Welcome to the Round 22 AFL preview. We are now deep into the business end of the season with clubs fighting for vital positioning at either end of the top eight. Geelong are the only side left outside the eight who can steal a position, but it must rely on the result of Adelaide vs West Coast. Should Geelong beat Collingwood on Friday night and West Coast defeat Adelaide, Geelong and Adelaide will then take on each other in Round 23 for that final top eight position. The top four double chance is also up for grabs, with Hawthorn and Sydney only holding a one game buffer from Richmond, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. Hawthorn’s loss to Port Adelaide has all but guaranteed that both Qualifying Finals will be played in Perth, which is sure to hurt the Victorian team’s premiership chances the most. We have a fascinating couple of weeks ahead of us.
West Coast @ the -1.5 Quarter Time Line
GEELONG ($1.38) VS COLLINGWOOD ($3.05)
AT THE MCG, FRIDAY 28/08, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R6 2015 Collingwood 8.11 (59) lost to Geelong 15.10 (100) at the MCG
Line: Cats -15.5, Pies +15.5
Geelong held on to its Finals chances by the skin of its teeth after recording a nail biting draw against an ever improving St Kilda. The two points could turn out to be vital, as a win against Collingwood and a loss to Adelaide in Round 22 will create a mini elimination final next week. The absence of Mitch Duncan and then Josh Caddy after half time yet again stretched Geelong’s midfield depth after significant improvement of late. The Cats won most statistical areas against St Kilda, but were beaten 31-41 for clearances which created plenty of scoring chances for the Saints. Both Duncan and Caddy haven’t got up in time, which will be a worry for Chris Scott. Daniel Menzel is the good news story of the round though, returning from four knee reconstructions and 207 weeks on the sidelines.
Collingwood slumped to its most disappointing loss of the season against Richmond, eventually going down to the tune of 91 points despite registering a +9 inside 50 differential. It was one of the most bizarre statistics of the season, but Collingwood continually turned the ball over as justified by Richmond’s 49 rebound 50s. The Pies efficiency has been horrendous in the forward half this season and is an area that Nathan Buckley must spend significant time on over the break. Their supporters will be demanding a spirited effort this week.
Geelong got the jump on Collingwood during their Round 6 encounter and considering the Cats poor start last week, Chris Scott will be looking to replicate that. Geelong should win, but the midfield depth is a concern.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 8 POINTS
Geelong @ the -3.5 First Quarter Line
GWS ($1.21) VS CARLTON ($4.65)
AT SPOTLESS STADIUM, SATURDAY 29/08, 13:45
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R7 2015 Carlton 9.3 (57) lost to GWS Giants 19.21 (135) at ES
Line: Giants -30.5 Blues +30.5
Leon Cameron would have been bitterly disappointed with the Giants performance against Sydney, especially after going into the game as a genuine chance. On reflection it would be considered Greater Western Sydney’s worst performance of the year, as the margin eventually got out to an ugly 89 points. The Giants were absolutely annihilated through the middle, ending -23 for contested possession and -13 for clearances. There aren’t too many sides that are competitive when conceding 70 inside 50s, as Sydney constantly created scoring opportunities. Leon Cameron certainty can’t afford to see his side go down to Carlton.
It has been one of few positive weeks of 2015 for Carlton, as it produced a comfortable win against Melbourne but most importantly announced its senior coach for 2016 and beyond. Hawthorn assistant coach Brendon Bolton will take the reins into next season after winning the job from current caretaker coach John Barker. Bolton has served an apprenticeship of success over his time in Tasmania and at the Hawks, which he’ll be looking to implement as quickly as he can at Carlton. He looks to be a smart appointment. Murphy and Carrazzo miss due to shoulder and toe injuries respectively.
GWS possesses far more talent than Carlton, but look to be tiring. I’m not overly confident of predicting this result at all, but the Carlton injuries are significant.
GWS TO WIN BY 17 POINTS
No Suggested Bet
HAWTHORN ($1.01) VS BRISBANE ($15.00)
AT AURORA STADIUM, SATURDAY 29/08, 14:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R1 2014 Hawthorn 21.13 (139) dftd Brisbane Lions 13.13 (91) at AU
Line: Hawks -69.5, Lions +69.5
Hawthorn went into the Port Adelaide clash at Etihad Stadium as an extremely short favourite and they played like a team that was expecting a comfortable win. The Power challenged early again and there was always that expectation that Hawthorn were going to eventually come back. But it just never happened and in fact, you could argue that Port Adelaide got better as the night went on. Port limited Hawthorn’s attacking options behind the footy, mush like Richmond did only a couple of weeks ago. The most staggering thing though was the Power’s contested possession dominance, which ended at -22 for the Hawks by the end of the night. Hawthorn aren’t the premiership certainty that many believed they were only a few weeks ago. Have opposition coaches worked them out? Hodge will miss two weeks due to a high hit on Wingard and is lucky not to be out for longer.
After a surprise win against Carlton in Round 20, Brisbane are back to the bottom of the ladder after Adelaide ran away to a comprehensive 87 point win. You can almost hear the players counting down to the end of the season and it is difficult to blame them. The club hasn’t been given an opportunity to play its best football after an epidemic of injuries. Unfortunately rumours of another mass exodus are spreading, but a massive cleanout could be exactly what this club needs.
Hawthorn by plenty here, there is genuinely no other option to consider.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 88 POINTS
Hawthorn @ the -69.5 Line
NORTH MELBOURNE ($1.68) VS WESTERN BULLDOGS ($2.22)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 29/08, 16:35
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R21 2014 North Melbourne 17.9 (111) dftd Western Bulldogs 8.13 (61) at ES
Line: North -6.5, Dogs +6.5
North Melbourne looked as if it could be headed for an awful day against Fremantle early, after conceding 7 first quarter goals. Goldstein was getting beaten by Sandilands, while those big bodied Fremantle midfielders looked on their game. From that position North Melbourne began to fight back and a lot of that can be credited to 400 game veteran Brent Harvey. His 3 goal first half almost singlehandedly kept the Kangaroos in the game as his side eventually clawed back in the second half to register a vital victory. North Melbourne are now two games and around 9% clear of Geelong in ninth position, which will be a big enough gap to ensure they compete in another Finals campaign. Ziebell is back from suspension.
The Western Bulldogs attempted to fight fire with fire against West Coast by playing positive attacking football, but couldn’t keep up in the second half. The final 77 point margin was a tad exaggerated, as the Dogs played some outstanding football in the first half. The absence of experienced players such as Boyd and Picken hurt, but the biggest concern was the lack of rucking options to compete with Naitanui. The Dogs take on another dominant ruckman in Todd Goldstein this week and must find ways to ease his influence. Beveridge has made seven changes, highlighted by the experienced Boyd and Picken.
I think the Western Bulldogs are a massive chance here, but the influence of Goldstein could be match defining. The Dogs outstanding Etihad Stadium form is still difficult to ignore.
WESTERN BULLDOGS TO WIN BY 8 POINTS
Western Bulldogs Head to Head @ $2.22 (Sportsbet Special)
ESSENDON ($6.50) VS RICHMOND ($1.12)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 29/08, 19:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R9 2015 Richmond 10.12 (72) dftd Essendon 8.11 (59) at the MCG
Line: Bombers +37.5, Tigers -37.5
A snap on the siren from Jake Carlisle almost produced a coaching debut victory for Matthew Egan, but despite a loss the performance from Essendon was far more encouraging. People will argue that the sacking of Hird has lifted an enormous weight off the player’s shoulders, but fresh ideas and voices can be as good as a holiday for the average AFL footballer. There certainly wasn’t as much stagnant movement as we had become accustomed to with the Hird game plan, as the players took the game on when possible. It was a step in the right direction. Paul Chapman will return for a one off farewell game.
Richmond are building some eye-catching momentum only two weeks from finals and must considering itself a small chance for a top 4 finish. The victory against Collingwood was as emphatic as I can remember the Tigers against a traditional rival, as it flew home to a memorable 91 point win. Tyrone Vickery produced career best numbers with six goals and is shaping to be a finals wildcard after a career that hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. The Tigers were brilliantly efficient in particular going forward, finishing with 32 shots on goal from 49 entries. It is difficult to not be impressed with the Tigers of late. Trent Cotchin is out nursing a minor back injury.
I’m loving what Damien Hardwick and the Tigers are currently implementing. I can’t see them having any issues in dealing with Essendon.
RICHMOND TO WIN BY 53 POINTS
Richmond +40 @ $1.95
GOLD COAST ($3.50) VS PORT ADELAIDE ($1.30)
AT METRICON STADIUM, 29/08, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R21 2014 Gold Coast 7.5 (47) lost to Port Adelaide 7.14 (56) at MS
Line: Suns +22.5, Port -22.5
Gold Coast were very lucky to get the points against Essendon, but look to have avoided the embarrassment of the wooden spoon now. It was yet again Aaron Hall and Tom Lynch who were brilliant for the Suns, but it was the form of Jack Martin that would have excited Rodney Eade the most. Like a lot of Suns players this year, he has struggled to get on the park due to injury but took advantage on the weekend with 3 goals. He is a player I personally expect to lift significantly in 2016 and he gave a small taste of what might be ahead on Saturday.
Port Adelaide were brilliant on Friday night against Hawthorn and it was impossible to not wonder how this side isn’t playing finals when considering its best form. The Power have now beaten Hawthorn twice in 2015, but have nothing to show for it. Ken Hinkley implemented a strategy not too dissimilar to Richmond only a few weeks earlier and it worked superbly. Chad Wingard carried on his outstanding season with another 4 goals, lifting his 2015 tally to 51. He has now kicked 2 or more goals in his last 13 games and is clearly the most dangerous medium sized forward in the competition. It is a shame that we won’t see him compete during the Finals.
Port Adelaide are putting together some decent end of season form and should cover that -20.5 line with ease.
PORT ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 39 POINTS
Port Adelaide @ the -22.5 Line
ADELAIDE ($2.10) VS WEST COAST ($1.73)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, SUNDAY 30/08, 13:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R15 2015 West Coast 22.15 (147) dftd Adelaide 14.7 (91) at DS
Line: Crows +5.5, Eagles -5.5
Adelaide produced its second consecutive thumping victory, running away to a large 87 point against Brisbane. The Crows have now scored 300+ points over those two one-sided performances to now be ranked fourth in the competition for total points. Admittedly its last two wins have been against teams that are struggling, which makes it difficult to assess just how well Adelaide are going. The best way to determine their form is by assessing them against best and there aren’t too many sides performing better than West Coast. A win here will secure a top eight position for Adelaide, but a loss will see it fight for that eighth position against Geelong the following week at Simonds Stadium. The rewards on offer are enormous.
A 77 point victory against the Western Bulldogs has seen West Coast shorten to $3.65 and outright second premiership favouritism. If you doubted the Eagles as a genuine contender before Sunday, the performance against the Dogs was enough to sway even the harshest critic. We all know West Coast possesses serious scoring options and when they all fire at once, it is beautiful to watch for any neutral supporter. Josh Kennedy has now all but sewn up the Coleman Medal, with his 7 goals on the weekend creating a 17 goal break between he and Jeremy Cameron. The Eagles are still fighting for that top position to avoid a Qualifying Final against Hawthorn, so don’t expect Adam Simpson to rest any players. Jeremy McGovern will return after another surprisingly fast hamstring recovery.
This game holds many consequences. It is just as important for Geelong as it is for Adelaide, while West Coast are desperate to dethrone Fremantle from top position. Adelaide have consistently started slow of late and haven’t won a first quarter for six weeks. West Coast will look to expose that, as they haven’t lost a first quarter for seven weeks. It is impossible not to back the Eagles in their current state.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 17 POINTS
West Coast @ the -1.5 Quarter Time Line
ST KILDA ($4.20) VS SYDNEY ($1.23)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 30/08, 15:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R21 2014 Sydney 19.13 (127) dftd St Kilda 8.8 (56) at the SCG
Line: Saints +30.5, Swans -30.5
A draw was as good as a win for St Kilda supporters on Saturday night and they weren’t afraid to make that known, but the Saints really should have won and ended Geelong’s finals hopes once and for all. No particular player was outstanding for the St Kilda, it was just a good all-round effort. One area the Saints did dominate were the clearances and some of that credit deserves to go to American raised debutant Jason Holmes. He was the dominant ruckman at the stoppages on the night and while some of his actions were unorthodox, he was effective. If St Kilda carry on that form they aren’t without a chance against Sydney. Dempster and Armitage are good inclusions for the Saints.
Sydney displayed a much needed return to form, which saw it run away to an 89 point win against little brother GWS. It was a performance that we are more familiar with from the Swans, dominating contested possession and the stoppages, while also giving its tall forwards every opportunity in the air. Tippett was outstanding with 5 goals, while Kennedy, Jack, McVeigh and even Goodes had an impact through the middle of the ground. Despite the improved output, there are still plenty of doubts lingering over the Swans premiership chances. Franklin, Mitchell and Rohan have all been named.
It wouldn’t at all surprise me to see the Saints challenge again this week, especially under the roof at Etihad Stadium. The +30.5 line at the very least looks achievable.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 8 POINTS
St Kilda @ the +30.5 Line
FREMANTLE ($1.06) VS MELBOURNE ($9.00)
AT DOMAIN STADIUM, SUNDAY 30/08, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R5 2015 Melbourne 6.14 (50) lost to Fremantle 18.10 (118) at the MCG
Line: Dockers -42.5, Dees +42.5
Fremantle finally appeared to be replicating some of its brilliant early season form against North Melbourne after 7 goals in the first quarter, but the scoring dried up from there. The Dockers could only manage another 5 goals for the game, which saw North Melbourne eventually run over the top of them. While Fremantle still hold top spot, Ross Lyon’s patience will be wearing thin. The Dockers are now only two points clear on top and will be desperate to avoid Hawthorn in the Qualifying Final. To make matters worse, Nathan Fyfe will miss the remaining two home and away games with inflammation in the fibula of his left leg. Not only does this hurt Fremantle’s chances of retaining top position, but it causes Brownlow Medal chaos after Fyfe only just narrowly avoided suspension on Monday. New questions keep arising for the once premiership favourite, which has now fallen to the third line of betting. Positively, Matthew Pavlich returns.
Melbourne have plain and simply had a nightmare couple of weeks. The result against the Dogs was embarrassing enough, but to then be comprehensively outplayed by Carlton is horrific. While the on field performances have been bad, the off field situation hasn’t been much better. Paul Roos thought it an appropriate time on Monday to get off side with the clubs supporter base by describing them as negative, while at the same time taking no responsibility for his side’s fortunes. I’m sure he’d love to have his time again.
The Dockers will win this game convincingly, but more importantly Ross Lyon will be looking get his game plan right. He will be demanding a four quarter effort for sure.
FREMANTLE TO WIN BY 40 POINTS
No Suggested Bet