Welcome to the Round 16 AFL preview. The byes rounds are now complete and the season will return to some normality as we head into an important eight weeks of football. The race for the top four is as tight as ever historically as six sides currently sit on 10 wins each from second to seventh. The remaining rounds will see a high percentage of top eight clubs taking on bottom ten, but there are approximately twelve matches that will shape the eight. No top eight team can afford to drop unexpected games with the ladder in its current state. Unfortunately for the bottom ten teams, a late run at September action looks unrealistic with a two game gap between eighth and ninth. While we are back to the usual nine game structure, beware games involving teams coming off the bye.
Adelaide -7.5 Quarter Time Line @ $1.90
PORT ADELAIDE ($2.50) VS HAWTHORN ($1.53)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, THURSDAY 07/07, 19:50
Line: Port +8.5, Hawks -8.5
Port Adelaide kept its very slim finals chances alive against Richmond on Friday night, running away to a comfortable 38 point victory. A 7 goal to 2 second quarter set up the win for the Power, as it began to dominate the stoppages. Port ended the match +19 for clearances and +17 for contested possessions, numbers it must replicate against Hawthorn. The Power have an outstanding recent record against the reigning premier and it is at the stoppages where the damage has been started. Since the start of 2014, Port Adelaide are one of only two teams to have outscored Hawthorn from the stoppages. The +93 point scoring differential isn’t even close to being matched and is the major factor as to why Port have won three of the last four encounters.
It is amazing to think that Hawthorn were able to enter its bye a game clear on top without playing anything near its best football of recent years. A hiccup by the Swans to the Western Bulldogs saw it retain top position, but consecutive Thursday night interstate trips starting this week will be the Hawks biggest test to date. The scary thing about Hawthorn is that there is still so much scope for improvement, especially at the stoppages where it is ranked 18th in the competition. Cyril Rioli returns for the Hawks.
If Port Adelaide can get a fast start and dominate the stoppages early, it is a very good chance of winning this match. Hawthorn have the luxury of coming off the bye though and based on Alastair Clarkson’s comments about Port Adelaide’s inconsistent tough brand, the Hawks appear ready for a scrap. Hawthorn have been finishing games off brilliantly, winning 10 of 14 fourth quarters.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 8 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Hawthorn Last Quarter Line @ $1.88
GEELONG ($1.42) VS SYDNEY ($2.90)
AT SIMONDS STADIUM, FRIDAY 08/07, 19:50
Line: Cats -16.5, Swans +16.5
In an extremely tight squeeze at the top end of the ladder, no team can afford to be dropping games against significantly lower opposition. Geelong’s loss to St Kilda in Round 14 was its third to bottom ten opposition for the season, 12 expected points it won’t get back. Had the Cats won the Collingwood, Carlton and St Kilda matches, it would be sitting two games clear on top of the ladder. The fact that the Cats have beaten every top eight team it has come against makes the situation even more mind boggling. Every good club can afford one minor hiccup throughout a season, but three is the difference between finishing top two and potentially winning the flag. Will there be regrets for Geelong come Round 23? Mitch Clark returns for his first game in 12 months.
John Longmire wouldn’t have had many more frustrating moments in his coaching career than when Jason Johannisen’s kick sailed through the goals on Saturday night. A win would have seen the Swans a game clear in the top two and nicely set for a home Qualifying Final. This loss brings them back to the pack with matches to come against Geelong and Hawthorn consecutively. Sydney really should have created a 4-5 goal break by quarter time against the Dogs, but utterly atrocious turnovers destroyed dangerous scoring opportunities. It kept the Dogs in the game and the final result is now history.
This is a top four shaping match. A loss to either club could see them plummet to seventh. Geelong have proven time and time again that it ups the intensity against top eight clubs. The Cats are coming off the bye and haven’t looked threatened by Sydney at home since its famous 2011 Round 23 loss that ultimately sparked a premiership.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 26 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Geelong 1-39 @ $2.00
GWS ($1.06) VS COLLINGWOOD ($9.00)
AT SPOTLESS STADIUM, SATURDAY 09/07, 13:40
Line: Giants -43.5, Pies +43.5
GWS entered the bye after a comprehensive victory against Carlton in Round 14. The Giants aren’t showing any signs of tiring like 2015, as the original draftees near full physical maturity and the best 22 continues to be injury free. Destiny appears fully in the Giants hands as it runs into September against six bottom ten teams and the two lowest ranked top eight sides in North Melbourne and West Coast. This club can genuinely push for a top two spot and if it can secure a home Qualifying Final at Spotless Stadium, a flag is well and truly on the radar.
Two consecutive victories against Fremantle and Carlton is keeping Nathan Buckley off the back of the sports pages, but Collingwood still isn’t in a position to be fighting for finals. The Pies could win its remaining eight matches and still miss, a situation that could potentially be even more frustrating than the current predicament. It is hard to know exactly what Collingwood can take out of the rest of 2016, as one negative could easily destroy any positivity built. Taylor Adams returns for the Pies.
It is a tad surprising to see that GWS have only played Collingwood four times, but understandably have never beaten the black and white. The Giants haven’t had a better chance to record its first victory against the Magpies.
GWS TO WIN BY 34 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Stephen Coniglio Most Disposals Gr1 @ $4.50
GOLD COAST ($1.20) VS BRISBANE ($4.60)
AT METRICON STADIUM, SATURDAY 09/07, 16:35
Line: Suns -32.5, Lions +32.5
Are the Gold Coast Suns back? A win against a St Kilda side travelling interstate isn’t something AFL clubs would usually get too excited about, but you can’t blame the Suns for being optimistic after losing ten consecutive matches. The last three weeks have been full of positives for Rodney Eade’s men, despite the losses to Richmond and Hawthorn. As the Suns have got key players back and more stable structures, the side is looking a lot more competitive. The likes of Gary Ablett and Tom Lynch actually look to be enjoying their football with some support, while the return of Jaeger O’Meara in the NEAFL brought further smiles. The club must now build on this small amount of momentum.
Brisbane went into the bye on the back of a ten game losing streak and arguably in its worst state since merging with Fitzroy. Everyone from the club would have been looking forward to getting away from footy and negative press for a week, but somehow the Lions were still a focus for the media. Rumours began to surface that captain Tom Rockliff and Rising Star winner Lewis Taylor want out at seasons end. There couldn’t be too much more deflating for a group than the perception that your skipper doesn’t want to be at the club. This club is in serious trouble and desperately needs a win to deflect some negativity. Dayne Zorko is back for the Lions.
The Suns are building some decent form and deserve favouritism in this game, despite Brisbane coming off the bye.
GOLD COAST TO WIN BY 20 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Gold Coast 1-39 @ $2.40
WESTERN BULLDOGS ($1.17) VS RICHMOND ($5.00)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 09/07, 19:25
Line: Dogs -30.5, Tigers +30.5
Who could have possibly predicted that the Western Bulldogs could even come close to replicating the highs of its 2015 away win against Sydney? The Dogs could have been blown away early like it was against Geelong if not for some very poor Sydney turnovers, but it stayed in touch during the first half and began taking control in the third quarter. Tom Liberatore, Marcus Bontempelli and Lachie Hunter changed the momentum after halftime, leading to the Dogs kicking 6 goals to 2. A 13 point advantage at three quarter was never a safe break for the Dogs and despite the best efforts of Franklin and Luke Parker, a very late Jason Johannisen goal got the Dogs home by 4 points. Come Round 23, the Dogs could be very thankful for those four points.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever encountered a club that is just so consistently disappointing for its supporters than Richmond. The Tigers started the game well and probably could have been further ahead than six points at quarter time, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Richmond were absolutely murdered at the stoppages when rain began to fall at the start of the second quarter. In slippery conditions, Port Adelaide should never have been allowed to kick 7 goals in a quarter. The Tigers ended the match -19 for clearances and an astonishing -41 for tackles in a very contested game. The effort just wasn’t there and you suspect serious questions will be asked come the end of the season.
Richmond have been quite competitive against the Dogs at Etihad Stadium in recent times, but the gap has widened between these two during 2016.
WESTERN BULLDOGS TO WIN BY 24 POINTS
No Bet to Consider
MELBOURNE ($1.43) VS FREMANTLE ($2.85)
AT TIO STADIUM, DARWIN, SATURDAY 09/07, 19:40
Line: Dees -16.5, Freo +16.5
It is difficult to be too critical of the Demons against Adelaide as they played a brand of football that will be hard to beat in coming years. In saying that, the Crows were able to score very easily and Melbourne became too handball happy. That is ok though, as these inconsistencies will iron themselves out as the younger players mature and become more familiar with the game plan. I was one to second guess the direction Paul Roos was leading the club, but it appears he knew exactly what he was doing. The introduction of an offensive mindset has shown what the list is capable of, but some of the defensive lessons from the past two years perhaps need to be rehashed. It all seems to be coming together.
I must say, the disappointing Fremantle performance against Collingwood caught me off guard. Perhaps I had forgotten just how bad the Dockers were earlier in the season, although the larger spike in midfield trends were difficult to ignore. Collingwood coming off the break would have added to the disadvantage, but a -28 inside 50 count is difficult to justify. It is hard to know how interested Ross Lyon is in winning games as he has again indicated that youth will be given opportunities. Michael Barlow is out with a finger injury.
Just like against Port Adelaide in Round 10, you’d feel very comfortable backing Melbourne at the MCG. But selling a home game to the Northern Territory opens this match up, especially with Fremantle coming off the bye. The Demons have lost its last four sold games at Darwin and Fremantle must be considered at the +16.5 line.
MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 2 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Fremantle +16.5 Line @ $1.92
CARLTON ($5.50) VS ADELAIDE ($1.15)
AT THE MCG, SUNDAY 10/07, 13:10
Line: Blues +31.5, Crows -31.5
Carlton have really dropped off in recent times, going down to Collingwood on Saturday night despite beating them earlier in the season. It was a strange and mostly dull game of football that never reached any particularly great heights despite being close at the final siren. The most exciting thing to come out of the game for Carlton fans was the debut of Jack Silvagni, son of club legend Stephen. He more than held his own at the top level with a couple of contested marks and score involvements, but couldn’t kick what would have been a celebrated first goal.
Adelaide played some spectacular offensive football at stages against Melbourne, but still have a long way to go defensively if it is to be a threat come September. The Demons were able to score 23 times from 48 I50 entrances, numbers Don Pyke will be concerned with. Although when Adelaide had the footy in their hand, it looked unstoppable at times. The Crows are playing arguably the most attractive football in the competition, but is that alone enough to win a premiership? History suggests it isn’t, but it sure is enjoyable to watch.
Despite Carlton being involved in a low scoring crawl against Collingwood, Adelaide have the potential to open Brendon Bolton’s men up. The Crows are +89 points at quarter time over the past six games, winning five of those quarters. Carlton have started poorly in its last three matches.
ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 55 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Adelaide -7.5 Quarter Time Line @ $1.90
WEST COAST ($1.38) VS NORTH MELBOURNE ($3.05)
AT DOMAIN STADIUM, SUNDAY 10/07, 15:20
Line: Eagles -19.5, North +19.5
Another Domain Stadium game against a bottom ten side, another thumping win for West Coast. To be honest, there wasn’t much to be gained for the Eagles against Essendon. It won big and got accused of being a flat track bully, but had the Bombers been competitive for the entire game and kept the margin to around 5 goals, the critics would have been out slamming last year’s grand finalist. This game against North Melbourne is vital though. There just comes a time where West Coast must produce a performance of substance against a top eight club. A loss here for West Coast and any top four hopes are out the door.
It has been a fast and sudden fall from grace for North Melbourne, but probably not a surprise for everyone externally. The Kangaroos could only beat who it was drawn to play during the first ten rounds and did so brilliantly, but three consecutive games against potential contenders in Geelong, Hawthorn and Adelaide have shown exactly where they are at. The bye probably came at a good time though with key players like Wells and Waite given time to be right. Unfortunately, neither will make the trip west.
West Coast will be desperate to earn some respect against a top eight team at home. North Melbourne have proven to be competitive in Perth over recent seasons and can’t be discounted, especially with a 16 day break. The loser will lose touch with the top four.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 9 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Jack Ziebell 25 or More Disposals @ $2.00
ESSENDON ($8.00) VS ST KILDA ($1.11)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 10/07, 16:40
Line: Bombers +42.5, Saints -42.5
Essendon were competitive against West Coast for two and a half quarters after being only 3 goals down halfway through the third term, but 12 goals to 2 from that point on saw the margin blow out to 78 points by the final siren. The Bombers certainly are having a crack and trying to get as much out of the season as possible, but the large losing streak is beginning to look very ugly. The Bombers longest ever losing streak is 14 games, only two losses away from the current count of 12. John Worsfold won’t be making out that he is too worried about such records, but deep down he is a proud man. He’ll be desperate to get over the line.
It was just classic St Kilda against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium. Beat the premiership favourite Geelong the week before, produce a non-competitive performance the next week against a club on a ten game losing streak. After producing manic moments of pressure against the Cats, the Saints genuinely played bruise free football against the Suns. The intensity of the match was easily determined by a tackle count of only 84 from both clubs combined. St Kilda have again proven that the gap between their best and worst is the largest in the competition by far.
St Kilda are back at Etihad Stadium and will win comfortably. That is how they roll.
ST KILDA TO WIN BY 45 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
First Goal Kicker Darren Minchington @ $20.00