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Footyology’s previews with punch – Round 23


Sydney’s Ben Ronke celebrates another of his seven goals when the Swans defeated Hawthorn last time they met in round eight. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Footyology’s previews with punch – Round 23

Ronny Lerner    

PORT ADELAIDE v ESSENDON (Adelaide Oval, Friday 7.20pm local time)
In the words of Lloyd Christmas in “Dumb And Dumber” – “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” Technically, yes, there is a chance for Port Adelaide to still make the finals, but it would not only need to beat Essendon but require lowly Gold Coast to somehow beat Geelong at Kardinia Park. However, while there’s life, there’s hope, and the Power will no doubt play accordingly. The Bombers will be taking Jim Carrey’s character’s famous line to the extreme, as they will need to beat Port by 150 points and the Suns to beat the Cats by 150 points to sneak into the eight. But now we’re being silly. With Charlie Dixon (ankle), Tom Clurey (foot) and now Tom Rockliff (shoulder) sidelined, and Paddy Ryder struggling with a hip flexor issue, the Power have been hit hard. Although Essendon losing Tom Bellchambers (shoulder) might aid Ryder. Sam Powell-Pepper’s return will serve as a boost for the hosts as well. However, Essendon’s strong form has continued unabated since round eight, while Port Adelaide has lost five of its last six. The wheels have fallen off Ken Hinkley’s side, and the Bombers should be able to give Brendon Goddard a fitting send-off in his final game for the club.
RONNY’S TIP: Essendon by 17 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Port Adelaide by 2 points.

GEELONG v GOLD COAST (Kardinia Park, Saturday 1.45pm local time)
The Cats’ 133-point mauling of Fremantle last week at the same venue might serve as a portent of things to come for the Suns this weekend. Geelong only needs to win to secure its spot in the finals, but you get the feeling that another percentage-boosting statement is about to be made. Having booted the final 23 goals of their meeting with Freo, it will be interesting to see how far into this match the Cats’ goalkicking streak will extend. They have delivered the Suns some frightful poundings at The Cattery, including two of their four worst defeats – a 150-point annihilation in 2011 (their heaviest loss in the AFL) and a 120-point shellacking in 2016. It’s hard not to see a similar result occurring this weekend, and the Cats might just try and help their spearhead Tom Hawkins (56) win the Coleman Medal, as he currently trails leader Jack Riewoldt (60) by four goals. Geelong can only finish as high as seventh.
RONNY’S TIP: Geelong by 87 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Geelong by 78 points.

RICHMOND v WESTERN BULLDOGS (MCG, Saturday 2.10pm local time)
The main fascination coming out of this game probably surrounds whether or not Jack Riewoldt can do enough to win a third Coleman Medal. With 60 goals, he holds a slender lead over North Melbourne’s Ben Brown (58), Sydney’s Lance Franklin (57) and Tom Hawkins (56). The Tigers have already sewn up top spot and the Bulldogs can’t make the finals. But Tigers’ coach Damien Hardwick is still trying to work out what his best side looks like ahead of another September assault, and he certainly wasn’t mucking around at the selection table by recalling big guns Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia and David Astbury. When there’s nothing on the line late in the season, funny results can occur, but Richmond is still getting the job done recently even when seemingly in cruise control. A record 21st win in a row at the MCG should be quite attainable for the Tigers this weekend.
RONNY’S TIP: Richmond by 37 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Richmond by 32 points.

FREMANTLE v COLLINGWOOD (Optus Stadium, Saturday 2.35pm local time)
Nothing says “cue in the rack” more than suffering the worst loss in your 24-year history. The Dockers disgraced their jumper against Geelong last weekend as they were outscored by 142 points after quarter-time on the way to the most humiliating defeat the club has ever experienced – and that is saying something for an organisation like Fremantle, which has had its fair share of on-field embarrassments over the years. There’s no fight left in this team this year, and Collingwood heads over to Optus Stadium for the first time chock full of confidence after smashing Port Adelaide despite so many key players missing through injury. The Magpies might be fielding a makeshift backline and eight players with less than 50 games’ experience, but that won’t stop them from taking care of the Dockers and keeping their hopes of a top-two finish, along with two home finals, alive.
RONNY’S TIP: Collingwood by 36 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Collingwood by 28 points.

CARLTON v ADELAIDE (Etihad Stadium, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
Speaking of Lloyd Christmas, Adelaide needs to beat Carlton by 200 points, Gold Coast to beat Geelong by 200 points and Essendon to beat Port Adelaide in order to make the finals. OK, OK, I promise that was the last one. Yes, there’s not much on the line in this one either, although the Blues will be trying to avoid their worst-ever season. Having already claimed their fifth wooden spoon in 17 years, if Carlton (2-19) fails to beat Adelaide, it will be just the third time in the Blues’ history that they win two games in a season – the other two occasions 1897 and 1901. However, another loss against the Crows would see their winning rate (nine per cent) worse than those achieved in 1897 (14) and 1901 (12). All things being equal, the Crows should win comfortably.
RONNY’S TIP: Adelaide by 31 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Adelaide by 36 points.

SYDNEY v HAWTHORN (SCG, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
Easily the match of the round. The script writers couldn’t have staged it better – two of modern footy’s biggest rivals facing off for an all-important double chance. It doesn’t get much better than that. The Swans and Hawks have a habit of producing close games, with their last four matches decided by a total of just 25 points, and there’s a sense of inevitability about another classic in the offing. A curious aspect of this fantastic rivalry is the fact that Hawthorn have beaten the Swans the last three times in Sydney while the Swans have beaten the Hawks three of the last four times in Melbourne. For some reason, the away team is the horse to back in these contests. Question marks hover over Lance Franklin’s fitness, but if he was to play, it would be a huge advantage for the Swans given Hawthorn defender James Frawley (back) is out. Heath Grundy returns for Sydney while captain Jarryd Roughead is back for the Hawks. It promises to go down to the wire, but the Hawks might just be too good in the end.
RONNY’S TIP: Hawthorn by 4 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Sydney by 6 points.

BRISBANE v WEST COAST (Gabba, Sunday 1.10pm local time)
The pressure will certainly be heaped on West Coast if Collingwood and/or Hawthorn win on Saturday because that would mean the Eagles would have to beat Brisbane to secure second spot and the all-important two home finals. But it’s not going to be easy. There’s a whole lot of spunk about this young Brisbane team and they would love nothing more than to put a huge spanner in the Eagles’ works and make them travel to Melbourne in the first week of the finals. The Eagles are still without Josh Kennedy (shin), Nic Naitanui (knee) and Andrew Gaff (suspension), while Lewis Jetta (calf) is out, too. Importantly, they do get Will Schofield back, and in good time, because the Lions have named big Oscar McInerney in their 26-man squad. The Lions are capable of delivering a devastating blow to West Coast’s premiership hopes, but the Eagles really should get the job done if they’re fair dinkum.
RONNY’S TIP: West Coast by 10 points.
ROCO’S TIP: West Coast by 16 points.

MELBOURNE v GWS (MCG, Sunday 3.20pm local time)
The intrigue on Sunday doesn’t end at the Gabba as Melbourne (seventh) plays GWS (sixth) for the right to host an elimination final in the first week. And in the unlikely event that Freo beats Collingwood, both teams will be playing for a top four spot. So this match could have even bigger stakes attached to it. The Dees are riding high after finally breaking their 12-year finals drought and they come up against a Giants outfit still battling injury concerns. While Josh Kelly, Sam Reid and Zac Williams have all been named in their squad, 10 of their best players are still missing, while Phil Davis (hip) is hoping to be fit. Williams, one of Greater Western Sydney’s most important players, hasn’t played all year after rupturing his achilles tendon in the pre-season, so it’s great to see him back. GWS still has a poor record at the MCG, with two wins from 13 attempts, and Melbourne should be able to continue that trend.
RONNY’S TIP: Melbourne by 9 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Melbourne by 10 points.

ST KILDA v NORTH MELBOURNE (Etihad Stadium, Sunday 4.40pm local time)
I’m not going to say it… I made a promise earlier, and I’m sticking to it… North Melbourne cannot make the finals. Now that’s out of the way, the end of the home-and-away season promises to be a bit of a fizzer with two out-of-contention sides doing battle. Like the Richmond-Bulldogs game, most of the interest surrounds the Coleman Medal race. Unlike Riewoldt, Franklin and Hawkins, Brown will actually know exactly how many goals he will need to kick to claim the coveted award. The Saints regain Jake Carlisle while the Kangas have recalled Paul Ahern. St Kilda really pushed the Hawks last week, but its form line is way too inconsistent. The Kangas haven’t had a great second half of the year, but probably have too much talent for the Saints.
RONNY’S TIP: North Melbourne by 21 points.
ROCO’S TIP: North Melbourne by 26 points.

RONNY’S SEASON TOTAL: 138
ROCO’S SEASON TOTAL: 120

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