Round 17 Preview – Separating the men from the boys

15 July 2011

Written by: James Rosewarne

Adelaide v Essendon: Friday 15/7 – 8.10pm at AAMI Stadium

Friday night footy returns to South Australia, but all the attention will be on the visitors.

Adelaide got back on the winners list in Round 15, thanks to a gritty seven-point win over top-four contenders Sydney. It was the Crows’ first win in seven rounds and it gave the very small crowd in attendance something to cheer about.

Essendon is back and the talk of the town once again – but for how long? The Bombers kicked the last 10 goals of their game against Richmond last weekend to win their second consecutive match. Like their win in the previous round, it was their intensity and appetite to defend that won them the game.

The Crows’ finals hopes are dashed, but the Bombers’ is far from dashed. Despite being away from home, expect Essendon to have few troubles getting past its opponent.

Richmond v Gold Coast Suns: Saturday 16/7 – 2.10pm at Cazaly Stadium

For the second time this season, the Yellow and Black army has had to sell a game interstate. Will Saturday’s match have a similar outcome to the one it sold earlier in the year?

After winning just one of its past six matches, Richmond’s hopes of making the top eight have almost been completely wiped. However when you look at their young list, 12th spot on the ladder is perhaps an accurate representation of where they should be at this stage in their development.

Gold Coast is physically shot, so expect it to be on the end of some big beltings over the remaining months of the season. The Suns’ young bodies have always struggled to run out games this season, but they seem to be dropping out earlier the longer 2011 goes on. They can’t hold the ball inside their forward half, hence why many pundits can’t bear to think about their Round 18 clash with Collingwood.

The last time the Tigers sold a game interstate, they lost to Port Adelaide by 15 points in Round 10. Many believe that loss halted all momentum they’d gathered over the previous weeks. But against a mentally and physically drained young Suns outfit, Richmond shouldn’t drop this one. Surely…

Carlton v Collingwood: Saturday 16/7 – 2.10pm at MCG

MCG, traditional rivals, Saturday afternoon, sell-out crowd expected of 90,000 plus, as well as a live television broadcast. Seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Carlton ran into a motivated Bulldogs side last weekend, eventually going down by 27 points. At one stage, the Blues were up by 27 points, but when Jarrad Waite went off with a groin injury in the second term, they lost all their momentum and forward structure. The Blues played static and safe footy in the second half and didn’t attack the game back of centre.

Collingwood is at the height of its powers at the moment – and it’s scary. The Pies made a mess of North Melbourne last weekend, winning by 117 points in one the best displays of unsociable, selfless and team-orientated footy we’ve seen this season. Despite being subbed off midway through the third term, many thought excitement machine Dale Thomas was best-on-ground.

It’s simple for the Blues: they must take the Pies on. Saturday presents them with a magnificent opportunity to bounce back from a disappointing loss and prove they can compete against the very best. But with their two bookends in Waite and Michael Jamison missing through injury, Collingwood should be way too classy and continue on its merry way.

St Kilda v West Coast Eagles: Saturday 16/7 – 7.10pm at Etihad Stadium

For the footy purist, this will be a great tactical battle to watch as two of the best defensive sides over recent years go head-to-head.

While it hasn’t shown ominous signs yet, St Kilda has certainly been on the right track over the past month with three wins from its past four matches. What’s most encouraging for Saints supporters is their team’s best players, like Nick Dal Santo, Brendon Goddard and, more recently, Nick Riewoldt are all in good touch, which takes pressure off the youngsters trying to cement their spot in the team.

The West Coast fairytale continues to get better by the week. The Eagles produced a stunning eight-point win over top-of-the-table Geelong last weekend, which was helped by nine unanswered goals across the first two quarters. Their ability to keep the ball inside their forward half was phenomenal, as they forced some of the Cats’ most experienced and poised defenders to make uncharacteristic clangers.

This one is perhaps the game of the round. The Saints are on a roll and know they’ll be pushing for a finals spot if they continue to win games over the next two months. However the Eagles are the real deal in 2011. They’ve already proven this season that they can beat quality sides in Melbourne. It’ll be tight, but expect another gritty West Coast win.

Melbourne v Port Adelaide: Saturday 16/7 – 8.10pm at TIO Stadium

Wouldn’t suggest setting your Foxtel IQ for this game. However the result could have a major bearing on one team’s finals aspirations.

This season, Melbourne has been extremely hard to read. The Demons currently sit 10th on the ladder with six wins and would probably need to win another five games to give them the best possible chance of playing in September. Once the Dees return home from this game, they have a tough run ahead, playing four straight matches against four of the top five sides. They need to build some momentum from this match, otherwise the month after could be a real struggle.

Hate to kick a club while its down, but let’s be frank here: Port Adelaide stink. The critics were harsh on the Power, following their poor 56-point loss to St Kilda last weekend. Many pundits were perplexed at their game style, which saw them chipping the ball around the back half and not taking the game on, even though it was a wet and windy day against one of the most disciplined teams in the competition.

Dees coach Dean Bailey is coaching for his life – and it doesn’t help when a game that should normally be a dead set certain win becomes a question mark because the club has had to sell it interstate. Port Adelaide has played the most games in Darwin of any team and has an impressive record at the ground. But if Melbourne has any desire to play finals this season, it must win this game – no exceptions.

Sydney v Fremantle: Sunday 17/7 – 1.10pm at SCG

It mightn’t be a spectacle to watch, but this is yet another important game.

Sydney’s 70-point win over Gold Coast last weekend came at the right time. The Swans had lost three consecutive games going into last round, but produced a confidence-boosting victory, probably only in third gear. They’ve found a beauty in Sam Reid, who not only takes marks and kicks goals, but also applies great defensive pressure inside forward 50.

The alarm bells are starting to ring after Fremantle. Despite sitting in seventh position and with two solid wins over Brisbane and Gold Coast in their past two games, the Dockers could miss the top eight. They have perhaps the toughest run home of any team in the competition, playing five teams above them on the ladder, as well as St Kilda and Western Bulldogs, who are making a real charge towards the eight. The sooner the Dockers get the irreplaceable Aaron Sandilands and David Mundy back, the better.

The Dockers have been hit hard by injuries this season, so it will be interesting to see whether the bye last round has freshened them up. However Sydney loves playing at the SCG and should keep its slim top four hopes alive with a tough win on Sunday.

Brisbane Lions v Geelong: Sunday 17/7 – 2.10pm at Gabba

Don’t think the away side should have too many problems on Sunday afternoon.

Brisbane took it right up to Hawthorn in Tasmania last weekend, but was overrun in the last quarter and eventually lost by 42 points. It was good to see skipper Jonathan Brown have an impact, booting four goals, despite being double teamed for the majority of the match. Tough and unassuming midfielder Jack Redden was easily the Lions’ best player with two goals from 32 touches.

After two straight losses, following 13 consecutive victories, everyone has jumped off the Geelong bandwagon. There would be a few concerns for coach Chris Scott following his team’s eight-point loss to West Coast last weekend. In the past fortnight, the Cats have found ways to get themselves back into the contest, both in general play and on the scoreboard. Doubt them at your own peril.

The Cats took the strange move of flying straight from Perth to Queensland, meaning the players haven’t slept in their own beds over the past week. However that shouldn’t worry Geelong too much, who will be super keen to avenge the past fortnight with a solid win on Sunday.

North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: Sunday 17/7 – 4.40pm at Etihad Stadium

Expect a fast and free flowing game of footy on Sunday night when two finals aspirants clash to conclude Round 17.

Yes it was against Collingwood. Yes it was a wet day. Yes it was missing a few key players. Still, it was no excuse for North Melbourne’s horrendous 117-point loss to the Pies last weekend. It was the flattest performance the Kangaroos have produced this season. All week, they had built up the game as the chance to prove just how good a side they were. Unfortunately for their supporters, the Roos failed – dismally.

At the complete opposite end of the momentum scale lie Western Bulldogs, who are back in the hunt for a finals spot. The Bulldogs’ 27-point victory over top-four side Carlton forced the footy community to take notice of them – and why wouldn’t you? In the past four weeks, the Dogs have been conceding the second lowest amount of points per game, compared to 11th earlier in the season. Adam Cooney’s improved output has been a major factor behind the team’s resurgence, as well as the inclusion of young Luke Dahlhaus and, more recently, Andrew Hooper in the forward line.

These teams sit ninth and 12th respectively, so if either of them want to play finals, this is a must-win game. North Melbourne will be keen for redemption after last weekend’s horrendous showing. But the Bulldogs have been in ominous form over the past month and are starting to show why they played three straight preliminary finals under coach Rodney Eade. Expect Western Bulldogs to win an entertaining game.

BYE:

Hawthorn

Ben Waterworth is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is upstart’s former sports editor. You can follow him on twitter: @bjwaterworth