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Previews with punch – Round 23

The spoilers: West Coast’s shock win over Adelaide in the same round last year cost the Crows a double chance. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Previews with punch – Round 23

Rohan Connolly    

HAWTHORN v WESTERN BULLDOGS (Etihad Stadium, Friday 7.50pm local time)
The Bulldogs’ memorable 23-point win over the Hawks in last year’s semi-final was their first in nine attempts. Unlike last September, though, this time the material stakes are high for only one team. It’s not as though there isn’t sufficient motivation for Hawthorn, however, in Luke Hodge’s final AFL game. Coincidentally, Hawthorn was the last reigning premier to miss out on finals the following year, exactly the fate that awaits the Dogs if they can’t get up here and hope all of Essendon, West Coast and St Kilda go under. Hawthorn was flat against Carlton last week, the Dogs not terrible, but in the end out-gunned by Port Adelaide. Now it’s last-chance saloon time. I’m tipping they can at least give themselves a chance of some finals action.
TIP: Western Bulldogs by 28 points.

COLLINGWOOD v MELBOURNE (MCG, Saturday 1.45pm local time)
There’s a significant milestone looming for either club here. For the Demons, it’s the chance to lock in a first finals appearance since 2006. For Collingwood, it’s about avoiding their least number of wins and lowest ladder finish since 2005. Not quite as alluring, but the Magpie camp have been quietly confident this week about throwing a sizeable spanner in the Melbourne works. If they care as much for a coach on the edge as much as they profess, the Pies could do Nathan Buckley a big favour, too. The Demons will certainly need to play a lot better than they have the last couple of weeks against St Kilda and Brisbane given Collingwood’s recent competitiveness even in their last two defeats against top eight teams. But much progress has been made under Simon Goodwin. Surely the Dees won’t throw it all away now.
TIP: Melbourne by 16 points.

BRISBANE v NORTH MELBOURNE (Gabba, Saturday 2.10pm local time)
Wooden spoons don’t seem to carry the same stigma they used to for a number of reasons, but in the case of this “playoff” of the bottom two teams, it’s because neither the Lions nor Roos are actually all that bad, and during the course of the season have both found plenty of positives to build upon. That doesn’t mean North’s 10 losses in 11 games has been easy to swallow despite a comprehensive rebuild, though, and nor would be a first wooden spoon since 1972. It’s Brisbane which will have the sunnier disposition about the finish to 2017 with four wins in the back half of the year and having also pushed the Bulldogs and Melbourne close. The Roos have their share of injuries, too, and seem to have run out of steam in recent weeks. It’s the home side, just, for me.
TIP: Brisbane by 2 points.

SYDNEY v CARLTON (SCG, Saturday 4.35pm local time)
It’s been a remarkable comeback from the Swans this season, their lowest ebb the last time they met the Blues, after which they were 0-6 and finals, let alone the minor chance of a top four spot, seemed a pipedream. Wins in 13 of 15 games since have completely changed the complexion of this season, and even a top four berth, given the week off and Sydney’s experience, isn’t essential for the Swans to give this flag a very serious shake. Carlton’s good win last week, meanwhile, should have settled some pretty restless natives after eight straight losses. No, they don’t score enough, but coach Brendon Bolton has instilled some pretty good defensive habits which can be built upon from here with plenty of good young talent steering the ship. That said, the Swans need to continue momentum, and it’s at home. That equals a win.
TIP: Sydney by 42 points.

GEELONG v GWS (Simonds Stadium, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
At stake here is a home final, which in the case of both teams, particularly if the Cats are allowed to play theirs at this same venue, would be a massive advantage. These two couldn’t be split when they last met in round 15, and there’s important additions to the mix for both this time, suspended pair Hawkins and Duncan now both back in harness for Geelong, and Johnson returning for the Giants against his old side. The Giants have only played at Simonds twice previously, but almost got over the line last time. They’ve quietly built a head of steam lately, too, with four wins in a row, though last week’s over West Coast wasn’t nearly as impressive as the previous couple. Similar largesse against the Cats could be costly indeed, given Geelong’s capacity in the past couple of weeks to grind it out, even undermanned. Don’t discount the possibility of another draw here, but I’m going for the Giants in a flip of the coin.
TIP: GWS by 8 points.

PORT ADELAIDE v GOLD COAST (Adelaide Oval, Saturday 7.10pm local time)
This could get really messy. Port is at home, needing to win to have any remaining chance of a top four spot, and the “Showdown” debacle a few weeks back aside, the Power have been in pretty good form of late. Gold Coast has won one of its last 10, has a caretaker coach, is 2-9 on the road this season, and its champion Ablett is again absent, with the increasing likelihood he’s already played his last game for the Suns. If they hadn’t already thrown in the towel, there’s certainly not much encouragement for Gold Coast to bust a gut to win. For Port, Hombsch can comfortably fill the boots of suspended key defender Jonas. And as well as the likelihood of a home elimination final, this is also a good opportunity for the Power to build some real confidence.
TIP: Port Adelaide by 54 points.

ESSENDON v FREMANTLE (Etihad Stadium, Sunday 1.10pm local time)
You’ll have trouble convincing many anxious Essendon supporters that this game, in which victory by a reasonable amount as good as guarantees the Dons a finals spot, is the “gimme” logic suggests it should be. But really, if they can’t beat – at home – a side apparently having already as good as checked out of season 2017 with two 104-point losses in a row, they don’t deserve to be there anyway. Essendon is hardly setting the world on fire lately, the tally since a round 17 pasting of St Kilda two losses and three pretty scrappy wins against three teams all in the bottom four on the ladder. There’s some big selection decisions to be made, though you’d think fans will tear the place down if retiring champ Jobe Watson isn’t picked to play. And while the Dons have struggled against a succession of ordinary opponents this season, this one surely, will be approached with a lot more intensity.
TIP: Essendon by 32 points.

RICHMOND v ST KILDA (MCG, Sunday 3.20pm local time)
Richmond supporters are already nervous about what this finals campaign may bring. They’ll be a lot more nervous still if the Tigers drop this one and end up in their fourth elimination final in five years, bearing in mind what happened in the previous three. They face an opponent still with an outside chance of finals itself, though the Saints will also need Essendon and West Coast to lose, and perhaps the Bulldogs as well. For Tiger fans, memory of that round 16 shellacking at the hands of the Saints is too recent for comfort. But fortunately, that’s also about the last time St Kilda played near its best. That night and Adelaide early in the season are the only times Richmond has lost by any more than 14 points. There’s a consistency of effort about the Tigers this season that should finally be enough to translate into a double chance.
TIP: Richmond by 20 points.

WEST COAST v ADELAIDE (Domain Stadium, 2.40pm local time)
If you’re a Crows fan who believes in omens, you’d be rightly toey about this final round clash in Perth, given last year, even at home, Adelaide in the equivalent game managed to blow second spot and a double chance with a loss to West Coast. The Eagles are hardly short of incentive, either, a big enough win here perhaps enough to give them 11th hour entry to the final eight. Consistency and resilience have been season-long issues for the home side, however. They’ve lost six games by 11 points or less, and they’ve waxed wins with losses now for 10 games straight. That sequence would suggest a win here, but that isn’t taking into account a team on top of the ladder, coming off a rare loss last week, and wanting a decent hit-out before the week’s break. That spells an Adelaide win for me.
TIP: Adelaide by 12 points.

1 Comment
  1. A further motivation may for the Eagles is it is the last ever game at Subiaco oval and is Priddis’ and Mitchell’s last games.

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