Welcome to the Round 23 AFL preview. The penultimate round of the season ended with eight sides that couldn’t be displaced from finals action, as Round 23 will now only determine positions and first week venues. Geelong’s loss to Collingwood on Friday night ended any chances of a bottom ten side stealing a finals position, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way as Adelaide defeated West Coast to create a big enough break. While it would have been nice to have an open top eight position and live Round 23 game, there is still plenty to play for this week. The top four looks fairly set in stone based on the fixture, but there are still home Elimination Finals to earn. Richmond and the Western Bulldogs must win to hold their fifth and sixth positions respectively or risk being overtaken by Adelaide, who are only two points behind. There are still a large percentage of one sided looking contests for the final home and away round of the season. Some teams are resting fatigued players with a view toward the first week of finals. Round 23 has been notorious for punters in recent years, so ensure you bet with caution.
GWS @ the -3.5 Quarter Time Line
RICHMOND ($1.09) VS NORTH MELBOURNE ($8.00)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, FRIDAY 04/09, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R6 2015 North Melbourne 16.13 (109) dftd Richmond 10.14 (74) at BA
Line: Tigers -48.5, North +48.5
A third consecutive finals berth for Richmond is an exciting prospect for its passionate supporter base, but they’ll all be hoping to avoid another Elimination Final in Adelaide. A win against North Melbourne will ensure that and Damien Hardwick would have felt uncomfortable playing them at Etihad Stadium. The fact that North are resting so many players now probably makes the result a moral. Richmond weren’t overly brilliant against the Bombers on Saturday night, but can be forgiven for looking to get through such an encounter unscathed in such sloppy conditions. Brett Deledio is in doubt due to being on the receiving end of that nasty Dempsey tackle, but has been named.
North Melbourne were outplayed against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday, all but eliminating a home final. That won’t worry them too much though as it is very unlikely that they’ll have to travel interstate anyway. The concerning thing for Brad Scott was that his side was convincingly beaten on the inside by the Dogs. North ended the match with a -16 differential for contested possession, while also finishing 9 clearances down at the stoppages. Scott has controversially rested a host of senior players for the clash, knowing his side is likely to be playing in Melbourne with a loss. North’s nine changes include names like Goldstein, Cunnington, Swallow and Dal Santo. Be prepared for any further changes.
Richmond are currently playing the better football, but were outplayed by North earlier in the season at Hobart. The Tigers would have gone in nervous with a home final on the line, but North Melbourne’s mass resting policy makes the result far more predictable.
RICHMOND TO WIN BY 45 POINTS
Over 186.5 Total Match Points
GEELONG ($2.05) VS ADELAIDE ($1.80)
AT SIMONDS STADIUM, SATURDAY 05/09, 13.05
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R1 2014 Geelong 18.11 (119) dftd Adelaide 12.9 (81) at SS
Line: Cats +12.5, Crows -12.5
Geelong’s finals hopes were probably gone before quarter time on Friday night as Collingwood slammed on seven first quarter goals to dent any confidence levels. As we have become accustomed to during the 2015 season, if the Cats are two or more midfielders short, the opposition generally takes full advantage. Caddy and Duncan were the absentees this time and Geelong were almost doubled in the clearance count. The only positive to come out of the night was the amazing comeback of Daniel Menzel, who kicked 4 goals and gathered 20 disposals in his first AFL game for 207 weeks. Instead of playing for a finals position this week, the Cats will be honouring the likes of premiership stars Stokes and Kelly who have announced they won’t be at the club next year.
The Crows are beginning to play some scintillating football. Adelaide’s 8 goal opening quarter against West Coast on the weekend was as good as I’ve seen all season. The electric ball movement left the Eagles shell-shocked and with minimal options. Once Adam Simpson was able to implement a counterattack, it was far too late. Are the Crows a genuine premiership threat? Winning flags from outside the top four has become a task near on impossible of late, but Adelaide are a club that have done it in the past. The Crows have made no changes, but speculation is growing that there will key late inclusions on the day. Odds have changed accordingly.
Adelaide have a potential home Elimination Final on the line and will field its best side. Geelong have nothing to play for, which is sure to benefit the Crows. There is also a massive chance that the Crows could follow the trend and rest players. I wouldn’t be betting on this game until the final teams are revealed.
ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 20 POINTS
No Suggested Bet
BRISBANE ($4.85) VS WESTERN BULLDOGS ($1.19)
AT THE GABBA, SATURDAY 05/09, 13:45
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R12 2015 Western Bulldogs 22.14 (146) dftd Brisbane Lions 11.8 (74) at ES
Line: Lions +31.5, Dogs -31.5
Brisbane’s horror 2015 season is now only one game from ending, but based on media reports, it doesn’t sound like the carnage will end there. Jack Redden is officially the first Lions player to ask for a trade at the end of the season, adding another name to an ever growing list. Another exodus is looking more likely by the week and Justin Leppitsch appears helpless to stopping it. The on field situation isn’t getting any better either. While the Lions held a surprising 17 point quarter time lead in Tasmania, a ten goal second quarter to Hawthorn quickly ended any hopes of an upset. A win against the Dogs should see Brisbane avoid the wooden spoon, but I just can’t see that happening.
The Western Bulldogs were outstanding against North Melbourne and has the potential to cause some damage during the finals. A top four position now looks unlikely with the Dogs requiring an upset Gold Coast win against Sydney, on top of making up 8% on the Swans. That won’t worry Luke Beveridge though as a home Elimination Final isn’t the worst consolation prize. The Dogs must beat Brisbane to ensure that home final, as an Adelaide win will see them slide to seventh for a short period of time. Boyd, Murphy and Morris have all been rested.
It is impossible not pick the Dogs over the bottom placed side in its current form.
WESTERN BULLDOGS TO WIN BY 25 POINTS
No Suggested Bet
PORT ADELAIDE ($1.14) VS FREMANTLE ($6.00)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, SATURDAY 05/09, 15:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R1 2015 Fremantle 11.9 (75) dftd Port Adelaide 10.8 (68) at DS
Line: Port -54.5, Freo +54.2
Port Adelaide produced its third consecutive win on the weekend, rising the club to ninth on the ladder. It is a position that will further frustrate Ken Hinkley, as he’d believe his side would make an impact if given a finals spot. But the Power are eight points and percentage outside the top eight after such an inconsistent season. I’m sure experts will have Port Adelaide back in their predicted top eights during the 2016 preseason, but changes will need to be made. They desperately need another forward option, which has seen Charlie Dixon linked to the club. Hinkley also needs to ensure that this late season style and confidence is carried on into the New Year. A poor season may well be the exact antidote this club needed to realise the standards required to be successful.
Fremantle has finally secured its first piece of major competition silverware in the form of the McClelland trophy. While the trophy never leaves AFL House, finishing on top of the ladder is an important achievement for a club that has experienced little success. Ross Lyon has already turned his attention to an even bigger prize though, as numerous senior players will be rested this week to ensure they are fresh for a tilt at the clubs first premiership. It is a tactic tried and tested successfully in the past by Lyon, most notably in 2013. The eleven outs includes names like Pavlich, Sandilands and Mundy.
Fremantle will be fielding a side resembling Peel Thunder on the weekend. Ross Lyon has no interest in the result, leaving Port Adelaide with a likely massive win to end its season.
PORT ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 61 POINTS
No Suggested Bet
HAWTHORN ($1.01) VS CARLTON ($15.00)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 05/09, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R17 2015 Carlton 4.11 (35) lost to Hawthorn 27.11 (173) at ES
Line: Hawks -75.5, Blues +75.5
Hawthorn started poorly against Brisbane on Saturday afternoon, but a 17 point quarter time deficit was quickly brought in with a comprehensive 10 goal second quarter. Playing Brisbane and Carlton in the final two home and away games of the season isn’t the most ideal finals preparation for Alastair Clarkson, but he must continue preaching and implementing his message. Hawthorn are still a small chance for a top two position, but must rely on West Coast losing to St Kilda at Domain Stadium. Don’t be surprised if there are further exclusions for the Hawks pregame. No risks will be taken on players who aren’t 100%.
Carlton will go into its final match of 2015 with extremely low expectations, especially considering the result between these two only 40 days ago. That forgettable night for Carlton supporters saw the club concede a record losing margin of 138 points. You’d expect that anything that large won’t be replicated, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get ugly. The Blues are still in danger of finishing on the bottom of the ladder.
Expect Hawthorn to go through the motions and ensure no new injuries are created. That could be enough to save Carlton from a consecutive triple figure loss against the Hawks.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 85 POINTS
Jack Gunston Most Goals @ $3.50
SYDNEY ($1.03) VS GOLD COAST ($12.00)
AT THE SCG, SATURDAY 05/09, 19:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R10 2015 Gold Coast 5.11 (41) lost to Sydney 13.15 (93) at MS
Line: Swans -54.5, Suns +54.5
Sydney couldn’t have been more dominant against St Kilda on Sunday, eventually running away to a 97 point win. The result has instilled confidence into punters, with the Swans shortening to $8.00 for the flag. There are still question marks on Sydney though, especially in regards to Lance Franklin. Buddy could only manage one goal and seven disposals before being subbed off. He made it known that he wasn’t happy about receiving the red vest though, in a sign that his back was loosening with every minute that he played. The Swans need Buddy at his best if they are going to challenge.
Gold Coast have certainly produced better moments during the second half of the season, but four wins for 2015 will be seen as arguably the biggest underachievement of any club. Injuries have obviously been the major contributing factor and that is a genuine reason, but Rodney Eade would be bitterly disappointed with the club’s depth. The Suns now face a serious fight in retaining key players, as Harley Bennell and Charlie Dixon have already be linked to new clubs. The core players of this list must somehow be held.
Sydney must be careful as a loss could see it give up a top four position and vital double chance, but a win will see them take on Fremantle in Perth for the Qualifying Final. The Suns are a good chance of covering that +54.5 line though.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 35 POINTS
Gold Coast @ the +54.5 Line
WEST COAST ($1.04) VS ST KILDA ($11.00)
AT DOMAIN STADIUM, SATURDAY 05/09, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R8 2015 St Kilda 12.6 (78) lost to West Coast 20.11 (131) at ES
Line: Eagles -52.5, Saints +52.5
West Coast were completely blown out of the game in the first quarter against Adelaide, conceding eight goals while only scoring one solitary behind. It isn’t very often you see the second priced premiership favourite 50 points down at quarter time with a near best 22 on the field. Coming into the match, West Coast’s first quarter performances had been brilliant, while Adelaide’s were poor. In fact numerous trends were completely thrown upside down, especially during the bizarre first half. It was a difficult result to read as both clubs tackle counts were down, perhaps suggesting a bruise free strategy from both coaches. Adelaide were very good, but I doubt Adam Simpson would have provided such space in a final. The result has seen West Coast ease slightly in premiership markets, but I don’t expect to be witnessing a similar effort during a Qualifying Final.
St Kilda couldn’t replicate anything close to its form against Geelong the week before, going down by 97 points to the Swans. The only statistic of any note that the Saints won was hit outs, as Sydney dominated almost every other category. Despite that, the season as a whole has been very positive for Alan Richardson and the Saints. Kids have been given plenty of game time that will fast track development, while there have been a number of senior players who have produced career best seasons. There is much to look forward to as a Saints supporter.
A win to West Coast here win ensure a top two finish and home Qualifying Final. The Eagles love a big win at home.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 63 POINTS
West Coast @ the -11.5 Quarter Time Line
MELBOURNE ($2.60) VS GWS ($1.50)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 06/09, 13:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R2 2015 GWS Giants 15.11 (101) dftd Melbourne 8.8 (56) at STO
Line: Dees +13.5, Giants -13.5
Melbourne were better on the weekend against Fremantle, but it yet started the game disgracefully. The Demons first quarters over the past month have been an absolute disaster for Paul Roos and he is struggling to find answers for the lack of effort. The Dees have conceded 26.10 (166) in first quarters over the past four games and have only scored 3.5 (23) themselves. Melbourne have been out of the game before even scoring a goal on most occasions during that time. The Demons now host a home game at its most feared venue to finish the season. The Eithad Stadium losing streak has now reached 22 matches and Melbourne supporters hate going there. This game may well struggle to attract 10,000 spectators.
GWS put together a dominant performance against Carlton on Saturday, running away to an 81 point win. Jeremy Cameron was outstanding with 7 goals, while Adam Treloar was dominant with 28 disposals and 3 goals. Unfortunately, it may well be one of Treloar’s last games for the Giants as rumours of him going home to Melbourne continue to spread. The Giants have an abundance of midfield depth, but losing the quality of Treloar is sure to hurt in the future. Griffen and Coniglio will miss the trip.
Greater Western Sydney look outstanding value at both the -13.5 full game line and the -3.5 quarter time line.
GWS TO WIN BY 35 POINTS
GWS @ the -3.5 Quarter Time Line
COLLINGWOOD ($1.25) VS ESSENDON ($3.85)
AT THE MCG, SUNDAY 06/09, 15:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R4 2015 Essendon 6.13 (49) lost to Collingwood 9.15 (69) at the MCG
Line: Pies -27.5, Bombers +27.5
Collingwood won its second game in 10 matches on Friday night to end Geelong’s 8 year finals run. While Pendlebury played behind the ball and Swan was injured in the first half, the likes of Adams, De Goey, Greenwood and Crisp dominated Geelong at the stoppages. The final clearance count of 41-21 Collingwood’s way proved that its midfield prospects of the future are in good hands. Should the Pies add a midfielder like Adam Treloar during the trade period, the loss of Dayne Beams last year will be completely balanced out. Nathan Buckley is developing a list that probably won’t completely mature for 2-3 years, but it will be potent when ready. Dane Swan will miss the last game of the year.
Many at Essendon will be pleased that the season is close to a conclusion, as most clubs at the bottom end of the ladder will be. It has been another year of mental strain off the field for the Bombers, which finally took a toll on the field in 2015. The search for a new coach is now well and truly underway, with a selection panel now revealed. Many believe an experienced coach is required for the Bombers, as John Worsfold is continuously mentioned. But tough times are ahead for whoever takes those reins, with a pending WADA appeal set to begin in November.
Collingwood’s younger players look hungry to finish the season off well. The Pies should be too strong.
COLLINGWOOD TO WIN BY 47 POINTS
Pies 40+ @ $2.45