Welcome to the Round 20 AFL preview. The top four is looking more settled with every week that passes as the Port Adelaide fall from grace continued on Sunday evening. The bottom half of the eight is still well and truly open, with North Melbourne, Essendon, Collingwood and Gold Coast all on ten wins. Adelaide had a great opportunity to join those four sides on 40 points against West Coast at Adelaide Oval, but couldn’t keep up in an attractive, high scoring spectacle. The win to the Eagles has kept their slim finals hopes alive and Richmond are in the same boat after five consecutive victories, but both must win all remaining games to get to the magic 48 points.
Round 20 provides another cracking weekend of footy, with the Friday night and Saturday night encounters clear standouts. The Sunday twilight clash between West Coast and Collingwood now also holds large ramifications and is an interesting betting match. It wasn’t an encounter that demanded much attention before last round, but I’ll certainly be tuning in to see it close out the round. Unfortunately the Sportsbet 20 point or less money back promotion has ended, but it was nice taking advantage of the offer while it lasted.
Sydney @ the -16.5 point line.
RICHMOND ($2.50) VS ESSENDON ($1.54)
AT THE MCG, FRIDAY 08/08, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R11 2014 Essendon 15.14 (104) dftd Richmond 7.12 (54) at the MCG
Line: Richmond +10.5, Essendon -10.5
It was only 5 rounds ago that Richmond internally wrote its finals chances off, but after five consecutive wins, the September dream is back in play. The Tigers will need to get to 48 points, which means it can’t lose another game during the home and away fixture. It faces Essendon, Adelaide (away), St Kilda and Sydney (away) on the run home, so perhaps that finals talk is nothing but a dream. The bizarre cheap shot from Reece Conca on Devon Smith has seen him suspended for two weeks, the last type of incident Richmond needed after having to deal with Vickery the week before.
The Bombers were again blown away early by Sydney, but to its credit, fought back to get within striking distance of the premiership favourite. Mark Thompson would have been ecstatic to beat Sydney at the stoppages with a +7 clearance differential, but his side were left making up for a poor start and couldn’t catch up. Jobe Watson is inching closer to a return from his hip flexor tendon tear and could be seen in Round 21. Dustin Fletcher misses with a groin, but Joe Daniher returns.
Essendon has won the last three encounters against Richmond with relative ease. Both sides are coming into this game with decent form behind them, but the Bombers are still slightly more advanced at this stage.
ESSENDON TO WIN BY 10 POINTS
Essendon @ the -2.5 quarter time line.
GWS ($5.25) VS NORTH MELBOURNE ($1.16)
AT STARTRACK OVAL CANBERRA, SATURDAY 09/08, 13:45
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R14 2013 North Melbourne 19.16 (130) dftd GWS Giants 6.8 (44) at ES
Line: GWS +35.5, North -35.5
I think if GWS had the choice of finishing the season now, they would. It isn’t as if they haven’t been competitive, but the young bodies are tiring and there seems to be a new injury concern every week. The Giants now have six key players sitting out the remaining games of the season including Jeremy Cameron, Tom Scully, Stephen Coniglio, Lachie Whitfield, Tim Mohr and Aidan Corr. That is a large chunk of the best 22 and we have probably seen some players given opportunities over the last month or so that are a little way off the rigours of AFL footy.
North Melbourne were solid against Geelong but never really looked in the game after some soft, although undisciplined free kicks went against them in the second quarter. With four games remaining, the Kangaroos still require two more wins to guarantee itself a finals berth, but will go in as favourites for all those clashes. As we have seen throughout the season, favouritism doesn’t generally mean much when we are discussing North Melbourne.
North Melbourne “should” record a comfortable victory at the nation’s capital.
NORTH MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 50 POINTS
North Melbourne to win by 40+ points @ $2.00.
CARLTON ($1.57) VS GOLD COAST ($2.42)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 09/08, 14:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R18 2013 Gold Coast 11.11 (77) lost to Carlton 16.24 (120) at MS
Line: Carlton -11.5, Gold Coast +11.5
It is difficult to not be impressed by the recent form of Carlton. It traveled to Perth with low public expectations and pushed Fremantle to the brink. There were five or six poor decisions late in the match that the Carlton players would love have again, but it is hard to be critical after the effort to get in that position to begin with. The Blues had small statistic wins at the stoppages against the big bodied Fremantle midfielders, which Mick Malthouse wouldn’t have expected at the start of the game. Unfortunately, the inform Lachie Henderson will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a nasty eye socket injury late in the Fremantle game. Troy Menzel returns from that minor knee injury.
Finally, the Gold Coast Suns have won a game without Gary Ablett. It was only against the bottom placed St Kilda, but it was done so in convincing style by 53 points. Dion Prestia stepped up in the absence of Ablett to be clearly best on ground, but there was no other Suns player to record over 22 possessions. The midfield must starting racking up some more consistent numbers to share the load or the club will continue to battle against the top teams. David Swallow struggled with a cyst behind his knee, but is expect to be fit on Saturday. Matera and Kolodjashnij are handing inclusions.
The Blues have some momentum and are far more consistent than earlier in the year. Henderson is a big loss, but Carlton still should have enough weapons forward to defeat the Suns. I like the Carlton -11.5 line.
CARLTON TO WIN BY 33 POINTS
Carlton @ the -11.5 line.
HAWTHORN ($1.04) VS MELBOURNE ($12.00)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 09/08, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R10 2013 Melbourne 6.12 (48) lost to Hawthorn 21.17 (143) at the MCG
Line: Hawthorn -51.5, Melbourne +51.5
Hawthorn continues to prepare for its finals assault with minimal fuss. It dealt with the Western Bulldogs easily at Launceston, running away to a 62 point victory. Jarryd Roughead continued his recent good run kicking 6 goals and appears to be peaking at the perfect time of the season. The only concern to come out of the game was the medial ligament strain to Jack Gunston, who’ll sit out 2-3 weeks in the lead up to September. While the injury isn’t ideal, it does present the opportunity for the key forward to freshen up. Sam Mitchell returns from injury.
A lot of the positives and respect that Melbourne earned earlier in the year is becoming obsolete with every poor performance. The Dees jumped out to an important 14 point lead early in the fourth quarter of a low scoring contest against Brisbane, before going into its shell to save the game. The Lions sensed the fear and took advantage, kicking the last six goals of the game to win by 23 points. Many have blamed the poor kicking of Melbourne in front of goal and while they did kick fifteen behinds, you can’t win games with only 34 inside 50s. The Dees are yet to score over 100 points this season and have only passed 80 twice. The defensive structures Paul Roos has implemented are great, but you can’t win if you don’t score.
I’m fearing an ugly result here. Hawthorn has won the last 10 encounters and are certain to make it 11.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 71 POINTS
Hawthorn -60.5 point pick your own line @ $2.25.
GEELONG ($1.45) VS FREMANTLE ($2.75)
AT SIMONDS STADIUM, SATURDAY 09/08, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R9 2014 Fremantle 13.18 (96) dftd Geelong 9.10 (64) at PS
Line: Geelong -14.5, Fremantle +14.5
Chris Scott has billed this game the Cats most important of the season and it is difficult to disagree with him. A win will see his side two games clear of Fremantle and stay in the race for a top two finish. North Melbourne was seen as a danger game and the Cats dealt with the challenge comfortably, as well as showing off its newly found weapon of pace. The Geelong midfield of past years had been described as a bunch of plodders, but the injection of speed highlighted by Motlop, Duncan, Murdoch, Christensen and Guthrie has given the rotations a new dimension. Steve Johnson beat the tribunal on Tuesday night and don’t be surprised seeing him start forward to expose the Crowley tag. Hamish McIntosh is back for the Cats.
Fremantle are coming off an extremely poor fortnight and will be looking to hit its straps against one of its biggest rivals in Geelong. After the shock loss to St Kilda two weeks ago, the intensity levels didn’t lift much against Carlton. The Dockers had 52 more hit outs, yet lost both contested possession and clearance counts. Is Ross Lyon in the middle handing out a tough training regime with a focus toward September? Perhaps, but that isn’t an excuse for such an obvious drop in output. Nathan Fyfe certainly hasn’t dropped off, continuing his rich rein of form that sees him leading our Brownlow count. Matthew Pavlich was subbed out with concussion last week, but has been passed fit to play.
There is a brilliant rivalry bubbling between these two. Fremantle know how to antagonise Geelong and having won four of the last five encounters, the success speaks for itself. The form lines are clearly in the Cats favour and they’ll be looking to extract revenge after suffering the humility of losing the first ever final at Simonds Stadium to the Dockers last year.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 15 POINTS
Steve Johnson first goal scorer @ $16.00.
PORT ADELAIDE ($2.90) VS SYDNEY ($1.42)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, SATURDAY 09/08, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R13 2014 Sydney 14.14 (98) dftd Port Adelaide 13.16 (94) at the SCG
Line: Port +16.5, Sydney -16.5
It was only Round 13 when these two clubs fought out a game described as a potential Grand Final preview. Sydney took the points in an epic with Lance Franklin kicking two incredible last quarter goals to get his side home and Port Adelaide were praised by critics for its gallant effort in defeat. So much has changed since that June 14th Saturday afternoon for the Power. Ken Hinkley’s side has only won two of six games since that day, falling to fifth after looking certain to finish in the top four at the very least. It is hard to pin point exactly where the spark has disappeared to, but if the current output continues this side will only be remembered as also rans after a 10-1 start.
Sydney bounced back from its loss to Hawthorn with a solid performance against Essendon. The Swans certainly weren’t at their best, but a great start was enough to see the Bombers off for the remaining minutes of the match. The Swans haven’t been as dominant at the stoppages as we have become accustomed too, but the ante was lifted in key moments when Essendon challenged. Lance Franklin and Dan Hannebery look ready to come back into the side, leaving the premiership favourite extremely close to full strength.
The Port Adelaide downward trends aren’t pretty. The Sydney -16.5 line looks far too short, so much so that I can see this game blowing out toward 7-8 goals, which brings the juicy $3.60 40+ odds into play.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 44 POINTS
Sydney @ the -16.5 line.
BRISBANE ($2.60) VS ADELAIDE ($1.55)
AT THE GABBA, SUNDAY 10/08, 13:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R2 2013 Brisbane Lions 10.17 (77) lost to Adelaide 14.12 (96) at the Gabba
Line: Brisbane +13.5, Adelaide -13.5
In my opinion the Brisbane Lions already deserve a pass mark for its year, that’s with four games remaining. I had very low expectations coming into the season and feared it would struggle to be competitive. Justin Leppitsch has brought in a positive attitude and a focus on developing youth, while winning a healthy six games has been a bonus. The most impressive thing is that he has given the kids a go at the top level and they have rarely let him down. Aish, Taylor, Gardiner, Robertson and McStay have all had a crack in their first seasons and the fact that a lot of the young talent have extended their contracts shows they are committed.
There wouldn’t have been too many more coaches in the land feeling flatter than Brenton Sanderson on Saturday Afternoon. His side gave up a golden chance to hold its position in the eight, but went down in a shootout against a far more attacking West Coast side than we have become used to this season. Most coaches hate high scoring games and feel a sense of lost control. This was a great example as masses of space at the long Adelaide Oval appeared impossible to fill as the ball was flung from end to end. Daniel Talia is in serious doubt with concussion and would be a massive loss structurally. Podsiadly has been rested while Scott Thompson misses with that hamstring once again.
Just when you thought the Crows were showing consistency, it loses to West Coast at home. Adelaide still should be too strong, but it wouldn’t surprise if Brisbane challenge.
ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 9 POINTS
Adelaide to win 1-39 points @ $2.15.
ST KILDA ($3.90) VS WESTERN BULLDOGS ($1.26)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 10/08, 15:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R9 2013 St Kilda 15.11 (101) lost to Western Bulldogs 17.8 (110) at ES
Line: St Kilda +26.5, Western Bulldogs -26.5
After the amazing effort shown against Fremantle, it was disappointing to see St Kilda go down to Gold Coast by 53 points. It probably proves to me that Fremantle were off even more than I originally thought, despite the spectacular output by the Saints as a whole. Maybe it was the lull after a serious high, but you’d think a club would take some confidence from such an uplifting a result. Lenny Hayes was by far the Saints best player on the weekend and you’d like to think his teammates will lift for his tribute game on Sunday.
The Dogs fought hard against Hawthorn, but were never going to match the quality. Murphy, Macrae, Griffen and Liberatore were all very good, but the daylight between them and the rest of the side was staggering. The Dogs have a great opportunity to finish the season off with some easy kills, which will build confidence into season 2015. Footscray had a 131 point victory in the VFL, so there are plenty pushing for selection. The slightly stale looking line up could do with a minor freshening up.
Danger game for the Dogs with St Kilda likely to be up and about for Lenny Hayes. I’m expecting a Dogs win, but if St Kilda start well the momentum will build.
WESTERN BULLDOGS TO WIN BY 11 POINTS
Quarter by quarter leader Western Bulldogs/St Kilda/St Kilda/Western Bulldogs @ $33.00.
WEST COAST ($1.92) VS COLLINGWOOD ($1.92)
AT PATERSONS STADIUM, SUNDAY 10/08, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R10 2014 Collingwood 17.7 (109) dftd West Coast 15.11 (101) at the MCG
Line: West Coast +0.0, Collingwood +0.0
After averaging a lackluster 62.5 points over its last four games, West Coast surprised many by instigating a shootout and kicking 20.16 (136). It had been a frustration that left many scratching their heads. How can West Coast not be scoring with a forward line including Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras and Jack Darling? The wide open spaces of Adelaide Oval gave the Eagles an opportunity to attack and they did so with great success. The challenge is now set to bring that free flowing style to Patersons Stadium, where it has scored 56 or less points five times this season. Dean Cox will return to the team after recovering from concussion.
Collingwood got a much needed victory against Port Adelaide to propel itself back into the top eight, but it was hardly convincing against the struggling Power. It dominated the first quarter, but couldn’t put the game away. That led to Port Adelaide getting back into the contest and giving the Pies a fright, but the final six point margin flattered the Power. Taylor Adams will miss the rest of the year with a finger injury after having a large impact on Sunday evening, but Luke Ball looks set to return and even up the ledger.
Six of the last seven encounters between these two have been at the MCG, so there isn’t much recent Patersons Stadium form between the two to assess. If West Coast can execute a similar attacking game plan to last week, it will beat Collingwood.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 3 POINTS
Over 170.5 total match points.
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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