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Footyology’s previews with punch – Round 21

Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell gets a handball away despite being tackled by Geelong captain Joel Selwood in their thriller on Easter Monday. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Footyology’s previews with punch – Round 21

Ronny Lerner    

ESSENDON v ST KILDA (Etihad Stadium, Friday 7.50pm local time)
This game probably would have garnered more interest if the Bombers had kicked one more goal last week against Hawthorn, but as it is, their finals hopes are still mathematically alive so they still have it all to play for. It kicks off a three-week stretch of Friday night games for Essendon, so if they do somehow sneak into the finals, they’re going to do so in a high-profile manner. The way the Dons have been playing for the past three months, St Kilda really shouldn’t provide much of a challenge and if John Worsfold’s men are fair dinkum, a 10-goal win is a realistic aim.
RONNY’S TIP: Essendon by 57 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Essendon by 36 points.

HAWTHORN v GEELONG (MCG, Saturday 1.45pm local time)
This is going to take some beating for match of the round status. Arch rivals, Saturday afternoon, MCG and high stakes – it doesn’t get much better. A win for the Hawks and they could move up to third, while a loss could tip them out of the eight. The Cats are ninth and simply have to win to keep their finals hopes alive and healthy. It’s going to be a cracker. Tom Stewart and Rhys Stanley are huge inclusions for the Cats, who have made five changes in all compared to the Hawks’ one. This game is almost too close to call. It’s hard to get a read on the Cats recently – they’re capable of beating Melbourne and just falling short to Richmond, while they’ve also lost to the Bulldogs and Adelaide. Conversely, the Hawks have won seven of their last nine and are looking a lot more settled. These two sides are more capable than most combinations of teams of producing classics, with three of their last four meetings decided by three points or less. The Cats have the wood over their bitter enemies with four wins from their last five encounters, but the Hawks appear to be in slightly better form.
RONNY’S TIP: Hawthorn by 2 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Hawthorn by 6 points.

GOLD COAST v RICHMOND (Metricon Stadium, Saturday 2.10pm local time)
From one extreme on the interest scale, to the other. This one should have an MA rating because it could get so ugly that it might be wise to prevent the kiddies from watching. Sure, Richmond hasn’t won on the road yet this year, but expect that trend to be bucked in emphatic fashion as the reigning premier has its sights on a very easy kill, in the form of a listless and injury-riddled Gold Coast outfit, to sink their teeth into with finals just around the corner.
RONNY’S TIP: Richmond by 82 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Richmond by 64 points.

PORT ADELAIDE v WEST COAST (Adelaide Oval, Saturday 4.05pm local time)
If you thought Hawthorn v Geelong was hard to tip, things don’t get much easier in the twilight slot with a bumper meeting between seventh and second on the ladder. The Power have to win otherwise they risk falling out of the top eight at the wrong time of the season, while the Eagles will remain in the top two regardless this round. The problem for Port Adelaide, though, is that it is 0-4 against the Eagles at Adelaide Oval. West Coast is considerably weakened without Nic Naitanui (knee), Josh Kennedy (shin) and Andrew Gaff (suspension), so now would be as good a time as any for the Power to break their unique hoodoo. It will also be interesting to see how West Coast reacts following the media storm that was sparked by Gaff breaking Andrew Brayshaw’s jaw. Paddy Ryder could have a huge influence without Naitanui on the park, but the Power just haven’t been as trustworthy in big games in recent times as the Eagles.
RONNY’S TIP: West Coast by 4 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Port Adelaide by 10 points.

COLLINGWOOD v BRISBANE (Etihad Stadium, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
Despite having only four wins for the year, the Lions are certainly no easybeats, as evidenced by their percentage of 90.4. This has all the hallmarks of a banana skin game for the Magpies, who are now all of a sudden in a battle to stay in the finals race. Collingwood has been decimated by injuries and the Pies lose another soldier this week in Darcy Moore (hamstring). Thankfully, they get some respite with the returns of Jordan De Goey and James Aish, but they are still badly depleted and have to be on guard, because if the Lions get their run-and-gun game going, they’re a confidence-based side and are definitely capable of causing a big upset. The Pies should be able to do enough to manage the threat posed by Chris Fagan’s men, but it promises to be an uncomfortable evening for the black-and-white army.
RONNY’S TIP: Collingwood by 16 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Collingwood by 22 points.

GWS v ADELAIDE (Manuka Oval, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
This is another intriguing encounter. Just as the Giants finally looked like they were getting things in order, they get smacked over the head again with the injury stick. This week they lose Toby Greene (hamstring), Brett Deledio (calf), Dawson Simpson (ankle) and Sam Taylor (hamstring). They do, though, have some pretty handy replacements in the form of Dylan Shiel, Tim Taranto, Ryan Griffen and Sam Reid. The Crows didn’t escape unscathed either, with Daniel Talia (leg) and Riley Knight (knee) replaced by Richard Douglas and Kyle Cheney. The Giants are purring with eight wins from their last nine games and, despite their medical room woes, should still be too good for the Crows in their first game at Manuka Oval for 16 years and will all but shut the gate on Adelaide’s finals dream.
RONNY’S TIP: GWS by 25 points.
ROCO’S TIP: GWS by 8 points.

NORTH MELBOURNE v WESTERN BULLDOGS (Etihad Stadium, Sunday 1.10pm local time)
The Bulldogs showed last week that they still some fight left in them with a very impressive come-from-behind win against the Saints. But their opponents this week are a level or two above St Kilda and are fighting for their finals lives. The Kangaroos could very well be a team that misses the finals with 13 or 14 wins, but they can’t think about that now and, in the meantime, have just got to keep on keeping on. However, this week’s assignment might not be as easy as it seems for North with the last three games between the two clubs being decided by three points or less. For some reason, these two teams match up well on each other. Importantly, though, for the Roos, Shaun Higgins returns to face his old side. The Dogs have plenty to play for, despite being out of finals contention, as club stalwart Dale Morris becomes the oldest player in history to reach 250 games, but the Roos, with so much on the line, should get the job done.
RONNY’S TIP: North Melbourne by 34 points.
ROCO’S TIP: North Melbourne by 28 points.

MELBOURNE v SYDNEY (MCG, Sunday 3.20pm local time)
This is another match with huge implications for the top eight, but Melbourne, really, should have no problems in taking care of the Swans. Some might say that the Swans are back following their stirring last-gasp win over Collingwood, but in reality, they needed Lance Franklin to kick half their score and relied on a miracle goal from Tom McCartin to finally overcome a decimated Magpies outfit – not exactly a performance that screams “resurgence”. Prior to that game, Sydney had lost four of five matches and that formline is probably more indicative of how they Swans are travelling at the moment. They do get Dan Hannebery back (although it remains to be seen just how fit he is) and they have to win otherwise there’s a good chance they’ll drop out of the top eight. But the Demons are a much stronger team and have been exceptional in the past five weeks, so it’s hard to see the Swans causing an upset.
RONNY’S TIP: Melbourne by 29 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Melbourne by 18 points.

FREMANTLE v CARLTON (Optus Stadium, 2.40pm local time)
It’s not exactly an ideal way to finish the round, but I guess this game had to go somewhere. If there was a mercy rule in the AFL, Carlton would have been allowed to end its season already following its latest embarrassing performance against GWS, which saw the Blues blown away in the final quarter, despite the Giants being reduced to 16 and 17 men on the field for portions of it, on the way to a second 100-point loss of the season. But they must now travel across the Nullarbor in a bid to somehow avoid another belting. And they might just do it with the vital inclusion of ruckman Matthew Kreuzer. The Dockers lose Stephen Hill to a quad injury and Andrew Brayshaw to a very well-publicised broken jaw, but they really shouldn’t have any issues in dealing with a side whose on-field performances have been reminiscent of Fitzroy in its final year. Freo has won five of its last six against Carlton, and that trend should continue on the weekend.
RONNY’S TIP: Fremantle by 41 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Fremantle by 30 points.


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