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AFL Round 14 preview: The business end

After all teams have had their rests it’s time to get to the business end of the season. Can Carlton return to form? Will North threaten the eight? Will Richmond finish ninth? Jake D’Amato asks.

Carlton vs. Hawthorn:

Both sides are entering this contest fresh from a week off, with the Hawks flying and the Blues flailing.

Hawthorn has managed to win six of its past seven matches, to get its season back on track. Carlton on the other hand, has lost five of its past six to plummet down the ladder.

Carlton is now in danger of not only missing out on the top four, but missing out on finals footy altogether. They currently sit ninth and are only outside the eight by percentage. Another loss tonight might spell the end of their season.

If Carlton is to have a chance of pinching this game, they need their main man Chris Judd to make his presence felt in his 100th game for the club. He only managed 12 possessions two weeks ago against West Coast, and last time he played Hawthorn he was kept to 15. The champ will need to dig deep to get his team going.

While the Blues have been lacklustre over their past six matches, Hawthorn has been outstanding. Every player is doing his job, they have a lot of grunt around the footy and Lance Franklin is (finally) kicking straight.

Hawks might just be too hot for the Blues to handle right now.

Prediction: Hawthorn by 31.


Collingwood vs. Fremantle:

Considering Collingwood has won 10 of its past 12 games, this game might be viewed as a bit of a walkover, but Fremantle have a few factors working in its favour.

Collingwood was involved in a tough encounter last week against the Eagles, one that it might still feel the effects of come Saturday. Fremantle had a tough game as well, but not in comparison to the Pies’ game.

Since Ross Lyon took over as coach of the Dockers, they have enjoyed a decent away record (3-2 so far this season), including wins over Richmond and St. Kilda in Melbourne. The Dockers cannot be taken lightly by the in-form Magpies or they could experience a shock loss.

For Fremantle to win, perennial tagger Ryan Crowley will need to be at his best, as he most likely faces a battle with Dane Swan or Dayne Beams. Tendai Mzungu is a possibility to take on whoever Lyon perceives to be the lesser of two evils.

All in all, although Collingwood may be tired from last week’s battle, they should still be able to hobble over the line against Fremantle, even if they aren’t at their best.

Prediction: Pies by 26

Adelaide vs. Richmond:

This game lures as an important battle between two much improved sides. The Crows have been incredible this year, and their loss last week to North Melbourne was only their third for the year.

The Tigers are entering the second half of their draw narrowly outside the eight, but a win here would prove that they deserve to play footy in September.

Adelaide’s midfield was smashed last week by the mediocre Kangaroos, with Patrick Dangerfield, Rory Sloane and Scott Thompson all serviceable but lacking support.

This week they come up against one of the competition’s elite midfields If the Crows are to win this game they will need to up the ante in the middle of the ground.

Kurt Tippett may be unavailable to play this week after being concussed last week, leaving a lot of responsibility on Taylor Walker’s shoulders. If Tippett does play, Adelaide will stretch Richmond’s defence to its limit, which might just prove the difference.

Prediction: Adelaide by 17 (Add a few goals if Tippett plays)

West Coast vs. Gold Coast:

After the Eagles narrowly went down to the Magpies last week, they will be looking to make amends by getting a percentage boost this week against the Suns.

The Eagles could afford to rest a few players against the competition’s only winless side, but with only percentage separating second and fifth they will want to really slaughter Gold Coast.

The Eagles have won their past 17 games at Patersons Stadium and it would take a minor miracle for the Suns to break the streak.

The Gold Coast had its bye last week, while the Eagles went to war. This may play to Gold Coast’s advantage, but all signs point towards a West Coast victory.

Prediction: West Coast by 60+

Essendon vs. Western Bulldogs:

These two sides had vastly different weekends last week. The Bombers impressively tackled a spirited Fremantle, while the Bulldogs had a dismal day against Brisbane.

In saying that, expect the Bulldogs to put up a bigger fight against the Bombers this week. While the Bulldogs are somewhat inconsistent, they haven’t had two bad displays in a row.

The return of Will Minson will be a big in for the Doggies as he will no doubt want to make up for missing last week.

The Doggies continue to be prolific in the contested ball counts, but their ball usage around the contests isn’t up to speed quite yet, this is most likely where the game will be won and lost.

The Western Bulldogs will need clean possessions from their hard ball to pose a threat.

Michael Hurley  is coming off a career best six goal haul for Essendon. He is a lively forward who creates contests and chances for his teammates. With his tail up, he could tear the Doggies apart.

This one should be competitive, but the Bombers might just be too classy for the Doggies at the moment.

Prediction: Bombers by 24

Sydney vs. GWS

The Swans held on in a thriller last week against the Cats, making it two consecutive games they’ve looked pedestrian in the latter stages.

Perhaps this could be cause for concern for John Longmire and his troopers, but probably of greater worry are the injury clouds over Adam Goodes and Shane Mumford.

Goodes was subbed off during an important part of last week’s thriller against Geelong, while Mumford hasn’t looked entirely comfortable as he battles his back problems.

This is a great opportunity for both of these players to get some game time, and ease into some form and confidence. Longmire will also want to dominate the Giants to stamp their authority on the Sydney-side derby.

GWS will also want to make their mark by at least being competitive. Last week they went into their game against Melbourne with optimism, but were met with a spirited Melbourne side.

The Giants need to improve on their forward structure from last week, with Jeremy Cameron being their only winner. He looms as a great one-out prospect for the future, and possibly this weekend.

But, the Swans will be too good for the Giants this time.

Prediction: Sydney by 45

Geelong vs. Port Adelaide

This does not look like a promising prospect for the Power. They are battling harsh injury woes, which makes the trip to Geelong all the more difficult.

With Dominic Cassisi, Jackson Trengove, Hamish Hartlett and Jay Schulz all sidelined, it’s hard to see who will get the centre clearances and who will kick the goals.

Without Schulz, the forward line looks fragmented, and almost hapless.

Geelong has the luxury of making no changes, and to make matters worse for Port Adelaide, Geelong will be looking to make up for last week’s narrow loss.

With Port Adelaide’s entire leadership group injured, it will be interesting to see who captains the side.

Unfortunately this may be the only interesting part of the game.

Prediction: Cats by 80

Brisbane vs. Melbourne

What a rare occurrence this game will be with two of the competition’s battlers for 2012 both coming off big wins.

Who will enter the game with more confidence? The Lions played out of their skin last week, putting on a kicking clinic against the Doggies.

The Demons managed to completely dominate GWS after a tight first quarter to win big at the MCG.

Both teams have shown signs of improvement in the past month, which could be an indication of where these sides are heading next year.

The loss of Mitch Clark is massive to Melbourne and because of this it might become a permanent move that Jarryd Rivers and Colin Garland play forward. Jack Watts might even have to pinch hit up forward so they can kick a winning score.

It’s unfortunate for Neeld whose experiment was working somehow.

Melbourne has a horrendous interstate record, and if that is to change this week they will need to stop the likes of Tom Rockliff, proving to be a handful for most sides.

Brisbane should be too strong in Brisbane.

Prediction: Brisbane by 37

St.Kilda vs. North Melbourne

This game is important in terms of the battle for eight spot. The Saints currently sit eighth with six wins, while the Kangaroos sit 11th, also with six wins.

There is a road-block between eighth and 12th positions, with all five sides still realistic chances of playing finals.

This game could ultimately decide either of these two clubs’ fate.

The Kangaroos were superb last week, capping another brilliant display like what they provided against Geelong earlier in the season. Unfortunately they lack consistency, and while they have two big scalps this year already, they have lost games they could very easily have won.

This is something they may look back on with regret, when they are having beers in September rather than playing.

St.Kilda, have been rather consistent, they are impressive when they win and competitive when they lose. They may be better for the bye last week, after a shattering loss against Adelaide the previous week.

This game will be about the midfield battle. Last week, Swallow lead his midfield brigade to a dominant showing against Adelaide. If they can repeat the performance against the Saints, they will give their side a chance.

Unfortunately the inconsistent Kanagroos are very hard to back to win two in a row against quality teams.

Prediction: Saints by 20


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