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Previews with punch – Round 8

Richmond’s Brandon Ellis gets his handball away despite the efforts of North Melbourne’s Luke McDonald when the sides last met. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Previews with punch – Round 8

Ronny Lerner    

HAWTHORN v SYDNEY (MCG, Friday 7.50pm local time)
The Swans head into this one once again missing Lance Franklin (heel), Dan Hannebery (groin), Lewis Melican (hamstring), Sam Reid (quad) and Sam Naismith (knee). They’ve had mixed results in the past two weeks without Franklin and Hannebery – a stirring win over the Cats in Geelong and an upset loss to North Melbourne at home. This fixture has been kind to the away team in recent years, with Sydney winning two of the past three contests in Melbourne and Hawthorn claiming the last three meetings in the Harbour City. The Hawks might still be without Cyril Rioli (knee) and Paul Puopolo (hamstring) but after a hiccup against the Kangaroos in their first game without the dynamic duo, they’re back on track again and look like a potential top-four team.
RONNY’S TIP: Hawthorn by 21 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Hawthorn by 8 points.

GWS v WEST COAST (Spotless Stadium, Saturday 1.45pm local time)
If Nic Naitanui was available for this game, the Eagles would have been a red-hot chance. But now that he’s been forced to sit it out due to that controversial one-game ban for dangerously tackling Port Adelaide’s Karl Amon, the pendulum swings back in the Giants’ favour. Yes, GWS hasn’t been travelling as well as it would like, but the Giants have been missing a whole host of first-22 players. Jeremy Cameron returns and, exacerbating the loss of Naitanui for the Eagles, so does Rory Lobb. Luke Shuey (hamstring) is also sidelined for West Coast and although the Giants are still missing six of their best players, the loss of Nic Nat is massive blow for the visitors and Leon Cameron’s men should do enough to end the Eagles’ six-game winning streak.
RONNY’S TIP: GWS by 11 points.
ROCO’S TIP: GWS by 22 points.

CARLTON v ESSENDON (MCG, Saturday 2.10pm local time)
With ordinary conditions forecast, these two former powerhouse clubs, with only two wins between them, might just attract their first sub-40,000 crowd since 2006. How the mighty have fallen. It goes without saying that the Bombers and the winless Blues are in shocking form with the former looking downright clueless on the field and the latter enduring their worst ever start to a VFL/AFL season. But there’s a sense of déjà vu about this one. It was only two meetings ago when Carlton faced Essendon in the wet and toppled them in an upset result. Conditions aren’t expected to be as bad as they were in round three last year, but there will be rain, and so bamboozled are the Bombers by the game plan they’re being asked to implement the Blues could just about pinch their first win of the year.
RONNY’S TIP: Carlton by 7 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Essendon by 2 points.

GOLD COAST v MELBOURNE (Gabba, Saturday 4.35pm local time)
Gold Coast put up a decent fight against the Bulldogs last week in Ballarat without four of its best players, but life on the road is starting to take its toll on the homeless Suns. They’ve now lost four of their past five matches and another trip away from home – this time to Brisbane – awaits them. The returns of Steven May and Aaron Hall will give them a boost, but Melbourne heads into this game settled on the back of consecutive six-goal wins. If the Demons want to be considered a finals contender, this simply is a must-win.
RONNY’S TIP: Melbourne by 28 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Melbourne by 16 points.

PORT ADELAIDE v ADELAIDE (Adelaide Oval, Saturday 4.40pm local time)
No matter where these two sides are on the ladder, Showdowns are always fiery affairs, and the 44th instalment promises to be no different. After a slightly shaky start, things seem to be getting back on track for the Crows, who are now third on the ladder. The Power have been less convincing and, with three losses from their past four games, find themselves on the outskirts of the top eight after promising so much in the pre-season. But they have brought back the big guns in Chad Wingard, Sam Powell-Pepper, Tom Rockliff and Tom Clurey. However, Taylor Walker returns for the Crows and although Port Adelaide has undoubtedly been strengthened by its inclusions, Adelaide will skip two clear on the Showdown ledger (23-21).
RONNY’S TIP: Adelaide by 18 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Adelaide by 6 points.

WESTERN BULLDOGS v BRISBANE LIONS (Etihad Stadium, Saturday 7.25pm local time)
Could the Lions be the best 0-7 team we’ve ever seen? How many times have they been neck-deep in games this year only to fail to finish off the job? You certainly can’t accuse them of not having a crack and their ability to routinely pick themselves up off the floor, dust themselves off and not be deterred by the lopsided win-loss ledger is commendable. If this game was at the Gabba, they’d be more than half a sniff. The Bulldogs have been anything but convincing and are perhaps fortunate that they are hosting the Lions at Docklands. Having said that, Brisbane coach Chris Fagan should dust off the tape of the last time they played the Dogs at this venue. On that occasion they burst out of the blocks to lead by 42 points at half-time! Sure, they ended up losing by 32 points, but it would reinforce to them that they have the ability to play great footy in Melbourne. The return of Marcus Bontempelli for the Dogs is huge and will just about be the deciding factor.
RONNY’S TIP: Western Bulldogs by 22 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Western Bulldogs by 36 points.

FREMANTLE v ST KILDA (Optus Stadium, Saturday 6.10pm local time)
The Dockers might have been humiliated by Richmond last weekend, but they are a different proposition at Optus Stadium. They have taken to the new Perth venue like a duck to water and are yet to lose to a non-WA side. A pair of off-field scandals are now engulfing the club and that is sure to have some kind of impact on the players, especially considering that Ross Lyon’s position as coach is now being questioned. However, as St Kilda coach Alan Richardson himself said, the Saints are in a hole. They just cannot kick a score and they seriously run the risk of being torn to shreds by Freo, especially with big guns Nat Fyfe, Lachie Neale and Aaron Sandilands all in superb form.
RONNY’S TIP: Fremantle by 44 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Fremantle by 20 points.

NORTH MELBOURNE v RICHMOND (Etihad Stadium, Sunday 1.10pm local time)
Before the season began, nobody in their right mind would have described a meeting between these two sides as a blockbuster match-up. Yet, seven weeks in, here we are! The Kangaroos have been the story of the year so far, making a mockery of wooden spoon predictions to position themselves as a genuine top-eight contender. On the other hand, Richmond looks even stronger than it did last year when the Tigers swept all before them on the way to premiership glory. The fact that they convincingly won their last three games in the space of 13 days rubber-stamped their bona fides as the team to beat again in 2018. Their final quarters in particular have been astonishing, especially in the midst of such a heavy block of games. Richmond is super fit, super talented, well drilled, brilliantly coached and a reality check is headed North’s way.
RONNY’S TIP: Richmond by 34 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Richmond by 16 points.

COLLINGWOOD v GEELONG (MCG, Sunday 3.20pm local time)
Geelong has proved to be a formidable prospect for most teams in recent years, but not Collingwood. The Magpies have won three of their last four meetings with the Cats, and appear to be a much stronger side in 2018 than in previous years. Daniel Wells has been named in Collingwood’s squad of 26 and could further boost an already impressive line-up. But on the other side of the coin, Gary Ablett and Harry Taylor have been named by the Cats – two massive “ins” indeed. The loss of Tom Hawkins (suspension) isn’t ideal, but they showed how well they can play without him a few weeks ago against Port Adelaide and should get the chocolates.
RONNY’S TIP: Geelong by 14 points.
ROCO’S TIP: Geelong by 10 points.


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