Welcome to the round 9 AFL preview. This week the AFL conducts Indigenous Round, a celebration of the contribution from all indigenous people that have participated and/or provided to the competition. The centre piece is the annual Dreamtime at the G game involving Richmond and Essendon, which this year is a mouth watering prospect.
We now have a new ladder leader in Hawthorn after the previously undefeated Geelong was beaten by an undermanned Collingwood outfit. But the highlights of the round were the shock Brisbane win against Essendon and the thrilling Sydney and Fremantle draw at the SCG. Both games have had significant impact on the ladder, with the top 2 teams a game clear of Essendon and 6 points from Sydney and Fremantle.
Round 9 brings some interesting clashes, beginning with Collingwood vs Sydney on Friday night. Obviously two Saturday night games and North vs Adelaide also hold appeal. With Hawthorn and Geelong running into favourable draws from now, it is imperative for the clubs on the cusp of the top four to stay with them.
It does appear that we’ll have another week of predictable results. It needs to be remembered that this was always going to become a common trend with the league expansion. The favourites are the flavour of the month, but there are still plenty of opportunities to make profit from them winning. Backing low percentage teams at high odds is reckless and unprofitable.
Essendon @ the -4.5 line
COLLINGWOOD ($1.57) vs SYDNEY ($2.40)
AT THE MCG, FRIDAY 24/05, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Sydney 13.18 (96) defeated Collingwood 10.10 (70) at ANZ, PF, 2012
Line: Collingwood -9.5, Sydney +9.5
These are two of eight clubs who could be in the top 4 by the end of the round. Sydney currently holds that vital fourth position on percentage after a disappointing two point share against Fremantle.
After a month of fairly patchy form, the Pies came out with intent against the top of the table Cats. They were ferocious, intense and hard at both football and opposition. It was a surprising performance based on the list of players Collingwood were missing and is sure to give them a much needed confidence boost. Heath Shaw was to be welcomed back into the side after serving his one week suspension, but unfortunately will miss with hamstring tightness. It has also been revealed that Dayne Beams won’t be seen until after the bye.
The Swans were lucky to get away with 2 points against Fremantle. The Dockers had 10 more scoring shots, 14 more inside 50s and doubled the Swans for centre clearances. They just aren’t in the touch they would want to be at this time of the season. Ryan O’Keefe and Josh Kennedy have great recent records against Collingwood and will need to back that form up to be any chance. Jed Lamb replaces Tom Walsh.
Sydney knocked off Collingwood last start in the 2012 Preliminary Final, but Collingwood won the last 11 encounters before that. It is quite a defining record.
COLLINGWOOD TO WIN BY 22 POINTS
PORT ADELAIDE ($5.50) vs GEELONG ($1.15)
AT AAMI STADIUM, SATURDAY 25/05, 13:45
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Geelong 14.15 (99) defeated Port 8.13 (61) at Skilled, R14, 2012
Line: Port +30.5, Geelong -30.5
These two meet at AAMI Stadium for the first time in over 5 years. As you’d expect with bulk games at Skilled Stadium, the record between these two clubs has been very one sided in Geelong’s favour. Since and including the 2007 Grand Final demolition, Geelong has put together 7 consecutive wins with an average winning margin of 61.86 points. Not the most attractive reading if you are a Port Adelaide supporter.
After being 5-0, Port has lost the last three games and their confidence certainly appears to be on the wane. They never really looked in the game against an undermanned Carlton side, while top end players like Hartlett, Boak and Westhoff aren’t having the impact they did in the opening month. It isn’t panic stations yet, as 5-3 is still an impressive result, but they’ll want stark improvement.
The Cats had a shock loss against Collingwood, but it shouldn’t hurt them too much. Steve Johnson will return after being a late withdrawal against the Pies, while Paul Chapman will miss at least one more week and may not be seen until after the bye.
Look out for the Cats to bounce back. They rarely have consecutive losses. Consider the line.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 45 POINTS
GWS ($16.00) vs WEST COAST ($1.01)
AT SKODA STADIUM, SATURDAY 25/05, 14:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: West Coast 23.12 (150) defeated GWS 10.9 (69) at Blacktown, R3, 2012
Line: GWS +70.5, West Coast -70.5
To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot to be said about this game. The result seems inevitable and the odds are unattractive. For the sake of the game, let’s hope more than 5,800 people turn up this time around, but I don’t hold much hope.
It is extremely difficult to pin point any serious positives for GWS. They are fourth in the competition for centre clearances, but that is as good as it gets. Everyone knew it was going to be a long and difficult road to the top for the Giants, so the latest results can’t be unexpected.
West Coast got away with a spectacular win against the luckless Roos, with Nic Naitanui taking a great mark above a pack of North players before kicking the match winner after the siren. This guy is an absolute freak and a pleasure to watch. It is scary to think that he still has so much scope for improvement. The Eagles will be minus Beau Waters, Adam Selwood, Will Schofield and Sharrod Wellingham. The latter two won’t be seen for numerous weeks due to injury.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 89 POINTS
ST KILDA ($1.20) vs WESTERN BULLDOGS ($4.50)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 25/05, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: St Kilda 16.22 (118) defeated Dogs 6.6 (42) at Etihad, R18, 2012
Line: St Kilda -30.5, Dogs +30.5
It was only two or three years ago that these clubs were developing a nice little rivalry as two of these best teams in the competition. They now languish in 15th and 16th after two months of footy, proof that things can change very quickly if you aren’t developing young guys during the successful periods.
The Saints are 2-6, but haven’t been blown away like fellow strugglers with an average losing margin of only 24.83 points. They are however getting held up by the staggering performances of Nick Riewoldt. If anyone is questioning whether he is in career best form or not, his 86 marks in the first 8 games of the season are the second most to this point in history, which may change your opinion. Lenny Hayes is an important inclusion.
The Western Bulldogs have won only one game since round 12 last year. It isn’t a great result for Brendan McCartney but this is only the beginning of a long rebuild and he deserves the continued support from the club. The coaching staff will see this as a winnable game though and must provide a better performance than that against the Gold Coast. Adam Cooney is a major loss after he showed encouraging signs that his body was back to full fitness.
St Kilda has won the last eight encounters and should make it nine comfortably. The line margin looks about right.
ST KILDA TO WIN BY 31 POINTS
BRISBANE ($2.75) vs CARLTON ($1.45)
AT THE GABBA, SATURDAY 25/05, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Carlton 17.11 (113) defeated Brisbane 10.17 (77) at Etihad, R20, 2012
Line: Brisbane +16.5, Carlton -16.5
Brisbane will be up about after knocking off the inform Essendon. It is sure to be a serious media silencer for Michael Voss after a 2013 start to forget. You can be sure that the NAB Cup Grand Final DVD will be assessed to within an inch of its life after Brisbane shocked Carlton in March to take home the prize. Even though game plans, structures and priorities have most likely changed since that night, the Lions can take added confidence in knowing that its best can be very competitive against Carlton. Daniel Merrett is a significant loss to Brisbane’s defence due to suspension and Matt Maguire is still at least a week away.
The undermanned Blues were quite impressive against Port, with a well rounded performance across the board. Bryce Gibbs will finally return from a hamstring injury after training strongly throughout the week, although Andrew Carrazzo will again miss. Jarrad Waite is making Carlton look like a far more dangerous team up forward and will be a handful for a Lions side missing Daniel Merrett. Chris Judd, Marc Murphy, Heath Scotland and Kade Simpson have been huge against Brisbane in recent times, all averaging 27 or more disposals and having large impacts.
Carlton has won four consecutive games against the Lions at an average of 60.75 points, but it is difficult to imagine a result of those proportions. The Lions have put together two notable performances and are looking better by the week. This is the real upset chance of the week. Brisbane’s +16.5 point line deserves serious consideration.
CARLTON TO WIN BY 7 POINTS
RICHMOND ($2.05) vs ESSENDON ($1.77)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 25/05, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Richmond 13.24 (102) defeated Essendon 8.9 (57) at the MCG, R22, 2012
Line: Richmond +4.5, Essendon -4.5
The Dreamtime game is growing larger by the year and this is potentially the most significant match the concept has seen thus far. Both teams are in the eight and are looking for consolidation. Since the annual event began in 2005, the two clubs have shared results at four wins apiece.
The Tigers are looking solid at 5-3, but they hardly put together a compiling performance against the battling Demons. The game was still in the balance halfway through the third quarter before Richmond took control. Richmond continues to be the worst tackling side in the competition, averaging only 51.5 a game. They are however making up for it on the outside, with the second best kicking efficiency of 73.1%. Ivan Maric and Chris Newman will return to the side.
The Bombers are on the verge of an all too familiar situation. 2011 and 2012 saw a rapid drop of form at this time of the season. Two consecutive losses have many asking questions, although this year they have a much smaller injury list and far less excuses. The Brisbane loss is a concern, but ASADA did step up their individual player interviews last week, so it needs to be considered that a player may have his mind elsewhere. I still rate Essendon very highly and there is just no good reason to suggest that they will drop off again.
I think the Bombers are great value here. They have come in a lot based on the poor Brisbane performance, but I don’t think Richmond were much better against Melbourne. Let’s not forget that Essendon were still very good against Geelong less than two week ago. Surely Ian Robson’s resignation will have no influence to the on field fortunes. I strongly suggest considering Essendons -4.5 line.
ESSENDON TO WIN BY 27 POINTS
HAWTHORN ($1.01) vs GOLD COAST ($16.00)
AT THE MCG, SUNDAY 26/05, 13:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Hawthorn 19.15 (129) defeated Gold Coast 10.5 (65) at the MCG, R21, 2012
Line: Hawthorn -68.5, Gold Coast +68.5
The Hawks are now sitting pretty at the top of the ladder and on a seven match winning streak. They are first for points scored, first for marks inside 50, second for total possessions, third for disposal efficiency and third for inside 50s. They are in a great position. The team is looking quite settled, but David Hale will make way for Josh Gibson to return due to injury.
The Suns would be ecstatic with their 4-4 start. They have already won more games this year than in either of their previous two seasons, despite having another 14 games to go. They are in the top half of the competition for total possessions, contested possessions, tackles, inside 50s and marks inside 50s. It is a great indication that things are on the right track. Zac Smith is another victim of the ACL curse and will miss the rest of the season while Charlie Dixon is still unavailable. Top 10 draft pick Daniel Gorringe will have to step up as the number one ruckman. Harley Bennell will miss due to a hamstring injury.
I expect the Hawks to win comfortably, but the 68.5 line looks far too high. The Suns average losing margin this year is 31.5 points, with a high of only 45 points. They have conceded the seventh least amount of points for the season and that will be helped by a forecast of rain on Sunday.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 51 POINTS
NORTH MELBOURNE ($1.48) vs ADELAIDE ($2.60)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 26/05, 15:15
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: North 17.19 (121) defeated Adelaide 13.11 (89) at Etihad, R13, 2012
Line: North -14.5, Adelaide +14.5
North Melbourne has been dealt some horrible luck throughout the year, but it hit rock bottom on Friday night against West Coast. While I’m not usually one to single out umpiring decisions, the Roos were certainly on the wrong end of some controversial ones. To then have Nic Naitanui take a huge mark and kick the winning goal after the siren, Brad Scott would be wondering why he took up coaching. They could have easily been 5-3 instead of 3-5. The positive is that they have been competitive in nearly every game and still have a very small injury list.
The Crows are coming off consecutive comfortable victories against the Giants and St Kilda. They now sit 4-4 but have a demanding four games against North, Fremantle, Sydney and Richmond before the bye. By then, we will know exactly where the Crows are at. Josh Jenkins has been given the all clear to play this week after hyper-extending his knee against the Saints.
The last three encounters have all been at Etihad Stadium and North have won them all by an average margin of 29.33 points. Surely their luck will change.
NORTH MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 21 POINTS
FREMANTLE ($1.01) vs MELBOURNE ($16.00)
AT PATERSONS STADIUM, SUNDAY 26/05, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Fremantle 14.17 (101) defeated Melbourne 5.10 (40) at Patersons, R23, 2012
Line: Fremantle -62.5, Melbourne +62.5
If they weren’t already, Fremantle are now proving to be a serious premiership threat. They should have taken the full points against Sydney, but were let down by poor kicking and missed opportunities. Ross Lyon is potentially the best tactician in the game and doing an unbelievable job with key personnel missing. The injury news unfortunately doesn’t get any better due to inform small forward Michael Walters going down with an ankle injury and will be out for approximately a month. Matthew Pavlich is still at least 2 weeks away while Aaron Sandilands is being discussed for a round 13 return.
Excluding the win against GWS, Melbourne probably produced their most credible performance of the season against Richmond. While their statistics still pointed out obvious flaws, their tackling numbers were an encouraging improvement, beating Richmond 68-65. Jack Watts and Shannon Byrnes will return from injury, but they will be without No.4 draft pick Jimmy Toumpas.
Melbourne hasn’t beaten Fremantle at Patersons Stadium since 2004. That trend will continue.
FREMANTLE TO WIN BY 68 POINTS
I’ve been a passionate supporter and follower of AFL for as long as I can remember. Having been born into a family with deep football history and tradition on both sides, you can say it runs through my blood. I’ve got a keen interest in the stats and analysis of the game, which helped me finish in the top 100 of fantasy competitions DreamTeam and Supercoach last year. While my own local football career was cut short due to injury at 22, it has created an opportunity for me to frequently watch and build a deep knowledge of the sport at its highest level. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and views throughout the season.
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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Photo By Jonathan (My collection) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons