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Previews with punch – Round 5

Essendon and Collingwood run through a joint banner together on Anzac Day in 2017. The Bombers won last year’s clash by 18 points. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Previews with punch – Round 5

Ronny Lerner    

SYDNEY v ADELAIDE (SCG, Friday 7.50pm local time)
It’s hard to mount a compelling case for the Crows in this one. A mere four games after featuring in a grand final, Adelaide looks a world away from contender status. A mounting injury list is taking its toll on Don Pyke’s team, and it seemed to reach a tipping point last week against Collingwood. The Crows will have to face the Swans without key players Eddie Betts (hamstring), Rory Sloane (foot), Brad Crouch (groin), Matt Crouch (hamstring), Brodie Smith (knee) and David Mackay (concussion), having parted ways with Jake Lever (Melbourne) and Charlie Cameron (Brisbane) in the off-season, while Taylor Walker continues to battle a foot injury and is well below his best. That’s just too much quality either out of the team or hampered, and with the Sydney machine starting to hum along a lot earlier than it did last year, don’t expect this game to end in a way other than with a Swans win.
RONNY’S TIP: Sydney by 43 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Sydney 22 points.

ST KILDA v GWS (Etihad Stadium, Saturday 1.45pm local time)
The Saints already appear as though they’re heading nowhere very fast this season, and that journey looks as though it will be expedited this weekend when they come up against Greater Western Sydney. The Giants might still be missing Josh Kelly (groin), Tom Scully (ankle), Rory Lobb (knee), Adam Kennedy (knee), Zac Williams (Achilles) and Matt Buntine (knee), but they remain a force to be reckoned with. St Kilda’s attack is ranked last in the competition with an average of just 65 points per game and not even the return of Tim Membrey can turn that worrying trend around.
RONNY’S TIP: GWS by 44 points.
ROCO’S TIP: GWS 52 points.

CARLTON v WEST COAST (MCG, Saturday 4.35pm local time)
The Eagles might be riding high on the back of a three-game winning streak, but this match has “danger” written all over it. West Coast is notoriously woeful at the MCG. The Eagles have played there only five times since 2015 with just one win to their credit – a dogged seven-point victory over their upcoming opponents in 2016. Bottom-of-the-ladder Carlton will probably remain winless on Saturday night now that Matthew Kreuzer (groin), Matthew Kennedy (ankle) and Jacob Weitering (thigh) join Marc Murphy (foot), Sam Docherty (knee) and Caleb Marchbank (ankle) on the sidelines. But after such an insipid performance against North Melbourne last week, expect Carlton’s effort levels to be significantly higher this time around.
RONNY’S TIP: West Coast by 22 points.
ROCO’S TIP: West Coast by 16 points.

PORT ADELAIDE v GEELONG (Adelaide Oval, Saturday 7.10pm local time)
The Cats are another side battling injuries to a host of key players, with Gary Ablett (hamstring), Nakia Cockatoo (knee), Cam Guthrie (ankle), Lachie Henderson (knee) and Harry Taylor (foot) all still unavailable. They still managed to record a comfortable win last week without them, but St Kilda is no Port Adelaide and Kardinia Park is certainly no Adelaide Oval. The Power love their home base and will be smarting following an ordinary performance against Essendon last Sunday. With Patrick Dangerfield also battling a corked calf, a pumped-up Port Adelaide should do enough to get the four points.
RONNY’S TIP: Port Adelaide by 11 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Port Adelaide by 16 points.

FREMANTLE v WESTERN BULLDOGS (Optus Stadium, Saturday 6.15pm local time)
There’s no question that the Western Bulldogs have been a different side in the past fortnight to the one they were in the first fortnight. The Doggies have their bite back after a great win against Essendon and a gallant loss to Sydney. They should head over to Perth full of confidence, and while the loss of suspended Lachie Hunter hurts, the additions of Zaine Cordy and Tom Boyd have the potential to strengthen the line-up. The Dockers haven’t been totally convincing so far this year, but they already look very comfortable at Optus Stadium and they should win a thriller.
RONNY’S TIP: Fremantle by 4 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Fremantle by 6 points.

NORTH MELBOURNE v HAWTHORN (Etihad Stadium, Sunday 3.20pm local time)
Many tipped the Kangaroos to win the wooden spoon this year but so far they have proved to be somewhat of a surprise packet with emphatic wins over St Kilda and Carlton. In-form ex-Hawks Billy Hartung and Jed Anderson will be extra keen to play well this week, too. However, Luke McDonald (hamstring) remains under a cloud and Shaun Higgins may sit out the game to witness the birth of his first child. The Hawks have their own concerns with premiership stars Cyril Rioli (knee) and Paul Puopolo (hamstring) out for extended periods, so the significant slack in the pressure department will have to be picked up by others. Despite the duo’s absence, Hawthorn look like they could be back to their best this year and will be very hard to beat.
RONNY’S TIP: Hawthorn by 32 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Hawthorn by 20 points.

BRISBANE v GOLD COAST (Gabba, Sunday 4.45pm local time)
On current form, there’s no way you could possibly pick the Lions to win Q-Clash 15. They just posted their lowest ever score in an embarrassing two-goal performance against Richmond. But they’re a young side and fluctuating effort levels are to be expected. Let’s not forget they gave a good account of themselves in the first three weeks. The Suns return to Queensland following a 10-day sojourn in Perth where losses to Freo and West Coast halted the brief momentum they gathered after wins in their first two games. Logic tells you that Gold Coast have more star power at their disposal, but there’s something about the Lions up at the Gabba chasing their first win of the year that is hard to ignore.
RONNY’S TIP: Brisbane by 7 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Gold Coast by 12 points.

MELBOURNE v RICHMOND (MCG, Tuesday 7.25pm local time)
The Anzac Day eve game has quickly grown into a huge event over the past three years with more than 85,000 fans attending the 2017 edition. However, Melbourne’s deplorable 67-point loss to Hawthorn last week has probably halted that momentum somewhat and could end up docking 10-15,000 from this year’s crowd figure. The Dees were absolutely woeful and if they bring that same kind of effort to the hardest assignment in football – Richmond at the MCG – with Dustin Martin and co. firing on all cylinders, it’s going to be a long, long night.
RONNY’S TIP: Richmond by 37 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Richmond by 26 points.

COLLINGWOOD v ESSENDON (MCG, Wednesday 3.20pm local time)
It’s perhaps fitting that the hardest game to tip has been left until last. The phrase “toss of the coin” comes to mind. What a match this promises to be in front of a near-capacity crowd at the home of football. Thank goodness for the Bombers’ dramatic form rediscovery otherwise the anticipation around the 24th edition of the traditional Anzac Day clash may have been muted to a degree. The Magpies are clearly in better form and, led by white-hot Brodie Grundy and Steele Sidebottom, will take some beating. Collingwood’s midfield is superior to Essendon’s, although the Bombers look surer both in attack and defence. If the Pies’ on-ball division dominate proceedings, which is a huge possibility, the black-and-white army could be celebrating a third win in a row and Nathan Buckley might have to start thinking about a genuine finals assault.
RONNY’S TIP: Collingwood by 15 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Essendon by 2 points.


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