AFL Round 16 Preview: Nearing the business end

13 July 2012

Written by: Jake D'Amato

North Melbourne vs. Carlton:

Which North Melbourne will front up to Etihad tonight?

Will it be the dashing North of recent weeks that slices its way through the centre via a series of swift handballs and precise passes? Or the clumsy team that invariably loses puff and leaks goals?

Carlton has its own personality issues, but the more pressing matter is its continuing injury woes. The Blues get back champion midfielder Marc Murphy and big utility Lachie Henderson, but lose Kade Simpson (broken jaw) and forward Shaun Hampson (PCL).

Drew Petrie, Lachlan Hansen and Robbie Tarrant have been a potent force for North this year, and the Blues will struggle to find key defenders to cover the three of them.

On the flipside, Carlton’s midfield is finding depth and form, with Chris Judd, Mitch Robinson, Andrew Carrazzo and Matthew Kreuzer crucial in lasts week’s victory against Collingwood. Inject the class of Murphy, and the Blues have the midfield edge.

A huge clash given that both clubs are outside the eight on percentage only, but the Kangaroos have been in better form for a longer period of time.

Prediction: North Melbourne by 15 points.

 

Melbourne vs. Fremantle:

Of the five clubs stuck on seven wins and seven losses, Fremantle has the easiest run home. However, away games in Victoria have long been the bane of the Dockers’ existence.

Melbourne has had a shocking year by all accounts, and its struggling list will go into round 16 undermanned, with key forward Mitch Clark out for the season, Liam Jurrah at least two weeks away, and Mark Jamar and Tom McDonald requiring fitness tests to earn their spots.

Throw in the fact that the 2011 Best & Fairest winner Brent Moloney has been dropped due to an almost season-long form slump, and the Dees will probably receive a comprehensive beating in the clearance count. Despite all this, expect Melbourne to show some spirit.

The Dockers captain Matthew Pavlich is currently on fire and it will be up to James Frawley to stop him from kicking yet another bag.

On paper it should be a straightforward win for the Dockers, and a valuable four points, but you can never pencil them in for a win in Melbourne.

Prediction: Fremantle by 33 points.

 

Port Adelaide vs. Essendon:

For what it’s worth, the last time Essendon beat Port Adelaide at Aami Stadium was back in the year of 2000. And despite the fact that Port lost to Essendon by 25 points earlier this year, it was a gritty performance indicative of its season to date.

Both teams come into this match on the back of disappointing losses. Port suffered a 58 point thrashing from cross-town rivals Adelaide last week, while the Bombers were shocked by a white hot St Kilda.

Similarly, both teams are carrying hefty injuries into round 16. Spearhead Jay Schulz is the biggest name on the sidelines for Port, but is also joined by Chad Wingard and Hamish Hartlett, while skipper Dom Cassisi is set to return.

The Bombers are missing several key players, with Michael Hurley and Angus Monfries out through injury, and Stewart Crameri and Heath Hocking via suspension. But the big news is that the Bombers will be without Paddy Ryder, who will miss at least three games after injuring his calf during training.

Expect Port to show some fight, as they have most weeks, but with no key forward, an angry Essendon should be more than a match for the young Power.

Prediction: Essendon by 40 points.

 

Richmond vs Gold Coast:

Another team on seven wins and seven losses, Richmond will need to prove themselves by belting the Gold Coast at home this week. The Tigers will be keen to avenge last year’s loss to the expansion club, and based on the Suns performances this year, it should be a mere formality.

The Tigers are coming off an awful week in which they fought to put away a struggling Melbourne, and delisted Daniel Connors and suspended Dustin Martin for the incorrect use of sleeping pills.

A record of zero wins in fifteen rounds does not bode well for the Suns, but the appointment of Malcolm Blight as the Director of Coaching paid dividends against a lackluster Geelong last week, and the Suns nearly came away with a victory.

As assuredly that Gary Ablett will notch up 30-plus possessions and Jack Riewoldt will kick a bag, Richmond will take the four points.

Prediction: Tigers by 73 points.

 

Geelong vs. Collingwood:

This week’s marquee match promises to be a beauty. The Cats are having an average year, no question, but you can never write the reigning premiers off. Not to mention that the Cats coach Chris Scott is supremely confident that the Cats will be more than a match for Nathan Buckley’s Pies.

Collingwood were flying before last week’s upset by nemesis Carlton, but the overall perception is that it was nothing more than a slight bump in what has otherwise been a smooth ride for the Pies.

This, like last year’s grand final, should be another old-fashioned game, with one-on-one match ups across the board likely to prove the difference.

Tom Hawkins vs. Ben Reid should be enthralling, as will Dane Swan and co. vs. Joel Selwood and co. Hawkins towelled Reid up in last year’s final, but will have it tougher this week given that Reid should be fully fit.

Collingwood have been in better form and beat Geelong earlier this year. The Cats also won’t have Jimmy Bartel who is out through suspension. The Pies deserve favouritism.

Prediction: Collingwood by 20 points.

 

Brisbane vs. St Kilda:

Just another stock-standard potentially ladder-changing match. Michael Voss’ Lions have been in sparkling form of late, until they were brought back to earth with a thud from Sydney last week. The Saints have been hit and miss all year, and this match should be fast, erratic and high-scoring.

The Saints currently sit – yep, you guessed it – seven and seven on the ladder, with Brisbane six and eight, so a win would put the top eight firmly in the Lions sights. While Brisbane will be keen to bounce back from a 47 point thumping by Sydney, St Kilda is fresh off handing Essendon its biggest defeat of the year.

For Brisbane the key forwards will be the keys. Daniel Merrett and Jonathan Brown could tear St Kilda’s defence apart with ease; however the Saints look a different side with ruckman Ben McEvoy back in the square.

The Saints were nothing less than magnificent last week, and if they replicate that form, Brisbane will be hard pressed to get the win. That being said, the Lions have the home ground advantage, and it should be a tight, high-scoring match.

Prediction: St Kilda by 11 points.

 

Greater Western Sydney vs. Adelaide:

It took 15 rounds, but the young Giants have finally started to tire, and they suffered a 162 point walloping at the hands of a powerful Hawthorn last week. So, up against the Crows, why should this week be any different?

It won’t be, and even though Adelaide will play a shorter forward line, with no Kurt Tippett (concussion) and no Taylor Walker (suspension), the Crows will still have far too much class and experience on the field.

Kevin Sheedy has implemented the usual half-dozen plus changes to this week’s side in an effort to blood some new talent and rest some of the senior players. James McDonald comes out for a break, while Israel Folau gets another crack, and Kurt Aylett and Steve Clifton get their first taste of senior footy.

That’s about the biggest talking point of the whole match. Adelaide will get the win, and remain comfortably in the top four.

Prediction: Adelaide by 95 points.

 

Western Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn:

It’s been a miserable year for the Dogs. They haven’t adapted to Brendan McCartney’s game plan well enough to present anything more than streaky performances this season, and are currently in a rebuilding phase.

The Hawks, by contrast, are flying. They have an extremely well-balanced list that is starting to play the right type of footy at the right time of the season. The push for the top four is a huge motivator, and Alastair Clarkson and his men are up for the challenge.

There is great news on the injury front for the Dogs, with a number of key ins: Ryan Hargrave, Robert Murphy, Tom Williams and Jarrad Grant come in for this game.

There is no Buddy Franklin for Hawthorn. But no matter, that simply means they have space to blood a new ruck man in Luke Lowden. Meaning David Hale can more of a forward role alongside Jack Gunston and Jarryd Roughead.

The Dogs will fight hard for the contested ball, as they always do, but will get hopelessly outclassed.

Prediction: Hawthorn by 65 points.

 

West Coast vs. Sydney

If Geelong vs. Collingwood is this week’s marquee match, then West Coast vs. Sydney is a close second. These are two of the most balanced lists in the league.

West Coast pulled off the great escape against North Melbourne in Tasmania last week, and Dean Cox continues to show why he has been the most dominant ruckman for the last decade. Is it too much to say that he is a real Brownlow threat?

Sydney sits atop the ladder with the second highest percentage of any team. Adam Goodes is working into some serious form and emerging key forward Sam Reid bagged a career high six goals last week. Yet still the punters refuse to back the Swans in as a serious premiership chance. The Swans’ record on the road is meek, but a victory in Perth could erase all questions.

For the first time this year, the Eagle’s forward line will look short. Full forward Quentin Lynch will miss through suspension, as will on-baller Luke Shuey.

This may prove the difference, as the Swans have a near-full strength list. It will be a titanic battle like the West Coast and Sydney of old.

Prediction: Sydney by 3 points.

 

Michael Pollock is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on  Twitter @mppollock.