Western Bulldogs v Adelaide: Friday 17/6 – 7.40pm at Etihad Stadium
Two very distressed and completely out-of-form clubs clash for pride under Etihad Stadium’s Friday night lights.
After so much promise during the off-season, everything has gone wrong for Western Bulldogs in 2011. The Doggies’ loss to fellow strugglers St Kilda last round epitomised their season to date: plenty of wasted opportunities. Besides skipper Matthew Boyd, players have failed to give consistent efforts week in week out.
Across the border, Adelaide isn’t doing much better. The Crows are on track to miss the finals for the second consecutive year – the first time that has happened under coach Neil Craig. They travel to Melbourne coming off a poor showing against the Eagles last weekend. To make matters worse, their interstate record is atrocious, as they’ve lost all four games in Melbourne this season.
No doubt these teams have been two of the biggest disappointments in 2011, particularly the Dogs, who many predicted would win the flag. A win to either side here would snap a four-game losing streak. It’s hard to know where the Crows’ goals will come from, so expect the Doggies to finally get a win on the board.
Western Bulldogs by 24
Hawthorn v Gold Coast Suns: Saturday 18/6 – 2.10pm at Aurora Stadium
The AFL’s newest club makes its first trip to the Apple Isle on Saturday afternoon.
Hawthorn had a golden opportunity to announce itself as a genuine premiership contender last weekend, but fell at the final hurdle. It blitzed the undefeated Cats in the third term to lead by 17 points at the final break. However the Hawks failed to score in the fourth quarter and were overrun by their classy opponent. Perhaps an even bigger loss that night was the season-ending Achilles injury to forward turn ruckman Jarryd Roughead.
Gold Coast’s season of inconsistency continued on Saturday night when it copped a 59-point thumping at the hands of North Melbourne. The Suns started the game slower than an 80-year-old driver, kicking just two behinds to the Kangaroos’ 7.2. However they continue to dominate the clearances and their kicking will improve with the more games these young kids play.
It’s still too hard to predict how Gold Coast will perform on a week-to-week basis. So despite its growing injury list, expect Hawthorn to win this one quite comfortably.
Hawthorn by 72
Essendon v North Melbourne: Saturday 18/6 – 2.10pm at Etihad Stadium
If you enjoyed the midseason elimination final subplots last weekend, then you’ll enjoy this game.
Essendon is tired – very tired. After being up for so long, the young Bombers have inevitably fallen back to the pack. They now sit in eighth spot on the ladder after their ordinary loss to Fremantle last round. If the Bombers want to play finals, they must win this game – no questions asked.
After the first two months of the season, many were concerned North Melbourne wouldn’t shake the top eight come season’s end. But after three wins from their past five games, the Kangaroos are once again a finals contender. Their more experienced midfielders, Andrew Swallow and Daniel Wells, have really stood up around the stoppages.
A few weeks ago, most tipsters wouldn’t have had any hesitation in tipping Essendon to win. However times have changed dramatically since then and the two teams are currently heading in opposite directions. With a few of their youngsters starting to find some consistency, expect the Roos to be too good on Saturday.
North Melbourne by 12
Brisbane Lions v Richmond: Saturday 18/6 – 7.10pm at Gabba
On paper, this should be an easy one to tip. But after both teams were affected by flight delays during the week, this one’s back to an even playing field.
Many thought Brisbane was on its way up the ladder after two straight wins against North Melbourne and Adelaide. But two 10-goal hidings at the hands of Sydney and Carlton have completely derailed its momentum. The Lions are now only off the bottom of the ladder by virtue of percentage, hardly surprising when their kicking efficiency hovers around 68 per cent – the worst in the competition.
At one stage, Richmond had won four of its past five games, but has lost some confidence over recent weeks with two consecutive losses. The Tigers did go down gallantly against the Swans last weekend, with their three big guns Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Brett Deledio all gathering plenty of the footy. However they can’t afford to drop too many more games now if they want to feature in September.
Richmond had to take a 10-hour bus ride to get back from Sydney after last round’s game, which has surely had a massive effect on its preparation. However it wasn’t smooth travelling for the Lions either after they were stuck in Melbourne for a few days more than planned. With the teams on a level playing field, expect the Tigers’ classy midfield to have a big impact on the game and steer the team to victory.
Richmond by 30
St Kilda v Geelong: Saturday 18/6 – 7.10pm at MCG
These two teams have provided AFL fans with some enthralling contests over the past three seasons. Will this Saturday night’s clash be another thrilling instalment?
St Kilda’s important 24-point victory over the Bulldogs last weekend was as ugly as a morning hangover. Given the way the Saints have performed this season, they need to take any win they get. However, there’s no doubt they’ve shown improvement in the past few months. Brendon Goddard is starting to find the footy, Sam Fisher continues to be a rock in defence and Jack Steven is an exciting young player who is starting to find his feet in the midfield.
What do Michael Buble and Geelong have in common? Both parties enjoy ‘Feeling Good’ – especially the latter as it sits undefeated on top of the ladder. The Cats’ five-point win over Hawthorn last weekend was an important moment in their season. After failing to score a goal in the third quarter, they turned it on in the final quarter to boot 3.4 and keep the Hawks scoreless in the process.
The only way St Kilda can win this match is if it turns it into a slog, much like the game these two played in Round 1 this season. On that occasion, the Cats only won due to a Darren Milburn goal with 19 seconds left in the game. Expect Geelong to start the match much more cleanly this time round and put the game beyond doubt early.
Geelong by 18
Melbourne v Fremantle: Sunday 19/6 – 1.10pm at MCG
These two teams have plenty of similar characteristics – they’re young, inconsistent, injury-depleted and in desperate need of a win.
In the words of a well-known Australian electrical store, Melbourne ‘you’ve done it again’! After an emotional victory against Essendon in Round 11, the Demons flopped – not for the first time this season – on the big Queen’s Birthday stage against Collingwood, going down by a whopping 88 points. Their disposal efficiency and execution was poor and their risk-and-reward game style failed against a quality and disciplined opposition.
It’s been extremely difficult to read Fremantle’s form this season. The Dockers have won just two of their past six games, but still find themselves sitting in seventh position on the ladder. Their win over Essendon last round was largely thanks to some outstanding individual performances. The Dockers’ recent MCG record is appalling, which will turn plenty of tipsters off.
Melbourne will know it currently sits in 10th spot on the ladder and is more than capable of sneaking into the top eight. With Fremantle’s David Mundy, Aaron Sandilands and Hayden Ballantyne all sidelined due to injury, and ruckman Mark Jamar expected to return, consider the Demons likely to once again bounce back hard after a flogging the round before.
Melbourne by 20
Carlton v Sydney Swans: Sunday 19/6 – 2.10pm at Etihad Stadium
Two teams who have surprised many pundits this season clash on Sunday afternoon in an attempt to secure a top four spot.
Like ‘planking’, Carlton is the latest trend – at least in AFL society. Everyone has been hopping on the Blues’ large bandwagon in recent weeks – as they should too, because the boys in navy currently sit in third spot on the ladder with eight wins and a draw. While Chris Judd continues to have a blinder of a season, it’s been the likes of Marc Murphy, Mitch Robinson, Chris Yarran, Michael Jamison and Andrew Walker who have all helped the team reach their next level of development.
You always know what you’re going to get with Sydney – a fierce and tight contest. The Swans seem to beat the teams they should beat and lose to the teams they are expected to lose to as well. While veterans Adam Goodes, Jude Bolton and Ryan O’Keefe continue to be the glue of the side, young players, such as Sam Reid – last round’s NAB Rising Star nominee – are giving the team a new dimension and fresh new look.
The Blues’ current form is too good to ignore. On the fast Etihad Stadium track, expect those elusive forwards in Walker, Jeff Garlett and Eddie Betts to run the Swans’ defenders ragged.
Carlton by 24
West Coast Eagles v Port Adelaide: Sunday 19/6 – 2.40pm at Patersons
Um, yeah. Let’s not spend too much time on this one.
After a slow start, West Coast produced a solid 39-point win over Adelaide last weekend. Footy experts were raving over the ruck work of Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui. The two big boys not only dominated the hit-out tally, but also palmed the ball down to their teammates’ advantage at almost every opportunity.
The 2011 season continues to go from bad to worse for Port Adelaide. Just when you thought the Power had given their supporters something to cheer about after a gutsy win against Richmond in Round 10, they suffer a humiliating 62-point loss to Carlton and announce they are in a dire financial situation. With David Rodan sidelined due to a knee injury, the Power are in a dark place right now.
Two words – West Coast.
West Coast Eagles by 50
This piece was originally published on Sportingbet Australia.