Welcome to the Round 22 AFL preview. Round 21 couldn’t definitively answer the top eight questions we expected, but it did strengthen and weaken certain club’s prospects. Essendon were arguably the biggest winner, coming back from over 30 points down to defeat fellow finals contender West Coast and creating a four point gap from Adelaide, Richmond, Collingwood and Gold Coast. The Eagles were one of the sides that lessened its chances, but should it win the remaining matches and be on the better side of some other favourable results, there is a chance it can sneak in. Richmond were also a big winner, defeating Adelaide for its seventh consecutive win and finding itself outside the top eight by only percentage. Collingwood was hit the hardest with an unexpected loss to Brisbane, on top of injuries to a hand full of top class players. The Suns were competitive against Port Adelaide, but a nine point loss sees them in a similar position to Collingwood. Round 22 produces further ladder shaping encounters, which should leave us with a strong indication on who plays who from September 5th-7th.
Sydney @ the -34.5 line
PORT ADELAIDE ($1.33) VS CARLTON ($3.45)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, FRIDAY 22/08, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R1 2014 Carlton 12.15 (87) lost to Port Adelaide 18.12 (120) at ES
Line: Port -20.5, Carlton +20.5
Port Adelaide looked beatable at certain stages during the Gold Coast match, but finally gathered some momentum in the second half to secure a tight win. The job should have been completed earlier based purely on statistical dominance, but the horrible conditions saw disposal efficiency levels below 60%. 72 inside 50s to 39 is a defining statistic in any conditions and should the weather have been kind, you suspect the margin would have blown out. Ken Hinkley has made an effort to lift the contested ball numbers over the last two weeks and his side has certainly responded in that area. Monfries and Trengove return to the side.
The Carlton form turnaround continues to impress. The Blues have a knack of challenging Geelong to the final siren, but never coming away with the points. Should a couple of umpiring decisions have gone one way or another, Carlton could have won the game. But that is purely speculative and it is only worth focusing on the factors that the club can control. This late season form is building optimism throughout the supporter base and Mick Malthouse is gaining greater support with each performance. Dale Thomas with a knee injury after finally finding some form.
These two clubs have obviously never met at Adelaide Oval, but Carlton has won five of the last six encounters in South Australia. The form trends are heading in opposite directions and I feel the Blues could pounce on a vulnerable Port. At the very least consider the Carlton +20.5 line.
CARLTON TO WIN BY 3 POINTS
Carlton @ the +20.5 line.
NORTH MELBOURNE ($1.76) VS ADELAIDE ($2.10)
AT BLUNDSTONE ARENA, SATURDAY 23/08, 13:45
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R13 2014 Adelaide 16.13 (109) dftd North Melbourne 10.13 (73) at AO
Line: North -5.5, Adelaide +5.5
North Melbourne put on a slick performance against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but the win has been soured by the loss of Brent Harvey for three weeks to suspension. In a brain fade that included two separate actions against Liam Picken, Harvey will pay the ultimate price by missing the final two home & away games and more important the elimination final. Should the Roos lose that first final, it will be the last we see of Harvey for the year, creating a long off-season of regrets. He isn’t the only North Melbourne player to offend, with Daniel Wells serving a week after a hit on Shaun Higgins. Frustrating times for Brad Scott.
The loss to Richmond means that Adelaide must win its last two games of the season to ensure a finals berth. A poor start saw them playing catch up for a majority of the night and while it hit the lead in the last quarter, the job couldn’t be finished. After a week of excuses, Brenton Sanderson has been relatively quiet leading into this key encounter, hopefully an indication that he focusing on more important issues. Scott Thompson will be a welcomed inclusion to the midfield after recovering from hamstring problems.
This is an enormous game, not just for the competing clubs, but for all teams fighting for a finals berth. North Melbourne are looking to secure a home elimination final, while Adelaide must win to keep its finals chances in its own hands. North haven’t played too much footy at Hobart, making Blundstone Arena very close to a neutral venue. The Crows have also won the last three encounters, but North are just starting to hold some consistent form. It looks like another tight contest.
NORTH MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 10 POINTS
North Melbourne to win 1-39 points @ $2.35
ESSENDON ($1.18) VS GOLD COAST ($5.15)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 23/08, 14:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R12 2013 Essendon 17.13 (115) dftd Gold Coast 11.6 (72) at ES
Line: Essendon -31.5, Gold Coast +31.5
The Bombers have had their fair share of emotional victories over the last 18 months, but Saturday’s win could be described as its best in that time. Essendon trailed by 34 points at the 10 minute mark of the third quarter, before gritting its teeth and stealing the game. The ridiculous form of fourth year player Dyson Heppell continued, gathering 28 second half possessions to snatch another likely 3 votes. Anyone in a red and black jumper looked hungry for the footy in that second half, leading to a contested possession differential of +28. One more win should secure a finals berth for the Bombers. Unfortunately Heppell will miss with a broken hand this week, but the Bombers should have enough cover against the Suns. Jake Carlisle returns up forward.
Gold Coast were annihilated in most statistical categories and found itself defending in Port’s forward half for a majority of the match. That didn’t stop the Suns from being in touch on the scoreboard throughout the entire contest though. An inside 50 differential of -33 tells a dark tale, but to the Suns credit, once the ball did travel into the forward arc they were quite efficient. Gold Coast need to win its last two games to make finals.
Essendon look a determined group. I’m confident it will secure a position in the eight this week.
ESSENDON TO WIN BY 45 POINTS
Essendon @ the -31.5 line
GWS ($2.55) VS COLLINGWOOD ($1.53)
AT SPOTLESS STADIUM, SATURDAY 23/08, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R18 2013 Collingwood 15.16 (106) dftd GWS Giants 10.6 (66) at the MCG
Line: GWS +12.5, Collingwood -12.5
GWS left the MCG on Sunday afternoon all smiles having got the points, while setting some reachable club records along the way. The 64 point win was the biggest in its short history, while was the first time the Giants have won in Victoria. They are nice positives to take away from the game, but at the end of the day the standard of the contest didn’t lift too much higher than something resembling a top VFL encounter. GWS played an opponent that wasn’t switched on and it took advantage. A much larger scalp is in the Giants sights this week. Captain Callan Ward will miss the rest of the season with a calf injury and unfortunately it has been confirmed that Jonathon Patton has again torn his ACL.
I can’t think of a team having a worse night than what Collingwood encountered on Saturday night against the Lions. Whatever could go wrong did and a lot of it was out of the clubs control. It started with Jamie Elliott being the late withdrawal and went downhill from there. Pendlebury was hit by a stray ball moments before the game, becoming the second late withdrawal. Ben Reid then did his hamstring in the opening minutes, which was followed by knee and ankle injuries to Beams and Cloke respectively later in the match. Oh, then there was the result. The Lions ran around doing as they pleased, all but ending Collingwood’s finals aspirations. It is as rough as it gets.
Cloke, Beams, Lumumba and Reid are massive outs, but Pendlebury thankfully makes the trip. It can’t be forgotten that GWS have their own injury concerns. I expect the Pies to bounce back.
COLLINGWOOD TO WIN BY 18 POINTS
Tim Broomhead first goal scorer @ $14.00
HAWTHORN ($1.56) VS GEELONG ($2.50)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 23/08, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R5 2014 Geelong 15.16 (106) dftd Hawthorn 12.15 (87) at the MCG
Line: Hawthorn -10.5, Geelong +10.5
There is a bit to think about for Alastair Clarkson after a disappointing loss to Fremantle in Perth. The Hawks have now only won three of eight games against current top eight opponents, which would have to be of concern. They were smashed for contested ball against an ever improving Fremantle side, while only entered its forward arc 38 times, way down for its season average of 56. The positive is Hawthorn still have a large chunk of its best 22 to return, starting with Jarryd Roughead this week. Jordan Lewis has surged into Brownlow calculations, gathering another 44 possessions on the weekend. He is in career best form.
The Cats have hardly been convincing, but finds itself with seven consecutive wins and four points clear in second position. Geelong has now notched up 16 wins, 11 of which have been 25 points or less including six single figure results. The margins aren’t flattering, but this side just knows how to win a game despite the large turnover of players since the premierships. The Cats are nearly certain to play a qualifying final in Melbourne, which speaks volumes considering it is yet to lose a game in Victoria this year. Bartel will return, but there is still no Steve Johnson.
It is the greatest current rivalry and you are close to guaranteed to witness a great contest. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the coaches keep a bit up their sleeves with finals approaching, but that doesn’t mean the contest won’t be fierce. Hawthorn are disadvantaged with a six day break and trip back from Perth, leaning me slightly in the Cats favour.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 5 POINTS
Hawthorn @ the -2.5 third quarter line
WEST COAST ($1.03) VS MELBOURNE ($14.00)
AT PATERSONS STADIUM, SATURDAY 23/08, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R2 2014 Melbourne 4.6 (30) lost to West Coast 18.15 (123) at the MCG
Line: West Coast -60.5, Melbourne +60.5
Boy did the Eagles let a fantastic opportunity go against the Bombers. It had the chance to secure a likely top eight finish after leading by 34 points at the 10 minute mark of the third quarter. West Coast looked to be running away with its best win of the year before a violent momentum swing. It is difficult to accuse West Coast of a drop in effort as Essendon were brilliant, but it perhaps became complacent. Despite the loss, the Eagles are still a very realistic shot to make the eight. It requires North to beat Adelaide, Sydney to beat Richmond and Collingwood to lose at least one game, of course on top of winning each game itself. In other words, if every likely favourite from those encounters win, the Eagles will be playing in an away elimination final. Switched on punters would have got the Eagles at $12.00 on Saturday night, but those odds have quickly shortened to $3.00. Mark Lecras is comes back into the side.
Atrocious, appalling, deplorable, horrendous, disgusting and repulsive are all good words to describe Melbourne on Sunday against the Giants. It was enormous step in the wrong direction and I fear a lot of good has been erased. Paul Roos and his coaching staff will be so disappointed, but it is time to get this team scoring. They are on the verge of becoming the first side since 1972 to not score 100 points or more in a game throughout an entire season. Jack Grimes won’t be seen again this season due to a hamstring.
West Coast will win this in a canter. Still, it will be interesting to see how the Dees respond.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 77 POINTS
West Coast to make the final eight @ $3.00
BRISBANE ($4.00) VS FREMANTLE ($1.26)
AT THE GABBA, SUNDAY 24/08, 13:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R14 2014 Fremantle 15.15 (105) dftd Brisbane Lions 3.4 (22) at PS
Line: Brisbane +26.5, Fremantle -26.5
The Brisbane Lions had a field day as Collingwood’s season disintegrated before their eyes. Rockliff, Zorko, Hanley and Martin won the ball at will to give the forwards constant flow throughout the night. The likes of Freeman, Gardiner, McStay and Close look set to be the Lions key talls for the next decade and are growing in confidence with every game. Fremantle will provide the perfect test for the side, as they will be forced to be far more disciplined and accountable than last week.
Fremantle are building nicely into September. After giving Geelong another fright the week before at Simonds Stadium, the Dockers were dynamic against a Hawthorn side that couldn’t get its hands on the ball first. Ross Lyon is famous for his defensively dull but effective structures and his side showed on Sunday that it can be just as dangerous offensively. Unfortunately the Dockers have been dealt a blow, with both Nathan Fyfe and Michael Barlow unavailable for the remaining home and away games due to suspension and injury respectively. It does create an opportunity for another couple of fringe players to impress. Hayden Ballantyne will make the trip to Brisbane.
Fyfe and Barlow are obviously difficult to replace, but Fremantle are arguably the best at dealing with absent stars.
FREMANTLE TO WIN BY 33 POINTS
Over 169.5 total match points @ $1.88
WESTERN BULLDOGS ($6.00) VS SYDNEY ($1.14)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 24/08, 15:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R19 2013 Western Bulldogs 15.9 (99) lost to Sydney 21.8 (134) at ES
Line: Dogs +34.5, Sydney -34.5
The Western Bulldogs have done well to slide under the radar of the media after a poor display against North Melbourne. Captain Ryan Griffen was left to do a brunt of the work in the middle as Liberatore and Boyd had below par days. I didn’t expect the Dogs to win, but the second half endeavour was questionable. Marcus Bontempelli shortened further in Rising Star betting to $1.27, with a 23 disposal two goal game. He has been fantastic in the second half of the season, but you feel he is quite short considering others have had more consistent seasons. Macrae is back in the side, while Will Minson has been dropped.
It was the Buddy Franklin show at the SCG on Saturday afternoon as the former Hawk kicked 9 goals to outscore St Kilda himself. The performance looks to have sealed the Coleman Medal too, as he holds a six goal lead coming into Round 22. Don’t count him out for the Brownlow Medal either, as he has shortened to $14.00 and we currently have him on 18 votes. Should Sydney win and Geelong lose, the Swans will secure top position, creating the potential of resting players in Round 23. Josh Kennedy and Craig Bird are significant losses, but the Swans have so much midfield depth it shouldn’t hurt.
The Swans have been convincing recently against the Dogs, averaging 144.33 points for over the last three encounters. It wouldn’t surprise me if Buddy Franklin went large again.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 53 POINTS
Sydney @ the -34.5 line
RICHMOND ($1.09) VS ST KILDA ($8.00)
AT THE MCG, SUNDAY 24/08, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R15 2014 St Kilda 11.7 (73) lost to Richmond 18.9 (117) at ES
Line: Richmond -44.5, St Kilda +44.5
The streak is up to seven wins and the Tiger army is becoming rowdy. Richmond currently find themselves in that infamous ninth position, but could easily be in the top eight by the end of the round with an easy kill likely against the Saints. The Tigers won’t be taking St Kilda lightly and can’t afford to, but you couldn’t blame them for focusing one eye toward the clutch Round 23 encounter against Sydney. Damien Hardwick will be ensuring that the current momentum remains after this clash to hit the Swans in the best possible nick.
It was hard not to feel sorry for the Saints defenders as Buddy Franklin danced around them with contempt. What do these guys have to play for with only two games remaining? Lenny Hayes is the major motivation, but individually there are few incentives unless you are fighting for a new contract. Positively, Sandringham have booked themselves a VFL finals appearance which is sure to lift the spirits of the qualified players.
Richmond won’t ruin this opportunity. They’ll make it eight consecutive wins and set themselves up for a cut throat encounter against Sydney.
RICHMOND TO WIN BY 38 POINTS
Richmond to kick over 3.5 goals in the first quarter @ $1.73
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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