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Previews with punch – Round 20

Taylor Walker is triumphant as Adelaide seals the deal in the Crows’ round three “Showdown” win over Port Adelaide. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Previews with punch – Round 20

GEELONG v SYDNEY (Simonds Stadium, Friday 7.50pm local time)
The Cats have won an incredible 66 of their past 72 games at home over 10 seasons. Two of just half-a-dozen losses in that time, though, have come against the Swans, including the most recent, in round 16 last year. No Dangerfield stings the home, side, too, though that has been offset somewhat now with the Swans’ loss of Kennedy. Some important names return for the visitors, Tippet replacing the injured Naismith in the ruck, Reid handy up forward and Lloyd and Rohan offering a bit of spark. A critical result looming, Geelong desperate for a home final, Sydney desperate simply to stay in the eight. And I reckon the Swans can pull off a rare win at the Cattery once again.
TIP: Sydney by 2 points.

GWS v MELBOURNE (Manuka Oval, Saturday 1.45 local time)
The “ins” are impressive for both teams here, three big guns for the Giants in Mumford, Johnson and, finally, Deledio for his first appearance. A considerable “out”, too in the shape of Cameron. For the Demons, co-skipper Jones and Vince make a big difference to midfield stocks, though they too lose a gun key forward in Hogan. Despite their talent, the Giants continue not to impress overly, two wins from seven games now, the game style more static and less potent than it was last season. But inconsistency is hurting Melbourne as well, the Demons going win-loss for the past six weeks and in danger of slipping out of the eight altogether with another defeat. Who will click first? You’d think, given the roll call of talent, more likely GWS.
TIP: GWS by 22 points.

ESSENDON v CARLTON (MCG, Saturday 2.10pm local time)
“No matter where they are on the ladder”. It’s one of the biggest clichés about traditional rivals, but it’s often proved true in the case of the Blues and Bombers. So forgive the Dons some trepidation about what recent form suggests should be a win after three wins on end and a loss to the pumped up Bulldogs, while Carlton has lot half-a-dozen on the trot. The Blues have lost some youthful spark, too, McKay, Cunningham and Williamson all victims of injury or illness. Ambrose is a welcome return to an Essendon backline which has looked increasingly vulnerable of late and small forward Green potentially important in what seem likely to be wet conditions. Similar conditions existed when the Blues got up in the first clash this year, but if Essendon is serious about finals, this is simply a must-win.
TIP: Essendon by 8 points.

BRISBANE v WESTERN BULLDOGS (Gabba, Saturday 4.35pm local time)
Back in town? Well, the Bulldogs are certainly approaching the outskirts after three wins in a row and arguably their most complete performance of the season against Essendon last week. The contested ball and clearance numbers are on the rise again, and there was a lot more efficiency going forward against the Bombers, too. Brisbane has gradually improved over the course of the season, but was never in the hunt in Perth last week. Some handy returns for the Lions this week in Zorko, Hipwood, McCluggage, Berry and McStay should at least have them more competitive on home turf. But the Dogs have worked too hard over the last month to chuck it all away now. And this should serve as a confidence-booster for bigger battles ahead.
TIP: Western Bulldogs by 32 points.

FREMANTLE v GOLD COAST (Domain Stadium, Saturday 5.40pm local time)
Some games are real stand-outs in round 20. This isn’t one of them, two disappointing sides well and truly out of the running and sizeable shake-ups to senior lists looming as a result. The Dockers had a real crack at least against GWS last week, but the bottom line is still eight losses from their last nine games. It’s six out of seven defeats for the Suns, meanwhile, and a stack of changes at selection. At least Ablett and May are back in the saddle for what remains, despite the opposition, for a Queensland team the toughest of road trips. For Freo, Griffin and Danyle Pearce return. And at this stage, both would need super performances to hang on their list spots next year. That’s some motivation in a game which, to be frank, has very little to recommend it.
TIP: Fremantle by 26 points.

NORTH MELB v COLLINGWOOD (Etihad Stadium, Saturday 7.25 local time)
Here’s two more sides out of the running, though unlike the preceding game, the Roos and Pies at least are coming into their clash with a bit of recent encouragement, North’s win in Hobart over Melbourne a gritty effort reversing seven straight losses, Collingwood unlucky to emerge with only a draw against the ladder leader Adelaide last Sunday. The Pies were impressive racking up at one stage a 50-point lead against the Crows, hence an unchanged line-up. North returns to the well with ruckman Goldstein, his tandem with Preuss perhaps a pointer to some big list decisions for the Roos approaching. Collingwood doesn’t inspire confidence at Etihad, where the Pies have lost seven of their past nine. I can see that becoming eight from 10 by late Saturday evening.
TIP: North Melbourne by 16 points.

ST KILDA v WEST COAST (Etihad Stadium, Sunday 1.10pm local time)
‘Tis the season for “eight-point games”, and this one is as obvious an example as any. St Kilda is a game outside the eight and behind a queue comprising four teams one win to the good and another in Essendon with a significant percentage advantage. Indeed, the Saints’ poor percentage is at this stage as good as another game’s gap. Which makes victory over West Coast, one of those teams in the queue, essential. St Kilda is still smarting from having thrown away victory against Port in an incredibly costly last 90 seconds. The Eagles were good enough in a routine home win over Brisbane, but as a form guide that result means little. What happens here? Well, Etihad isn’t the landmine that the MCG has proved for West Coast, 2-2 there this season. They need the win just as badly. I’ve a hunch they might get it.
TIP: West Coast by 6 points.

RICHMOND v HAWTHORN (MCG, Sunday 3.20pm local time)
It’s been some revival by the Hawks from the early-season wreckage, so effective they’re still the slimmest of finals chances, the kids making progress and the likes of Gunston, Sicily and Duryea cast in new roles. Richmond, meanwhile, has continued to prove among the most consistent of performers this season, a one-game buffer in the top four the reward. But the Tigers regularly proved a thorn in Hawthorn’s side during the Hawks’ glory years, and the opportunity for a role reversal won’t be lost on coach Alastair Clarkson this time. Structurally, the Tigers have their challenges, still no Riewoldt and as a result, a Lilliputian forward set up. But they’ve found a way all season despite the naysayers. Why can’t they again?
TIP: Richmond by 4 points.

ADELAIDE v PORT ADELAIDE (Adelaide Oval, Sunday 4.10pm local time)
Adelaide did little to appease the cynics falling 50 points behind Collingwood last week, but the Crows’ comeback to snatch a draw is worthy of at least some praise. Indeed, the 43rd “Showdown” brings together two teams having perhaps got out of jail. Adelaide is entitled to go into this one confident, a win as good as wrapping up a top-two spot, the confidence of four straight wins over the Power, and big returns in Betts, Lever and Brad Crouch. Not that Port doesn’t have plenty to play for, the Power ready to pounce on a top-four spot should Richmond stumble. These games are generally tight, in fact, seven of the last nine meetings have been decided by four goals or less. Every chance this one will be, too. But I see a similar result, an Adelaide win.
TIP: Adelaide by 12 points.

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