We’re back for another week of footy, and the back end of this season is becoming very interesting. With up to fifteen teams who could still push for a top eight position and results as unpredictable as they have been in years, each game is more important than the last.
Here’s The Mongrel’s preview for round 17
West Coast Eagles V Collingwood. 6.10pm WST, Optus.
Both these teams are pushing for the all important top two finish. It won’t affect Collingwood as much, but the chance of a home Prelim for West Coast almost certainly means another Grand Final appearance. Fresh off their light jog last week, the Eagles will be full of confidence: their stars are back, their systems are working, and Jonathan Brown may have received the message about who the best side in WA is.
Collingwood have really not been inspiring any confidence of late. They’re looking at their third loss in a row, and the two sides they’ve lost to, North and the Hawks, were games they really should have won. In fact, I think the real Collingwood may still be lost on their way to that North Game, because they didn’t rock up then, and they still haven’t been found.
Collingwood haven’t been able to beat the Eagles recently, and have lost the previous four encounters. To win this game, they need their big Texan to fire up. Cox must take the marks he’s so capable of taking if they are to get the ball past Barras and McGovern. The match-up between Grundy and Naitanui will be well and truly worth the price of admission - if you can get tickets. Whoever can gain the ascendency in the ruck will go a long way to their team winning the match.
The Pies need a win here, but it’s lunacy to tip against the Eagles at the moment. West Coast by 18.
Sydney V Carlton 1.45, EST, SCG.
David Teague has taken this Carlton side and turned them into an attacking monster. A side who will stay with you until half time and then use those fresh legs from not playing 12 games of footy, to run over the top of you in the second half. Suddenly the Blues fans are looking interested - not that they should be too excited; it is Carlton after all, and there’s still plenty of opportunity to get this wrong.
Sydney had the chance to push for finals last week but couldn’t get over the Dons. Finals will likely be a bridge too far from here, but a few results going their way might see them knocking on the door in a few weeks.
I’ve really liked Silvagni’s work as a tagger in recent weeks and I expect him to get a job again this week. Whether it will be enough to nullify the sizeable Sydney midfield, will remain to be seen, but it could be enough to create the necessary space and time for Cripps to get his hands on the ball.
Sydney will win this by getting in front early. They need to get on the score board and create a large six or seven goal margin by half time. The Blues will finish strongly, so the best way to nullify that is by early scoreboard pressure.
I’m tipping Carlton here. I think they’re playing good footy and are enjoyable to watch. Blues by 12.
Hawthorn V Fremantle, 2.10 EST, Tasmania.
Well done, Fremantle - you’ve ruined football.
I mean, I can’t say I didn’t warn you when I tipped the Eagles by nine goals. But I didn’t think it would be THAT bad. The Dockers are playing as if their get-up-and-go got up and went. As far as coach-killing performances go, the Derby was up there with the best.
Hawthorn have finally found some form with a win over Collingwood and now they get the week off this week. The Hawks’ form over Fremantle is so good that the last time the Dockers beat them away from home, Andrew Brayshaw was a year old and Damian Drum had just been fired.
To make matters worse for Fremantle, they’ve only ever won in Tasmania once - and it took them four days to get the result.
Like Sydney, a Hawks for the win might keep them in touch with the finals. Fremantle need to win, not to make the eight, but to stop their season spiralling completely.
Hawks will be far too good. They play a brand of footy that the Dockers can’t beat, and they have too much talent around the field. Fremantle, who are missing their most important players in Pearce and Taberner, just have too many gaps in quality and are now relying on too few to do too much.
Hawks by 38.
Essendon V North 4.35 EST, Marvel.
I’ve been really harsh on Essendon this season. Mostly because everyone rates them so highly and they haven’t met those expectations. However, the last few weeks, the Dons have been very good and are well and truly in the hunt for a spot in the top eight. A win here could see them a win out of the four. They’re finding form at the right time and doing it well.
Another team who’s found form at the right time is North, who are suddenly also knocking on the door of the eight. I doubt anyone would have thought that when they sacked Brad Scott, but here we are. It’s amazing what a new coach can do.
This game may be the game of the round. Both sides are capable of playing very exciting footy but also both sides are capable of being very average. With so much on the line, I’m hoping we get the best of both because that’s what we - and they - deserve.
I think North has the better midfield, though not by much, and Ben Brown up front is always a reliable target. The match up between him and Hurley will be the key to this match. Both sides love a bit of outside run so expect them to both try and shut down each other’s space, while maximising their own opportunities.
If Essendon get their forward line right, this game could be a shootout. I’m tipping the dons by 9.
Gold Coast Suns V Adelaide Crows 7.25 EST, Metricon
Gold Coast are on their way to their first number one draft pick in nine years. Are you as surprised as I am? They were rubbish last week, and they look completely exhausted in the back half of this season. I still think, though, that if they can keep this team together and build on it, they’ll be a good side in a couple of years. Dew is a good coach.
Speaking of woeful last week, what happened to Adelaide in the showdown? Even the usual great, Betts was down on form and South Australian Police have officially released a search party for Tex Walker.
The Crows, of course, will be confident against and Suns and why wouldn’t they. The Suns, after all, have yet to beat the Crows in any outing.
This is the Suns chance to stand up and tell the competition a story. An identity can be created for the expansion club which suffers from a lack of tradition and often belief in itself. A win here and they can instil some pride in their jumper and maybe win themselves a few fans. Even an honourable loss would be enough. They need to show some fight.
The Crows, though, probably just need to rock up. They’ll win by 21.
Geelong V St. Kilda 7.25 EST, GHMBA+
The Cats have dropped a couple of games since the bye and suddenly look a little more like kittens. Still, any side with that number of stars is going to be hard to beat, and hard to beat they are. A few lean weeks won’t worry them too much.
The wheels fell off the St. Kilda bus a long time ago, and some reports are suggesting a poor performance here will mean the end of Richardson. If I was him, I’d be cleaning my desk because the Cats will be far too good for them.
It is impossible to see how the Saints could win this. Their midfield is inept, their backline doesn’t generate any good play and their forward line?
The Cats are just that good at the moment. The Dogs may have taken them by surprise last week, but I can’t see it happening twice.
Geelong by 41.
Richmond V GWS, 1.10 EST, MCG
The easiest run to the finals in the history of fixtures begins this week as Richmond enjoyed their final away game for the season in round 16, when they met the traditionally poor Gold Coast at Metricon. Their simple run home, at least geographically, begins with a match against GWS, who are traditionally poor at the MCG.
Richmond are getting their players back and are suddenly looming as a chance for the top four.
GWS on the other hand, just lost their top four spot, and they need to win this game to get It back. A loss here, and it’s hard to see where they will feature in the top eight. The Giants aren’t playing fantastic footy but they’ve enough quality to be winning just enough games without really being a threat in the overall competition.
Richmond, apparently, have returned to their best footy and unlike the Giants are starting to make some real noise. People are watching on as they sense something big happening from the Tigers. Everyone’s waiting for the Giants to fall.
This game provides ample opportunity for the Giants to make a stance, to make some noise, to announce themselves at the home of footy as a premiership chance.
They won’t. The Tigers are just too classy, too determined, too hungry.
Richmond by 21.
Bulldogs V Melbourne, 3.20pm EST, Marvel.
The Dogs are up and about. It’s not every day you get to beat the top side, and they should build some confidence from it. I’m not sure what’s happened to them since they won the flag in 2016, but every now and again they pop up and do something that reminds us all that they can, in fact, play footy.
Melbourne held on to the new and improved Carlton last week, which was a great win but does nothing to say they’ll carry any form into this week.
Aaron Naughton has been a good find for the Dogs, and his contested marking should be too strong for Melbourne, if the Dogs can win the midfield battle. Unless Jake Lever can find form, that is. For t, the Dogs to get on top, they need to nullify Max Gawn and Marcus Bontempelli and Macrae need to be at their best.
Port V Brisbane 4.10 Adelaide time, AO.
Port turned it on last week in the showdown and will have no excuses should they not be able to back it up against the Lions this week. There’s no point dominating a rivalry match if you can’t play with the same passion against other top sides.
Brisbane are fresh off a good win over the Giants and will seek to cement their top four spot should they overcome the Power in this game.
Brisbane’s Achilles’ heel all season has been their away form. They haven’t played with the same confidence on the road and have lost a few games they really should have won. Port’s problems have been the difference between their best and worst. At their best, they beat the best. At their worst, they’re terrible.
For Port to win, they simply need to replicate what they did last week. Get Powell-Pepper’s hands on the ball, win the contest and use their runners. With Boak back in the side, they have one of the best players of the season at the coal face again to combat the ball-winning of Lachie Neale. For Brisbane to win, they need to put aside their travelling problems and not allow a different shaped ground to affect their game plan.
I have more faith in Brisbane; Port are far too inconsistent to tip. Brisbane by 16.
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