The AFL will once again trial Thursday night football this week as Brisbane travels down to Etihad Stadium to take on Carlton. But before we delve into this week’s round of action, let’s look back on what was a fascinating second act of Round 13.
Five things we learnt from the second half of Round 13:
1. Players are unhappy about the inconsistency of the Match Review Panel.
2. St Kilda are one of the fittest teams in the competition.
3. If Adelaide played like they did against Melbourne last Saturday, they would’ve been playing finals like many, including yours truly, expected them to.
4. Collingwood have a mental edge over Sydney.
5. Geelong are human.
Round 14 matches:
Carlton v Brisbane: Tonight- 7.10pm at Etihad Stadium
It was supposed to be the hostile homecoming for Brendan Fevola as he returned to Melbourne to face his old side. However the star full-forward won’t even be lining up for the Lions tonight due to injury and as a result the game’s main plot has changed.
The Blues were dealt a massive blow during their nine point loss to Fremantle last round with young ruckman Matthew Kreuzer rupturing his ACL and requiring a knee reconstruction. Kreuzer’s injury was the last thing his team needed, both for his development as a young player and for their chances of playing finals.
However things are even bleaker in the Lions’ camp with their 2010 season basically over. After such a promising start, the Lions have capitulated and now find themselves two games and significant percentage outside the top eight. It will be a miracle should they make the finals from here.
Carlton simply must win this game to cement their spot in the eight. What will help their cause is that Brisbane will be without Fevola and Jonathon Brown. Every time the Lions have won this season, those two men have played a big part. They will miss them dearly and Carlton should win comfortably.
Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs: Friday- 7.40pm at MCG
These two teams currently sit eighth and fifth on the ladder, but if you look at recent form and the playing lists that both teams possess, this game certainly deserves the match-of-the-round tag.
The Hawks had a magnificent win against the Bombers a couple of weeks ago with Lance Franklin making full use of the Friday night limelight. ‘Buddy’ had 24 possessions and kicked five goals, including one goal that some consider the best goal ever kicked on the MCG.
It has been smooth-sailing on the field for the Dogs this year – but maybe not so much off the field. The recruitment of Barry Hall is paying dividends for player, coach and club with the big man slotting through 46 goals this season so far.
This is going to be a cracking game with two top quality sides going head-to-head under the Friday night lights. While both teams have great midfields, the game’s main focus will be on Franklin and Hall and who can kick the most goals. This one’s a coin toss, but with a six game winning streak behind them and Franklin back to his very best, Hawthorn are far too good to ignore.
Fremantle v Port Adelaide: Saturday- 4.10pm at Subiaco Oval
One of the most inconsistent and frustrating sides in the competition travels across the Nullarbor to take on a side that has clearly been the biggest surprise packet of the season.
The Dockers’ biggest achievement this year has been conquering their interstate demons. They have won four from six games away from home this season, including a gritty win against the Blues last round. Who would seriously want to be a Port Adelaide supporter?
Pretty easy choice here. Fremantle should be far too classy at home.
Collingwood v West Coast: Saturday- 7.10pm at Etihad Stadium
Saturday night football sees one of the most in-form teams take on one of the most out-of-form teams in the competition.
Collingwood continued their terrific form against Sydney last week making it nine wins from their last nine games against the New South Welshmen. It was a very team-orientated performance with every single member – bar Leon Davis – contributing in some form to the victory.
West Coast on the other hand are in danger of finishing on the bottom of the ladder. Many predicted that they would be the big movers this season, but after 13 games they sit 15th on the ladder and in danger of being overtaken by a rampaging Richmond.
No matter where this game was going to be played, Collingwood would win it easily.
Adelaide v Essendon: Saturday- 7.40pm at AAMI Stadium
A few weeks ago, most tipsters would’ve had no hesitation in picking the away side to win here. But recent form from the home team has this game screaming out for match-of-the-round status.
It was a sensational first half performance by the Crows last week as they comprehensively defeated the Demons by 44 points. Key players such as Simon Goodwin, Kurt Tippett, Graham Johncock and Bernie Vince all performed well and the team’s overall defensive pressure was something to behold.
Essendon never gave up against the Hawks a couple of weeks ago but were singlehandedly defeated by the brilliance of Franklin. However there were still plenty of positives to come out of the game for them, including the great work of Jobe Watson and Jason Winderlich through the midfield.
This should be a close game, but Adelaide’s recent form at home should see them move up the ladder.
Geelong v North Melbourne: Sunday- 1.10pm at Skilled Stadium
The trip to Skilled Stadium has always been a daunting task for any team, but one side is quietly confident that they have the mental edge to conquer the almost impossible task.
The Cats were kept goalless for a half at the MCG against St Kilda last week, the first time that has occurred since the 1950s. They were outrun, outsmarted and outplayed in all facets of the game, with Joel Selwood the only man who can say he thoroughly earned his place in the team.
The Kangaroos are sitting just outside the eight and look good but their poor percentage is an issue they will have to rectify if they want to play finals this year.
North coach Brad Scott said that Skilled Stadium “has absolutely zero-relevance” when facing Geelong at home. While it sounds optimistic, it’s a sign that the Kangaroos won’t be taking a backwards step on Sunday. But with a distinct home ground advantage and a plethora of players to return to the side, Geelong should win but it is a massive danger game for them.
Richmond v Sydney: Sunday- 2.10pm at the MCG
Who would’ve thought that the team sitting on the bottom of the ladder would be considered one of the form teams of the competition?
The Tigers have now won three of their last four games with two of those being interstate. All the hype surrounding Jack Riewoldt is thoroughly deserved as well. For a man who plays in the bottom side in the competition, to sit atop the goal-kicking table is a phenomenal achievement.
The Swans were admirable against Collingwood last week but lacked the presence of a big forward – mind you it didn’t help when Daniel Bradshaw was a late withdrawal due to injury. Dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes has had a disappointing season to say the least and he needs to fire for the Swans to have any hope of seeing September action.
Here’s a stat for you – all of the Tigers’ wins have come against interstate sides this year. With Sydney a little underdone, Richmond should make it four from their five games and rise off the bottom of the ladder in an upset.
St Kilda v Melbourne: Sunday- 4.40pm at Etihad Stadium
Round 14 concludes with an interesting clash between two sides in contrasting form.
The Saints’ win against Geelong last Friday night was one of the most disciplined wins you will ever see. They exposed the Cats by filling their forward line with small players and it worked a treat with Adam Schneider, Jack Steven and Stephen Milne combining for nine of the team’s 10 goals. Full credit must go to coach Ross Lyon and his team who continue to win despite missing their best player in Nick Riewoldt – the word is he might be right to play against Brisbane next week.
The Demons were dealt a reality check last weekend going down to a much improved Adelaide outfit. While most have been singing their praises this season, it’s hard to ignore the fact that in their last eight games they have lost six, drawn one and won another by just a point. Mind you, they are further advanced than they were this time last year.
St.Kilda will be up and about after their win last week and will put on a clinic.
Ben’s Tip Tally: 64 (Last round: 5)