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Footyology’s previews with punch – Round 22

Melbourne’s Tom McDonald kicks the winning goal in the Demons’ big win over West Coast in Perth last season. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Footyology’s previews with punch – Round 22

Ronny Lerner    

RICHMOND v ESSENDON (MCG, Friday 7.50pm local time)
Twenty-four hours ago, this game seemed destined to be another regulation victory for the Tigers. But all of a sudden, a massive spanner has been thrown in the works with Richmond stars Trent Cotchin (hamstring), Dion Prestia (hamstring), David Astbury (Achilles) and Kane Lambert (ankle) all making way while Dan Butler (ankle) remains sidelined. Richmond do regain Reece Conca and Toby Nankervis, but this is the most vulnerable they have looked in the past two seasons. The Tigers have had such a blessed run with injury, it will be interesting to see how they finally go without a fair chunk of their best 22. The Bombers, despite losing Orazio Fantasia (hamstring), might just have a sniff of ending Richmond’s record-breaking 19-game winning streak at the MCG. But in order to do so, Cale Hooker (knee), Brendon Goddard (knee) and Adam Saad (neck) will all have to play after being under injury clouds during the week. Another thing in the Bombers’ favour is the fact that Richmond have already sewn up a top two spot because four of the last five times a team has played with a home final already secured, they have lost. The Bombers have to win to keep their faint finals hope alive and if the aforementioned trio line up, they might just do the job.
RONNY’S TIP: Essendon by 3 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Essendon by 2 points.

COLLINGWOOD v PORT ADELAIDE (MCG, Saturday 1.45pm local time)
After a pair of consecutive heartbreaking losses by a combined total of seven points, September has come early for Port Adelaide. Their bona fides as a finals team well and truly go on the line this weekend and they’re up against it with Charlie Dixon (ankle) ruled out for the rest of the year and Paddy Ryder (hip flexor) in doubt. Tom Clurey (foot) is also a big loss for their defensive structure. The Power are teetering in eighth spot and a loss to Collingwood will almost certainly see them drop out of the eight and face a cut-throat match against Essendon next week. Collingwood are also decimated by injury, and have been for most of 2018, but have displayed a remarkable ability to cope. And with Jordan De Goey back in the line-up, the Magpies looked so much better last week and he is sure to cause many headaches for the Power’s backline. The Magpies have plenty to play for as well with their place in the finals not 100 percent guaranteed either. Port Adelaide do have in their favour a very good recent record against the Pies with six wins from their last seven meetings, including three of their last four at the MCG. However, Collingwood are a more reliable team at the moment and should get the job done.
RONNY’S TIP: Collingwood by 17 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Collingwood by 26 points.

GEELONG v FREMANTLE (Kardinia Park, Saturday 2.10pm local time)
Geelong might have slipped out of the top eight in recent weeks, but the equation for them to all but qualify for the finals is simple – beat strugglers Fremantle and Gold Coast at home in the next two weeks. And, really, they should do so with minimum fuss. It’s interesting to note that so late in the season, coach Chris Scott is still trying to find his best 22 with three of their four omissions this week unforced. The loss of in-form ruckman Rhys Stanley (calf) is a blow, but they do get Harry Taylor back. It’ll be interesting to see which part of the ground Taylor plays in. Nat Fyfe makes his long-awaited return for the Dockers, which will no doubt give them a much-needed lift, and Michael Walters (hamstring) looks set to play too. For some reason, Freo plays Kardinia Park very well, having won two of their last four games there, with the losses both being by two points. And, of course, the venue played host to arguably the club’s greatest ever win in the 2013 qualifying final. But the Cats have been impressive in the past fortnight, despite falling short each time, and should be good enough to win.
RONNY’S TIP: Geelong by 23 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Geelong by 30 points.

GWS v SYDNEY (Spotless Stadium, Saturday 4.35pm local time)
Sydney Derby XV will double as another top-eight blockbuster with both the Giants and Swans desperate to keep their top-four hopes alive. Two weeks ago few would have hesitated in picking GWS in this one, but in the space of just a few games, the expansion club’s finals preparations have once again been thrown into disarray with Josh Kelly (concussion), Toby Greene (hamstring), Heath Shaw (knee), Brett Deledio (calf), Dawson Simpson (ankle), Sam Reid (hamstring) and Sam Taylor (hamstring) all falling by the wayside. And let’s not forget that Tom Scully (ankle), Jon Patton (knee), Aidan Corr (groin) and Matt De Boer (hamstring) were already sidelined. The Giants have been whacked by the injury stick and it will take a huge effort for them to continue on their winning ways. Things have evened right up as a result and although the Swans lost Nick Smith (hamstring) and Alex Johnson (knee) last week, to add to the losses of Callum Mills (foot), Sam Reid (Achilles), Sam Naismith (knee), Lewis Melican (hamstring) and Gary Rohan (hand), they are in this game up to their eyeballs. Zak Jones returns which also helps their cause. After looking dead and buried a couple of weeks ago, the Swans wound back the clock against Melbourne to reinvigorate their season. Was that performance a one-off or can it be replicated? It may not be sustainable in the long run, but this week the Swans should be good enough to make it three wins in a row and take a commanding 11-4 lead in the head-to-head.
RONNY’S TIP: Sydney by 10 points.
ROCO’S TIP: GWS by 8 points.

GOLD COAST v BRISBANE (Metricon Stadium, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
Well, this game was firmly entrenched in the ‘Who Cares?’ basket for most of this week, and it probably still is to be fair, but at least Brisbane hard nut Nick Robertson has done his best to add some interest in Q-Clash 16 by describing his local rival as ‘soft’ on radio. That comment could be enough to extract the competitive juices out of the Suns which have been missing for the vast majority of this season. Michael Barlow finally returns for just his second game of the year, after consistently racking up huge numbers in the NEAFL and overcoming injury, for what promises to be one of his final games at the club and, probably, at AFL level. The two teams might only be separated by percentage on the ladder, but the Lions are clearly a better outfit and should notch their 10th win against the Suns.
RONNY’S TIP: Brisbane by 22 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Brisbane by 36 points.

ST KILDA v HAWTHORN (Etihad Stadium, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
The season really cannot end quickly enough for the Saints. They put in another ordinary effort against a badly undermanned Essendon last week and it’s virtually impossible to see how they can put up any meaningful resistance against the red-hot Hawks who have won eight of their last 10 games and are charging towards yet another top-four finish. Just a few weeks after Nathan Freeman made his long-awaited debut for the Saints, Hugh Goddard will make a similarly inspirational return to senior ranks after two-and-a-half years on the sidelines. Freeman, incidentally, has been dropped this week. But Goddard’s selection aside, there isn’t a whole lot to look forward to for the St Kilda faithful. The Hawks are sharp, single-minded and, with the return of star ruckman Ben McEvoy, will send the Saints into the bottom three on the ladder.
RONNY’S TIP: Hawthorn by 47 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Hawthorn by 42 points.

CARLTON v WESTERN BULLDOGS (Etihad Stadium, Sunday 1.10pm local time)
When a game has no bearing on the final eight, it’s tough to get excited about it. And this game is no exception as two teams sitting in the bottom five with nine wins between them lock horns. If the Bulldogs produce anywhere near the kind of footy they’ve displayed in the last couple of weeks against St Kilda and North Melbourne, the Blues are absolutely no hope. Carlton were impressive for a half against Freo last week, but with Easton Wood back for the Dogs, Brendon Bolton’s side can expect to officially claim the wooden spoon – the club’s fifth in 17 years.
RONNY’S TIP: Western Bulldogs by 35 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Western Bulldogs by 22 points.

WEST COAST v MELBOURNE (Optus Stadium, Sunday 1.20pm local time)
Arguably the match of the round, this contest promises to be an absolute ripsnorter. In one corner we have the Eagles who are out to secure a top two spot and a pair of home finals, in the other we have the Demons who are seventh and battling to stay in the finals race. The Dees shot themselves in the foot last week as poor goalkicking led to an upset loss to the Swans. Compounding things was the loss of Jesse Hogan to a season-ending foot injury. But they do get Michael Hibberd and Jake Melksham back from injury and it’s not as if West Coast are at full strength with Nic Naitanui (knee), Josh Kennedy (shin), Andrew Gaff (suspension) and Will Schofield (hamstring) all missing. Crunch time has come for the Dees – they must beat the Eagles or GWS in the final round otherwise their finals drought will extend into a 13th season next year. Melbourne have actually been very good on the road this year with four wins and losses to Port Adelaide and Geelong – two games that they really should’ve won. Don’t forget, the Dees beat the Eagles in Perth last year, too. It’s for those reasons, and the fact that they have so much more to play for, that Melbourne might actually emerge victorious.
RONNY’S TIP: Melbourne by 2 points.
ROCO’S TIP: West Coast by 16 points.

ADELAIDE v NORTH MELBOURNE (Adelaide Oval, Sunday 4.10pm local time)
The round finishes off with another mouth-watering match that has huge top-eight implications. The Crows might be out of finals contention, but they’re not going to go down without a fight. They delivered a massive blow to Port Adelaide’s finals chances a couple of weeks ago and they would be only too happy to repeat the dose for the Kangas this week. And with Riley Knight, Jake Kelly, Paul Seedsman and Mitch McGovern all named in their squad, Adelaide clearly means business. The Kangas must be wondering how they’re not at least ninth, and possibly eight, on the ladder after they blew a five-goal lead against the Dogs last week on the way to suffering a disastrous seven-point loss. That result might ultimately prove to be a fatal blow, but North are still alive and have to win their last two games to stay in the finals hunt. But the Kangas’ form seems to be on a downward curve in the last month or so while the Crows are tracking in the opposite direction. They might be missing Taylor Walker (suspension), but Adelaide should get it done at home.
RONNY’S TIP: Adelaide by 15 points.
ROCO’S TIP: North Melbourne by 10 points.


1 Comment
  1. I’d like to question the loose interpretation of what has become an acceptable hand-ball.

    The rule book simply states that a handball is “the act of holding the football in one hand and disposing of the
    football by hitting it with the clenched fist of the other hand”.

    I had always understood that the hand holding the ball was in no way to be used to assist the flight of the ball. This meant that whenever an umpire saw a ball being delivered to the exterior of the punching hand (e.g. a right fist punch going to the right-hand side of the player’s body), he immediately called throwing the ball, deeming that the flight of the ball must have been assisted by the holding hand.

    What’s more, the illegal sweeping action of the holding hand has become so prevalent that sometimes I think I’m watching rugby.

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