Welcome to the Round 6 AFL preview. Round 5 was highlighted by the Blues finally securing its first points of the season while the Cats got one back on rival Hawthorn to become the only undefeated side of 2014. The round also produced genuine upsets and significant form turnarounds which is making it difficult to know exactly where some teams are at. The Brisbane Lions are now the only side not to register any points and while there were some promising signs against Richmond, their first victory still looks a long way off.
The ANZAC Day fixtures dominate Round 6 with Collingwood and Essendon contesting in their traditional afternoon slot, but the game of the week has to be Port Adelaide versus Geelong at Adelaide Oval on the Sunday twilight. It is the second top of the table clash within 6 days and will offer the perfect indicator to see how serious a contender the Power is.
The Western Bulldogs Head To Head @ $2.20.
COLLINGWOOD ($1.60) vs ESSENDON ($2.35)
AT THE MCG, FRIDAY 25/04, 14:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R19 2013 Collingwood 20.13 (133) dftd Essendon 7.12 (54) at the MCG
Line: Collingwood -8.5, Essendon +8.5
The Pies made a statement against a side on the rise on Saturday afternoon. The margin ended up flattering the North Melbourne as the end result could have easily passed 60 points had all first half opportunities been taken. The major positive for Nathan Buckley was the return to form of key forward Travis Cloke. The big man monstered Scott Thompson, kicking 4 goals and clunking 11 marks, 8 of which were inside 50. He went quiet in the second half, but the damage had already been made. His form is the key piece to a potential Collingwood premiership puzzle.
The Bombers were one of many disappointing teams last round. Coming up against a St Kilda side that was at one stage paying $8.00 head to head through the week, Essendon were out ran in the second half. There is a trend developing that sides travelling back from Perth are battling to hit their straps the following week, but I think the Bombers have fallen to enough excuses over the last fortnight. Brendan Goddard & Tom Bellchambers will again miss, while Courtenay Dempsey and Jason Winderlich slide straight back into the line-up. Heath Hocking and David Myers are unexpected outs.
The Bombers always lift for this big clash, but Collingwood have won 3 of the last 4 ANZAC Day games. The Pies are just starting to hit some impressive form, while Essendon have dropped off significantly of late. It certainly isn’t an encouraging pattern for Mark Thompson.
COLLINGWOOD TO WIN BY 23 POINTS
ST KILDA ($1.40) vs BRISBANE ($2.95)
AT WESTPAC STADIUM NEW ZEALAND, FRIDAY 25/04, 17:45
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R19 2013 Brisbane Lions 16.12 (108) dftd St Kilda 11.11 (77) at the GABBA
Line: St Kilda -16.5, Brisbane +16.5
Who’d have thought that after 5 rounds St Kilda would be sitting at 3-2 and just outside the top eight? Many predicted St Kilda to be a wooden spoon contender at the start of the year, including myself, yet they enter Round 6 with the perfect opportunity to go 4-2 against the worst performing side in the competition. A lot of thanks for the unexpected start has to go to skipper Nick Riewoldt, who once again produced a match winning effort against the Bombers on Saturday night. After a quiet first quarter, he ended with 5 goals and 10 marks to be the defining difference between the two sides. He currently shares the Coleman Medal lead with 17 goals and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Adam Schneider will miss through suspension.
Brisbane were much more competitive against Richmond, but the game was of a low standard and the Tigers didn’t take the early chances on offer to blow the Lions away. Positively, the Lions won its first quarter of the season but they need to start creating more significant successes than that to take anything of note out of the season. Daniel Merrett returns from suspension, while Pearce Hanley has made a quick recovery from a hamstring strain.
The confidence levels of these two sides are close to polar opposites. At their bests, these teams are probably at similar standards, but the Saints just have far greater momentum for the time being and need to make a statement its developing Kiwi market. The Saints look decent value at the line.
ST KILDA TO WIN BY 35 POINTS
FREMANTLE ($1.28) vs NORTH MELBOURNE ($3.75)
AT PATERSONS STADIUM, FRIDAY 25/04, 20:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R13 2013 Fremantle 10.7 (67) dftd North Melbourne 4.5 (29) at PS
Line: Fremantle -23.5, North +23.5
Ross Lyon would have flown to Sydney knowing exactly what its opponent was capable of, but he couldn’t be blamed if Fremantle were caught slightly off guard by the first sighting of a ferocious Swans outfit this year. Manic tackling and strict discipline are characteristics more associated with the Dockers recently, but Sydney managed to find its old mojo and beat Fremantle at its own game. Once the Dockers finally settled to the heat of the battle, they found it much easier to score with some attacking footy, but it was too little too late. I doubt Ross Lyon will worry too much getting beaten that way, as it was a firsthand demonstration of how his side plays its best football. Take in the positives and move on. Ballantyne misses through suspension.
Some might see this as an exaggeration, but North were genuinely awful against Collingwood. The Pies gave some decent pressure, but the turnovers of senior players early in the game were borderline deplorable. It set the tone and North Melbourne never got back in the game. It is difficult to know what to make of the Kangaroos. There is such a large gap between their best and worst. Inconsistency isn’t a characteristic that is affiliated with successful sides. Scott Thompson and Daniel Wells are massive losses due to suspension and injury respectively, while Jack Ziebell returns to the fold.
I’m confident the Dockers will bounce back here.
FREMANTLE TO WIN BY 33 POINTS
GOLD COAST ($1.20) vs GWS ($4.40)
AT METRICON STADIUM, SATURDAY 26/04, 13:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R23 2013 Gold Coast 22.14 (146) dftd GWS Giants 9.9 (63) at MS
Line: Gold Coast -29.5, GWS +29.5
The Gold Coast Suns weren’t exactly defining against Melbourne, but it did enough to get the job done. That comment isn’t the most glowing endorsement of a performance against a side low on the ladder, but even 12 months ago an effort like Sundays could have ended as a 5 goal loss. Winning is just becoming a more common thing for Guy McKenna and the Suns which is a positive in itself. A win against fellow franchise club GWS and the Suns are entrenched in the top 8 with a 4-2 record.
GWS were relatively competitive against Adelaide for three quarters, but a 7 goal second quarter and a freak performance from Patrick Dangerfield ensured that the Giants weren’t ever in the game. Skipper Callan Ward was having an enormous impact before concussion saw him subbed in the second quarter and unfortunately he is in massive doubt for this clash. Heath Shaw will return to the side, while Toby Green has accepted a one match ban.
The Suns look far more settled as the Giants look to experiment their frightening three pronged attack. There were high scoring encounters between these two last year, which makes the 184.5 over/under score appear low.
GOLD COAST TO WIN BY 30 POINTS
CARLTON ($2.25) vs WEST COAST ($1.65)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 26/04, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R4 2013 West Coast 7.23 (65) lost to Carlton 12.17 (89) at PS
Line: Carlton +5.5, West Coast -5.5
The win against the Bulldogs would have had Mick Malthouse producing a massive sigh of relief. Marc Murphy (2 goals and 28 touches), Lachie Henderson (5 goals and 8 marks), Jarrad Waite (3 goals and 8 marks) and Bryce Gibbs (29 touches) all stepped up and got the Blues across the line against an extremely disappointing Western Bulldogs outfit. The contested ball and tackling pressure was a massive jump on previous weeks and it is the standard that must be met every week if their season is to get back on track. Unfortunately the win came at a cost. Chris Judd is horribly unlucky in sustaining a hamstring injury only six minutes into his comeback. He will miss at least another month of football, while Ed Curnow and Tom Bell will miss extended periods with leg and finger injuries respectively. Despite the outs, the Blues have some experienced inclusions in Jamison, McLean, Garlett and Robinson.
The Eagles are in a tricky position. They started the season on fire against low quality opposition, but still haven’t managed to defeat a team of relevance. They got that opportunity against Port Adelaide on Saturday night, but the Power managed to kick 5 goals to 2 in the second half to keep West Coast at bay. It was the second consecutive poor second half from the Eagles, who didn’t manage to score a goal against the Cats. The plagued Xavier Ellis is out after going down with a calf injury early against Port.
Carlton really is a side that West Coast should beat, but they always seem to match up well and produce competitive results. If West Coast are serious contenders, teams like Carlton should be swept away.
WEST COAST TO WIN BY 2 POINTS
MELBOURNE ($8.00) vs SYDNEY ($1.08)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 26/04, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R15 2013 Melbourne 13.7 (85) lost to Sydney 16.20 (116) at the MCG
Line: Melbourne +42.5, Sydney -42.5
It has been a promising fortnight for the Demons as they continually adapt to the Paul Roos game plan. A loss to Gold Coast in the past would have had the media camping outside AAMI Park, but there were enough positives to keep the vultures away. The Suns got out to significant leads throughout the second half and the Melbourne of old would have been vulnerable to a blow out in those situations. Fortunately, this group continued to fight and managed to keep the margin to single figures. They are only small steps, but they are important indications of improvement.
Where had the Sydney intensity on Saturday been all year? Whether the North Melbourne game was the final wakeup call this group needed or not, you could tell from the opening stoppage that they were switched on. The contested style was back and most importantly the defensive pressure was at its premiership winning levels. After averaging a respectable 72.5 tackles per game throughout the opening four rounds, the Swans laid an enormous 102 on Saturday evening which helped put the Dockers on the back foot early. Adam Goodes returns for the first time since June.
Paul Roos coaches against his former side for the first time. If the Swans produce numbers like Round 5, Melbourne will be in for a bruising night.
SYDNEY TO WIN BY 53 POINTS
WESTERN BULLDOGS ($2.20) vs ADELAIDE ($1.67)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SUNDAY 27/04, 13:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R21 2013 Western Bulldogs 20.11 (131) dftd Adelaide 17.12 (114) at ES
Line: Dogs +6.5, Adelaide -6.5
Brendan McCartney will feel that there was a good opportunity lost against Carlton. In reality, the margin actually flattered the Dogs. Coming up against a side so low on confidence and under immense pressure to perform, you would have thought the Western Bulldogs style would have held up. They were once again beaten in the contested possession and clearance counts, which saw Tom Liberatore held to low numbers for not the first time this season. You have to start wondering whether we’ll ever see the stoppage domination of last year this season. Dale Morris returns from suspension.
The Crows are back on track after two convincing victories against GWS and St Kilda. But perhaps the most pleasing part of Sunday’s game was the return to form of Patrick Dangerfield. His statistics were amazing. He gathered 33 possessions of which 18 were contested, 9 clearances, 7 marks, 6 inside 50s and 5 goals to cap off a stunning day. His form beforehand hadn’t been horrible, but he just needed to produce a significant performance like this to get his season right on track. The form of Sam Jacobs has also been important after not living up to the lofty standards he set in 2012 last year. The Crows lose Richard Douglas to suspension.
I’m giving the Dogs one last chance. Brendan McCartney gave a scathing review which is sure to wake the midfield group up. There is plenty of improvement in this group, especially at the stoppages. They have won the last 5 games against Adelaide at Etihad Stadium. The Crows have had two big wins, but are they are yet to show form against high intensity teams. I think the Dogs offer underrated value here.
WESTERN BULLDOGS TO WIN BY 17 POINTS
RICHMOND ($5.00) vs HAWTHORN ($1.17)
AT THE MCG, SUNDAY 27/04, 15:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: R19 2013 Hawthorn 9.12 (66) lost to Richmond 16.11 (107) at the MCG
Line: Richmond +32.5, Hawthorn -32.5
So we all know that the Tigers have had convincing victories against Hawthorn the last two occasions, but that record means nothing if the yellow and black produce a similar performance to what it did against Brisbane. The Tigers absolutely dominated the first quarter, but couldn’t put the score on the board to justify the gap between the two sides. As we are becoming accustomed to on a regular basis, Damien Hardwick’s men had a fade out that saw the Lions get back into a game they had no right to even consider winning. Thankfully for Richmond, the big names in Cotchin, Riewoldt and Martin stood up which was enough to see them run away to a comfortable victory. You suspect that against a side of some quality, the result wouldn’t have been the same.
The Hawks again went down to Geelong on an Easter Monday, but there were definitely more flaws exposed than usual. The most obvious was the vulnerability of a backline that just has no chance against a monster forward like Tom Hawkins. Kyle Cheney has been serviceable this season, but he was just rag dolled on Monday. Brian Lake is the obvious replacement and must come in this week. Jack Gunston is thriving in the Hawks forward line, but Monday showed the first indications of Franklin being missed. Buddy naturally attracted the attention of the space fillers in his time at Hawthorn, which generally meant gaps were opened up in the corridor and a tall like Roughead took full advantage of that. Those gaps aren’t appearing nearly as often against the disciplined sides, which makes a defensive job on Roughead much easier. The Hawks love creating space with short passes and the Cats managed to nullify that perhaps better than any club for the last 5 years on Monday. Expect teams to start replicating it.
The Hawks are a high quality unit and will bounce back quickly. I fear Richmond have drawn them at the wrong time.
HAWTHORN TO WIN BY 51 POINTS
PORT ADELAIDE ($2.10) vs GEELONG ($1.72)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, SUNDAY 27/04, 16:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: SF 2013 Geelong 13.18 (96) dftd Port Adelaide 12.8 (80) at the MCG
Line: Port +4.5, Geelong -4.5
The Power are now 4-1 and second on the ladder, which creates another 1 vs 2 top of the table clash for the undefeated Cats. This is the type of opportunity that Ken Hinkley will be craving for his young side. You get the feeling that this game will be won and lost inside the arcs, with both sides ranking 1 and 2 for inside 50s entries and marks inside 50s. Jay Schulz has been massive early for the Power, averaging 3.2 marks inside 50 per game and is currently equal leading the Coleman Medal with Nick Riewoldt. He is sure to have a tougher task ahead of him against the likes of Harry Taylor, Tom Lonergan and Jared Rivers. Port Adelaide will take confidence into the game knowing that it came close to beating Geelong in the Semi Final last year.
The Cats were extremely impressive against Hawthorn, as they usually are. The performance has seen them shorten into $5.00 equal second premiership favouritism with Fremantle. The major difference between the Cats this year and 2013 is the big men. Hamish McIntosh and Dawson Simpson are finally fit and firing in the ruck, making Geelong far more competitive at the stoppages. Tom Hawkins is back to his 2012 fitness and monstering key defenders once again, as we saw against Hawthorn. Ensuring these three stay on the park will be the number one focus of the Geelong medical staff for a majority of the year. Andrew Mackie misses with a hamstring, but Steven Motlop returns.
The Cats currently hold a 10 game winning streak against Port Adelaide, dating back to the 2007 Grand Final. We’ll find more out about the Power than Geelong on Sunday evening.
GEELONG TO WIN BY 10 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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