This week sees the finals race really kick into gear as the middle order jostle for position and a prized spot in the eight while four teams compete for a final spot in a top four that otherwise seems a foregone conclusion.
Win, lose or draw Sydney will retain their spot in the top four after round 15 but they must beat Hawthorn at home to remain a handy six points clear of the fifth placed Collingwood Magpies.
On Sunday the Magpies play host to the out of form Adelaide Crows in a match-up that has become notorious for hard fought, nail biting finishes. Collingwood arrested fifth spot from the Crows last week with a convincing win over Sydney. The Crows are looking to get their finals campaign back on track after last weeks thumping by Geelong. Fortunately for Adelaide eighth placed St Kilda play ninth place Carlton meaning even if they lose to Collingwood they will remain in the eight.
In a season defining clash, the Saints from St. Kilda return to the MCG to face a rejuvenated Carlton Blues. Carlton has lost their last three games to St. Kilda by an average margin of 30 points. Even more astounding is the fact Carlton has won a staggering 156 out of the 203 games head to head but has not beaten St. Kilda in their last 10 encounters.
Two weeks ago the Brisbane Lions would have penciled in the four points from this rounds match-up with the lowly placed Essendon. However, after a stunning one-point loss cellar-dwellers Melbourne two weeks ago, the Lions teeter on the edge of the eight and another upset here will leave their finals campaign on extremely shaky ground.
The round’s other three games carry little weight in terms of the top eight but offer some good value for punters never the less. The luckless Richmond Tigers travel to Perth to face a woeful West Coast Eagles who lost at home to Essendon two weeks ago. Punters will be lucky to get the same value this week but the Eagles are likely to start slight favorites at around $1.70 to Richmond’s $1.95.
For a side that showed plenty of promise in early 2008, the North Melbourne club is not playing for a spot in the top eight for the first time in about three months. Club Stalwart and 300 game hopeful Shannon Grant is suspended for misconduct adding to the Kangaroos list of woes. Having slipped to 10th on the ladder, they sit two points behind Carlton and St Kilda and can only sneak back into the eight if they beat Port Adelaide by over a hundred points and the Blues and Saints draw. There’s about as much chance of that happening as a Fremantle V West Coast Grand Final.
Lastly Fremantle face the unenviable task of traveling to skilled stadium to take on the mighty Geelong Cats. Geelong sits alone at the top of the table with an unbelievable percentage of 147.43, having beaten Adelaide by 60 points last week and West Coast by 130 odd the week before. Punters will be lucky to even get their money back on Geelong – this one is a no-brainer.
By Andy Morris of Betfair