Geelong v West Coast
Saturday 28 August, 1:10pm AEST at Skilled Stadium, Geelong (Fox Sports 1)
Geelong has rebounded well over the last two weeks, following that Round 19 loss to Collingwood, with solid wins against the Western Bulldogs and Carlton. Paul Chapman was fantastic last week while Gary Ablett showed how damaging he can be if he plays deep in the forward line with four goals. The Cats continue to prove the critics wrong and firmly believe they can win a third premiership in four years. There’s no reason why they can’t.
West Coast is heading for its first wooden spoon in the club’s history. Injuries have plagued the Eagles’ 2010 campaign and the end can’t come quickly enough for them. Unfortunately for their supporters, this horrid year finishes with a daunting trip to Skilled Stadium.
With Andrew Mackie, Brad Ottens and Cameron Ling all returning, the Cats should win very easily.
Hawthorn v Collingwood
Saturday 28 August, 2:10pm AEST at MCG, Melbourne (Channel 10)
The Hawks would’ve enjoyed last week’s 116-point win over Fremantle at Launceston. A few players were able to run themselves into some menacing form, none more so than Shaun Burgoyne, who kicked four goals and gathered 37 possessions in his best game for the club so far. If he produces performances like that during the finals, the Hawks are capable of beating anyone.
Collingwood had a massive fright last weekend but was still able to defeat Adelaide by three points at the MCG. The Magpies themselves wouldn’t have been satisfied with their efforts and it was probably the wake-up call they needed before the finals series. However they will put that match behind them and focus on the future.
We’ll really get an idea of where Hawthorn is at after Saturday afternoon’s game. They need to win in order to avoid an interstate trip in the first week of the finals. Hawthorn will be without the services of Luke Hodge due to a bruised knee, but the Magpies will also be missing Alan Didak, who has a shoulder injury. Collingwood should win this game, but expect the Hawks to give them an almighty scare.
Adelaide v St Kilda
Saturday 28 August, 4:10pm AEST at AAMI Stadium, Adelaide (Fox Sports 1)
The Crows restricted the Magpies to just six goals last weekend but failed to make the most of their opportunities, eventually losing by three points. However, two players who have found some great form towards the end of the season are Scott Thompson and Graham Johncock. Thompson will poll well in the latter rounds of this year’s Brownlow count while Johncock has been able to shake off forward defensive tags and rebound effectively off half-back.
St Kilda did enough to defeat Richmond last weekend without being at the top of its game. But the best sign to come out of the game was the welcome return to form of Justin Koschitzke, who kicked five goals in his best game for the year. The Saints will be a much more versatile team in September if Koschitzke can kick at least three goals a game and take pressure off skipper Nick Riewoldt.
This game will be tighter than most expect. Adelaide has been impressive in recent weeks and is also a much better team than at home. Another positive is that the Saints might not have much motivation for this match because they know Geelong awaits them next week. In addition, the Crows will be saying goodbye to club greats Andrew McLeod, Brett Burton, Simon Goodwin and Trent Hentschel in front of their home crowd. If you’re looking for that one tip to get you over the line in your work’s tipping competition, this might be the game for you. Crows in an upset.
Brisbane v Sydney
Saturday 28 August, 7:10pm AEST at Gabba, Brisbane (Fox Sports 1)
The Lions surprised many last week with a 27-point win over the Bombers. Captain Jonathan Brown was unstoppable in his 200th game, booting 4.6 from 25 touches and 16 marks. Unfortunately for them, it’s all too little late.
It’s fair to say that Sydney is one of the most in-form sides in the competition. The Swans’ impressive victory over the Western Bulldogs last weekend made it three consecutive victories. Adam Goodes was solid, Daniel Hannebery put in another great performance and young Trent Dennis-Lane had his best game for the club with four goals from 15 touches.
Brisbane decided to end Brown’s season early due to a nagging groin injury, basically ending any hope of a victory on Saturday night. Despite this game being played at the Gabba, the Swans’ hot form is too good to ignore and they will be keen to carry their momentum into Saturday’s game and the finals.
Western Bulldogs v Essendon
Saturday 28 August, 7:10pm AEST at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne (Channel 10)
After some scintillating form between rounds 15 and 19, the Dogs have been dealt two heavy losses to Geelong and Sydney in the last two weeks. The news doesn’t get any better for the Dogs either, with Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney and key defender Dale Morris both ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury. Their chances of winning a premiership now seem slim.
The Bombers have suffered some awful defeats this year, but none more so humiliating than their 27-point loss to Brisbane last weekend. The spotlight immediately turned to coach Matthew Knights, who isn’t even sure himself whether he’ll be coaching at the club next year. Essendon are another team desperate for the end of the year and will struggle this weekend.
Even with Cooney, Morris and skipper Brad Johnson out of the team, the Bulldogs should still win this game. They need a confidence-boosting win before the finals and so they can carry some sort of momentum in to their September campaign.
Winner: Western Bulldogs
Richmond v Port Adelaide
Sunday 29 August, 2:10pm AEST at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne (Channel 7)
Jack Riewoldt and the Tigers did their best to try and make last week’s game against St ilda a tight contest. Riewoldt continued his awesome year with seven goals in a best-on-ground performance, despite his team losing by 31 points. He has now kicked 75 goals for the year and sewn up the Coleman medal, a phenomenal effort considering where his team has been on the ladder throughout the year.
You wouldn’t have noticed it, but Port Adelaide has won four of their past five games. Caretaker coach Matthew Primus has obviously won the respect of the playing group and is surely the favourite to become the official coach of the club next year.
All eyes will be firmly fixed on the retiring Ben Cousins this Sunday as an unbelievable career comes to an end. His well publicised documentary was timed perfectly to fit in with his last AFL game and it will only add to the emotion of the day. Despite the Power’s recent form, the Tigers will surely send the Brownlow medallist in the best way possible.
Melbourne v North Melbourne
Sunday 29 August, 4:40pm AEST at MCG, Melbourne (Fox Sports 1)
Melbourne would’ve been really disappointed with their loss to Port Adelaide last week. The young group had a perfect opportunity to get a confidence-boosting win away from home. But the Demons probably lacked motivation knowing that their finals chances were no longer after a loss to Hawthorn the week before.
The Kangaroos celebrated club champion Brent Harvey’s 300th game in fine style with a gutsy 16-point win over West Coast at Subiaco. Harvey was good himself, but it was Andrew Swallow who continued his brilliant season with three goals from 27 possessions. Swallow looks likely to poll the most Brownlow votes by a Kangaroo player and should win his second consecutive best-and-fairest award.
This should be a great game and is the perfect way to finish this year’s home-and-away season. These two teams are the best two outside of the top eight and it will be fascinating to see how Sunday’s encounter pans out. Both sides have their own injury concerns but both will be coming off interstate trips. A literal toss of the coin – my side came up on North Melbourne.
Winner: North Melbourne
Ben Waterworth is a regular contributor to upstart and a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can read more of his work at his blog, A Short Sport Thought. This article also appears on Sportingbet Australia’s website.