While ten teams will enjoy a weekend off, six will come back from their own rest and tough it out on AFL fields across three states. There will be only three games this weekend, but the exciting thing is that all of those matches could go either way. But before we preview the action, what did we learn from the first half of this split round?
Five things we learnt from the first half of Round 13:
- Hawthorn’s Lance Franklin is fitter than ever and back to his best
- Brisbane’s 2010 season is over
- Richmond’s 2010 season is just beginning
- Even at 32, North Melbourne’s Brent Harvey is still one of the most damaging players in the competition
- Carlton will struggle to make finals without ruckman Matthew Kreuzer
Round 13 Matches:
St.Kilda v Geelong: Tonight- 7.40pm at MCG
Many AFL experts say that the round 14 match between these two sides at Etihad Stadium last year was the best match they’ve ever witnessed. They also say that last year’s Grand Final was one of toughest and hotly-contested matches they’ve ever seen. If tonight’s top-of-the-table match is half as good as one of those two games, we are set for one cracking contest.
Some, including yours truly, believed that this would be the year where the Cats’ reign of supremacy would come crashing down with a thud. Instead they have come out and made a statement that they still have plenty prove and achieve. They have won their past seven games by an average margin of 63 points. But what is even more scary is that they are still missing key players such as Joel Corey, Tom Hawkins, Brad Ottens and Max Rooke.
Even without their number one player and skipper in Nick Riewoldt, the Saints continue to produce efficient win after efficient win, none more so than their 18-point victory against Fremantle at Subiaco two weeks ago. Two men who have really stepped up in Riewoldt’s absence are Brendon Goddard and Stephen Milne. Goddard is the most versatile player in the competition and his consistent form sees him right up there near the top in my personal Brownlow count. Milne has kicked 30 goals from 12 games and he’s slotted into the role as St. Kilda’s main focal point up forward with ease.
Tonight’s match is basically defence verses attack. Geelong are ranked first in the competition for points scored and St.Kilda are ranked first in the competition for the least points scored against. The Cats do lose Paul Chapman to a hamstring problem, an injury that has caused him plenty of issues over his career. However they do regain tall forward Cameron Mooney and star full-back Matthew Scarlett. It is expected to pour down with rain tonight as well, a factor that will apparently suit St. Kilda. However I’d like to know the last time the Cats lost in the wet.
It will be a close encounter, but the return of Scarlett and the absence of Riewoldt makes Geelong very hard to tip against.
Sydney v Collingwood: Saturday- 7.10pm at ANZ Stadium (Sydney)
This mid-season match between these two teams has become a great tradition during an AFL season. But despite numerous close results and a few outstanding individual performances in the past, one team seems to have a clear advantage.
The Swans went on a four-game losing streak earlier in the season but have been able to claw their way back up the ladder after winning their last two games against Essendon and Port Adelaide. During that losing streak, Ryan O’Keefe had very little impact on those games. But not surprisingly, he has been one of the Swans’ best in their past two wins, along with Jude Bolton and Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes.
The Magpies were far from convincing during their traditional Queen’s Birthday match with Melbourne. Despite this they were able to claw some points out of the game – two points for a draw – questions were raised about the form and attitude of a number of Collingwood players. The club’s match committee must have noticed it as well, with five players axed for this game, including Josh Fraser and Paul Medhurst, two automatic selections over the past few years.
Collingwood have won their last seven games against Sydney, both at home and away. But there is something different about the Swans this time around. Their younger players – Daniel Hannebery, Kieran Jack and Heath Grundy- have really stood up this season, ruckman Shane Mumford is in All-Australian contention, and they are having some luck with injuries. If Mumford can match it with Jolly in the ruck and the returning Daniel Bradshaw can fire, the Swans will go close.
Having said all that, this is the kind of game the Pies win. With their backs against the wall and the welcome return of Alan Didak, Luke Ball and Ben Johnson, Collingwood should win in a tight contest.
Adelaide v Melbourne: Sunday- 3.10pm at AAMI Stadium
If you had to predict who would win this game before the season began, you would’ve thought that the home team would emerge victorious but by a considerable margin. What a difference 12 games can make!
It’s an understatement to say that the Crows have been disappointing this year. With a balanced playing list and a few young players with plenty of potential- Kurt Tippett and Patrick Dangerfield – they really should be in finals contention. Instead they sit second from the bottom and with an ever-improving Richmond just below them. During the week, the high-flying Brett Burton announced that he would retire at season’s end. With Burton, Simon Goodwin and Tyson Edwards all announcing their retirement, only time will tell if Andrew McLeod and Michael Doughty will do the same.
Melbourne, on the other hand, continue to impress despite just four wins and a draw for the season so far. While their younger players have shown plenty of enthusiasm and potential, it has been their older players like Brad Green, James McDonald, Mark Jamar and Brent Moloney who have stepped up as leaders of the club. Their draw with Collingwood two weeks ago would’ve shattered the players and coaching staff, but they can certainly hold their heads high after such a gritty and determined performance.
But even though the Demons have played above themselves, you can’t ignore their poor record in Adelaide and the Crows’ recent form at their home ground. Melbourne have lost their last 13 games at AAMI Stadium by an average of 56 points while the Crows’ three wins for this season have all come from the same venue. Adelaide regain star midfielder Bernice Vince but they do lose key defender Nathan Bock to a groin injury. Melbourne are also still without Colin Sylvia and captain James McDonald.
If the Crows want to salvage anything positive out of this season they must have a good second half of the season. And it should start on Sunday- Adelaide just.
Ben’s Tip Tally: 62 (Last week: 3/5)