Welcome to the Round 4 AFL preview. The reigning premier flexed its muscle in the Grand Final rematch by justifying the $3.50 Premiership odds and proving that there is currently daylight to the next best side. The Hawks annihilated Fremantle, especially in the first half where the lead was 57 points and the possession count read 261-128. They were embarrassing numbers for the Dockers who would have loved to have made a defining statement after the hurt of a Grand Final loss. It will be riveting to see the impact this result has later in the season when these two sides meet again.
The Hawks, West Coast and Geelong are the undefeated sides after three rounds, with the latter two taking on each other on Saturday night at Geelong. The outstanding game of the round has to be Fremantle vs Essendon on Sunday night, as the response of the Dockers against the up and coming team of the competition may answer some pending questions. It is also a game that is offering decent betting options.
Essendon to win @ $1.92 head to head
RICHMOND ($2.35) vs COLLINGWOOD ($1.61)
AT THE MCG, FRIDAY 11/04, 19:50
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R4 2013 Richmond 11.13 (79) lost to Collingwood 16.17 (113) at the MCG
Line: Richmond +8.5, Collingwood -8.5
It certainly isn’t panic stations for the Tigers, but I’m sure Damien Hardwick expected to be 3-0, not 1-2 coming into the encounter with Collingwood. While his side played some great footy to get back from 38 points down and hit the lead, the Bulldogs are a side who have rarely troubled Richmond recently. Injuries have hit at an inappropriate time for the Tigers. There are rumours that Brett Deledio is apparently battling achilles tendinitis and will miss this week, while the loss of Maric and Hampson in the ruck is hurting more than many believe.
Collingwood’s form has been far more promising since the Round 1 Fremantle disaster. It has since beating the Swans at ANZ comfortably and were more than competitive against the undefeated Cats. The form of Dane Swan and Travis Cloke continues to be of some concern, but it is impossible to see these two stars down for too much longer. The Pies have a great recent record against Richmond, winning the last 6 encounters comfortably. Taylor Adams is out suspended for Collingwood.
The Collingwood form line is far more impressive and they have less injury concerns than Richmond. Deledio being unavailable again is a big exclusion for the Tigers.
COLLINGWOOD TO WIN BY 22 POINTS
CARLTON ($1.13) vs MELBOURNE ($5.85)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 12/04, 13:45
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R6 2013 Carlton 18.13 (121) dftd Melbourne 8.12 (60) at the MCG
Line: Carlton -37.5, Melbourne +37.5
Carlton will be grateful coming up against Melbourne after such an embarrassing performance against the Bombers. They are in desperate need for points on the board which Mick Malthouse will pray helps the confidence levels. Sunday night was the ugliest Carlton performance since the lows of the Denis Pagan era. Essendon were left to do anything they wanted leaving the Carlton forward fifty due to acres of space and minimal defensive pressure. The uncontested possession count ended reading 318-195, while the Bombers were left to operate at 79.1% efficiency by hand and foot. It is time some fresh faces are introduced into this side as the senior players are falling way short of the required standards. Malthouse has made a statement by dropping Waite and Garlett.
Can it get any worse for the Demons? The preseason held enough promise to suggest that the Dees could at least snatch an early victory against one of St Kilda or GWS, but they come into Round 4 winless. Having no forward line hasn’t helped the situation, but thankfully Chris Dawes will come straight back into the line-up after recovering from a calf injury. Unfortunately we’ll never get the opportunity to see Mitch Clark in the red and blue again, after he was forced into retirement due to clinical depression. It is just another sad tale to add to the long list of negatives Melbourne has had to endure over recent years.
Carlton will finally get some points here. God bless Mick Malthouse and his players if they don’t.
CARLTON TO WIN BY 51 POINTS
PORT ADELAIDE ($1.13) vs BRISBANE ($6.00)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, SATURDAY 12/04, 14:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R18 2013 Port Adelaide 9.17 (71) dftd Brisbane Lions 9.8 (62) at AAMI
Line: Port -36.5, Brisbane +36.5
It was a disappointing and potentially confidence draining result for Port Adelaide after such a positive start to the season. It wasn’t just the inability to gain the required four points, but injuries to key players Chad Wingard and Angus Monfries are going to leave holes in a creative forward set up. Wingard is likely to only miss a week with that ankle, but Monfries will be unavailable for up to a month with a hamstring. There are theories that the “Showdown Hangover” have been hurting the two South Australian clubs for years, but Ken Hinkley won’t be one willing to concede weaknesses like that.
The batten was handed over in the Q Clash last weekend. Brisbane are no longer the best performed Queensland side and things are likely to stay that way for quite a long time. The Lions were consistently second to the ball against Gold Coast, losing the contested possessions 136-171 and clearances 40-51. To make matters worse, Daniel Rich will miss the rest of the season after rupturing his ACL, while Daniel Merrett is lucky to be missing only 2 weeks after his stray elbow collected David Swallow. There are some first year draftees performing in the NEAFL so expect Justin Leppitsch to blood new faces over the coming weeks.
Port are missing key personnel, but the Lions won’t trouble them.
PORT ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 31 POINTS
GWS ($2.20) vs WESTERN BULLDOGS ($1.67)
AT Startrek STADIUM, SATURDAY 12/04, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R15 2013 GWS Giants 12.11 (83) lost to Western Bulldogs 13.9 (87) at Manuka
Line: GWS +7.5, Dogs -7.5
The Giants are up and about and find themselves in the top six after three rounds of footy. They have already doubled last year’s win tally and are even getting discussed as September smokies. Like Port Adelaide getting discussed as a premiership contender, this talk is extremely premature and it must be remembered that this side has only won 5 games in its history. But its statistics are extremely impressive. As of Round 3, they have won 19 more clearances and laid 34 more tackles than any other side in the competition, while it currently sits second for contested possession (averaging 157.7 a game). Yes the opposition has been of low standard, but it is an incredible improvement on anything they produced last year. Devon Smith misses due to suspension.
The Western Bulldogs produced a performance on Saturday that replicated its late 2013 form. The clearances and contested possessions were up on previous weeks, which saw the Dogs lead by 38 points early in the third quarter. Unfortunately they gave that lead up, but super sub Daniel Giansiracusa produced a match winning goal to get the Dogs home by 2 points. Jordan Roughead will miss 6 weeks with a shoulder injury, while Luke Dahlhaus is a surprising omission with a calf injury.
This is the first real test for the Giants. It has won the first two games at home, but the Dogs will be a far more difficult prospect at the stoppages.
WESTERN BULLDOGS TO WIN BY 14 POINTS
GOLD COAST ($4.00) vs HAWTHORN ($1.25)
AT METRICON STADIUM, SATURDAY 12/04, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R9 2013 Hawthorn 18.10 (118) dftd Gold Coast 14.8 (92) at the MCG
Line: Gold Coast +24.5, Hawthorn -24.5
Like GWS, Gold Coast can no longer be seen as a developing franchise side, they are now ready to match it with the best and there is no better opportunity than taking on the reigning premier. The Suns are developing a style that is familiar with most premiership sides, with contested possessions, clearances and defensive pressure all priorities. The Suns do need to be a little tidier with ball in hand where it has the league’s lowest disposal efficiency of 65.2%, but that is from a sample of games that have been affected by poor weather. Brandon Matera will miss the clash through suspension, while Steven May successfully had his charge thrown out at the tribunal.
As I discussed early, the Hawthorn victory against Fremantle was as impressive as you’ll see. Alastair Clarkson suggested that there were many areas of improvement from the encounter, but you suspect he was probably just clutching at straws during the Monday morning match review. Luke Hodge returns to the side on Saturday night, strengthening an already imposing side.
You’d have to be a mad man to tip against Hawthorn after Friday night’s performance.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 40 POINTS
GEELONG ($1.25) vs WEST COAST ($4.00)
AT SIMONDS STADIUM, SATURDAY 12/04, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R21 2013 West Coast 6.5 (41) lost to Geelong 16.11 (107) at PS
Line: Geelong -25.5, West Coast +25.5
The Cats just keep getting the job done early in the season. While it only won by 11 points against Collingwood, it appeared in control for a majority of the game. The biggest positive from the game was the match winning effort of Tom Hawkins, who kicked three final quarter goals to seal the victory. He looks free of the back injury that crippled his 2013 season and Geelong look a better side because of it. Corey Enright is still not a guaranteed starter for Saturday night, but like last week, will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness. Taylor Hunt will return to the side from suspension.
Adam Simpson would have been pleased to come away with a 25 point victory against an impressive St Kilda side, but the win has come at a cost. Injury and suspension has soured the result, with key players likely to miss numerous weeks. Mark LeCras has suffered a broken arm which will see him miss approximately 6 weeks, Chris Masten a sustained a 2-3 week hamstring, while Sharrod Wellingham and Scott Selwood remain in doubt but have been named. On top of that, Luke Shuey will miss a week through suspension after striking Tom Curren, while Darren Glass hasn’t made the trip due to soreness.
The West Coast exclusions are defining. Many see this as the test to see how far advanced this West Coast side is, but the holes are look too large to cover. Geelong should be too strong.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 30 POINTS
SYDNEY ($1.38) vs NORTH MELBOURNE ($3.10)
AT THE SCG, SUNDAY 13/04, 13:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R3 2013 North Melbourne 13.14 (92) lost to Sydney 20.11 (131) at Blundstone
Line: Sydney -18.5, North +18.5
The Sydney Swans finally got off the mark in Round 3 with an emphatic victory against the struggling Crows. While it had had less disposals, less contested possessions, less inside 50s and less clearances, it somehow managed to run away to a 63 point win. Lance Franklin came to life with 4 goals and 20 disposals, while the midfield trio of Luke Parker, Kieren Jack and Dan Hannebery kicked 8 goals between them. The Swans have an excellent record against North Melbourne, winning the last 7 encounters at an average margin of 28 points.
After the disappointing Round 1 result against Essendon, North Melbourne have bounced back admirably with victories against the Western Bulldogs and most recently the inform Port Adelaide. There had been much made of Port Adelaide’s ability to run out games, but the Kangaroos more than matched the Power in the fitness stakes kicking 5 goals to 2 in the last quarter. The impressive Jamie McMillan has suffered a broken leg, while Jack Ziebell hasn’t recovered from his shoulder injury.
The Sydney record obviously speaks for itself, but you get the feeling that there is no better time than now for North to break that streak. The North Melbourne +18.5 line deserves consideration in what will be a tight contest.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 3 POINTS
ST KILDA ($2.20) vs ADELAIDE ($1.67)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 13/04, 15:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R8 2013 Adelaide 12.15 (87) dftd St Kilda 6.11 (47) at AAMI
Line: St Kilda +5.5, Adelaide -5.5
Alan Richardson would feel his side is every chance in this match. It has been a surprisingly impressive opening to the season for St Kilda after defeating Melbourne and GWS, but more importantly travelling west and giving the inform Eagles a genuine fright. They won most of the key performance indicators against West Coast, including possessions, tackles and clearances, but ultimately could only manage 2 goals in the second half. Luke Dunstan was massive in only his third game, collecting 29 disposals including 2 goals and 7 clearances. He has now moved to $6.00 second favouritism for the Rising Star award.
What is wrong with the Adelaide Crows? It is currently ranked 4th for disposals, 5th for efficiency and 6th for inside 50s, yet it has lost all three games by an average margin of 51.66 points. It has now conceded goal tallies of 6, 7 and 7 in final terms, suggesting that this side doesn’t have endurance capabilities of previous Adelaide lists. Even the ever energised Patrick Dangerfield is battling to run out games and his form is suffering as a consequence. Adelaide will be expected to win this game, but Brenton Sanderson will have some nervous sleeps ahead.
The Crows are superior on paper, but lacking confidence. The Saints will push hard under the inspired leadership of Nick Riewoldt.
ADELAIDE TO WIN BY 2 POINTS
FREMANTLE ($1.92) vs ESSENDON ($1.92)
AT PATERSONS STADIUM, SUNDAY 13/04, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R3 2013 Fremantle 9.14 (68) lost to Essendon 10.12 (72) at PS
Line: Fremantle -0.0, Essendon +0.0
The Dockers were bitterly disappointing in the Grand Final rematch. The final margin was bad enough, but some of statistical differentials were purely embarrassing. They were -181 for total possessions, -156 for uncontested possessions and -64 for marks. That is ugly reading for the least knowledgeable football person, let alone a student of the game like Ross Lyon. The effort just wasn’t there and you could make an assumption that the players went into the game with that train of thought. Barlow and Fyfe are obviously big outs and will miss again this week, but the injury crisis doesn’t end there for Fremantle. Garrick Ibbotson has again succumbed to a shoulder injury, Michael Walters will have ankle surgery that could see him miss the remainder of the year and Chris Mayne also misses with an ankle. It is a tough time for the Dockers. Zac Dawson returns from suspension.
Carlton were as bad as Essendon were brilliant on Sunday night. The Bombers dominated the scoring and statistics, highlighted by 26 more inside 50s and 123 more uncontested possessions. The Mark Thompson game plan has this side in a position where people are untitled to ask questions as to how deep this side could go in September. But it needs a scalp and Fremantle at home offer a very nice opportunity. Paul Chapman and Dustin Fletcher could be spared a trip west, while Paddy Ryder hasn’t got up for the clash.
I love Essendon’s chances in this game. They have come into $1.92 from $2.05 yesterday, but still offer great value head to head. The Bombers have won the last two encounters at Patersons Stadium and come up a Fremantle outfit that is depleted.
ESSENDON TO WIN BY 25 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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