing sixteenth, a Hawthorn side rebuilding and taking steps forward to establish a team for Clarko to take back up the ladder, versus a St. Kilda side that has thrown all their money on red and gone for broke with recruiting players from other clubs and drafting for a quick rise up the ladder… unfortunately, their compass appears to have lead them on a bum steer, now they’re sitting on two wins, four losses and lamenting what could have been. Partly due to form, but also due to injury.

So what does it all mean?
With possible returns of Paddy Ryder and Jimmy Webster, the Saints will be hopeful to stem some of their hemorrhaging at centre clearances. Luke Dunstan can’t be far off, his form in the VFL more than warrants a return to the seniors. It’s now or never for the Saints. If they can’t find a midfield mix that works in the absence of Geary, Gresham and Hannebery, their season will be over a couple of months after it began. For the Hawks it’s a little less complex, continue to play the kids and reap the rewards of their development. The emergence of Changkuoth Jiath and Jacob Koschitzke are two giant positives to take out of a crossroads season.

All eyes on:
Midfield masterclass- With the potential to see Jack and Jack (Steele and Billings) going head to head with Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara, this is beginning to look a lot like an intriguing contest. If Rowan Marshall is joined by Paddy Ryder at the centre bounce to take on McEvoy and Co. then it may just even out the odds somewhat. It’s no state secret that St. Kilda have battled in the centre this year with Ryder taking time away from the club and Marshall missing early games. If they can get first touch on the ball and clear before Hawthorn get the ball to their wingmen, they may just rediscover their mojo. However, underestimate Clarko and his Hawks at your own peril. They’ve played some of the top teams in a hard start to the season, and despite a 50 point loss to Melbourne, they haven’t been blown away by the likes of Richmond, Geelong or Fremantle.

Jacob Koschitzke- He looked really good in the preseason, showing exactly what he could do with a bag of six goals against North Melbourne. He presented well in the home and away season early but never really troubled the scoreboard until his shootout with Riley Thilthorpe against Adelaide last week, where he kicked 5.3 and took nine marks in a dominant display where he owned the air and the ground in the forward half. He struggled to break in and maintain his spot in the side in 2020, but has more than fairly staked his claim as Hawthorn’s new era of exciting forwards. A switch from defense to forward proving to be another brilliant Alistair Clarkson coaching decision.

Teams

Sydney vs Geelong

When & Where?
Saturday 1st May, SCG

Snapshot
Another potential belter of a game! Then again, I said that about Geelong and West Coast last week and boy oh boy was I wrong. Nevertheless, starring at the SCG, we will see a fifth-placed Sydney go head to head with a fourth-placed Geelong in a heavyweight bout for the title of fourth place. The loser will be fending off Fremantle, Richmond and all other comers. Compliments of their heavy victory last week, the Cats sport a healthy percentage which will only aid them as they continue their push into the season.

So what does it all mean?
If Geelong get a win in Sydney they’ll take on Richmond at the MCG next week full of confidence, followed by St. Kilda at Marvel the following week. For Sydney it’s Melbourne at the MCG next week followed by Collingwood in Sydney in a fortnight’s time. The winner has the chance to cement their spot in the top four. We’ve seen some tight clashes between these two over the years, and this one could prove to be another classic.

All eyes on:
Mitch Duncan- Plain and simple, how good is Mitch Duncan? Although he missed the first few games, surely he would be an outside smokey for the Brownlow if his current form is his median? He runs, he scores, he sets up scores and his efficiency is the envy of most midfield coaches. He was the Cats best player in their losing Grand Final last year and if the All Australian team was structured like a proper football team, not just loaded up with midfielders out of position, then his name would’ve been amongst them. The prospect of him carving up the small SCG ground is mouthwatering. Will Sydney send someone like Callum Mills to run alongside him? Or will he be given free reign with the likes of Luke Parker filling a similar role for the opposition? Which leads us to..

Luke Parker- At 29, Parker is in the prime of his career and showing zero signs of slowing down any time soon. He’s been an integral part of a consistent Sydney team for a long time, and has been an impetus in their current hastily rise back to the top. Few had them flagged as a potential bottom four team, we’re only six rounds into the season, but minus a few blips like last week’s disaster loss to the Gold Coast, Parker and his Sydney team have recruited well and are ameliorating right before our eyes. Parker has an uncanny way to win his own ball in space and drop it right Infront of his forwards to their great advantage, as well as creeping forward and hitting the scoreboard. To see him and Mitch Duncan running towards opposing ends will be a treat for all who witness.

Teams

Brisbane vs Port Adelaide

When & Where?
Saturday 1st May, Gabba

Snapshot
After a shaky start to the season and a few close finishes, Brisbane look to be up and running again after comfortable wins over Essendon and Carlton. For Port, their season has never really looked like wavering. Despite a loss to West Coast, they haven’t really looked like being out of it at all this year. With the Adelaide Showdown ahead of them next week and taking on the Bulldogs at home in Adelaide the following week, the Power have a huge couple of weeks ahead. Brisbane will travel to take on a peppy Fremantle next week then a short trip to take on fellow Queenslanders, the Sun’s the week after.

So what does it all mean?
Brisbane are back in the eight, just. They have Adelaide and West Coast closely nipping at their heels. A win against Port would be huge in the grand scheme of their season and should anchor them inside the eight for another week. As for Port, until either Melbourne or Bulldogs start losing games, they’ll remain in third as long as they keep winning. Their percentage is healthy, but the two teams above them are healthier.

All eyes on:
Ouch, Charlie! – Where oh where has Charlie Cameron gone? Many (including myself) had him tipped to be a huge climber this year with Daniher in the forward line alongside him. But his form this season to date is borderline woeful. He’s not kicking goals, he’s not winning the ball and he’s not tackling in the forward line, or anywhere for that matter. This is not a bashing piece, far from it. More of an observation and a plea for him to rediscover the breathtaking form he has graced us with in seasons past. So much so that Eddie Betts publicly claimed that Cameron would be “the best small forward that ever played this game”. I’d love to see him come close to that form, as I’m sure Brisbane would too.

Into the depths- How’s Port Adelaide for depth this season? They lost Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma to injury earlier in the season, they’ve got former best-22 players in Sam Powell-Pepper and Riley Bonner running around in the reserves, vying for a spot in the senior side. With a midfield currently boasting such names as Ollie Wines, Travis Boak, Karl Amon, Willem Drew and Robbie Gray, it’s no wonder that they’re so likely to go into this game with an almost unchanged side.

Now let’s see if one change can be made in the next fortnight, and that’s whether the AFL will allow them to wear their prison bar guernseys in the Showdown against Adelaide. A decision that seems to have its heels well and truly dragging. Given the state of responses to their requests in the past, along with the subsequent Eddie McGuire brain hemorrhage that comes with the topic, I dare say they’ll be rejected once again. Sorry, Kochie!

Teams

North Melbourne vs Melbourne

When & Where?
Sunday 2nd May, Blundstone Arena.

Snapshot
One would be forgiven for shrugging this off as another blowout, but I’m here to look for some positives and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. So Melbourne are up and about and a loss to North would almost certainly not see them slip down the ladder. In saying that, a win to North Melbourne won’t see the Roos climb the ladder either. It would however shock the AFL world. North are set to regain Aaron Hall from missing last week with concussion, so there’s that.. With Ben Brown a chance to get the call up against his old club in his home state, wouldn’t it be poetic? Can you just imagine this one going to the extreme in either direction? I can see the headlines now: BIG BROWN’S BAG AT BLUNDSTONE. Or, BROWN UPSETS DEE’S FORWARD STRUCTURE, NORTH MELBOURNE SHOCK VICTORS. Good luck to Ben if he does get the call up!

So what does it all mean?
For Melbourne there’s a huge potential for a hefty percentage boost here. They’ll be licking their lips at the chance to unleash their A-Grade midfield on a heavily rebuilding North Melbourne. The Kangaroos will take a home ground advantage as the game is played out on their home away from home in Hobart. North will take on Collingwood at Marvel Stadium next week, then fly back to Tassie to face Hawthorn at Launceston the following week. Melbourne will play back-to-back games at the MCG, first hosting Sydney and then Carlton.

All eyes on:
Nick Larkey- I’m not a big fan of the whole ‘it’s a big week for’ malarkey, however, I am a big fan of Nick Larkey and I would love to see him presenting, marking and kicking more goals. They said it was supposed to be a big year for him, in the absence of Ben Brown, Nick Larkey was primed to seize the mantle and become a focal point in North’s forward line. Given the start to the season that the Roos have had, it’s no surprise that their forwards haven’t set the world alight, but it’s games like this that can often surprise you, and an individual effort can mean more under such trying circumstances.

Salem’s Lot- Does Christian Salem go under the radar of many? He doesn’t break tackles and command the physicality like Petracca and he doesn’t have the ball on a string like Oliver, but he goes out there every week and does his job exactly as directed and maintains equanimity. His defensive stats are impressive, ranking elite or above average at a minimum in most major stats, he’s a genuine defensive weapon that Simon Goodwin is using to his full advantage. He seldom ever misses a target by foot which was a knock on him earlier in his career, and he marches the ball out of defense just as well as any other player in his position in the league. After just signing a five-year deal to stay at Melbourne, it would seem the Dee’s are definitely not on the list of those who undervalue his performances.

Teams

Essendon vs Carlton

When & Where?
Sunday 2nd May, MCG.

Snapshot
Here’s another one of those ancient rivalries with two teams harbouring a deep-seeded, generational hate for one another. This one may be cut from a more compelling cloth though given that both clubs have announced they’re in a ‘rebuild/transition’ phase, what am I saying? Carlton has been in a perrenial rebuild phase for the past 20 years. The bookies have Carlton named as close favourites heading into the game and a win would mean the same for both teams – a third win for the club and a chance to push one step closer to cracking the eight.

So what does it all mean?
Ahh shoot, call me Britney Spears because Oops, I did it again. I went off prematurely (that’s what she said) and put too much info in the previous section. Nevermind! I’m sure we’ll overcome it. So after a strong, consistent display on Anzac Day, something Bombers fans haven’t seen regularly for a few years now, the Dons’ next fortnight pits them against Giants at Giants Stadium, then Fremantle back home at Marvel. If they can back it up with the undermanned, yet impressive defensive effort that we saw against the Pies, Don’s fans will have a slight confidence about themselves heading into this one – and rightfully so. Can lightning strike twice though? History says that it’s a shaky prospect at best.

For the Blues they’re coming off the back of a loss to Brisbane where many saw them a good chance with a point to prove. They’re up against arguably the current most daunting two weeks of football imaginable: Bulldogs at Marvel, then Melbourne at the MCG. A win over the old rivals in Essendon probably won’t escalate them into being favourites, but it may just instill some well earnt confidence into David Teague’s men and have them walking into said games feeling just a little taller.

All eyes on:
Riddle me this- The return of Jordan Ridley after suffering a concussion against Brisbane in round five will be a welcoming sight for Bombers fans and players alike. His poise and calmness under immense pressure down back was sorely missed last week, although others stood up wonderfully in his stead. More on that soon. Depending on the fitness of Aaron Francis, (who will most likely land the unenviable job of trying to tie down Harry McKay) you’d expect Ridley to slot back into the Bomber’s defense in his typical sweeping roll whilst most likely manning up on McGovern or Casboult. Thus leaving the option of pairing Jayden Laverde with either a taller or smaller opponent. If he carries his career-best form from last week into this week, after keeping Brody Mihocek well held and completely nullifying his impact in only his sixth game as a defender, it may just look like another coaching tick for Ben Rutten.

Cripps away, Sam Walsh comes to play- Ok, so that headline is a little misleading. Cripps hasn’t actually gone anywhere, per se. Other than spending a little more time up forward this year than in previous seasons, but after some modest games where he found plenty of the ball but lacked penetration and impact with his usage, Sam Walsh has regained the mantle as Carlton’s number one midfielder after flirting with the title in previous seasons. His efficiency is up on previous seasons, his clearance work is elite, it would be a surprise if Essendon weren’t tempted to use Devon Smith or Will Snelling in a tagging roll to curb his influence. Carlton fans will be loving this. If Carlton are to climb the ladder again, it will be on the back of Sam Walsh leading this midfield. Whether Cripps stays or goes is another issue, but I’d be looking to tie down Walsh to a long term deal ASAP!

Block and tackle- One stat that was glaringly evident in their win over Collingwood last week was Essendon’s willingness to tackle. Not just in the midfield, but in every part of the ground. This was particularly highlighted by two individual stats I pulled from the game. Peter Wright laid more tackles in that game than in any of his previous 72 career games to date with six, five of those coming in the first quarter alone. On top of that, the league average for team tackles laid this season is 55 per game.

At half time against the Pies, Essendon had laid 50 tackles. It would be a gleaming stat that regardless of their finish to the season, Ben Rutten and his coaches would be proud of if they manage to maintain it. They currently sit the number one ranked tackling team in the competition, averaging five more tackles a game than next best placed Gold Coast. To put that into context, they finished their last four seasons under John Worsfold, who as part of his “Key Learnings” often highlighted his instruction to “tackle, tackle then tackle some more”, ranked 13th in 2020, 9th in 2019, 11th in 2018 and 15th in 2017.

Teams

West Coast vs Fremantle

When & Where?
Sunday 2nd May, Optus Stadium.

Snapshot
A few weeks ago the Western Derby wasn’t such a hot ticketed match, all of a sudden it may be a lot closer of a game than previously anticipated. What am I saying? It wouldn’t matter if one of the teams were sitting in 18th whilst the other went undefeated, this match is always a season highlight. That’s right, even some of us biased Victorians love and appreciate the rivalry that comes from the West. Let’s just hope Mark McGowan allows crowds in after Western Australia’s lockdown due to Covid-19. After being DECIMATED by injuries to SIX of their All Australian players and more (please see earlier in the article for a comprehensive list, I don’t feel like typing it all over again) the Eagles were well and truly put out to the paddock by Geelong last week. Whilst Fremantle did what teams do and ran away 51 point victors over North Melbourne.

So what does it all mean?
With a rising likelihood that the Eagles will regain Josh Kennedy, Jack Petruccelle and Shannon Hurn this week, they will feel slightly buoyed, although it’s looking more and more likely that Jeremy McGovern will miss with a groin injury. Sitting on three wins, three losses for the season, a win will give West Coast a chance to slip back into the eight from current tenth, pending other teams finishes.

Fremantle are placed sixth from four wins and two losses. A win against West Coast will push them into the frame of top four talks, however their modest percentage in comparison to surrounding teams will likely restrict them to remain in sixth or a rise to fifth at best.

All eyes on:
Streak- West Coast will walk into this game knowing that they’ve won a record past 10 Derby’s over in the West. They’ll also know that Fremantle now sit a game clear above them, comfortably inside the top eight. One thing that the Eagles can hold true is the quality of opposition that Fremantle have beaten this season. They’ve lost games to Melbourne who are in fine form sitting unbeaten at second on the ladder, however they’ve also lost to Carlton who currently occupy 13th. The four teams that the Dockers have beaten are all sitting in the bottom half of the ladder.

Flip over to the Eagles season, excluding their shock loss to St. Kilda, they’ve lost to two teams sitting in the top four (Geelong and Western Bulldogs), but they claimed scalps over Gold Coast, Collingwood and they’re the only team this season to beat Port Adelaide, and did so comfortably. On the surface it may appear that the Eagles are just hanging on, but with a month of football ahead of them facing teams below them on the ladder, they find themselves in a position where a win over Fremantle could be just the turning point they need. They could quite easily make it five on the trot and be right back in top four contention.

Tab in the dark- A few weeks ago Justin Longmuir made a comment that Matt Taberner was primed and ready to explode, hitting home that we ain’t seen nothing yet. That was after he had kicked three goals in round one and a further two goals in each of rounds two, three and four. Since those comments Taberner has kicked two bags of four goals against North Melbourne and against Adelaide. Is this the forward coming that the Fremantle coach warned us about? With the Eagles FALLING OUT OF THE INJURY TREE and HITTING EVERY BRANCH ON THE WAY DOWN, it’s games like these that allow someone like Taberner to float under the radar, especially if Jeremy McGovern is to miss. A lot has been made publically about dual Brownlow Medalist Nat Fyfe and his goal kicking yips this season (1.12 to date), but not a lot is being said about Matt Taberner, his reliability and the start to the season that he’s having.

And that’ll do it for this week folks! I look forward to hearing compliments, criticisms and all queries otherwise in the comments once again. Enjoy what should be a cracking round of football and support your local drycleaner.

 

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