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Previews with punch – Round 22


Collingwood’s Adam Treloar puts the heat on Geelong’s Tom Lonergan during the Magpies’ win over the Cats at the MCG in round six. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Previews with punch – Round 22

By ROHAN CONNOLLY

ADELAIDE v SYDNEY (Adelaide Oval, Friday 7.20pm local time)
Potential grand final preview? Why not? Adelaide have played the best standard of football any team has reached this year, and after a horrendous 0-6 start, Sydney the most consistent, with 12 wins now from their past 14 games. No changes for the Crows after efficiently dispatching Essendon, Walker and Sloane both passed fit despite injury concerns, and the one change for the Swans is a great “in”, skipper Kennedy back in the fray. Sydney has five wins from six against an opponent it seems to match up well against. The Swans are good on the road, too, It’s the midfield clinches will probably decide it. I reckon Adelaide can at least break even there, and perhaps make better use of that produce on the scoreboard. But only just.
TIP: Adelaide by 2 points.

WESTERN BULLDOGS v PORT ADELAIDE (Mars Stadium Ballarat, Saturday 1.45pm local time)
Premiership points on the line on what is likely to be a wet and freezing cold afternoon in regional Victoria. It’s certainly novel, but logistically a potential complication both sides could probably do without right now with so much at stake. For the Bulldogs, the chances of becoming only the second defending premier in nearly 20 years to miss the following finals series are very real. Port, meanwhile, could blow any chance of a top four berth with a loss. The Dogs look a lot better for the return of Johannisen and Morris, while the Power have taken a punt on a debutant in Marshall. Redpath’s suspension puts more onus on Cloke for goalkicking duties, and conversion may well be the difference after a very sloppy 7.15 last week. This is likely to be a grind, but I think the Dogs may just find enough left in the tank.
TIP: Western Bulldogs by 18 points.

COLLINGWOOD v GEELONG (MCG, Saturday 2.10pm local time)
Geelong have won just two out of eight games against Collingwood at this ground since their 2011 premiership win over the Pies, and were upset again by 29 points back in round six. That adds an element of uncertainty to a game that ladder positions say theoretically should be a comfortable win to the Cats. There’s a couple of big names still missing, too, in skipper Selwood and key forward Hawkins, though Duncan makes a welcome return. Injuries inhibit Collingwood as well though, no Pendlebury, Grundy nor important small forward Fasolo or the class of De Goey for this clash. At least Pie fans will get a warm glow seeing the name Daicos out there again as young Josh makes his long-awaited debut. But Geelong needs not only to continue the momentum of last week, but shore up a top-four spot. That should be motivation enough.
TIP: Geelong by 10 points.

GWS v WEST COAST (Spotless Stadium, Saturday 4.35pm local time)
There’s been something pretty ominous about the Giants over the past fortnight in good wins over Melbourne and the Bulldogs, a harder-nosed approach backing up the already obvious stocks of talent, and the talls up forward looking dangerous and now with Cameron back in harness to join them, Mumford’s return to the ruck allowing Lobb more forward time. The Eagles continue not to impress anyone overly, meanwhile, struggling to shrug Carlton last week, and having waxed wins with losses now for nine weeks on end. Barrass’s return gives West Coast a better chance of dealing with the GWS strike power, and the Eagles did pinch the equivalent clash last year right at the death, that though assisted by the long-absent Naitanui. West Coast would have to find something they haven’t shown all season to do it again. It seems unlikely.
TIP: GWS by 26 points.

GOLD COAST v ESSENDON (Metricon Stadium, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
Eight losses from nine games, the sacking of a coach and a 10-goal hiding to the bottom team on the ladder all doesn’t add up to much of a sense the Suns can cause a boil over here and as good as end Essendon’s finals hopes. Then again, the Bombers have lost two of three and the win was a real get-out-of-jail job against the hardly threatening Carlton. In order to find something, both sides have certainly rung the changes this week, half-a-dozen alterations each, Begley a debutant for the Dons, Bird finally rewarded for strong VFL form and ruckman Bellchambers again trading places with the injured Leuenberger, key defender Hurley clearly the biggest loss, however. The Suns waved the white flag again last week after holding a 21-point quarter-time lead. Essendon is chasing a finals spot. If the Dons are serious, they should win this by plenty.
TIP: Essendon by 20 points.

CARLTON v HAWTHORN (Etihad Stadium, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
Hawthorn’s 14 straight wins over the Blues stretching back to 2005 is the AFL’s second-longest current winning streak, Luke Hodge and Kade Simpson the only two players in this meeting who’ve been involved in a Carlton win over the Hawks. Is that about to change? Probably not. Though these teams are out of the finals mix, Hawthorn’s form has been pretty solid for the past two months, just two losses in their last eight games. Carlton were handy against the Eagles last week and Essendon the week before, but the bottom line still reads eight consecutive defeats. The Hawks field their strongest line-up for a while this time, too, with O’Meara and Puopolo returning to the fray. That would seem to spell win No. 15 on the trot against the Blues.
TIP: Hawthorn by 28 points.

MELBOURNE v BRISBANE (MCG, Sunday 1.10pm local time)
A first finals appearance since 2006 looms tantalisingly close for Melbourne, and wins over Brisbane and Collingwood next week will do the job. Co-skipper Viney is a considerable loss, but then spearhead Hogan’s return offsets it nicely. Complacency has caught the Demons out before, though, and while Brisbane looks a likely wooden spooner, the Lions’ back half of the season has been full of promise, last week’s second-half rout of Gold Coast their biggest win of the year. That said, the MCG isn’t a familiar or happy hunting ground for the visitors. They’ve played just four games there in the past three seasons, and won only two of their last 16 games there. If the Demons are fair dinkum, this won’t be any different.
TIP: Melbourne by 32 points.

ST KILDA v NORTH MELBOURNE (Etihad Stadium, Sunday 3.20pm local time)
St Kilda still holds the slimmest of finals hopes, but the hard truth is the Saints’ form ever since they belted Richmond in round 16 has hardly warranted such rewards, just one narrow home win over West Coast and four defeats the sorry tale. North Melbourne has never really been in the race, though with five losses by an aggregate of just 14 points, it could easily have been a different story. Each side has a considerable return this week, Riewoldt for the Saints, skipper Ziebell for the Roos. North would also take some comfort in a decent run against St Kilda of late, the Saints’ round 13 win their first over the Roos since 2011. But the Saints remain the better-equipped team. Their midfield has been a major disappointment. This is a good opportunity for that group in particular to redeem itself.
TIP: St Kilda by 16 points.

FREMANTLE v RICHMOND (Domain Stadium, Sunday 2.40pm local time)
Finals have long been out of the equation for Freo, but this game is important for two reasons. It’s the Dockers’ last at Subiaco, and it’s an opportunity to show last week’s 104-point humiliation at the hands of Sydney was an aberration, not the norm. Bennell finally makes his Docker debut, too, after nearly two years on the sidelines. Even that’s not on the same scale as what this means for Richmond, though, the Tigers needing to win their remaining two games to hang on to a double chance. They disappointed last week against a weakened Geelong, and the loss of the injured Caddy is a blow to an already undersized forward set-up. But Richmond has had a habit of finding something at the right time this season. I reckon they can again.
TIP: Richmond by 30 points.

1 Comment
  1. Rohan love this new site. More articles please.

    I’m a huge swannies fan and I’m hoping for a repeat of the 2012 Qual final tonight where we had the Crows measure the entire game (and LRT had a swingman blinder on Tippett).

    Do the Swans go to flag fancies with a win tonight? Especially if Richmond get upset this weekend or next and we sneak into the Top 4.

    Lastly is there anyone the Giants would not want to play in the finals? They are looking a bit scary. Every team seems to have a bogey side but not them. Interested to hear your thoughts.

    Cheers

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