Welcome to the Round 17 AFL preview. Round 16 was movement week in the top eight, as Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs jumped into the top four, while Geelong and GWS fell to the elimination final positions after surprise losses. If Adelaide can defeat Collingwood at home on Saturday night, it will catapult into the top two with Hawthorn and Sydney playing each other. The gap between eighth and ninth grew to three games as Port Adelaide lost to Hawthorn, while West Coast had a comfortable victory against North Melbourne who fell to eighth. It has been an enormous fall from grace for the Kangaroos, who were top of the ladder only four weeks ago. It is no surprise to see that Hawthorn are the new premiership as it continues to win games with minimal fuss. It is amazing to think that the Hawks are on track for a fourth consecutive flag.
St Kilda vs Melbourne Total Game Points Over 189.5 Points @ $1.90
SYDNEY ($1.65) VS HAWTHORN ($2.30)
AT THE SCG, THURSDAY 14/07, 19:50
Line: Swans -8.5, Hawks +8.5
Sydney went a long way to securing a top four position by the end of Round 23 in defeating fellow contender Geelong at Simonds Stadium during Round 16. It could also be the difference between claiming a home qualifying final or not, but that will be clearer after this blockbuster against Hawthorn on Friday night. The Swans didn’t dominate Geelong in any particular statistical area, but were extremely dangerous and efficient when going forward. Sydney had nine less inside 50s than the Cats, but scored 53% of the time when it did enter the arc. The fact that Lance Franklin played only a minor role in the win would have also pleased John Longmire.
Hawthorn are back to competition favouritism and are perfectly placed to contend for a record fourth consecutive premiership. Being the flag favourite has been somewhat a poisoned chalice in 2016, but if there is any club who can handle the expectation it is Hawthorn. The final 22 point margin flattered Port Adelaide, as the Hawks turned up the hot when the game was in the balance. The Hawks had a significant negative inside 50 differential early in the match, but were able to restrict the damage and pull away in the third quarter. Port Adelaide played a competitive brand, but Hawthorn still got the points with comfort. Liam Shiels is out with a hamstring injury, while Brendan Whitecross played his first game for over 12 months.
The two best performed teams will be fighting it out for top position in what is set to be one of the matches of 2016. Sydney got the points at the MCG in Round 9, coincidently Hawthorn’s last loss. The Hawks haven’t played at the SCG since 2012, which is sure to favour the Swans. It is likely to be tight and the home advantage has me slightly favouring Sydney.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 6 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Total Game Points Under +176.5 Points @ $1.90
FREMANTLE ($4.00) VS GEELONG ($1.25)
AT DOMAIN STADIUM, FRIDAY 15/07, 20:10
Line: Freo +26.5, Cats -26.5
Fremantle produced arguably its most disappointing half of the season against Melbourne in Darwin. Ross Lyon would have been furious after trailing by 43 points at half time, conceding 17 shots on goal to 8. The Dockers won the second half comfortably, but it was too little, too late. The contested possession differential finished -21 for Fremantle and it could have been uglier if not for a more competitive third quarter. The final I50 count of 41-67 proved Melbourne’s dominance, but Fremantle’s defensive pressure around the stoppages was low early. The Dockers performance justified its poor position on the ladder. Michael Barlow will return for Fremantle.
Will the real Geelong please stand up? Perhaps it already has? The Cats were completed out played by a Sydney side that looked ready to make a statement. The match was statistically very tight, but Geelong conceded too many uncontested clearances and simple scoring opportunities. Amazingly the Cats had nine more inside 50s, but slow movement and poor delivery meant Sydney could rebound with ease. The likes of Motlop, Duncan and Guthrie have dropped their output in recent weeks, which has coincided with Geelong’s poor form. Chris Scott must get more out of his middle tier players.
On paper Geelong should get over the line with ease, but who could possibly trust it based on recent results? I’d be avoiding the Cats until some consistency is proven.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 10 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Most Goals Gr1 Shane Kersten @ $9.00
RICHMOND ($1.15) VS ESSENDON ($5.50)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 16/07, 13:40
Line: Tigers -36.5, Bombers +36.5
Richmond nearly produced an impressive upset against the Western Bulldogs, but couldn’t hold a seven point lead going into time on of the final quarter. The Tigers became one of the only sides in 2016 to finish without a negative contested possession count against the Dogs, winning the count 134-127. Unfortunately for Richmond, it couldn’t stop the dangerous Bontempelli winning an outrageous hard ball late in the game, leading to Jake Stringer kicking the match sealer. Dustin Martin was again prolific, collecting 38 possessions and shortening his Brownlow odds further.
Essendon entered the match against St Kilda savaged by suspension and on the bottom of the ladder, but managed to produce one of its best performances of 2016. After trailing the Saints by 15 points early in the last quarter, three consecutive goals Fantasia, Brown and Zach Merrett saw the Bombers up by seven points nearing time on and with all the momentum. Two goals in a minute to Tim Membrey and Maverick Weller ruined that momentum though, as the Saints got the margin out to 17 points before a consolation Joe Daniher goal. There were many positives for the Bombers though. David Zaharakis is back for the Bombers.
Richmond won the Round 10 Dreamtime encounter comfortably and you suspect it will be a similar story this time around.
RICHMOND TO WIN BY 40 POINTS
No Bet to Consider
NORTH MELBOURNE ($1.35) VS PORT ADELAIDE ($3.10)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 16/07, 16:35
Line: North -19.5, Port +19.5
You can’t quite describe North Melbourne a sinking ship as it sits three wins clear in eighth, but it must start becoming competitive again to be relevant in September. The Kangaroos broke even with West Coast in many statistical categories, including disposals (334-333), contested possession (137-133), clearances (46-41) and I50s (48-48), but weren’t anywhere near as efficient as its opponent. North Melbourne operated at 70% with ball in hand compared to the Eagles 78% and weren’t as dangerous when entering its forward arc. The Kangaroos are desperately missing Daniel Wells and Jarrad Waite, who are exposing holes in the midfield rotations and forward line respectively. Wells, Waite and Dal Santo have all been named.
Port Adelaide had an opportunity to get a jump on Hawthorn in the first quarter with a flurry of forward 50 entrances, but couldn’t take a great enough advantage. The one thing you can’t give Hawthorn is a chance and the two point margin at quarter time should have been more. Once the Hawks got the margin out to five goals at the final break, Port Adelaide was never getting back in the contest. The Power admittedly played some underrated football throughout the game, a style that would have challenged most clubs. Can it take that standard to Melbourne? Brad Ebert will miss with a bruised lung.
Port Adelaide defeated North Melbourne in a high scoring thriller at Etihad Stadium last year and deserve consideration. It is a tighter game to predict than the odds suggest and the Power’s +19.5 line is worth a look.
NORTH MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 2 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Port Adelaide +19.5 Line @ $1.92
WESTERN BULLDOGS ($1.10) VS GOLD COAST ($7.00)
AT CAZALYS STADIUM, CAIRNS, SATURDAY 16/07, 18:55
Line: Dogs -38.5, Suns +38.5
The Western Bulldogs were given a decent scare from Richmond on Saturday night, but did enough to hang on and move into the top four. If it wasn’t for some match defining moments from stars Marcus Bontempelli and Jake Stringer, I doubt the Dogs would have won this game. At only 20 years of age, Bontempelli has risen to be in the top echelon of midfielders in the competition and his 16 contested possessions, nine clearances and two goals pure class. Stringer had a dirty night up to three quarter time, but three final term goals ensured his team secured four vital points. Amazingly, it was the first time in 2016 that the Western Bulldogs had lost the contested possession count. Tom Liberatore misses with that lung injury.
Gold Coast claimed its second consecutive win with a comfortable 26 point result in the Q-Clash and despite the positives, the match has been soured by more injuries. Gary Ablett and Michael Rischitelli won’t be seen again in 2016, after sustaining serious shoulder and knee injuries respectively against Brisbane. It is the third season ending injury in as many years for Ablett, who has averaged only 11 games during that time. To make things even worse, Dion Prestia requires knee surgery and will be out indefinitely. Just as fortunes looked like turning for Rodney Eade, frustration has struck again.
The Dogs will be looking to get back to its contested ways and with the Suns missing Ablett, Prestia and Rischitelli, the red, white and blue should be dominant at the stoppages.
WESTERN BULLDOGS TO WIN BY 57 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Western Bulldogs 40+ @ $1.85
ADELAIDE ($1.16) VS COLLINGWOOD ($5.75)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, SATURDAY 16/07, 19:40
Line: Crows -36.5, Pies +36.5
Adelaide is beginning to announce itself as a genuine premiership contender after jumping to third on the table with a seventh consecutive victory. While a ten goal win against Carlton isn’t the most mind boggling achievement, the style Don Pyke is currently promoting and executing has everyone taking notice. The Crows average a league high 112.6 points a game and have scored over 100 points in its last seven matches, all of which have been victories. It is playing the most attractive brand of football in the competition and it is difficult to stop. The fast rebounds constantly see the likes of Jenkins, Betts and Lynch running into the goals with no defenders in front of them. It pushes the opposition defence high to awkward positions and burns them the other way. It is great to watch.
Collingwood’s performance against GWS makes you wonder what could have been if some consistency was held throughout the season. When the Pie’s midfield is peaking, it is difficult to get on top of and the Giants found that out the hard way. Adams, Sidebottom, Treloar and Pendlbury were prolific, but it was Brodie Grundy who had the greatest influence. Not only was he able to restrict the influence of Mumford in the ruck, he gathered 26 disposals and six clearances himself. It saw Collingwood have vital clearance and contested possession wins, areas the Giants excel in.
Adelaide have matched up well against Collingwood in recent times, winning the last three encounters. If Collingwood can produce the high standards of Round 16 it is a chance, but we have rarely seen that occur in consecutive weeks during 2016.
ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 19 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Adelaide 1-39 @ $2.40
CARLTON ($6.50) VS WEST COAST ($1.12)
AT THE MCG, SUNDAY 17/07, 13:10
Line: Blues +38.5, Eagles -38.5
Carlton slumped to its fourth consecutive loss on Sunday as Adelaide ran away to a comfortable 10 goal victory. After showing such great signs in the first half of the season, the drop in output has been stark and sudden. It isn’t as if the Blues possess a tiring team of youngsters who need development in their bodies, it is a side full of experienced campaigners who have had many preseasons. It is most likely the combination of a mental slide and opposition clubs working out the Brendon Bolton game plan. Walker and Thomas are out injured, while Casboult is suspended.
West Coast would have been pleased to defeat a top eight club at Domain Stadium to stay in top four contention, but a new challenge awaits with the opportunity to win a rare game at the MCG. The Eagles have only won 4 of its last 19 matches at the venue, with 3 of those victories coming against a struggling Melbourne unit. If you can’t win at the MCG, it is very difficult to be a successful side despite West Coast making the Grand Final last year. It is an opportunity the Eagles can’t let slip.
These two clubs haven’t met at the MCG since Carlton won a semi-final in 1999 by nine goals. The Blues form at the MCG hasn’t been much better than West Coast’s, losing 16 of its last 22 games. Surely West Coast can’t drop this match?
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 36 POINTS
No Bet to Consider
ST KILDA ($2.16) VS MELBOURNE ($1.70)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 17/07, 15:20
Line: Saints +5.5, Dees -5.5
St Kilda got the points in the end against Essendon, but it wasn’t at all impressive. The Saints looked in control for a majority of the game, but struggled to push the margin out to much more than two goals at any one time. It meant that the Bombers felt in the match for the entire night and it took advantage in the final quarter. A goal to Membrey early in the last saw the margin out to 15 points and the Saints became complacent. Within 15 minutes St Kilda were down by over a goal and to its credit, managed to lift the intensity and kick four consecutive goals. It won’t be able to do that against better opposition.
Melbourne produced arguably its most impressive half of footy in 2016 against Fremantle. There was barely a category it didn’t dominant, creating 17 scoring shots to 4 to break the game wide open. The 43 point halftime margin couldn’t be expanded in the second half though, as Fremantle finally became somewhat competitive in the third quarter. Despite the drop off, Melbourne’s confidence will build further from the result.
I’d have no hesitation tipping Melbourne at the MCG, but playing at Etihad Stadium always creates concerns. The Dees broke the 22 game losing nightmare at Etihad last year, but it’s only fixture at the venue this season was a 39 point loss to St Kilda. You just can’t tip Melbourne at Etihad Stadium. Expect this to be very high scoring, especially after the two sides reached 231 points between them in Round 6.
ST KILDA TO WIN BY 10 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Total Game Points Over 189.5 Points @ $1.90
BRISBANE ($11.00) VS GWS ($1.04)
AT THE GABBA, SUNDAY 17/07, 16:40
Line: Lions +54.5, Giants -54.5
The awful tail of 2016 got worse for the Brisbane Lions on Saturday, going down to the Suns by 26 points. The flood gates defensively are beginning to near record levels numerically, as its points against average has now lifted to 126.6 points per game. The Lions have only conceded less than 100 points in a game twice during 2016, its Round 4 win over Gold Coast and near upset against Sydney in Round 6. Brisbane still conceded numbers of 94 and 97 points respectively in those games, so they aren’t exactly exceptions to the rule.
GWS missed an opportunity to lift itself into the top two with a big enough victory against Collingwood, as the result went the complete opposite direction. The Giants were murdered in the midfield with -13 contested possession and -9 clearance differentials. Those numbers mightn’t look terrible on paper, but that is the area of strength for the Giants. The Pies were able to score from the stoppages, a trait GWS prides itself on. The drop to seventh is dramatic in the scheme of things, as the Giants are still very well placed to land in the top four. It can’t let bad habits and lower standards creep into the performances at this stage of the year though.
GWS will bounce back and comfortably deal with the struggling Lions.
GWS TO WIN BY 72 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Away Team (GWS) Total Points Over 122.5 Points @ $1.88