Welcome to the Round 17 AFL preview. The losses to Hawthorn and Port Adelaide in Round 16 have further tightened the top four. Sydney now finds itself a game clear on 12 wins, while Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, Fremantle and Geelong are all locked on 44 points. The gap between fifth and sixth has also growth with Collingwood losing to Gold Coast, making the double chance a five horse race.
The biggest news of the week is the shoulder injury to Gary Ablett who will now miss the rest of the season, throwing the Brownlow Medal wide open and creating doubts on Gold Coast’s finals prospects. We currently have Gary Ablett on 24 votes, 6 clear of Nathan Fyfe who is of course ineligible and 7 ahead of Josh Kennedy on 17 votes. The setback sees Ablett out to $8.00 for the medal, with Scott Pendlebury the new favourite at $3.00 (who we currently have on 14 votes) and Josh Kennedy into $6.00. As many bookies had Ablett priced around the $1.60 mark before Round 16, it was seen as inevitable that the little champ would claim his third Brownlow. While he can still win it, the situation is now out of his hands.
Port Adelaide @ the -11.5 line
ADELAIDE ($2.25) VS HAWTHORN ($1.67)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, FRIDAY 11/07, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R6 2013 Adelaide 11.12 (78) lost to Hawthorn 13.11 (89) at AAMI
Line: Adelaide +6.5, Hawthorn -6.5
Adelaide finally managed to end its frustrating consecutive win hoodoo with a comprehensive performance against GWS. It is beginning to build some nice momentum at the business end of the season and now come up against a Hawthorn side that is looking at its most vulnerable for years. It sits one game behind Collingwood, North Melbourne and Gold Coast and would give itself every chance of being able to overtake at least one of those sides. Sam Jacobs is having an All Australian year and is a massive reason as to why Adelaide are ranked second for scores from clearances this year. The Crows do go into this game with Dangerfield (knee), Scott Thompson (thigh) and Ben Rutten (concussion) all racing against time to beat the six day break.
The Hawks completely lost the plot against North Melbourne during the third quarter. The undisciplined acts were obviously highlighted by Brian Lake who found it an appropriate time to choke Drew Petrie and cop a four week ban, but he wasn’t the only guilty party. Hawthorn senior players became more interested in making body contact than winning the footy, which led to a barnstorming 7 goal quarter from the Roos. Hawthorn genuinely lacked leg speed in the absence of Rioli and Hill, and both will be unavailable this week. The unlucky Brad Sewell will miss with a hamstring after some great form over the last month.
If Dangerfield and Thompson are available, I really like the Crows chances here. They have warmed to Adelaide Oval superbly since the Melbourne capitulation. This will be tight, so wait for the final teams on the night before committing any hard earned.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 2 POINTS
Most Disposals/Most Goals Sloane/Gunston @ $50.00
MELBOURNE ($6.25) VS GEELONG ($1.13)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 12/07, 13:45
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R16 2013 Geelong 13.20 (98) dftd Melbourne 4.6 (30) at SS
Line: Melbourne +36.5, Geelong -36.5
It appears that the Dees have dropped off over the last couple of weeks. No one expected Melbourne to challenge Fremantle, but they were fairly well smashed in most key performance indicators. Paul Roos has to ensure that his side doesn’t drop off the planet in the last two months of the season, as it could undo the hard work and success from earlier in the year. In saying that, expect Roos to have a good look at some of the inform players down at Casey before list management decisions are made.
The Cats hardly got out of second gear against the Dogs at home, but ended with the points. There were some concerning signs statistically, as it lost the contested possession 139-176, clearances 31-52 and inside 50s 43-47. Defensively it was fantastic with an enormous 129 tackles, albeit in wet conditions. It has been revealed that Geelong is in the middle of a rigorous training regime aimed at peaking in September, which could explain some of the flat performances. With only one more interstate trip remaining, if the Cats can hold their unbeaten record in Victoria, a double chance is certain. James Kelly returns.
There is horrible weather forecast for Saturday and the Cats are in the middle of a heavy training load. 1-39 points at $2.25 looks like value to me, as does the match points being below 157.5 line.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 23 POINTS
Geelong 1-39 @ $2.25
NORTH MELBOURNE ($1.03) VS ST KILDA ($14.00)
AT BLUNDSTONE ARENA, SATURDAY 12/07, 14:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R10 2013 North Melbourne 19.19 (133) dftd St Kilda 10.5 (65) at ES
Line: North -58.5, St Kilda +58.5
It was an incredible win for North Melbourne against the reigning premier Hawthorn, which is sure to create belief with this group. Why it doesn’t have belief in the first place amazes me, as the Roos have now defeated all of Sydney, Port Adelaide, Fremantle and Hawthorn. North now has a run home that should see it start favourite in six of the last seven matches, making a finals berth next to certain. We have been fooled by North Melbourne in the past, but this is a draw that Brad Scott’s men can’t stuff up. Drew Petrie has got away with a reprimand for his part in the Brian Lake incident, while Jack Ziebell still hasn’t recovered from knee soreness.
As the year goes on for St Kilda, the results appear to get worse and worse. Rebuilding this side looks the longest and most difficult task in the competition. This was highlighted by the constant atrocious delivery to Nick Riewoldt, who more often than not saw the ball flying over his head. Alan Richardson must find a way to ease the carnage, otherwise membership sales will see a dramatic drop next year. Lenny Hayes returns, but Jack Steven is a big out.
There is a massive chance of North Melbourne covering the line here. St Kilda just isn’t competitive at the moment.
NORTH MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 79 POINTS
North @ -58.5 line
WESTERN BULLDOGS ($2.50) VS GOLD COAST ($1.55)
AT CAZALYS STADIUM, CAIRNS, SATURDAY 12/07, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R10 2014 Gold Coast 18.11 (119) dftd Western Bulldogs 10.14 (74) at MS
Line: Dogs +11.5, Gold Coast -11.5
The Dogs are showing some similar signs to last year of finishing the season with a flourish. Beating the Cats for contested possession, clearances and inside 50s at Simonds Stadium is as rare as Footscray winning premierships, so Brendan McCartney is sure to be pleased with the positives. McCartney also saw the game as an opportunity to set some standards, giving the green vest to the inform Jackson Macrae and making an example of him to the media to eliminate some bad habits. McCartney isn’t at the Dogs to make friends and while he has copped some criticism for his decision, I feel it was the perfect example of his leadership skills despite the mid-week apology. Watch for some greater defensive efforts from Macrae in coming weeks.
It was arguably the Suns greatest victory in its short history, finishing without its champion skipper Gary Ablett and having to overcome no rotations in the last quarter. Ablett, Dixon, McKenzie and Lemmens were all unavailable to come back on due to injury, which put the Pies in the box seat. But a combination of good luck and gutsy individual performances saw the Suns home. As we have all learnt since, Gold Coast will have to build towards its potential first finals appearance without Ablett, as the club has opted to take a long term approach of season ending surgery. Trent McKenzie will miss 2-3 weeks, while Dixon and Lemmons are both in doubt.
The Suns have a great record in Cairns, much preferring an away game there than in Melbourne. It will be intriguing to see how the Suns perform without Ablett.
GOLD COAST TO WIN BY 10 POINTS
First Goal Scorer Harley Bennell @ $14.00
BRISBANE ($2.75) VS WEST COAST ($1.47)
AT THE GABBA, SATURDAY 12/07, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R7 2013 Brisbane Lions 12.10 (82) lost to West Coast 17.6 (108) at the Gabba
Line: Brisbane +13.5, West Coast -13.5
Brisbane was solid in an encounter against Richmond that didn’t reach great heights, going down by 25 points. The Lions were again held up by key performances from Tom Rockliff and Pearce Hanley, who gathered 36 and 34 possessions respectively. It is never a good sign that the effort was great when key defenders such as Gardiner, McGuire and Patful have 20 or more touches of the footy each, but the inside 50s were relatively even at 48-52. Brisbane had hoped to bring Matthew Leuenberger back this week, but he has suffered a setback. Thankfully for Justin Leppitsch, Stefan Martin is more than holding his own. Tom Rockliff is obviously a massive exclusion through suspension.
Adam Simpson would have been ecstatic going into three quarter time within striking distance of premiership favourite Sydney, but a one goal to three final quarter saw the margin out to 28 points in wet conditions. It will be a tough trip for the Eagles to Brisbane, the longest in the competition and even harder when considering the six day break from a heavy, wet surface. Nic Naitanui is a key inclusion after being rested, but the Eagles have lost Dean Cox, Josh Kennedy and Matt Rosa.
I am really keen on the Lions chances here, but the loss to Tom Rockliff has eased my confidence slightly. In saying that the long flight coupled with the heavy recovery and six day break is sure to hurt West Coast, not to mention the key outs. Encounters at the Gabba have been tight recently between these two and should that continue, Brisbane will benefit.
BRISBANE TO WIN BY 6 POINTS
Brisbane to win head to head @ $2.75 (using Sportbet 20 point or less loss pay back)
SYDNEY ($1.14) VS CARLTON ($5.75
AT THE SCG, SATURDAY 12/07, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: SF 2013 Sydney 13.8 (86) dftd Carlton 8.14 (62) at ANZ
Line: Sydney -37.5, Carlton +37.5
The Sydney Swans are now four points clear on top of the ladder on the back of an 11 game winning streak. There looks to be no stopping the red and white juggernaut as the club continues to close in on a home Qualifying Final. Everything is going along swimmingly, excluding injuries to key players Dan Hannebery, Kurt Tippett and Rhyce Shaw who will all be back soon enough. Tom Mitchell and Ryan O’Keefe continue to push their cases in the NEAFL, but there are too many good things happening up in the top side to earn senior selection.
Carlton managed to end its five game losing streak, but it was expected to dominate such a low quality side. It had to deal with minimal defensive pressure which saw it operate at a high 83.2% disposal efficiency and it showed on the scoreboard with 24 goals. The tackle numbers for the game were some of the lowest of the season and the intensity will have to lift if it wants to be competitive against Sydney. Andrew Carrazzo was subbed out with a calf injury and will miss, while Troy Menzel will be out for an extended period after injuring an AC joint.
Sydney are plain and simply too good at this point in time for the Blues. Mick Malthouse should be happy if he can avoid a blowout.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 50 POINTS
Sydney -9.5 third quarter only line @ $1.88
RICHMOND ($2.55) VS PORT ADELAIDE ($1.54)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 13/07, 13:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R7 2013 Port Adelaide 10.13 (73) lost to Richmond 18.6 (114) at AAMI
Line: Richmond +11.5, Port -11.5
The Tigers have finally strung together two wins for the first time in 2014. While Richmond have only won two of the last five, those five matches have produced good form with honourable loses to Sydney, Fremantle and North Melbourne. The coaching staff has conceded that finals are now completely out of the question, but this side needs a confidence building climax to the season to carry on to 2015. The return to form of captain Trent Cotchin over the past month has certainly made a difference to the results.
What is going on with Port Adelaide? Ken Hinkley’s side has now lost three of the last four encounters and doesn’t look anywhere near what it was a month ago. It is in danger of losing not just a home Qualifying Final, but a top four position if the form drop continues. The Power meets fellow top four contenders Sydney and Fremantle later in the season, which is sure to shape the final four. In the meantime, Port Adelaide must get back on the winners list to avoid making those encounters do or die. Key defenders Carlise and Trengove are still unavailable. Angus Monfries misses with a hamstring.
Port Adelaide hasn’t been great over the last month, but a -11.5 line is a market overreaction. I expect the Power to cover that easily, despite each clubs form reversals.
PORT ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 33 POINTS
Port @ -11.5 line
ESSENDON ($2.40) VS COLLINGWOOD ($1.60)
AT THE MCG, SUNDAY 13/07, 15:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R6 2014 Collingwood 12.11 (83) dftd Essendon 8.12 (60) at the MCG
Line: Essendon +9.5, Collingwood -9.5
The Bombers have been far more impressive since letting Melbourne run over the top of it in Round 13. Essendon produced its best performance of the year with a two point victory against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. The Power had more contested possessions, clearances, inside 50s and shots on goal, but Essendon was ferocious defensively with 96 tackles, keeping Port Adelaide to a disposal efficiency of only 65.8%, 6% less than its season average. Unfortunately, Brendan Goddard will miss this vital game through suspension for an act that didn’t seem to match the penalty.
It isn’t quite panic stations for the Magpies, but Nathan Buckley has some serious concerns that need to be addressed. The fact that Collingwood couldn’t run over a Gold Coast side that had no rotations on the bench and lost its biggest star in Gary Ablett beggars belief. It wasn’t as if the Pies didn’t have the opportunities, it just couldn’t finish the job. There were only three Collingwood players who had 20+ disposals compared to the Suns eight, indicating the load is being left to far too few. Jamie Elliot is still unavailable, while rumours are circulating that Dayne Beams may also miss.
The Bombers look good value. The form trends are going in opposite directions and the heat is starting to build on Collingwood. Sportsbet has a money back offer if your head to head bet loses by 20 points or less, which gives an extra buffer if you like the Bombers chances.
ESSENDON TO WIN BY 8 POINTS
Essendon to win head to head @ $2.40 (using Sportbet 20 point or less loss pay back)
FREMANTLE ($1.01) VS GWS ($18.00)
AT PATERSONS STADIUM, SUNDAY 13/07, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R20 2013 Fremantle 24.13 (157) dftd GWS Giants 6.8 (44) at PS
Line: Fremantle -69.5, GWS +69.5
The Dockers continue getting through its lighter period of the fixture unscathed and while it isn’t getting the attention of Sydney, Fremantle have now won an impressive seven games on the trot. It has key encounters against Hawthorn, Geelong and Port Adelaide to come in the last seven rounds, but you get the feeling this side is heading toward a home Qualifying Final. Stephen Hill is now listed to miss three weeks with that calf injury, but Matthew Pavlich and Michael Johnson are in line to return to the fold. Ibbotson and McPharlin are both out with calf injuries.
GWS looked tired against Adelaide, which isn’t a great sign for a young side seven weeks out from the end of the season. It must continue to find methods of improvement and development, which may equate a larger turnover of players over the last few weeks. Jeremy Cameron has lost confidence and may need a run in the NEAFL soon. Shane Mumford is in doubt and won’t be risked for the trip west, while Treloar and Coniglio are confirmed non-starters.
If the Giants are missing Mumford as well, the influence of Sandilands at the stoppages will be enormous. It could get ugly.
FREMANTLE TO WIN BY 67 POINTS
Over 172.5 points (total)
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.
All of our information is provided free. If you want to show your support, if you are wanting to join a new bookmaker, please use our banners. Thanks.