ESSENDON V ST KILDA
The Bombers, fresh from an epic battle against sworn enemies, the Hawks won’t let the hurt burden them as finals are still a mathematical possibility. Going in unchanged is reflective of the form the sash has been in for the past three months and the disappointing Saints are likely to bear the full brunt of a team who play the indoor stadium as well as anyone.
St Kilda, on the other hand, were uncompetitive against the underperforming Dogs last week, and another 5 changes are unlikely to change their fortunes – not even the addition of Hannebery, Fyfe, Sloane or anyone else linked to Moorabbin will help here. It’s a strange old season, but not that strange, Essendon by plenty.
HAWTHORN V GEELONG
Another Saturday afternoon blockbuster, and for the amount of vitriol directed at Travis Auld for his bizarre Carlton Friday night obsession, he’s certainly got these last few weeks right. The stage is set for another mighty tussle between the two best teams of the past decade, the Hawks off a close win, the Cats off a close loss, no odds payable that this will again go down to the wire.
Interesting selection from Waverley with a first game Irishman set to debut in the cauldron that is the MCG for a big game. It’s unusual that he was elevated several weeks ago, and only picked now as his form wanes. Meanwhile down the Princes Hwy, the Pivotonians look much stronger removing their 4 weakest players in the fabled ‘bottom six’ with significant upgrades. Despite lofty expectations the Cats currently sit outside the eight. A heart stopping win here will reignite their hopes of a September miracle.
GOLD COAST V RICHMOND
Stewie Dew may not be able to keep down his dinner after reading the ins for the reigning premiers - Prestia, Houli, Graham and Broad enhance an already formidable unit, only mildly offset by the rest of important cog Nankervis. Sage player management by the Tigers who are resting their lone big man and simultaneously having a look at the next in line should something go awry in the last few weeks of the year.
The Suns welcome back experienced heads, May, Swallow, Lyons and talented youngster, Ainsworth, but unfortunately, they will be on the receiving end of another demolition here.
PORT ADELAIDE V WEST COAST
Port and West Coast were both the subjects of wild controversy from their weekend derbies, for vastly differing reasons. And despite recent missed opportunity, both still hold out hope of that coveted top four position and the double chance in the first week of finals. The Eagles will badly miss the run and class of Gaff for the rest of the year (possibly forever) and the underrated Schofield in defence, while their talisman Kennedy remains sidelined.
Tellingly, Port have lost patience and savagely dropped Powell-Pepper and Hombsch. The home side haven’t traditionally dealt with last-chance saloon time in recent years, so I’m predicting an upset with the Coasters banding together in adversity to pull off a stirring victory.
COLLINGWOOD V BRISBANE
The Carringbush lose yet another young gun to injury; this time Darcy Moore, but regain the electric De Goey, while Brisbane move out one out-of-favour player, Cutler and replace him with another out of favour player, Bastinac. Both teams were on the losing side of heartbreakers in Round 20. Collingwood have more to play for and the distinct home ground advantage will be enough to see them again jockey for placings in a revolving top eight.
GWS V ADELAIDE
Canberra hasn’t hosted an event so keenly anticipated since election night 2007, but this is truly a game not to be missed. Adelaide bravely stay alive after a last gasp, and technologically-aided victory in the Showdown, while the Giants poured scorn on a pitiful Carlton. The devastating loss of Deledio, Dawson and Greene is offset by the return of Shiel, Taranto and Griffin in a seemingly never ending roster of stars for the home side, while the Crows are typically bruised and below par after a cross town face off. The loss of the consistent Talia also spells trouble with Cameron on the prowl. Giants to consolidate their 2018 credentials.
NORTH MELBOURNE V WESTERN BULLDOGS
North and the Doggies play a home match at the Dome on Sunday, and surprisingly the sons of the ‘scray came back to life last week, further aided this week through the celebration of favourite son Dale Morris’ 250th game milestone. The Kangas, after wiping the sweat from their brow up in the Queensland sunshine last week, welcome back Brownlow fancy, Shaun Higgins after missing one week following knee surgery, and have too much to play for and too many avenues to goal. The Roos will win well.
MELBOURNE V SYDNEY
Melbourne host Sydney in a game of great importance, with the Dees finally back on track and the Swans rolling the dice for a final time. Hannebery and Rohan (if they are at full fitness) are positive ins for the Bloods, but the Dees have too much class in the midfield, and firepower up forward, Oliver is a gem and on FTA TV will show why he’s the next big thing in the AFL.
Melbourne to again dare their fans to postpone September holidays.
FREMANTLE V CARLTON
The final match of the round will be an unwelcome addition to the twilight saga, neither Team Jacob nor Team Trent. Edward can save this from rating no socks off. A bunch of players no one will remember come 2019 are included on both sides. Ross the Boss will have the last laugh with a dour victory to set the scene for the double trouble of Fyfe and Bennell to triumphantly return in the following week.
And the Blues… well, they’re getting pick one.
Trent will be adding his weekly preview to The Mongrel for the remainder of the season. Think he’s wrong? Let him know. Give us a Like on the Mongrel’s Facebook page or a Follow on Twitter and post your own thoughts. We won’t laugh… much.