Bloody Fev and the inaccurate Eagles cost me the perfect score last week but six is a lot better than the fours I have been racking up lately. In this round the AFL starts to prepare us for the future with a taste of Monday night football with the Pies taking on the invincible Sainters. When the Gold Coast Tampons and the West Sydney Who are in we’ll get Monday night football every week and TV land will rejoice. As usual there are plenty of important matches in the round but for me perhaps the most significant match is the Adelaide v Bullies game in Adelaide. The Crows have now dropped four straight at home and the Dogs have lost their last three games. The loser of that game will be in deep diggerydoo.
Essendon vs. Hawthorn The Dome
Hawthorn and Carlton turned on a ripper last week, perhaps the best game of the season. Hawthorn, still well short of their premiership winning lineup appear to be slowly returning to their best. The Hawks would be delighted to be 3-3 after their start to the season and they’ll further fine tune the Hawk machine against an Essendon side that looks undersized and undermanned with no Fletcher, Lucas, McVeigh and Hille. Hawthorn have made a habit of beating up on the Dons in recent years with Buddy and Roughead looking sure things to collect a swag of goals tonight. I reckon Hawthorn will absolutely romp this one in. Hawthorn by 76 points.
Geelong vs. Sydney Cat Park
The bad news for Cat fans and online fantasy coaches alike is that Gary Ablett will be out of the Geelong team. The bad news for Geelong is being offset to some degree by the return of skipper Tom Harley and the Cameron Cling who should resume hostilities with Micky O and Adam Goodes respectively. Goodes has a better record than most on Ling but this is balanced out as Matty Scarlett has a good record against Barry Hall. Expect Bartel to step up and for Corey to resume his midfield role after doing some work in the back half in Harley’s absence. The Swans will be tough and honest as they usually are but even without Ablett the Cats have the class to cover the visitors who have not won at Cat Park in a decade. Sydney will be in the match for the majority of the contest (and it will be a contest unlike the game above) but the Cats will open the game up with a burst of goals at some stage that Sydney won’t be able to match. Geelong by 21 points.
Richmond vs. Brisbane The G
Richmond have shown plenty in the last two weeks and in a twist of fate, have done so with minimal input from Tiger star Matty Richardson who has been carried injured for much of the last two games. I believe the absence of Richo with his current levels of fitness to be a positive rather than a negative. It is easier to plan for a player’s absence than when he goes down in the middle of the game or if he is going in underdone. The Tigers have wisely opted for experience this week including Ben Cousins, Nathan Brown and additional ruck power in Troy Simmonds to take on the gallant Mitch Clark who is holding the fort quite well for the Lions in the ruck. It is the midfield battle that will decide this one and the return of Cousins at a time when Brad Dalziell is not available for the Lions gives Richmond the edge. While everybody knows how often the Tigers burn the ball what is less well known is that Richmond are one of the more effective team at stoppages in the league, a strength they showed last week against an acknowledged leader in this stat in Sydney. I’m not touching Brisbane away from home and I reckon that the Tigers can salute in a close affair. Richmond by 8 points.
North Melbourne vs. Port The Dome
The men from Port will head to the Dome with something to prove against North. The Power need to show that they can come out and win the games that they are expected to win. The opportunity to go to 5-2 against a teetering North is one not to be missed by Mark Williams men. Port rediscovered the mongrel last week against the Crows and the challenge will be to replicate that resolve against a North side that cannot kick goals and is struggling for legspeed all over the ground. The Roos have been boosted somewhat by the return of Aaron Edwards who has been lively but the loss of Wells and Harvey has robbed the side of class. Daniel Wells returns to the North side this week and he’ll be under pressure to deliver the goods before the season slips away from the Roos. I reckon North will come out firing but so will Port and they have an edge in class at the moment and will record an invalable away victory and keep one step ahead of the pack. Port by 27 points.
Carlton vs. Fremantle Carrara
Close but no Cigar. Both of these clubs would be a bit sick of hearing that. Freo have had a recent history of falling just short of victory and of course the Blues famously missed out on knocking off the reigning premier after Fev’s last shot hit the woodwork. Freo rediscovered their mojo a couple of weeks back against the Swans and they followed it up by a rare come form behind win in the Derby last week. The Blues have been fairly solid for the majority of the season and are a bit unlucky not to be 5-1. Freo will come out firing and hit the Blues hard and they have a good recent record against Carlton. What needs to be considered in this matchup though is that in the last two weeks Freo has lost midfielders to serious injuries with Ryan Crowley joining Rhys Palmer for an extended stint on the sidelines. Against a team with a potent midfield such as Carlton this spells trouble. While you can expect Lurch Sandilands to control the airwaves, once the ball hits the deck the Blues will run the show. Cartlon can get the show back on the road on the road in front of a sparse Gold Coast crowd to remain in the eight. Carlton by 19 points.
Adelaide vs. Western Bulldogs Football Park
A few weeks ago the Crows and the Demons played ring a ring a rosie and generated a few laughs. Meanwhile, in the wild west, the highly rated, undefeated Doggies were getting beaten by the unheralded Eagles. Since then the Dogs and the Crows have struggled to reach the standards set in recent seasons. One of these teams has to remember how to play decent footy this weekend or this season could be over before it really begins. The Dogs are coming off three straight losses and haven’t really clicked at all this season. Their record at Football Park is one win out of the last 11 so it’s not a happy hunting ground for the Pups. The Crows also can’t win at Football Park with four straight losses being racked up on their home turf. The Crows badly need a consistent ruck set up and once again Maric has been recalled to the side. The forward line with Burton, Gill and Hentschell unavailable relies a lot on second year Kurt Tippett and first year player Taylor Walker who is as green as a lettuce rather than cool as a cucuumber at this stage of his career. Too much is being asked of Jason Porplyzia up front and despite the problems at dogland this year, they remain reasonably well organised in defence. The Crows will set a new club record of five straight losses at home as the Dogs get back on the winners list. Western Bulldogs by 18 points.
West Coast vs. Melbourne Subi
Bad luck Bails this one’s in Perth! Based on the football both sides have shown this season, the Dees would be a real show if this game was at the G rather than in WA. The current Melbourne outfit doesn’t have the experience required to win interstate and this has been shown repeatedly with some really dire performances on the road in recent years by Melbourne. The Eagles would be kicking themselves after somehow contriving to lose the Derby last week but they won’t get any bruised legs cos they’d probably miss ha ha. The last game between the sides was the infamous ‘tank’ game that the Eagles lost by 40 odd points but this game will be a better indication of where the two sides sit. The giant figure that looms over this game of course is Dean Cox. Melbourne don’t exactly have the most talented ruck set up going around and the battling Paul Johnson lost the emerging John Meesen as support last week so he’ll be going alone against the league’s best. West Coast will need to be at their best to win this game as the Demons would be encouraged by their strong showing against the Cats and they have really improved this season. But not by enough. West Coast by 13 points.
Collingwood vs. St Kilda The Dome
The cynical ratings grabbing sit on your arse product that is Monday Night Football will be launched in spectacular style by the white hot Saints and the consistently inconsistent Collingwood. Why else would they hold this match at the Dome when these two sides could fill the G? We are being groomed for the future as the AFL gets ready to have more football days than non football days on the TV menu (never mind the standard of the game folks, just put anything on TV!). The future Monday night football fixtures won’t be as appetising as this opener however. The Pies are always at their most dangerous when no one thinks they can win, even Joffa tipped the Saints this week! Friendless and ‘Us against them’ always seems to bring out the best in the Pies. St Kilda for their part haven’t put a halo wrong this season and have pocketed each scalp as it has been offered so far this season and have rarely been tested. The Saints should remain unbeaten as their neddy no name defence has been on fire and the Collingwood forward line is dysfunctional to say the least. Rocca, back in the squad has been all at sea and gets puffed running out to the goalsquare. Travis Cloke can’t get a kick in a streetfight, Alan Didak is missing again and John Anthony is suspended for his head to head contact last week. Throw in the fact that Paul Medhurst isn’t a hundred percent either (and has been attending the Steve Johnson school for acting so it seems) and it’s hard to see the Pies kicking a winning score. St Kilda by 38 points.
Last week: 6