Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and all others inclusive to this week’s instalment of Jimmy’s Mongrel Preview!

The round that was touted as being one of the closest in recent history has come to a close and the top eight has copped yet another shake-up.

But let’s not get sidetracked here, let’s take a look at the exciting round ahead of us.

 

 

Teams:

Brisbane vs Western Bulldogs

 

Venue:

Gabba

 

Snapshot:

The Lions were terribly disappointing in their top-of-the-table clash with the Demons last week. Coach Chris Fagan named it the loss their worst game in a long time, and most would be hard-pressed to argue that point, the 64-point margin was the Lions’ biggest loss since 2018. The Bulldogs started horribly against the Hawks, but staged a terrific turnaround, turning a five-goal deficit into a 42-point win.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Lions’ disappointing loss to the Demons has left them in third place, now on equal points with Geelong, Fremantle and Carlton. The Bulldogs now find themselves back inside the top eight, sitting on equal points with Richmond and St. Kilda who are ninth and tenth respectively, thanks to the Bulldogs’ superior percentage.

Most recent history has the Dogs winning two of their last three over the Lions, including last year’s thrilling Semi Final at the Gabba. The Bulldogs also beat the Lions at the Gabba in 2017, but before that they hadn’t beaten them in Queensland since 2009.

A fortnight on the road takes the Bulldogs to Sydney next week where they’ll take on the Swans at the SCG, before returning to Melbourne to play St. Kilda at Marvel Stadium. The Lions host Essendon at home next week before taking on the Giants at Manuka Oval in Canberra.

 

It’s a big week for:

Oscar McInerney

The Big-O’ had a terrific battle with Luke Jackson last week when the Lions played Melbourne. The reigning premiers came into the match without their captain and the league’s best ruckman in Max Gawn, forcing Jackson to shoulder ruck duties on his own. The matchup was a good one for those that still fancy a good old-fashioned duel, with both men finishing the game dominant in their own right, but from completely different inputs. Jackson had 19 hitouts, 21 disposals, laid nine tackles and kicked a goal. Oscar on the other hand had 29 hitouts, 23 disposals, 12 clearances, five marks, two direct goal assists and kicked 0.2.

With the Bulldogs ruling out their own ruckman in Tim English once again thanks to lingering concussion symptoms, it will be up to their second-string ruckman in Jordan Sweet to assume complete ruck duties against the up-and-about McInerney, in what is already shaping up to be an enthralling midfield battle.

 

Last time they met:

Who could forget? Last year’s Semi Final at the Gabba where scores were level for much of the final quarter, before some Bailey Smith magic and his infamous ‘ice in my veins’ celebration, before a last-minute score to Laitham Vandermeer had the Bulldogs beat the Lions by a single point, eliminating them from the 2021 finals series. Bailey Smith kicked three goals for the first time in his career in a stellar performance, whilst Jack Macrae was influential.

11.12.78 – 11.13.79

 

All eyes on:

Red, White And Blueprint

When Fremantle snatched the Demons’ undefeated streak a few weeks ago, every newspaper from Kalumburu to Tantawangalo outlined the supposed ‘blueprint’ of how to best them. Whilst I didn’t quite hear the same uproar when the Demons beat the Lions last week, anybody that watched the game closely enough would’ve noticed a detail or two, let’s call them tactics, that Melbourne employed which really seemed to rustle Brisbane’s roosters. First of all, the Demons cracked down on the Lions’ ball movement out of defence. I mean, they really came down hard on them, forcing turnovers in their own forward half and applying constant pressure to the Lions’ defensive ball movers, restricting them to one of their worst total scores from defensive transition this season. The second part to this is the Demons recorded more ground ball wins in their forward half that game, than any other team has this season, racking up 37 more contested possessions which is the Lions’ worst differential since 2017.

I’m not the kind of person who will say that just because one team found success in beating a side that way, that all of a sudden every team can. However, if the Bulldogs were to employ similar pressure with their more than capable players.. things could get interesting.

 

Lachie Neale vs Jack Macrae

The accumulator vs the accumulator.

A bit of a stats comparison of how the two midfielders are faring for their respective clubs, after both managing every game so far this season.

Totals shown, averages in brackets.

 

Career Games:

Macrae – 199

Neale – 209

 

Disposals:

Macrae – 447 (31.9)

Neale – 443 (31.6)

 

Marks:

Macrae – 60 (4.3)

Neale – 63 (4.5)

 

Tackles:

Macrae – 59 (4.2)

Neale – 65 (4.6)

 

Goal Assists:

Macrae – 11 (0.8)

Neale – 6 (0.4)

 

Disposal Efficiency:

Macrae – 78.1%

Neale – 69.5%

 

Clearances:

Macrae – 102 (7.3)

Neale – 105 (7.5)

 

Score Involvements:

Macrae – 101 (7.2)

Neale – 99 (7.1)

 

Metres Gained

Macrae – 6,016 (429.7)

Neale –  5,374 (383.9)

 

 

Teams:

Carlton vs St. Kilda

 

Venue:

Marvel Stadium

 

Snapshot:

One of the highest anticipated matches of the round saw the Blues completely run over the top of the Dockers, despite Carlton struggling to field a backline, they finished the game at Marvel Stadium 31 point winners. St. Kilda on the other hand were bitterly disappointing for the third week in a row, being held to only four goals for the entire game against the Swans, with the cracks that began to emerge a month ago now turning into chasms.

 

So what does it all mean?

It’s fifth spot for the Blues, but technically equal second on points with three other teams (Geelong, Brisbane and Fremantle). The Saints have dropped to tenth, with the Magpies, Tigers and Bulldogs all ahead of them in the race for the final two spots inside the eight.

Carlton have been happy hunting for the Saints in recent years, with St. Kilda winning six of their past eight clashes, five of which have been at Marvel Stadium.

The Blues travel to Optus Stadium next week to take on West Coast before heading back to Melbourne for a date with Geelong. The Saints have a fortnight at Marvel Stadium, with Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs to come.

 

It’s a big week for:

Tom De Koning

Following the unintentional theme of pumping up ruckmen this week, young Tom De Koning will face a massive task this week, with the Saints set to regain a key pillar of their formidable ruck duo in Paddy Ryder, who was left out of the side that travelled to Sydney last week due to management. Up until the last three weeks where the Saints have lost to Brisbane and been embarrassed by Essendon and Sydney, Ryder and Marshall had been one of the best ruck/forward tag teams in the league this season. With De Koning being favoured over Jack Silvagni to assume key ruck roles in the absence of Marc Pittonet, the 35-gamer held his own against upcoming juggernaut Sean Darcy for the Dockers last week, and will experience another key test this week as he comes up against a down-and-out St. Kilda side, powered by two highly-touted ruckmen.

 

Last time they met:

Back in Round 20 of last year, the Blues were embarrassed the week before in a shock loss to the bottom-placed Kangaroos, but they soon found some redemption in dashing the Saints’ last lingering hopes of playing finals by 31 points, in one of the most accurate displays of goal kicking I’ve ever seen. Harry McKay kicked 5.2 for the Saints as his counterpart Max King kicked four straight for the Saints. Jack Silvagni played his best ever game for the Blues and Same Walsh nailed three goals as he dominated from the middle.

12.9.81 – 18.4.112

 

All eyes on:

You’re The Infamous Captain Jack S….teele

It’s a shame that the Saints couldn’t emulate Steele’s leadership on the field against the Swans last week, because his return to the senior side after injuring his shoulder to the point of requiring surgery in Round 9 was inspirational on its own. I have little doubt that someone of Steele’s character would’ve pushed himself immensely to tick all boxes and be named fit to play for the betterment of his side – that’s the sort of captain that he is.

Unfortunately, his side were a bitter disappointment, with many flaws that require addressing immediately if they’re to turn their fortunes around and play finals footy this season, after featuring in the top four only a little over a month ago.

 

Cerra The Bored

Whilst we know it’s their backline that is heavily lacking in star power through injury and adversity, Carlton are set to be bolstered by the return of Adam Cerra to their midfield this week after their star recruit injured his hamstring against the Bombers back in Round 13. It will be a welcomed return for the former Docker who narrowly missed returning against his former side last week. Cerra conceded earlier in the season that he’s more than happy to play second fiddle to the likes of Cripps and Walsh in the middle, and coming up against St. Kilda’s centre line that looked half decent before their last month of football, his effort around the contest and his class with the ball in hand would bolster any side.

 

Teams:

Essendon vs Sydney

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

Somehow Essendon managed to out-Essendon themselves, conceding 100 points to the side that was then on the bottom of the ladder, the same side that’s struggled to average 60 points for this season. After leading by four goals in the first term, inaccuracy and a lack of composure saw the Eagles beat them by 10 points. The Swans were far too good for the Saints, running out 51-point winners at the SCG in what was a demoralising loss for their opposition.

 

So what does it all mean?

Like Uncle Bruce at Christmas lunch, the Bombers have well and truly made themselves at home in 16th spot this season and not looking at improving any time soon. The Swans are in sixth place and will need to continue to win from here on out with three or four teams all fighting for their spot inside the top eight.

 

We’ve come to expect close finishes between these two sides. Other than the Bombers’ embarrassing capitulation earlier this season, six of the past eight encounters between these sides were decided by less than 10 points, with the Swans having now won their last three against the Bombers. Interestingly, the Sydney Swans have never beaten the Bombers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. In their eight meetings there since The Swans moved to Sydney in 1982, they have never managed to beat the Bombers at the MCG.

Essendon are set for a fortnight of Queenslanders, with Brisbane at the Gabba next week followed by the Suns at Marvel the week after. The Swans have a tough fortnight ahead, hosting the Bulldogs at the SCG next week before heading to Optus Stadium where Fremantle await them.

 

It’s a big week for:

Dylan Shiel

The last time these two teams met, Shiel was at a personal low point in his own season. The media had him branded as a poor recruit, and his onfield output and demeanour left a lot to be desired for Bombers fans. Not just through his own fault, his entire team haven’t been up to scratch, but a lot of the blame was placed firmly with Dylan Shiel, so much so that a humorous taunt from Luke Parker made front-page news, after he accused Shiel of shirking a contest and being scared.

Fast forward six weeks and Shiel has had a three-week patch where he’s played some of the best, most consistent football of his career since crossing over from the Giants. His midfield and clearance work has improved, but most importantly, the defensive side of his game has drastically improved, highlighted by the enormous increase in tackles and pressure from Shiel in that time.

Some may say that it was Parker’s gesture that served as an intervention and helped Shiel rediscover some form.

 

Last time they met:

Who could forget? I promise you Bombers fans haven’t. Also, the fact that it was only seven weeks ago sure aids in the memory department. It was a game that became infamous for a rather innocuous reason, as Luke Parker’s bizarre taunt directed at Dylan Shiel went the equivalent of viral amongst the AFL media, with every man, woman or otherwise sharing their express opinion on the matter. The game itself? Ridiculously poor if you’re an Essendon supporter, somewhat drastically better if you’re a Swans supporter. A terribly inaccurate Swans trounced Essendon by only 58 points, when in reality it should’ve been a 100+ point victory, with the Bombers dishing up a listless response after beating Hawthorn the week before.

14.21.105 – 6.11.47

 

All eyes on:

Disastrous Defence

I know the age-old moniker that you can manipulate stats to prove any argument. Unfortunately for the Bombers, there is no need for manipulation, as their defensive stats are not lying. They are the worst side in the league this season for almost every key defensive marker, which is why it astounds me that they would omit a player like Zach Reid from their senior side. Reid was one of their top selections in the 2020 draft, and was robbed of opportunity through injury last season. This year he earned his spot in the side with some tremendous VFL form on his return from injury, yet he was dropped from the senior side, despite fellow tall defender James Stewart being ready in the VFL for the past few weeks (albeit playing as a forward).

This club is currently in all sorts, yet they opt to travel to Perth and take on West Coast with an already undersized defence, yet opt to omit their future full-back, the same player that they spent the entire offseason hard selling to their supporters as a superstar of the future.

 

Old-Fashioned Negating Forward

One thing that really impressed me in Sydney’s win over the Saints last week, was seeing Ryan Clarke in his first game for the season, line up on the Saints’ most important defender and likely All Australian this season in Jack Sinclair, and play a negating role on the dangerous defender, whilst kicking two goals of his own, including a brilliant snap in the first quarter to hand the Swans their first goal of the game. Whether it was by chance, or a tactic that coach John Longmire implemented, Clarke’s constant pressure on Sinclair greatly hampered the Saints’ ball movement and transition from defence, something that has been a mighty strong point for them, but the strangulation at the hands of Sydney really worked wonders in restricting their opposition.

 

 

Teams:

Adelaide vs Melbourne

 

Venue:

Adelaide Oval

 

Snapshot:

After a tight first half, the Crows kicked away to a 57-point win against the hapless Kangaroos in Hobart, whilst the Demons bounced back from their three straight losses, the return of Steven May sparking Melbourne to a 64-point win over the Lions at the MCG, and returning them to their place a game clear on top of the ladder.

 

So what does it all mean?

It’s 15th place for the Crows now, with Port Adelaide two games clear in 14th, it’s unlikely that the Crows will find themselves finishing any higher than 15th this season. The Demons regained their spot at the head of the table, now a game clear of the four teams below them that are all jostling for a top-four place.

The Demons have won two of their last three clashes with the Crows, but the last time these two sides met at Adelaide Oval was Round 10 of last year, where the lowly Crows pulled off the upset of the season to roll the undefeated Demons by a single point. Melbourne actually hold the better record at Adelaide Oval, having beaten the Crows in three of their five encounters since the ground first opened.

 

Adelaide will travel to Melbourne next week where they’ll take on the Hawks at Marvel Stadium, before hosting the Magpies at Adelaide Oval the week after. The Demons have a big fortnight ahead; first they’ll travel out to Geelong to take on the Cats at their alphabet Stadium, they’ll then head to Alice Springs where they’ll play Port Adelaide at TIO Traeger Park.

 

It’s a big week for:

Luke Jackson

I couldn’t believe my ears when I learnt that Luke Jackson would be assuming the role of primary ruckman for just the second time in his career when the Demons played the Lions last Thursday night. The only other time in his 43-game career that he has taken the field without Max Gawn was Round 11 of 2020, when Gawn missed the side’s clash with North Melbourne after not pulling up from a four-day break with a latissimus dorsi injury (large muscle in the upper back below the shoulder, for those of us that didn’t attend medical school).

Now, Jackson is set to continue his run as top dog in the middle for at least the next few weeks as his captain recovers from his current syndesmosis injury. Adelaide’s Reilly O’Brien looked tremendous against a quality, veteran opponent in North Melbourne’s Todd Goldstein last week, and will be a big obstacle for Jackson to overcome this week.

 

Last time they met:

Cast your minds back to Round 22 of last season, the Demons were still in pursuit of wins to see them earn their first minor premiership for a few centuries when they encountered the Crows at the MCG. As fate would have it, their subsequent victory in this match would go a long way in seeing them remain on top, and it set up a thrilling final round of the season, where numerous top four contenders were set to play one another.

A four-goal final quarter capped off Bayley Fritsch’s seven-goal return for the game, as the Demons allowed the Crows some room to move back into the game on numerous occasions, before the experience and depth of Melbourne came to the fore, running out 41 point victors.

16.8.104 – 9.9.63

 

All eyes on:

Matt Crouch’s Future

Surely the signs are ominous that Matt Crouch will follow in his brother’s footsteps and hightail it out of West Lakes at the end of the season. The 27-year-old is clearly out of favour with coach Matthew Nicks, being dropped for last round after averaging 27 disposals, four tackles and four clearances from his 10 games this season. Crouch signed a two-year contract extension late last year, meaning that a trade will need to be brokered. But given the Crows willingness to play him in the reserves, any market value he possibly possessed beforehand is as good as gone.

 

Bayley Fritsch

At the time of writing, Bayley Fritsch sits on 32.13 for the season. At this exact point of last season, he had kicked 28.13 and been held goalless on three separate occasions. This year, Fritsch has kicked at least a goal in every game that he’s played, and is leading the Demons goalkickers this season, the next best being Ben Brown and Kysaiah Pickett, both on 18 goals respectively. The last time Fritsch lined up against the Crows was in Round 22 of last season, where he kicked four goals in the last quarter to make it seven for the game as his side ran away 42-point winners. On his current projection, Fritsch is set to take out the club’s goalkicking award for the third season in a row. Having earned the crown in 2020 with a haul of 22, and last year with 59. His name would sit alongside some of the Demons’ greatest ever players that have also won three or more goalkicking awards; Russell Robertson, David Neitz, Jeff Farmer, Allen Jakovich, Robert Flower, Fred Fanning and Norm Smith.

 

 

Teams:

Gold Coast vs Collingwood

 

Venue:

Metricon Stadium

 

Snapshot:

In an agonisingly close loss to Port, the Suns were in it until the dying seconds, as a frantic finish ended with them going down by 2 points at Adelaide oval. The Magpies made it give straight wins as they held on against a fast-finishing Giants side to win by 10 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

The loss to Port on the weekend was a costly one, the Suns are now in 11th, a game below the three teams above them that are in direct competition for the eighth spot. The Magpies jumped a game clear inside the eight after their win, now sitting seventh.

Since the Suns’ inception into the AFL, they have met the Magpies 12 times and only beaten them on three occasions. Two of those wins came from Metricon Stadium by five and seven points respectively, however, those two wins were back in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The Suns finish their fortnight at home next week when they host Richmond at Metricon Stadium (I know, shock right? Richmond away from the MCG), before they take on Essendon at Marvel Stadium. The Magpies have North Melbourne at the MCG next week before they head to Adelaide where the Crows await them.

 

It’s a big week for:

Jordan De Goey

The embattled Magpie is set to make his return to football after missing last week’s win through a mental health concern. It will be the first time since his controversial mid-season trip to Bali that De Goey takes the field to the Magpies, and whether he or the club intends it, there will be a lot of eyes directly on him. Not just because he’s been the AFL’s human headline over the past few weeks, but also from a football sense, given that he is one of the top free agency prospects this season, with a number of clubs lining up to enquire about his services and availability.

 

Last time they met:

Round 7 at the MCG we had a pretty remarkable almost-comeback of sorts by the Suns, considering they coughed up seven straight goals to the Magpies in the first quarter. The Magpies still won the game by 25 points, but we weren’t short of twists and turns when it came to runs of goals. Levi Casboult kicked 4.4 and Brody Mihocek kicked 4.1 with each of their deputies in Mabior Chol and Jack Ginnivan kicking three goals each respectively. Touk Miller and Jack Crisp each had a belter for their respective sides.

17.13.115 – 14.6.90

 

All eyes on:

Defensive Dunce To Defensive Damage

The Magpies have skyrocketed themselves into contention this season, under new coach Craig McRae, I don’t think anybody could’ve imagined the almost overnight growth that this team would experience, especially after losing Brodie Grundy to a lengthy knee injury in Round 6. The back line at Collingwood has become their cornerstone, and something that has elevated them to the upper echelons of defensive team ratings this season. The Magpies are up there with Fremantle when assessing markers for team defensive stats, a stat in itself that is uber impressive.

 

Frosty Miller

Has Touk Miller become a victim of his own form? Personally, I feel that he has. He is one of the more reliable players in the league when it comes to output. His numbers are consistently good each week and seldom does he have an off game. Yet for some reason, his efforts aren’t as celebrated as they have been in seasons gone by. Is it perhaps because the Suns are playing a better brand of football this season, that the dominance of one player doesn’t stand out as much as it would when the team was in all sorts? Or perhaps we’re just conditioned to expect great things from Miller now, leaving any performance short of incredible as the expected norm. Either way, his season to date has been yet another impressive one, especially with his ability to maintain his level of playing intensity, with teammates around him starting to lift.

 

 

Teams:

Geelong vs North Melbourne

 

Venue:

GMHBA Stadium

 

Snapshot:

What a thriller on Saturday night! The Cats held on in the dying seconds against the Tigers, after a last minute goal capped their brilliant comeback to win by 3 points in one of the most entertaining matches of the season. North Melbourne succumbed to their 12th straight loss, going down to the Crows by 57 points, setting a record along the way of becoming the first ever AFL/VFL side to lose 10 straight games by a margin of 40 points or greater.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Cats are second on the ladder now thanks to their last gasp win over the Tigers, but sit equal on points with Carlton, Fremantle and Brisbane, making every win a necessity from here on out. North Melbourne are now languishing in last place, thanks to the Eagles beating the Bombers last week and leapfrogging the Kangaroos to sit 17th.

It hasn’t been a memorable time for the Kangaroos in recent memory when taking on Geelong, the Cats have won their past nine games over the struggling Kangaroos by an average margin of 32 points. North hasn’t tasted victory over the Cats since 2015.

Geelong have a couple of big games ahead of them. They take on Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium next week in a game that has the potential to decide top spot on the ladder, then they face Carlton at the MCG a week later. North Melbourne have Collingwood at the MCG next week, they then face the Tigers at Marvel Stadium the following week.

 

It’s a big week for:

David Noble

When teams are struggling, they go to Geelong to die. Well, the coaches do anyway. This game really gives me Melbourne circa 2011 vibes, when the Demons travelled to Kardinia Park to take on the Cats and walked away suffering the fourth greatest loss in VFL/AFL history. The Kangaroos are in all sorts currently, I personally tipped them to rise up this season and continue their projection from late last year where they had visually improved from earlier in the season. But alas, we’re here, and once again we see an embattled team with a coach that’s under fire. I think one of the telling factors that are saving David Noble’s tenure is the lack of immediate suitors out there to usurp him. Big losses are coach killers, and if the Kangaroos can’t fight to an honourable loss at the bare minimum, then this game spells danger for them and their coach.

 

Last time they met:

The day that Jeremy conquered Bellerive Oval. The Cats star forward kicked 7.3 as he broke the record for the highest score kicked at Blundstone Arena, in the Cats 60-point demolition of the Kangaroos. Tom Hawkins kicked four of his own as Geelong gave North Melbourne very little opportunity to make their mark. The likes of Selwood, Guthrie and Tuohy worked their magic, with only a small group of Kangaroos players able to hold their heads high on their way off the ground.

9.7.61 – 17.19.121

 

All eyes on:

Slam Duncan

Genuine question to Geelong fans, is Mitch Duncan playing a completely different role this season to that of last year? I’ve watched most of the Cats games this season and he hasn’t struck me as the bloke that ripped games apart and completely dominated, like that of last year. By no means am I suggesting that he has been poor, against the Tigers last weekend Duncan was amongst the Cats’ best ball movers, and has been numerous times this season. Having not covered any Geelong games for a review this season, I probably haven’t watched their games as closely and in-depth as I would if I was reporting on them, but going back over some of his highlights from the latter parts of this year, I don’t feel like he is having the same impact on games that we saw last year. His stats are also down somewhat from this time last year, which led me to question if Chris Scott has him playing a different role within the side. Genuinely interested to know l, Cats fans.

 

Deck The Halls With Metres Gained

Some will say that it’s a meaningless stat and some will say that it’s just people with no life bringing more American sporting ties into our game. Whilst others really read into it and use the stat as an indicator of the sort of game a player had in terms of penetration and ball usage. Regardless of where you sit, Aaron Hall breaking the record for the most metres gained in a game since the stat was recorded was impressive, and shows exactly the role that coach David Noble has Hall playing behind the ball. It has been a terrific growth year from an individual standpoint for Hall, someone that I feel will be further benefited when the team around him plays better, more consistent football.

 

 

Teams:

Richmond vs West Coast

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

The Tigers went down to the Cats by three points in a true nail-biter at the MCG on Saturday night, after a late Geelong goal stole the lead back away. West Coast were too accurate and too good for a disappointing Essendon in Perth, winning by 10 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Tigers sit in ninth once again, thanks to the devil incarnate, Tom Stewart. Their thrilling loss to the Cats handed them ninth place as the Bulldogs jumped over them and into the top eight. The Eagles found a way out of the bottom peg, thanks to their win at home over the Bombers.

Richmond have had the upper hand in their recent history with the Eagles, winning three of their past four clashes, including the 109-point thrashing earlier this season. West Coast haven’t beaten the Tigers at the MCG since 2015.

A trip to Queensland is on the cards for the Tigers as they take on the Suns at Metricon Stadium next week, they then have the Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium the week after. West Coast will host Carlton next week before they head to the MCG to take on Hawthorn the following week.

 

It’s a big week for:

Liam Baker

The 24-year-old has developed into somewhat of a revelation for the Tigers this season, taking his game to a further level thanks to his immense versatility. So much so that he’s found himself on the radar of other clubs, with West Coast reportedly showing a genuine interest in bringing the former WAFL boy back into the Western Australian fold. I’ve touched on his ability to play forward or back with distinction already this season, but I think in the absence of Dion Prestia this week, who has been arguably Richmond’s best clearance player this year, that Baker may find himself back in the midfield and covering for the Tigers hefty loss.

 

Last time they met:

Remember that Friday night spectacular from earlier in the season? Round 7 to be exact. It was a low point for the Eagles in season 2022, a Richmond onslaught that saw Tom Lynch kick 7.5 and put himself firmly in the frame for Coleman Medal contention, Shai Bolton played quite possibly his best all-round game for the Tigers and Jack Riewoldt also helped himself to four goals on their way to a 109 point belting. Josh Kennedy kicked four in the second half for the Eagles, including the celebrated 700th of his fine career.

8.8.56 – 25.15.165

 

All eyes on:

The Small Forward Show

Isn’t this a tantalising prospect? The thought of one forward line containing Willie Rioli and Liam Ryan, and the opposite forward line containing Maurice Rioli and Shai Bolton, absolutely reeks of entertainment factor. The weather forecast for Melbourne on Sunday doesn’t include any rain, so we may see a little scoring frenzy from the small forwards in space at the MCG, but then again the weather predictions are about as stable as your last marriage.

 

Speaking Of Scoring Frenzies

The last time Tom Lynch lined up on the Eagles he kicked 7.5 and peppered a handful from about 28 shots on goal off his own boot. If Tom Barrass is to be given the job on Lynch, he will need to bring the endeavour from his second half against the Bombers last week, as opposed to the first. Peter Wright absolutely monstered Barrass every time he was allowed time and space, bit to the 26-year-old’s credit, he tightened the screws in the second half and made Wright more accountable, forcing him to compete in a contest. If West Coast are to avoid another blowout at the hands of the rabid Tigers, they will need to restrict the scoring of Lunch especially, as well as Shai Bolton. Once either of those two get a sniff of scoring, your back line is in trouble.

 

Teams:

GWS vs Hawthorn

 

Venue:

Giants Stadium

 

Snapshot:

It was another case of close but no cigar for the Giants, as they went down swinging to an up-and-about Collingwood by 11 points at the MCG. The Hawks were all over the Bulldogs during the first quarter on Friday night, unfortunately, they left that fighting spirit into the rooms at quarter time, the Bulldogs turning a five-goal deficit into a 42 point win.

 

So what does it all mean?

It’s going to be struggle stations for the Giants to finish much higher than inside the bottom six, with the Crows directly above them now sitting a game clear, and the next two teams in the Suns and Power both three games clear. The situation is exactly the same for the Hawks, who sit directly below the Giants, also on four wins, however with a lower percentage.

The Hawks and the Giants have met 11 times since the latter’s inception into the AFL. The record for the Giants stands at four wins, six losses and a draw. The Hawks have won three of the past four clashes, but have never done so at Giants Stadium.

The Giants travel to Adelaide next week where they’ll take on Port, they then host the Lions at Manuka Oval. For the Hawks, they have a fortnight in Melbourne, first hosting Adelaide at Marvel Stadium and then the Eagles at the MCG the week after.

 

It’s a big week for:

Jack Gunston

The triple premiership Hawk returns to the side after a torrid run with injuries. Missing all but one game last year to a constant back issue, now this season it’s been a string of ankle injuries that’s restricted the veteran to 10 games so far. His inclusion comes at a perfect time for the Hawks, where after their 42 point loss to the Bulldogs last week, they could do with some firepower to assist Mitch Lewis and Dylan Moore up forward. Chad Wingard is also set to return, further bolstering Sam Mitchell’s forward stocks for their trip to NSW.

 

Last time they met:

A year ago to the day at the time of writing saw the Hawks and the Giants do battle at the MCG, with the travelling side looking at securing a finals berth, but the lowly Hawks had other plans. Thanks to a breakout game from Dylan Moore, kicking four goals, and some midfield magic from Daniel Moore and Tom Mitchell, the Hawks would go on to win by 18 points after the Giants fought their way back to within a kick in the final quarter, after leading the Hawks by four goals in the first.

11.6.72 – 13.12.90

 

All eyes on:

Bottom Four Beckons

It only just occurred to me that this game is a battle to avoid the bottom four. With both sides sitting on four wins for the season, the loser of this game is a certainty to end the round in the bottom four, whilst the winner will climb to as high as 13th.

 

Backline? More Like Lacks-Line

One glaringly obvious fault that the Giants will take out of this season is their lack of star power in the back line. Isaac Cumming is a terrific defender, and I think Sam Taylor will benefit from his side playing some better quality football, but pound for pound, the Giants’ defensive line always looks outsized, outpaced and outmanned. To his credit, coach Mark McVeigh has highlighted this issue, and attempted to make concessions accordingly. We’ve seen the likes of Nick Haynes thrown into the forward line and Harry Himmelberg sent down back, both to some avail. Even if McVeigh isn’t offered the senior role at the end of the season, nobody can say that he meandered and sat back afraid to make the big calls. Whoever the incoming coach ends up being, at least they can say that they’ve seen some options not previously explored.

 

 

Teams:

Fremantle vs Port Adelaide

 

Venue:

Optus Stadium

 

Snapshot:

It was a disappointing result for the Dockers as they had their eyes firmly on a top-two placing come the end of the round, losing to Carlton at Marvel stadium by 31 points. Port Adelaide rode the bumps against the Suns in a largely tight contest, winning a game that went right down to the wire by 2 points at home.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Dockers are one of five teams now in a direct battle for a spot inside the top four, with the Demons outright first, but each of the Lions, Cats and Blues all sitting on equal points with them. Meaning each win is vital from here on out if they wish to remain in contention for a top-four finish. Power are less likely to make up lost ground, they’re sitting 12th and are a win off equalling points with those above them, but would have to win every game from here on out and pray for other teams around them to drop off.

Port Adelaide have won their past three matches against the Dockers by an average of almost 40 points. However, they have never beaten the Dockers at Optus Stadium. The last time Power did beat Fremantle in Western Australia was the Semi-Final at Subiaco back in 2014.

Fremantle will travel to Melbourne to take on the Saints next week, they’ll then head home where they host the Swans the following week. Port Adelaide hosts the Giants at Adelaide Oval next week before heading to Alice Springs for a match with Melbourne at TIO Traeger Park.

 

It’s a big week for:

The Fremantle Midfield

It was something we haven’t seen a lot of this season, but the Dockers midfield was really put to task by Carlton last week. Whilst Brayshaw and Brodie were still serviceable, their impact on the game was severely limited to the dominance we’ve seen in recent weeks. A worrying sign is an increase in inside 50s that they’ve conceded in recent weeks, something that I’ll touch on further down in this piece.

 

Last time they met:

Back in Round 11 of last year, the Dockers travelled to Adelaide Oval to take on Port Adelaide, where they would kick themselves out of the game early, allowing Power to kick the first seven goals of the game to record a quarter-time score of 0.7.7 – 7.5.47. a margin that the Dockers would only improve by a point by the time the final siren sounded. Peter Ladhams dominated in the ruck and up forward as Ollie Wines and Karl Amon ran amok in the middle. Brayshaw, Mundy and Fyfe did their best to stem the bleeding for the Dockers, but three-goal hauls to Charlie Dixon and Sam Powell-Pepper were too big of an obstacle to overcome.

18.7.115 – 9.15.69

 

All eyes on:

Gray Matters

Robbie Gray is an out-and-out champion of the Port Adelaide Football Club and unarguably amongst the club’s best-ever AFL players. With that statement being made, is he likely to hang the boots up at the end of the year? Part of me really hopes not, I can’t think of another Power player that has kicked more clutch goals or dragged that side from a deficit and used his brilliance to jet them back into a game. But the reality has dawned on me that he’s only managed nine games this season, and of those nine games, he hasn’t looked quite at his damaging best. O realise there have been numerous injury concerns, but at 34 this year, is he likely to be putting his tired body through another preseason at 35 next season? I think the sands of time are beginning to answer that question for me, unfortunately.

 

Inside 50, Make ‘Em Nifty

Fremantle are conceding a concerning amount more inside 50s since the Bye round. Possibly a coincidence, possibly due to injury and other factors causing players to miss games and others to return to the side. The alarm bells aren’t ringing just yet, they still sit inside the top four, technically they’re equal second with three other sides. But I think after a rather surprising beatdown at the hands of side the Blues last week, the Dockers will relish being back on their home deck, even though they have been such a strong travelling side this season, some chick in a pair of red shoes once told me: there’s no place like home.

 

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