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The Run Home

I love this time of year. Exams are over, assessments have been handed in and the byes are done. Two months of the Home and Away season remain and games are beginning to have much more meaning. I’ll be looking at your team’s run home and where I think they’ll be sitting on the ladder at seasons end. I’ll also be looking at the game that matters most for your team.

1. Geelong

My Cats - how I love to see us on top, however I know that no matter how many games we win, we’ll still end up losing in the Prelim. I thought something was different and I’m confident that things are, but another loss after the bye conjures some serious doubt in my mind.

Is it Chris Scott’s time to go if we don’t make the Grand Final? I’m still yet to see a plan B from Scotty when things head south and I’d hate to see us get exposed yet again on the big stage. Not that they’ve gone south too often.

Geelong had an interesting win against the Crows. It was looking ominous before the game-changing move of Blicavs into the ruck to nullify O’Brien, who had been on top of Stanley early on. Maybe there is a Plan B?

Nevertheless, we’re on top and with games against St Kilda, North and Carlton at GMHBA stadium and the Dogs and Hawks in Melbourne, it’s safe to say that the Cats will be finishing first.

Crucial Game: Round 22 vs Brisbane @ The Gabba: The toughest game for the Cats is the Lions in Brisbane. While I expect the Cats to make light work of the young Lions, it will be the their best chance at a real test before finals.

Final Ladder Prediction: 1st - 20W 2L

2. Collingwood

Why couldn’t the Mongrel have been around while Collingwood were rubbish? I don’t like having to say good things about them, but they keep making me do so. Jordan de Goey has been electric and Grundy has put a massive gap between himself and Gawn in regard to the number one ruck position in the AA team.

Grundy’s last two weeks have been phenomenal. He’s averaging a goal, 24 disposals, 47 hit outs, 14 contested possessions and six clearances. I can’t remember a ruckman having that much impact on back to back games in a long time. He’s the main reason they’re winning and as long as he stays healthy, they’re a chance in any game.

Unlike the Cats, the Pies don’t have an easy run home. Games against the Eagles, Giants and Crows all away from home look to be losses, but luckily enough, they’re the only top 8 sides they face and should remain in the top 4 as a result. Easier runs home for the Eagles and Giants see the Pies drop to 4th.

Crucial Game: Round 18 vs GWS @ Spotless Stadium: As I mentioned before, the Pies don’t have an easy run home. According to my predictions, this game will decide who finishes in 3rd and 4th positions. Third will see a trip to Perth and 4th sees a trip to the Cattery. If the Pies finish fourth, Geelong can say goodbye to a true home final.

Final ladder prediction: 4th - 15W 7L

3. Greater Western Sydney

The Giants are probably the only team that could win every game for the rest of the year and not surprise anyone. The depth and emerging talent, along with the current group of superstars is unlike any other list in the competition and I’m looking forward to seeing their fan base grow over the years to come.

Shane Mumford looks like an All Australian ruckman one week and a dud the next. The only issue the Giants have going into finals is his match up. Even after this week’s hiccup against the Bombers, with All-Australian calibre talent across the field and an easy run home with games against Sydney, Hawthorn, Bulldogs and Gold Coast, the Giants are primed for another top 4 finish.

Crucial Game: Round 17 vs Richmond @ MCG: So on paper, this game looks like an easy win for the Giants. Unless the Tigers can find some form, this game looks like the Giant’s test to play the G. If they can play the G well against the Tigers, it should take some pressure off come finals.

Final Ladder Prediction: 3rd - 16W 6L

4. West Coast

I don’t understand the Eagles. They’ve played some pretty ordinary footy this season, yet they keep finding a way to win. They’re ranked 16th for disposals, tackles and tackles inside 50 and have yet to really impress me, but they’re in the top four and have Nic Nat back in the side as well.

Another ugly win in the wet against Hawthorn keeps them in winning, if not good form going into the most important part of the season. Kennedy and Darling are both averaging over two goals a game (2.5 and 2.2 respectively) and I’m feeling a couple of monster games for Kennedy, especially with three of the bottom four defences coming up (North, Carlton and Melbourne). He’s had 20 scoring shots in the past month but hasn’t been able to convert as we know he’s capable of.

Their run home isn’t one of the easiest but they do play five of their eight games at Optus Stadium, and the three times they do travel, it’s to Alice Springs to play the Dees and to Melbourne to play Carlton and Richmond. They play the G very well so they shouldn’t have any issues. They’re capable of a top two finish if things go their way and Nic Nat is able to fill their ruck hole.

Crucial Game: Round 22 vs Richmond @ MCG: Like the Cats, the Eagles shouldn’t lose their position unless disaster strikes. With an easier run home, the round 22 game against the Tigers will be the last time the Eagles have the chance to play the G before the Grand Final, if they’re able to win their home finals. This is the decisive game against what should be a very hungry Richmond side.

Final ladder prediction: 2nd - 18W 4L

5. Adelaide

G’day my South Australian readers, it’s been a while and I’ve missed insulting you, however, sadly, there hasn’t been much to insult.

Eddie, even after 300 games is still kicking goal of the year candidates and Laird, Keith and co have put together the third best defence in the comp. Tex has proven that while being the worst captain in the AFL, he still has his teammates by his side and wears the Adelaide colours proudly. Lynch will miss this week and Jenkins another month so if Tex wants to prove himself, his next month will show us.

The Crouch brothers have been amazing and Sloane has found some goal kicking form with back to back weeks of two goals. Riley O’Brien has well and truly taken Sam Jacob’s name off of Adelaide’s list in 2020 - what a breakout year for the 23 year old. He’ll get a nice pay day this summer.

Looking at the Crows’ run home it could either go very well, or be a disaster. Talk about having a foot in each camp, huh? They have three games that could go either way (Port, West Coast in Perth and the Pies in Adelaide), and they also play the Bombers, Saints and Dogs who are all capable of pulling out a win, I've picked them to win six more games on the year and just miss the top four.

Crucial Game: Round 16 vs Port Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval: Winning this game keeps the Crows in the hunt for the top four. While they will still need to win a game they’re not favourites to win, if they lose this, we could see them drop to sixth.

Final ladder prediction: 5th - 15W 7L

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6. Brisbane

The Lions are the only team capable of both losing to Carlton and beating a top four team and in doing so, surprising nobody. In my over-reaction after round three, I had the Lions primed for a top four finish, however losses to Carlton, the Bulldogs and Essendon put a pretty big dent in that. While I’m confident they can win at least five more games and play finals, some serious doubt arose following the collapse at the hands of Carlton of all teams.

Neale had seven disposals while being tagged in the second half of that game and while I didn’t watch his game against the Saints, he only finished on 25 disposals for the game, his second lowest for the season and for a guy who’s averaged 32 disposals a game, 32 in six quarters seems like something that is almost cause for concern. Luckily, he bounced back with a dominant performance this past weekend, but teams will be looking at the effectiveness of a tag on him, and when finals roll around, I’d expect Neale to have some close company.

As I said before, I expect Brisbane to win four more games with losses expected against the Giants in Western Sydney, Power in Adelaide, Cats at the Gabba and Tigers at the G, the latter of which could shape the final eight.

Crucial Game: Round 19 vs Hawthorn @ UTAS: The Lions play the Hawks well. Is it Hodge? Maybe. Either way, this game has big implications. If they lose this game, I can see their home final falling to the Tigers.

Final ladder position: 6th - 13W 9L

7. Port Adelaide

South Australian team #2, the one who’s players I can tolerate but the fans - the fans that only show up when they’re any good. You’re not on my good list. Now you could just be thinking that it’s because the Power beat my Cats that I can’t stand them, but I’m not too fussed - it was after a bye and that’s good enough of an excuse for me, even though it’s a weak one.

I haven’t been too impressed with the Power this season, however, after the victory over the Cats, I saw some serious potential. Dan Houston shut down Tim Kelly and Tom Clurey turned Tom Hawkins into a paperweight. If these two can shut down the player potentially leading the Brownlow count and the man sitting second in the Coleman, who else could they do it to?

They had Macrae and Naughton this week and while Naughton was kept just as quiet as Hawkins last week, McRae had a field day with 36 disposals, 20 contested, six clearances and a goal, Sloane and Tex come next week and then Neale and Hipwood the week after. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’ll be watching some Port Adelaide games in the coming weeks. After the game against the Dogs this week, the next eight games could go either way. I’ll let you have a look at their fixture to make your own opinion, but I think they need to play some seriously good footy to make the eight, or hope that the teams below them continue to struggle as well.

Crucial Game: Round 17 vs Brisbane @ Adelaide Oval: This game is a must win, lose and they drop out of the eight; win and stay in. It’s that simple.

Final ladder prediction: 8th - 11W 11L

8. Fremantle

Freo haven’t done anything super impressive this year. Well, actually they have, but sadly, the issue is that they’ve countered their good wins with equally bad losses. Losing to Gold Coast, Carlton, scoring 34 against Adelaide, 53 against Essendon and losing to the injured Tigers at home are all some seriously low moments for a team looking to play finals, but if you cut those games out you have impressive wins over Port, Collingwood, Brisbane, GWS and North.

Ask me where they’re at? I’m not sure. To predict the rest of their season is near impossible. So much depends on Fyfe maintaining his Brownlow form, Lobb coming back sooner than expected and Freo’s ability to cope without Alex Pearce. I’d say their season is over after Sunday’s loss to Carlton without Cripps and Charlie Curnow.

Crucial Game: Round 20 vs Geelong @ Optus Oval:  This game is massive - winning keeps them in the race for the eight, lose and they’re done for good.

Final ladder prediction: 11th - 10W 12L

9. Richmond

The Tigers - the inferior feline of the competition. You are not Collingwood and I appreciate that about you. I like your colours, black looks good on me, your yellow is nice, but a bit too (string and) bold. I don’t like your fan base and I especially don’t like Dustin Martin.

I have a lot of respect for Trent Cotchin’s hair and want to know what gel or wax he uses. You have a player with the surname Eggmolesse-Smith and while I’m sure he won’t play an AFL game, I like his name and I think everyone should know it.

To save my skin, I’ll say something nice about the way the Tigers have been playing before I proceed to their run home. A couple of things happened on Sunday against the Saints - they discovered that Sydney Stack genuinely has talent as a forward target, and Mabior Chol looked impressive. His running take out of the ruck straight into an open goal was Nic Nat-esque.

Whilst Chol was impressive, I don’t expect him to stay in the team with Riewoldt coming back. A question I’d like to know the answer to is - was Stack placed forward because of the impact Charlie Cameron had against the Saints, or was it just out of need for a target? It wouldn’t surprise me if he kicks less than five more goals for the rest of the year.

Now, onto their run home, after this week’s game against the Suns on the Gold Coast, the Tigers play seven straight at the MCG - how’s that for scheduling? Unfortunately for the Tigers, five of those seven games could go either way. They have the Giants, Power, Pies, Demons (you never know), Eagles and Lions. Throw in the Carlton game if they can find some form and you’re looking at seven tough games.

Crucial Game: Round 18 vs Port Adelaide @ MCG: Most of the Tigers’ games hold the same value in terms of ladder positioning, however I chose this game as their most crucial because of its implications on finals. While both are difficult trips, losing this game could send the Tigers to Adelaide. Winning sends them to Brisbane. Which would you rather?

Final Ladder Prediction: 7th - 13W 9L

10. Essendon

I love this team. They’re terrible, yet brilliant. They’re disappointing, yet predictable and my favourite aspect of them they’re overrated. The Bombers may have the most overrated list in the AFL. If you are unlucky enough to watch them on Channel 7, you’ll hear the commentary team say this once or twice a night “once this team gets up and going, when they start running, they can’t be stopped”.

I agree with that statement, but that’s like saying that once Gary Ablett returns to Brownlow form, he’ll win the Coleman. It’s not going to happen. Here’s what is going to happen, because I have to say something nice about them. I’ve been impressed with their heart this year.I expect them to win five of their last eight and just miss finals. They have some massive games against five teams all fighting for the eighth spot and it should make for interesting viewing. 

Crucial Game: Round 16 vs Sydney @ MCG: I could have chosen a number of games for the Bombers, but I chose this game because I feel like the winner of this game will remain in finals contention and the loser will be set to miss the eight.

Final Ladder Prediction: 9th - 11W 11L

11. St Kilda

3 goals, 10 behinds. That was the output from the Saints in the second half of Sunday’s clash with the Tigers. Whilst nobody expected them to continue kicking straight, 10 behinds in a half, including 7 in the 4th quarter is appalling and calls for not only Alan Richardson to get the axe, but for their forward coach to be looked at as well.

Their third quarters have been atrocious in losses this season The Saints have lost third quarters 24.23.167 vs 40.21.261. Is there a problem with what’s being said at half time? Do the players lose motivation? Are they coming out of the break unprepared? Is it a physical or mental issue?

Director of coaching, Danny Sexton has some serious questions to ask of his team of coaches. They could lose eight straight to finish the season. The Saints play away from home five times, against North, Geelong, Adelaide, Carlton and Sydney. Their home games are against the Dogs, Dees and Dockers, and are their only good chances of a win. After this week where Carlton impressed me, I’d be choosing them over the Saints at the G if the game were played tomorrow. Freo at Marvel is the Sains’ best chance of picking up another win. The ball is in your court St. Kilda. You have nothing to lose, except a coach. 

Crucial Game: Round 19 vs Melbourne @ MCG: Obviously, this game has no finals implications; however, it has implications for next season. If the Saints lose this game, they’ll keep a bottom six position and have an easier draw in 2020.

Final Ladder Prediction: 13th - 8W 14L

12. North Melbourne

I think North are having the most North season they could be having – allow me to explain.

They’re just underperforming. They’ve had some good moments, shown promise, and they’re sitting just out of the eight with a tough run home. See what I mean? Very North Melbourne-esque.

I was impressed when they kept their season alive by belting the Pies at Marvel, but I am unsure whether that was a wakeup call for the Pies or an awakening of the Kangaroos? Not to be too obvious, but the next two weeks will tell us a lot about the club.

They have the Saints in Tassie, then the Bombers at Marvel, and if they can continue the good footy they played for four quarters against the Pies and wipe off the Saints with ease and then fight out a win against the Bombers, they could potentially take the Bombers’ spot in finals talk. However, until then, it’s probably best to keep their name out of any conversation. They’ve got four top eight sides to come for the year so if they can win one or two of those on top of the games they’re expected to win, finals will be calling. 

Crucial Game: Round 17 vs Essendon @ Marvel Stadium: While I still don’t think they can play finals footy, it will take beating Essendon to get there, being one of the teams North need to overtake in order to make the eight.

Final Ladder Prediction: 10th - 11W 11L

13. Sydney

They were 1-6 and now they’re sitting in a good spot to play finals. What is it with this Swans team and starting the year off like rubbish? I couldn’t think of any way to describe the Swans, they have 1 player (Lloyd) in AA contention, a couple of mids a little past their prime (Kennedy and Parker), an injured Buddy and an inconsistent Heeney up forward. 

Could they play finals? I think so, some things would have to fall their way and they need to win the games they should to be there.

Wins should come against Carlton, Melbourne and St Kilda and they would need to win two of their games against Essendon, Port and Freo - the other three teams fighting for that final spot. 

Crucial Game: Round 16 vs Essendon @ MCG: As I said in Essendon’s section, losing this game guarantees a September holiday.

Final Ladder Prediction: 15th - 7W 15L

14. Western Bulldogs

How is it that these Dogs look like they can play finals and beat the best, but nearly lose to Carlton for a second time? They’ve had contributions across the board, especially in the goal kicking department - it seems that Schache has found his place in the AFL as a good second forward. He’s only 21, on his second AFL team and is averaging more than a goal a game in his career. I’m glad that he’s enjoying his footy; it would have been real rough for him being under so much scrutiny as a kid.

The Bulldogs have a lot of good players. Macrae, Dunkley, Bontempelli, Naughton, Hunter, Daniel, Wood and more I’m missing. Their problem is that they’re too top heavy in the talent department, with their bottom 8-10 too inconsistent.

Their last couple of games against the Power and Pies showed what they’re capable of, but can they make finals? They’re in the pack with Sydney and North Melbourne, sitting a game behind Essendon, Port and Fremantle - five equally inconsistent teams. Can they be the best of the inconsistent?

Their run home suggests that they’re a possibility, but more likely to miss. They play the Cats, Giants, Lions and Crows which I’ve pencilled in for losses. Wins should come against the Dees, Saints, Freo (@Marvel) and Essendon if they want to play finals. While I like the Dogs, I think they’ll miss the 8.

Crucial Game: Round 16 vs Geelong @ Marvel Stadium: It’s rather simple as to why this game is so crucial for the Dogs, - if the lose, they will be three games out of the eight and out of finals contention. You’d expect a hungry side to come out this week. 

Final Ladder Prediction: 12th - 9W 13L

15. Hawthorn

I can’t believe the Hawks will miss the finals, and finish in the bottom six! I couldn’t come up with something witty to describe what’s wrong with them, then I realised, the Hawks are a reflection of what happens when someone makes a fantasy team and fills it with mid-priced players, a couple premiums and a couple rookies and thought it was are more balanced team compared to their mate who filled their team with premiums, 4-5 kids and a couple mid-priced players expected to rise. I know which team I’d pick if I was playing in a money league.

No matter what comes out of the Hawthorn camp, I still expect them to trade their first round pick for a player that looked good a year or two ago but has hit a wall. I’ll pose this question to you, who is the Hawks’ best player? Can he be the difference maker and get his team over the line? Probably not.

Now, what you came here for, their run home. It’s not pretty - they play six top eight teams, with North and Gold Coast being their only two chances at a win. The latter is the only game I’ll be tipping the Hawks in for the remainder of the season. Sorry Hawks fans.

Crucial Game: Round 20 vs North Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium: This is more for the fans. Other than their match up with Gold Coast, this is Hawthorn’s last chance at a win for the season, I’d be pretty mad as a Hawks fan if they went 1-11 to finish the season, but really is 2-10 much better?

Final Ladder Prediction: 14th - 7W 15L

16. Melbourne

The Demons have won four games this year… what went wrong? I think it definitely had something to do with trusting Tom McDonald with the #1 forward role and leaving him with a supporting cast having as bad of a year as he is.

It’s hard to think of anything going right for this club and with Gawn out for the next week or two, it looks like things are only going to get worse. They play the Blues at the G this week, and while  I’m not saying that this is a must win, changes will be made at the club if a loss were to eventuate against Carlton, especially if Cripps is out.

If you look at their run home, it’s actually quite easy. They play three teams in the top eight and only travel for their home game in Alice Springs and to Tassie. Unfortunately for Demons fans, the best thing to do is to keep losing and get a decent draft pick that they could trade for someone if they’re still looking at contending in 2020. 

Crucial Game: Round 16 vs Carlton: With the Demons having as bad of a year as they are and with how impatient clubs tend to be, this game could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Changes may be needed at Melbourne, but a win here postpones them.

Final Ladder Prediction: 16th - 7W 15L

17. Gold Coast

Wow, after looking like they should have been 4-0, sitting 3-1, it looked like the Suns were in for a better year. Whilst I said earlier in the year that they would get figured out and die off, they haven’t won a game in ten weeks and they may not win another game for the year. Here’s a stat that makes my Cats look good - in 189 games in club history, the Gold Coast Suns’ home and away record is 47-1-141. Chris Scott took over the head coach of the Cats in 2011 - his home and away record since taking over is 136-2-50. What’s so crazy about this? The Cats have lost less games since 2011 than the Suns have won. There you go, crazy!

The Suns have two games that they can potentially win in the final eight games - round 18 against the Blues and 20 against the Bombers. it’s a very Essendon thing to do, to lose to the Suns.

Crucial Game: Round 18 vs Carlton @ Marvel Stadium: Game of the year! Who will win? This game has the chance to decide the not-so coveted wooden spoon.

Final Ladder Prediction: 18th - 3W 19L

18. Carlton

Carlton! You beauties! There’s something I love about this Carlton team – they may have crushed Brisbane’s top four hopes and now the Dockers top eight chances. Being now the second worst team in the league, means every game they win is a massive upset and if it comes against a struggling team, coaches may be fired. Maybe I just love to see an upset or maybe it’s just fun to watch Marc Murphy still light up teams, but the young group is starting to look better each week and hopefully, with another top two pick next year they can…oops, traded that pick away, huh. They traded their pick in exchange for Adelaide’s pick and Liam Stocker. Do I need to make further comment? 

Once the kids can put trust in the club to keep their core together and a quality coach is found, good things can come from this group of Blues.

Now for the fun part, this season, in one game, Carlton have a 100% winning record without Cripps. Of course, I’m not saying that they’re better without him, but maybe throw his name out there on the trade market and see who bites. Oh yeah… I await your hate mail.

The Blues are a chance in four games for the remainder of this year against the Dees, Swans, Suns and Saints and I’d expect them to put up a good fight against the Crows and Tigers. I hope they get a couple more wins and push that Adelaide pick back a couple of spots in the draft.

Crucial Game: Round 18 vs Carlton @ Marvel Stadium: For the same reasons as Gold Coast, this game could decide who wins the wooden spoon.

Final Ladder Prediction: 17th - 4W 18L

There’s my look at the run home. If you disagree with anything I had to say, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give my reasoning. You may not like my reasoning, but hey, no one can make all the people happy all of the time!

I’m hoping by now the Carlton fans have already gone to the comments after seeing my point about Cripps being traded. Let’s see how many fish will bite today.

As always, thanks for reading and Stay Mongrel.

 

 

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