Carlton v Hawthorn
Hawthorn have the league’s best attack and scored almost as many points last week against Sydney as Carlton have in their last three games. Carlton is taking the game on more under John Barker and Barker seems sell placed to get the job on a full-time basis but improvement is relative and they have won just two of six games under Barker. The betting line is set at 65 points here and the Hawks should cover that by half time. If Hawthorn are motivated this could be a record-breaking win within the comfortable confines of Etihad Stadium.
Tip – Hawthorn by 107 points
GWS v Geelong
This is a genuine 50/50 contest. The Giants seem poised to play in their first final series but have never beaten Geelong. There has been plenty of talk about Geelong’s older brigade but age is just a number, the fact remains that their elder statesmen are what makes this team tick. Joel Selwood and Callan Ward could go head to head in the middle while the battle of the full forwards may be a crucial factor. Mark Blicavs is the most improved player in the AFL and should dominate the ruck battle and may tip the Cats over the edge.
Tip – Geelong by 3 points
Adelaide v Gold Coast
An emotional letdown following last weekend’s thrilling Showdown is a real possibility. Gold Coast have improved in recent weeks as Gary Ablett has waltzed back in, patted Nat Fyfe on the back but rightly taken back the AFL MVP crown. Ablett could do anything here, but he will need half a dozen team mates to have career-best days to steal a win. The Crows could kick a cricket score unless the weather turns dirty; let’s just hope that the coaches throw Patrick Dangerfield and Ablett into a head to head battle as it will be worth the price of admission to see these two champions in action.
Historically the Crows have dominated the Suns and nothing changes here
Tip – Adelaide by 47 points
Richmond v Fremantle
What a tough game to pick. On one hand you have Richmond, who offer so much promise but whose record in big games has opponents lining up to face them in September. The Dockers are the most scrutinised 13-2 team in sporting history, having reverted back to old habits recently. Nat Fyfe looks in need of a rest, The Pav looks on his last legs and the team looks flat. The Tigers have become a defensive juggernaut and dominated Fremantle just 6 weeks ago but surely Ross The Boss doesn’t let that happen again? There won’t be many highlights, but look for the Dockers to win ugly as their draw opens up after this game and they will throw everything into this clash.
Tip – Fremantle by 13 points
Essendon v Port Adelaide
Bombers fans must be wondering what they did to deserve the last few years. The supplements saga, the Hird Effect, their inspirational skipper injured for the season and a handful of key injuries. Port fans have been selling their pre-bought Grand Final packages on eBay for months now and look likely to waste a year of Gray, Wingard, Boak and Wines playing elite football. The roof is closed which means it should be a fast track and while most teams have stopped the Power running game this season Essendon will struggle to do so. This could be entertaining in an unskilful way but look for the Power to keep the flicker of a finals flame alive in the Paddy Ryder Cup.
Tip – Port by 18 points
Brisbane v North Melbourne
Brent Harvey has been a marvel of the modern game and his 400th game should be a celebration. Unfortunately the Kangaroos have handled things terribly and the build-up is focused on whether he plays next year or not. The mere thought of him being forced into retirement is not only irrelevant but ridiculous. The Lions are crippled at the moment and took part in the year’s worst game last weekend, but North are prone to drop games they shouldn’t and have won the last three games between the teams at the Gabba. An upset is brewing; let’s hope Tom Rockliff handles the post-game handshake with Boomer better than he did last season.
Tip – Brisbane by 9 points
Western Bulldogs v Collingwood
These teams rank 8th and 4th in goals kicked this, 5th and 6th in inside 50’s and also quite high in possessions. Both teams are fighting for a spot in the bottom half of the top 8 but neither is playing anywhere near as well as they were earlier in the season. The Dogs have won the last two games against the Pies after losing the previous six and the midfield talent, young and old makes up for suspect forward lines on both sides. The loss of Cloke, Elliott and Adams probably slightly tilts the ledger towards the Sons of the West as the Pies are looking down the barrel at their sixth consecutive loss.
Tip – Western Bulldogs by 11 points
Melbourne v St.Kilda
Last weekend’s Melbourne-Brisbane game did a disservice to our great game despite the perfect conditions. More than 700 possessions and 80 inside 50’s led to 12 goals. Social media howled its disapproval at what masqueraded as a game of footy
The Saints have impressed more and more every week and their midfield power will take all of Paul Roos’ defensive nous if it is to be nullified. Jesse Hogan dominated last weekend and at 19 he has the AFL world at his feet; Melbourne’s chance is to kick it towards him often enough as the kid looms as a match-winner. Nick Riewoldt’s calf and the forecast fine weather may be deciding factors here, and Josh Bruce needs to rebound from a howler last weekend. The coin was flipped and it came up red, white and black.
Tip – St.Kilda by 5 points
West Coast v Sydney
The footy world seems unwilling to concede that this Eagles team is any good. Every time they win, it’s because they have an easy draw and haven’t played ‘anyone good’. Collingwood are widely regarded as ‘good’ and yet the Eagles controlled the game and defeated them comfortably. This didn't seem to please some paid to commentate on the game though, or so Twitter thought
The fact they have the league’s second best attack and second best defence despite being without two key position back men has been a 15 week fluke. Sydney have been unimpressive over the last month or so and come in without key forward Kurt Tippett, which may actually help them. Jeremy McGovern is a huge out, and given Tom Barrass hadn’t even played a senior WAFL game until this season there is massive pressure on the kid in this game. Both teams have talented midfields and the ruck battle looms as a key. A fine day is forecast and maybe this will be when the footy world stands up and takes notice that the Eagles are a flag threat. They have too many attacking options for an aging, one-paced Sydney backline.
Tip – West Coast by 22 points