I made a right tit of myself last week. But how good is this season going? By now, tipping should be fairly easy and the games reasonably predictable - but you can throw that out the window. The AFL has copped a lot of criticism for various things over recent history, but one thing you can’t complain about is that the equalisation policy is not only working but having a good impact on the evenness across the competition.
Hopefully it can continue this week. Let’s take a look at what’s happening.
Hawthorn V Collingwood 7.50 EST, MCG.
Another Mongrel earlier in the week made the observation that Hawthorn were like a poorly put together supercoach side. As someone who’s put together quite a few terrible fantasy sides myself, I can relate to the criticism. Lots of stars, lots of players to go missing. The Hawks are heading for their fifth straight loss - it’s an area not known to the fans and they are talking with their feet, or their wallet as they’re running out to buy Geelong and Collingwood merch.
Speaking of Collingwood, they’ve been pretty unconvincing too. A better unconvincing though, the type that keeps them in touch with top of the ladder. There aren’t many sides who stick around the top two for so long that people don’t really rate but their impersonation of a good football side is still fooling a few. Their worst performance of the season came last week against the ‘Roos where they were systematically beaten across the park. It was refreshing to see such an honest presser from Bucks, who is just starting to feel a bit concerned, I think.
This game is pivotal for the Pies. The Hawks could just about start talking “rebuild” but the Pies need to convince themselves they’re as good as their ladder position suggests they are. They can only do that by beating lower sides convincingly.
Pies by 27.
Essendon V Sydney 1.45 EST, MCG
Well Essendon, I talked you down last week and look how you repaid me. Every Essendon fan should be buying me a round, cause there’s nothing like a bit of negative chat to get a team going. Still, I don’t trust the red and the black and neither should you. Another team I don’t trust is they Sydney Swans. They’ve gone from insignificant to a finals chance really quickly, and there’s enough time for them to not only make the eight but do so with some real momentum. Essendon could do the same, and this week provides a launching pad for either side to use.
If Essendon win, I might just start worrying about them, and with Sydney light on forward targets, the Bombers will look to Hurley to regularly intercept and get the ball into the likes of Saad, who I don’t think the Swans have a great match up for. Where the Swans win this is through scoring from their midfielders and to lock down the run and carry of the Bombers.
I’m going with Essendon in this one. I don’t at all trust them, but when they get going they can be hard to stop. Bombers by 18.
Gold Coast V Richmond, 2.10 EST, Metricon.
I try and support the Gold Coast Suns. I try stick up for the little guy but they’ve found themselves holding up the ladder again and the outlook, for this season at least, is looking bleaker and bleaker with every round. The Tiges, on the other hand, are starting to get their players back and look a real threat for their favoured spot of ninth. This game will be academic for the yellow and black; a bit of a light training drill. It’s a shame, because the Suns need all the help they can get - but they’re a young side who’s tiring with every match. Interestingly, their season is almost following the exact formula of last years’ and you’d expect the extra pre season may have helped them. Apparently not.
If the Suns are to win this, they need to play a full four quarters of footy. Their second halves have been horrendous, and they need to work out a way to avoid the same capitulation.
For the Tigers, they just need to rock up wanting to win. If they go to the Gold Coast expecting a holiday, they might just find themselves with a long flight home.
Doubt that will happen, Tigers by 45.
Adelaide V Port Adelaide 4.05 Adelaide time, Adelaide.
The Showdown is still one of the best and most feral entertaining rivalries in the competition. So good that some less intelligent Victorian commentators regularly suggest we should play the game in front of, like, twelve thousand people at the MCG.
This Showdown is the first of the two rivalries on Saturday and is as important as any matches these two clubs have played. The Crows, desperate for a spot in the four need a win over their younger/older brother. The Power are ninth and just a few percent out of the eight. A win over the Crows here will move them into that eight spot and they should have the talent to keep it.
Showdowns and Derbies are often hard to predict, because of the extra feeling in the game. There’s often a finals-like build up which is noticed and does effect the players.
Most people are on Adelaide here, but I smell an upset. Gray and Dixon will lead Port to a four point win over their rivals.
Western Bulldogs V Geelong, 7.25 EST, Marvel
Geelong got back from their two week holiday with a comfortable win over the Crows, and will seek to maintain the status quo that is winning every damn game for the rest of the season. The Dogs almost lost to the new and improved Carlton, and then pretty well thumped Port in a game more convincing than the twenty five point margin suggests.
The Bulldogs should meet this game with a nothing to lose attitude. Their stars are starting to return to form, and they’re kinda in nowhere land on the ladder. If they come out and play without any pressure on themselves, they may just play their best footy and really take it to the Cats, whose spot at the top of the ladder is looking a bit too comfortable.
The Cats can’t afford to be complacent in this game. Yes, they’re two games clear and yes, they’re playing near perfect footy, but they aren’t unbeatable. I wouldn’t want to be the coach who has to try work out how to beat them- but I’d probably start by bribing the club chef.
Cats will win this one. Dogs can be spirited at times, but woeful at other times- and sometimes both of those in the same game. Cats by 21.
Fremantle V West Coast Eagles 6.10 WST, Optus
Freo, Freo, Freo. Freo. How? Why? Speaking of clubs I don’t trust, here’s the untrustiest of them all. Half a week on and I still don’t understand how they lost to Carlton, but here we are.
What they can be confident about though, is that even though they’ve now lost to three of the bottom four sides, they’ve still beaten three of the top five- with their only loss to those top five coming against the Eagles in a game they probably should have won, which is probably the sign of a young, yet talented side.
Still, this Eagles side is in much better form than they were then, and Nic Nat has returned. He was good enough last week for a first hit out, but I genuinely think that with the extra space now afforded in at the centre square at bounces, and the ability to grab the ball out of the ruck at contests, will see Nic Nat dominate games as he has never dominated before.
The Eagles will win this game by playing their high possession game. Freo have never been particularly good at shutting down sides who go by foot - which the Eagles love to do. Still, With Sandilands and Lobb potentially back, the Dockers will be more confident in the midfield and will be able to structure up forward more which they haven’t been able to do for the last few weeks.
Those ins for Fremantle won’t be enough though. Any side with McGovern, Nic Nat and Kennedy in it is hard to beat. Add Darling, Yeo, Hurn and a host of other talent to the side including the vitally important Tom Barrass, and it’s going to take a Derby miracle for the Dockers to win this.
Eagles by 53.
Carlton V Melbourne 1.10 EST, MCG.
Well I don’t know what happened to Carlton, but I don’t like it. A good Carlton is difficult to understand, it’s foreign to us footy fans and I’m not quite sure what to do about it. At least Melbourne have returned to their former glory and giving their supporters good reasons to go skiing.
You would expect McKay and Cripps to come back into this side after their week off, though are they really needed? The blues apparently are almost better without them.
Melbourne are lost this season. They’ve managed a few wins and occasionally look like they did last year, but only occasionally.
I’m gonna tip Carlton here. They inspired me last week. I love how quickly they went from woeful to winners and Teague made some good in-game moves which shows he’ll be a good coach.
Blue-baggers by 15.
North Melbourne V St. Kilda 3.20 EST, Blundstone Arena
It was interesting earlier in the season how we were talking a potential top eight berth for the Saints and a bottom four berth for the Roos. A few months later and everything as seemingly swapped over.
North, believe it or not, are only a win but considerable percentage out of the eight. A finals spot looks highly unlikely, given that low percentage and the traffic around them, but you’d be ever optimistic if you wore their colours.
The Saints on the other hand have resumed their usual position of general mediocrity, and although they have the same amount of win has the ‘Roos, they got most of those before their wheels fell off after about round 8- and are holding on to the threads whatever hope they had for season 2019.
North have a pretty good record down in Tassie, and even if it wasn’t there, I’d have tipped them anyway. Cunnington is in career best form, their new winger in Polec is starting to fit into the side nicely, and Ben Brown is always a threat up forward, despite a lean season.
North Melbourne to win by 30.
GWS V Brisbane Lions, 4.40 EST, Giant Stadium, Sydney
Brisbane recovered from their shock loss to Carlton with some comfortable wins over Melbourne and St. Kilda. But this week gives them their first real challenge in over a month as they come up against the inconsistent but mostly good GWS.
With both teams separated only by percentage, this game is vital for each side’s top four ambitions. Both sides at their best will win the game easily, but both have also been known to lose games they’d have expected to win; so, it’s one of those “depends on which team rocks up” type of games.
The Lions have been pretty poor away from home and the Giants will be hurting after their unexpected loss to the Bombers. I think the difference will be determined by forward fifty entries: both sides have elite midfields, but whoever can deliver the ball better inside fifty will win the game.
Cameron looms like the match winner, but I wouldn’t put it beyond someone such as Daniel Rich to rebound effectively and put the lions in a good spot. His long kicking is underrated and has the potential to get the ball quickly into the Lions forward line before the Giants have a chance to defend.
I think, though, away from home, there’s not too much inconsistency with Brisbane, and a safer tip would be the Giants.
Giants by 13.
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