Welcome to the Round 20 AFL preview. After looking threatened by a late St Kilda surge, the top eight now looks genuinely set as North Melbourne created a three game gap by defeating the Saints in Brent Harvey’s record breaking 427th game. But it wasn’t the only finals defining result, as GWS, Sydney and Adelaide all produced large victories to give themselves much needed percentage boosts. Big wins against lower opposition is going to be just as vital as defeating fellow top eight opponents during the final four rounds of the home and away season with just four points separating second and eighth.
In Brownlow Medal news, Sportsbet have paid out early on Patrick Dangerfield winning the coveted medal after the Geelong recruit produced another likely three vote performance. $632,000 has been handed out to thousands of punters who backed the Cats superstar, four weeks out from the final home and away match. While the likes of Rory Sloane and Dustin Martin aren’t too far behind, suspension looks like being Dangerfield’s major hurdle from this position.
Geelong vs Essendon Total Game Points Over 182.5 @ $1.90
RICHMOND ($3.00) VS COLLINGWOOD ($1.40)
AT THE MCG, FRIDAY 05/08, 19:50
Line: Tigers +15.5, Pies -15.5
The Tigers are close to rock bottom after an embarrassing 88 point defeat against GWS in Canberra. It was the club’s lowest score since 1961 as it could only manage eight shots on goal for a grand total of 23 points for the day. It was an awful looking stats sheet for the Tigers, being soundly beaten in almost every area of the ground. It is probably not the best time to judge Richmond, but the current effort of the players resembles something from an underage team. The margin could have been worse if not for a gallant defensive performance from Alex Rance, who is one of the few players whose effort can’t be questioned.
We aren’t ever quite sure which Collingwood outfit is going to turn up on any given day, but it was nice to see the quality version on Saturday. The Pies gave West Coast’s midfield a serious touch up which ultimately decided the result. Collingwood ended the match with +34 contested possession and +19 clearance differentials, comprehensive numbers despite Priddis, Shuey and Gaff all getting plenty of the ball. It didn’t quite lead to as many forward 50 entrances as expected, but the Pie’s deep attacks were difficult to stop. Now to back it up with a second consecutive win. Darcy Moore misses with a hamstring injury after a brilliant first half last week.
Richmond’s confidence is shot and Collingwood deserve favouritism. I’m still not yet willing to fully trust the Pies just yet.
COLLINGWOOD TO WIN BY 6 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Scott Pendlebury to Get 35 or More Disposals @ $3.75
SYDNEY ($1.24) VS PORT ADELAIDE ($4.10)
AT THE SCG, SATURDAY 06/08, 13:45
Line: Swans -25.5, Port +25.5
Sydney’s 90 point thumping of Fremantle could end up being the deciding factor as to whether it finishes top two or not. A win against the Dockers isn’t something to get too excited about, but it has seen the Swan’s percentage catapult to 139.98%, the second best in the competition. It is still just over 2% below that of crosstown rival GWS and if the Swans were to finish third, it wouldn’t be too disappointed taking on a finals debutant in Sydney. It was a strange game against Fremantle with two players from each side gathering over 40 disposals, but it didn’t stop Sydney dominating the contested possession 188-154. The Swans are getting back to its contested best, despite losing the clearance count.
Port Adelaide were able to have a Saturday night stroll in the park at the Gabba last week, running away to a 94 point victory against a barely competitive Brisbane outfit defensively. The Power were able to kick seven goals in each of the last three quarters, ending the match with a massive score of 25.23 (173). The much maligned John Butcher couldn’t believe his luck by keeping his spot for this match after barely being noticed against GWS, finishing with 4 goals, 11 marks and 20 disposals. Could it be the fork in the road moment to revive his career? Charlie Dixon returns to the side.
While there have been some tight encounters, Sydney haven’t lost to Port Adelaide at the SCG for over 10 years. Expect that record to continue.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 24 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Sydney 1-39 @ $2.10
MELBOURNE ($5.50) VS HAWTHORN ($1.14)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 06/08, 14:10
Line: Dees +32.5, Hawks -32.5
After producing such a gutsy effort against West Coast the week before in Perth, Melbourne almost shot itself in the foot against Gold Coast at the MCG on Sunday. A clutch Jack Watts kick gave Melbourne the led in the final minutes of the game, but with only seconds remaining a terrible turnover from Bernie Vince gave the Suns one last chance with a shot on goal after the final siren from Tom Lynch. His shot from 50 metres out on a difficult angle didn’t score, but it was a situation Melbourne never should have been in. Paul Roos only has four more games to coach, but his final weeks could still be vital if he can help iron out poor decision making late.
Hawthorn certainly wasn’t impressive against Carlton, but another win ensured it stayed two wins clear on top of the ladder. The match itself was a shocker as only three goals were kicked between the two clubs up to halftime. It was a match that lacked intensity, especially from the Hawks who laid just 42 tackles and collected 112 contested possessions. While the club would never admit this externally, it appeared Hawthorn were content on getting through the game with as minimal effort as required to earn four points. I guess you can do that when eight points clear on top. Cyril Rioli is back for the Hawks.
Melbourne was competitive against Hawthorn in Round 11, but is difficult to ignore the 13-0 recent record between these two in the Hawks favour.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 41 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Hawthorn -32.5 Line @ $1.92
GOLD COAST ($6.50) VS GWS ($1.10)
AT METRICON STADIUM, SATURDAY 06/08, 16:35
Line: Suns +40.5, Giants -40.5
Gold Coast almost pulled off a memorable win at the MCG against Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, falling short by two points in a game that was mostly forgettable until the final minutes. At the final siren the Suns had collected a lot less of the footy and created just 41 inside 50s, but still had an opportunity to win the game. Tom Lynch’s shot after the siren couldn’t get the points required, but it was an honourable loss considering the circumstances. Despite going through yet another injury crisis, Gold Coast have managed to stay competitive this time after struggling to cope without senior players earlier in the year. Is it finally a sign that the list is beginning to mature? More injuries for the Suns with Malceski and Lonergan out with knee and shoulder problems respectively.
The GWS players would have felt confident going into its game against Richmond, but could never have dreamt just how dominant they (or uncompetitive the opposition) would be. An 8.3 (51) to 0.1 (1) first quarter set the tone and the momentum never eased from there. Not only were the Giants attacking, but it was just as committed defensively to ensure the Tigers were completely starved of scoring opportunities. It was an unexpected but potentially top two defining percentage boost that could end up being enough to see it host a home qualifying final at Spotless Stadium. Things are now getting serious for GWS. Dylan Shiel is out with a groin complaint.
The record between the two new franchise teams has been evened up in recent times, with the Giants winning the last three encounters. It has well and truly overtaken Gold Coast.
GWS TO WIN BY 31 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Away Team (GWS) Under 116.5 Points @ $1.90
WESTERN BULLDOGS ($2.25) VS NORTH MELBOURNE ($1.65)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 06/08, 19:25
Line: Dogs +7.5, North -7.5
The Western Bulldogs went down by 25 points to Geelong at Simonds Stadium, but it was an extremely brave effort considering the injury toll. After losing Wallis, Boyd, Suckling, Morris and Redpath before the game, the Dogs wretched injury run continued during the game. Tom Liberatore was probably best on ground at the time he rolled his ankle and he was immediately missed. The Dogs had a small lead at that stage, but Geelong quickly took advantage in the midfield. Jackson Macrae added to the misfortune by tearing a hamstring late, but the game was as good as finished by then. You have to wonder just how much of a premiership chance the Dogs could have been if not for injury. Boyd and Morris are vital inclusions for the Dogs.
North Melbourne all but secured its position in the top eight for September, defeating its major threat St Kilda by 23 points and giving Boomer Harvey a win in his milestone game. The Kangaroos are back to playing competitive football at the stoppages, winning the contested possession by nine and clearances by eight. It has been helped by the return to form of key trio Cunnington, Wells and Dal Santo, who are barometers of North Melbourne’s midfield fortunes. The Roos have a tough run home and must look to keep confidence levels high or risk being irrelevant come finals. Jarrad Waite has had surgery on that hip and won’t be seen until finals.
It is difficult to back any side with great confidence. North Melbourne appear to have turned the corner in recent weeks and the Dogs injury toll is just beginning to show signs of being too much.
NORTH MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 2 POINTS
No Bet to Consider
ADELAIDE ($1.01) VS BRISBANE ($21.00)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, SATURDAY 06/08, 19:40
Line: Crows -79.5, Lions +79.5
Adelaide was back to its offensive best against Essendon, charging forward at will and scoring with ease. The Crows 82 point win was a much needed percentage booster, but it could have been an even better result if not for some poor defensive efforts late. The Bombers kicked the last three goals of the game, which cost Adelaide a top four spot after Round 19. The Crows are .13% behind Geelong in fourth position, which was a +1% advantage only minutes before the siren. Don Pyke will be furious if this small slip in concentration ends up costing the double chance or a home qualifying final. Taylor Walker is back, but Sam Jacobs is out with a nasty looking ankle injury. McGovern and Thompson have been managed.
After surprising everyone the week before to most likely avoid the wooden spoon with a win against Essendon, Brisbane was back to its defensively leaky ways as it conceded an enormous 25 goals against Port Adelaide. The Lions saw 21 goals go the other way in the final three quarters of the game, after appearing competitive enough in the first 30 minutes. If the Lions lose a stoppage or turn the ball over inside 50, the forwards and midfielders are almost as effective as witches’ hats. Port Adelaide were able to take 30 marks inside 50, which should never happen at AFL level. You can’t blame the defenders for that.
The best offensive team vs the worst defensive team. Adelaide could break records if Justin Leppitsch goes man on man again in fine conditions.
ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 105 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Home Team (Adelaide) Total Points Over 143.5 @ $1.90
CARLTON ($2.40) VS ST KILDA ($1.57)
AT THE MCG, SUNDAY 07/08, 13:10
Line: Blues +9.5, Saints -9.5
Carlton had a good crack at Aurora Stadium, but the final 19 point margin probably reflected the lack of competitive interest Hawthorn showed at times. There wouldn’t have been many occasions in recent history where Carlton have had positive differentials for disposals, contested possessions, uncontested possessions, effective disposals and clearances against the Hawks. It was a low scoring scrap and a pretty woeful game to watch for the neutral supporter, but Brendon Bolton will ensure his young squad take the required positives and confidence from the result.
Finals look back to what it has felt like for a majority of the year for St Kilda, a dream. St Kilda needed to win this clash to stay in the race for a potential September showing, but went down to North by 23 points. The Saints were outplayed for a majority of the night, but had some simple shots on goal been converted at critical times of the match, momentum could have easily swung. It sees St Kilda three games outside the eight and a lot of percentage, which is likely to see Alan Richardson revert to focusing on a potentially promising 2017.
Away from Etihad Stadium, St Kilda are never guaranteed a win. Despite winning comfortably in Round 12 indoors, this will be a much tougher task for the Saints.
ST KILDA TO WIN BY 1 POINT
No Bet to Consider
GEELONG ($1.01) VS ESSENDON ($21.00)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 07/08, 15:20
Line: Cats -66.5, Bombers +66.5
Geelong honoured milestone men Jimmy Bartel and Corey Enright in style on Friday night, defeating a brave Western Bulldogs line up. The Cats became the first team in 2016 to defeat the Western Bulldogs in the contested possession count, ending the game 177-150. It was a tally influenced by midfield injuries to the Dogs, but a great outcome for the Cats all the same. Patrick Dangerfield was huge again with 33 disposals and three goals, but it was five goals from Rhys Stanley that pleased coaches and supporters the most. Stanley has always shown potential with his athletic attributes up forward and this haul could be the turning point for the big Cat to produce more consistent performances in the forward arc. Henderson and Caddy are vital inclusions, while Scott Selwood will play his first game for Geelong.
Essendon were lucky to not finish the match without trailing by a three figure margin at the final siren after resembling a state league side at times against Adelaide. Three late goals gave the scoreboard a slightly more respectable look, but an 82 point loss is never acceptable. With just four more rounds remaining, Essendon need to finish the season with a month of competitive results to prove it has taken something out of 2016.
Geelong are 6.87% behind Sydney in third and desperately require a percentage boost. It can’t afford a flat performance like the Round 4 encounter. That game at the MCG was low scoring, but the last four matches involving Essendon at Etihad have a total game average of 206.75 points. The Total Game Points O/U looks under at 182.5.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 75 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
Total Game Point Over 182.5 Points @ $1.90
FREMANTLE ($4.25) VS WEST COAST ($1.23)
AT DOMAIN STADIUM, SUNDAY 07/08, 16:40
Line: Dockers +28.5, Eagles -28.5
There probably hasn’t been enough noise made in the eastern states about how poor Fremantle were against Sydney, especially when honouring arguably the best Western Australian based player in AFL history. Matthew Pavlich deserved a competitive effort at the very least, but his teammates couldn’t even provide that. David Mundy and Lachie Neale gathered 44 and 41 disposals respectively to keep Fremantle competitive at the stoppages singlehandedly, but once out of congestion the Swans were able to do as they pleased. Aaron Sandilands will return this week, but his impact will be minimal if the load isn’t shared again.
Another MCG match, another Eagles loss. Positively, West Coast isn’t close to producing its best 2015 form, yet finds itself only four points away from second and possesses a respectable percentage. West Coast’s worst performances have been comparable to that of a bottom six side, especially away. The loss against Collingwood was another example of that, especially at the stoppages. The Eagles finished the game with a -19 clearance differential, despite Matthew Priddis being influential. West Coast have a lot of midfield players out of form and must find a way to get them involved by the start of the finals series. The return of Nic Naitanui should help those midfielders get first hands on the ball.
There is a different intensity for Derby games, but Fremantle doesn’t have enough contributors around the ground to be considered.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 45 POINTS
Bet to Consider:
West Coast 40+ @ $2.50