Welcome to the round 4 AFL preview. The amount of unbeaten teams continues to lower with Essendon, Port Adelaide, Sydney, Richmond and Geelong all holding 3-0 records. Essendon were the big winners of round 3 having put all James Hird controversies to the side, coming back from a 6 goal deficit at half time and over running the much fancied Fremantle at home.
Port Adelaide have so far been the surprise packet of the first three rounds and knocked off its biggest rival Adelaide in the Showdown to build even greater confidence. They travel north to take on the Gold Coast and are every chance to continue their impressive streak.
Sydney vs Geelong, Richmond vs Collingwood and the lowly Melbourne vs GWS clash will be the most anticipated matches of the round. There is plenty to look forward to over the coming days.
Best Bet: Essendon at the -16.5 line.
SYDNEY ($1.65) vs GEELONG ($2.25)
SCG, FRIDAY 19/04/2013, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Geelong 17.10 (112) defeated Sydney 11.12 (78) at Skilled, R23, 01/09/2012
Line: Sydney -8.5, Geelong +8.5
I’m really looking forward to this and I’m sure a large percentage of the AFL loving population will be too. Both teams are undefeated, have won 5 of the last 8 premierships and will be hell bent on getting a game up on each other.
The Swans had their first real test of the season against North in Tasmania, hitting top gear for the first time with an incredible 11 goals, four behinds in the third quarter that broke the game apart. Midfielders Jarrad McVeigh, Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker and Ryan O’Keefe continued their top form and while Kieren Jack was quiet against North, he has a good record against Geelong averaging 22 touches and a goal. The Swans are unlikely to make any changes and are close to full strength.
Geelong appeared to do only as much as it needed to against Carlton and will play its fourth game in nineteen days on Friday night. The Cats continue to be hampered by horrendous clearance rates, averaging only 28.7 over the opening three games of the season, 8.31% less than second worst Melbourne. Considering clearances are an obvious strength of Sydney, they will have to improve dramatically. Despite these stats, they are still getting the ball inside 50, averaging 62 per game (2nd in the league). It is an unusual confliction. The Cats will miss the run of Travis Varcoe for 3 months due to a dislocated shoulder, but will be boosted by the return of Jared Rivers.
It is a really tight one to predict. The Swans clearance advantages have me leaning in their direction.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 4 POINTS
HAWTHORN ($1.18) vs FREMANTLE ($4.85)
AURORA STADIUM, SATURDAY 20/04/2013, 13:45
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Hawthorn 17.17 (119) defeated Fremantle 9.9 (63) at Aurora, R8, 19/05/2012
Line: Hawthorn -34.5, Fremantle +34.5
Hawthorn had an eye opening win against Collingwood on Sunday and have since shortened to $4.00 to win the flag. They are the flavour of the week once again. But despite a 5-0 record and 86 point average winning margin against Fremantle at Launceston over the last two games, the Hawks are a tad short. Does that mean they’ll lose? I highly doubt it.
The Hawks have overcome a tough three opening matches to be 2-1. They will be absolutely ecstatic about the form of Luke Hodge who doesn’t look anything like a man who has had an interrupted preseason. Brad Sewell isn’t expected to get up in time for the Saturday afternoon fixture, but recruit Brian Lake is every chance to make his debut. They certainly are a happy team at Hawthorn.
The Dockers let a 6 goal half time lead go in heavy conditions to an inspired Essendon outfit. Lyon will be analysing how and why this happened and putting in measures to avoid it happening again. Recognising weaknesses and rectifying them is a great strength of his. Matthew Pavlich is a massive loss and will be missing for 4-6 weeks after succumbing to an achilles injury. After being subbed off with concussion, Freo will be desperate to have Luke McPharlin available for the trip.
I’m sure the Hawks will be too strong, but the Fremantle 1-39 at $5.80 would look mighty tempting to anyone who consider the Dockers a chance. Although Pavlich is a big loss, it could make Fremantle less predictable.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 24 POINTS
RICHMOND ($2.02) vs COLLINGWOOD ($1.80)
THE MCG, SATURDAY 20/04/2013, 14:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Collingwood 12.13 (85) defeated Richmond 8.16 (64) at the MCG, R2, 07/04/2012
Line: Richmond +2.5, Collingwood -2.5
Another cracker. Surely this game will see the giant Richmond fan base come out and push the attendance over 80,000. While the Tigers are still yet to play a club of significance, the performance against the Bulldogs indicated signs of a team on the rise. It started in dominant fashion with a 12 second opening Brett Deledio goal and finished with a defining 7 goal last quarter to rubber stamp the victory.
The Pies were humiliated against Hawthorn with a near 10 goal defeat. It is probably more a reflection of Nathan Buckley’s game plan vulnerability against Hawthorn than where Collingwood are really at, having conceded 20+ goals in the four games he has coached against them. In saying that, you could hardly describe its wins against North and Carlton as convincing. Dayne Beams is a big loss and still 3-4 weeks away. Ben Reid is expected to be fit despite an ugly looking knee hyperextension while Darren Jolly will miss again, although Ben Hudson proved to be a more than an adequate replacement on Sunday.
Collingwood have an average winning margin of 62 points over the last 5 encounters against Richmond. It’s too hard to jump off the Pies just yet, but Richmond will be competitive. The more Collingwood drift, the more attractive they become, despite the late loss of Ben Johnson.
COLLINGWOOD TO WIN BY 13 POINTS
ST KILDA ($2.85) vs ESSENDON ($1.42)
ETIHAD, SATURDAY 20/04/2013, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: St Kilda 21.7 (133) defeated Essendon 8.14 (62) at Etihad, R15, 07/07/2012
Line: St Kilda +16.5, Essendon -16.5
The Bombers were the story of Round 3, having registered arguably its best win since the 2000 premiership. The players showed there is unity, commitment and inspiration among the group. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team play for its coach like Friday night.
The Saints gave Essendon an unexpected touch up in Round 15 last year, storming to a 71 point victory. But it needs to be remembered that the Bombers were in the midst of a soft tissue epidemic at the time. They are fit and ready to go this time around. Before last year’s encounter, the Bombers had a great record against St Kilda in their prime, having won four matches in succession from Round 20 2009 to Round 3 2011.
The Saints were convincing against GWS, as they should have been, but will need to step it up against the inform Bombers. Nick Riewoldt has managed to turn back the clock, averaging nearly 10 marks and 3 goals a game to start the season and has a great record against the Bombers.
While the Bombers will be missing Paddy Ryder and Nick Kommer, they should comfortably defeat a semi developing St Kilda outfit. The Essendon line looks great value at -16.5.
ESSENDON TO WIN BY 37 POINTS
GOLD COAST ($2.60) vs PORT ADELAIDE ($1.50)
METRICON, SATURDAY 20/04/2013, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Port 17.16 (118) defeated Gold Coast 10.10 (70) at Metricon, R9, 26/05/2012
Line: Gold Coast +14.5, Port -14.5
Is Port Adelaide the real deal? It’s a difficult question to answer as victories against Melbourne and GWS isn’t anything to brag and shout about. But the come from behind win against arch rival Adelaide certainly has some merit.
The major improvement for Port has been in the forward 50. The Power is averaging an impressive 17.3 marks inside 50. Justin Westhoff has been unbelievable, averaging 22.7 disposals, 10.3 marks, 16 kicks and 3.3 goals per game. At 26, it appears he has finally managed to take the next step.
The Suns managed their first ever win against Port in 2011. The coach of Port Adelaide that day, Matthew Primus, is now an assistant at Gold Coast and should be able to provide significant knowledge. In saying that, Ken Hinkley was at the Suns for two years before picking up the Port head coaching gig and claims to have a solution to keep Gary Ablett quiet. It will be an interesting situation.
The Port form is too hard to ignore, despite being shortish.
PORT ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 17 POINTS
WEST COAST ($1.38) vs CARLTON ($3.05)
PATERSONS, SATURDAY 20/04/2013, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: West Coast 10.19 (79) defeated Carlton 10.9 (69) at Patersons, R12, 14/06/2012
Line: West Coast -19.5, Carlton +19.5
It took time for West Coast to get going, but they finally got the expected result with a barnstorming second half against Melbourne. While they managed to secure 62 forward 50 entries against Melbourne, they are still averaging a low 45.7 for the season with only the expansion clubs below them in the category. But the I50 ratio can certainly improve if the Eagles continue to dominate the clearances. They are averaging 46.3 a game, the most in the competition. West Coast’s injury list is still deep, with defensive 50 general Beau Waters the latest casualty.
The Blues have been competitive against two strong teams in Collingwood and Geelong over the past two weeks, yet still haven’t produced a win. While Carlton are averaging nearly 10 less clearances around the ground to West Coast, both clubs are averaging 16.3 centre clearances, equal 2nd in the competition. This could be a key area to where the game is won. Mick Malthouse is working the media over with the marketable “process” line, claiming that the win/loss ratio isn’t important. Is this a sign that Mick has conceded that the Blues aren’t quite up with the best? It certainly isn’t what I’d like to be hearing if I was a Carlton supporter.
West Coast will be too strong at home.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 23 POINTS
MELBOURNE ($1.60) vs GWS ($2.35)
MCG, SUNDAY 21/04/2013, 13:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Melbourne 11.18 (84) defeated GWS 9.5 (59) at Canberra, R21, 18/08/2012
Line: Melbourne -9.5, GWS +9.5
On paper, 17th vs 18th isn’t the most attractive reading. But this match has huge ramifications, especially for the Melbourne Football Club. If the Dees lose, the media and supporter pressure will intensify into something extremely ugly for all employed by the club.
The season stats look horrible for Melbourne. They are last in total disposals, contested possessions, pressure acts and inside 50s. They are second last in marks inside 50s, clearances, centre clearances and tackles. It is impossible to find any type of positivity that paints a pretty picture for Melbourne. The one thing Melbourne can hang their hat on is the first half against West Coast. They actually looked competitive and willing to have a crack. If they can produce this form against GWS for four quarters, they will win.
The Giant’s stats aren’t much more impressive than Melbourne, but their clearance rates and disposal efficiency deserve to be applauded. GWS were very competitive against Sydney in round 1, but haven’t managed to replicate that. Jonathan Patton is a huge loss for the Giants and will miss the entire season with an ACL. He is expected to be replacement by the forgotten Setanta O’hAilpin.
The Demons just have to win. They showed against West Coast that they are capable. That form will get them across the line.
MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 10 POINTS
ADELAIDE ($1.12) vs WESTERN BULLDOGS ($6.25)
AAMI, SUNDAY 21/04/2013, 15:15
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Adelaide 11.16 (82) defeated Bulldogs 9.10 (64) at AAMI, R2, 07/04/2012
Line: Adelaide -39.5, Western Bulldogs +39.5
The Crows will be desperate to get back on track having lost to the improving Port Adelaide in the Showdown. They are a long way off track on replicating their top four finish of 2012 and need to gain some momentum soon. The Bulldogs offer the perfect opportunity.
Adelaide have been smashed out of the centre clearances this year, averaging only 12.3 per game. With the Dogs possessing young clearance specialists in Wallis, Liberatore and Smith, coupled with the experienced Ryan Griffin and returning skipper Matthew Boyd, it isn’t going to get any easier for the Crows. Sam Jacobs hasn’t been able to carry on the form of 2012, while Thompson, Dangerfield and Sloane have been inconsistent. They have to step up.
The Bulldogs have struck an injury curse at an unfortunate time of the year. Best 18 players Easton Wood, Shaun Higgins and Tory Dickson will miss long periods of football. The positive of this is that No.5 and No. 6 draft picks Jackson Macrae and Jake Stringer are both likely to debut, but it will make the Dogs more vulnerable.
Adelaide need to and will win this game comfortably despite the Dogs having a good record against them.
ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 44 POINTS
NORTH MELBOURNE ($1.31) vs BRISBANE ($3.45)
ETIHAD, SUNDAY 21/04/2013, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: North 17.10 (112) defeated Brisbane 15.6 (96) at Etihad, R9, 27/05/2012
Line: North -22.5, Brisbane +22.5
North Melbourne have been in winnable positions against Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney in the opening three rounds of 2013 and would be gutted not to have won at least one of those games. Allowing the Swans to kick 11.4 in the third quarter is unforgiveable and the coaching staff need to be held responsible for not putting the numbers back to stem the flow.
Brisbane had its first win since the NAB Cup Grand Final, knocking off a resilient Gold Coast in the Q-Clash. Brisbane improved their clearances rates dramatically against the Suns winning 46 around the ground. They are still averaging nearly 10 a game less than North Melbourne but Matthew Leuenberger is beginning to hit form in the ruck and giving his midfielders first use. The bigger bodies of Andrew Swallow, Jack Zeibell and Ben Cunnington will create a much more difficult task though.
North Melbourne continues to have a very small injury list which is creating pressure on the current 22 with so many fit players available. If the losses keep coming, there is certain to be a shake up. That shake up will have to wait as North will be too strong for Brisbane.
NORTH MELBOURNE TO WIN BY 29 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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