AFL Round 23 Preview: Fight for a home final

31 August 2012

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Ok, so I had a bad week two weeks ago. Give me another chance!

Smokey: Carlton v St Kilda

1:10pm Sunday AEST at Etihad Stadium

Carlton coach Brett Ratten is expected to coach this Sunday, despite the announcement on Thursday that he will not coach next season.

Both the Blues and Saints are ineligible for the top 8 with just one game left, and the winner of this match will take ninth spot on the ladder.

It’s a shallow feeling, knowing you’re not playing for anything, but Carlton’s players should feel some guilt about how they’ve treated Ratten, this is their chance to say sorry.

For Ratten, it might be his last chance to say: ‘I can still coach.’

Carlton by 12 points.

Sure thing: Fremantle v Melbourne

7:40pm Saturday AEST at Pattersons Stadium

Fremantle is starting to peak at the right time, after a shock win over North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium last weekend.

The Dockers can now sniff a home final, but will need to rely on Sydney to beat Geelong. However, as the saying goes in football, ‘control the controllable.’

They will know by the start of their game whether the Swans have upset the Cats, yet the result will be one-sided none the less.

Fremantle need to continue the form they showed last week, and they won’t have any problems against the Dees at home.

Fremantle by 70 points.

Shock: Geelong v Sydney

1:45pm Saturday AEST at Simmonds Stadium

The Cats battled away against the Dogs last week, eventually running out the last quarter to win by 34-points. It’s a lowly form line comparing the Dogs to the Swans.

In Sydney, the Hawks took the ‘choccies’ in the top-of-the-table showdown, but the Swans won’t be disheartened with the performance.

Now the Swans travel to the Cattery, and with a home final on the line, they can’t really afford to lose.

The Cats too are playing for a home final, with a loss meaning they may be traveling to travel to Perth next week.

Yet Geelong has not looked impressive at Simmonds this year, and there’s a reason the Swans are top two. Not sure why the bookies don’t agree.

Swans by 11 points.

Smashing: Richmond v Port Adelaide

3:15pm Sunday AEST at the MCG

Port Adelaide was gallant in defeat, going down by less than two goals to the Brisbane Lions at home last week. It’s been a long year for the Power, who have won just five games and lost a coach in 2012.

The Tigers too will be a little disappointed they couldn’t work their way into the top 8 this year, but consistency has let them down, with a handful of losses by less than a goal.

They were very impressive last weekend, disposing of the Bombers by 45 points. It’s a ground they play really well (the MCG), and Richmond’s midfield of Cotchin, Martin, Deledio and Tuck, along with recruit-of-the-year Ivan Maric, has become very hard to beat.

Port Adelaide, on the other hand, still has a lot of gaps within its lineup. The Tigers will find those gaps and tear them to bits.

Richmond by 75 points.

Other games this weekend: Hawthorn v West Coast

7:50pm Friday AEST at the MCG 

Set to be a cracker match!

The Hawks have just stolen top spot on the ladder with one game to go, after defeating the Swans in Sydney. It’s a surprise that the team that has been favourite for most of the year has only just taken top spot.

The Eagles are coming off a dominant win over Collingwood at home last weekend. Ruck duo Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui were sublime, and will be the West Coast’s weapons heading into finals.

But focused on Friday night and anything could happen.

Hawthorn had a slow start against the Swans but worked back brilliantly. So too did West Coast against the Pies, but the Eagles smashed them after quarter time.

Could be an epic here, but will go with the home side.

Hawthorn by 2 points.

Adelaide v Gold Coast

2:10pm Saturday AEST at AAMI Stadium

Gold Coast ended Brett Ratten’s career last weekend, defeating the Blues in an absolute upset. The Suns were brilliant from start to finish, and just had too much zip and pace for the lack-luster Cartlon outfit.

The Crows too were dominant, against the lowly Demons. They beat up on Melbourne, choking them at every opportunity.

It will be much the same here: on Adelaide’s home deck, and with a full list to pick from.

They just need one of Hawthorn or Sydney to lose to get a home final next weekend. They’ll know either way by three-quarter time.

Adelaide by 105 points.

GWS v North Melbourne

4:40pm Saturday AEST at Skoda Stadium

North Melbourne’s hot streak came to an end last weekend, going down to the Dockers at Etihad Stadium. It was a massive turn around from the week prior, where the Roos killed off Collingwood with speed and quick ball movement. They were pretty much beaten at their own game, and it looks like it will cost them a trip to Perth next weekend.

The Giants have thrown in the towel, and their youngsters are shot. St Kilda blew them away last week, and 2012 has just been a bit too long for these newcomers.

The Kangaroos will have no problem against the Giants, but last week was the loss they didn’t need.

North Melbourne by 90 points.

Essendon v Collingwood

7:40pm Saturday AEST at the MCG

The Pies have hit a rough patch at the wrong time of the season, with losses to North Melbourne and West Coast in the last two weeks. Their forwards are obviously struggling to kick goals, while the backline isn’t doing much better.

The footy public has high expectations of Collingwood, after they sacked Mick Malthouse for Nathan Buckley, and Bucks will need to make some tough calls now.

Andrew Krakeour looks set to return for the Pies, against the Bombers who have hit the wall. Injuries continue to curse Essendon, and top 8 is now out of the equation.

The Magpies need to get their season back on track, and for Pies fans, hopefully sneak back into the top four if West Coast lose on Friday night.

TIP: Collingwood by 40 points.

Brisbane v Western Bulldogs

4:40pm Sunday AEST at the GABBA

I’ll be the first to put up my hand and say I thought Michael Voss’ job security was in trouble, but the last two months suggests the Lions are heading in the right direction, in particular the win over Adelaide two weeks ago.

But could a loss to the Bulldogs see Voss with the same fate as Ratten?

In reality, it’s a must win game for the Lions: for their fans, for their players and for the club.

The Bulldogs have waned towards the end of this season, but will be looking forward to drafting some more kids for next season.

However, the Dogs will rate themselves a small chance here. And if they do upset the Lions, don’t be surprised to see Voss’ head on the back of Monday’s newspaper.

But I won’t tip it.

Brisbane by 35 points.

Damien Ractliffe is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and part of upstart‘s editorial team.  You can follow him on Twitter: @DamienRactliffe