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Round 4 AFL Preview – Dockers to upset Saints?

On Sunday, the AFL's top two teams - Fremantle and St Kilda - face off at Ethiad Stadium. But Ben Waterworth reckons that there's another match that could turn out to be the highlight of round four.

We learnt a lot more than just five things in round three. Very rarely has an AFL round been so action packed both on and off the field than last weekend’s. Let’s revisit what was a hot three days of AFL football.

Five things we learnt from Round 3:

  1. Goalkicking is a lost art. The goal to behind ratio over round three was 49.6 per cent, the lowest ever recorded by Champion Data. Over the past 10 years, the annual conversion rate has hovered between 58 and 60 per cent. Many football commentators were flummoxed by this catastrophic drop. Some said that players can’t mentally cope with the pressure when lining up for goal or that there is simply not enough goalkicking practice done at training during the week. Any way you look at it, the issue has to be resolved fast because it is costing teams severely- such as Collingwood who kicked 4.17 against St.Kilda.
  2. Richmond are a rabble. Losses to Carlton and the Western Bulldogs had alarm bells ringing. Then their 55-point loss to Sydney further confirmed their status as the worst team in the competition. You would’ve thought it couldn’t get any worse for them. Wrong. After the game, Daniel Connors became intoxicated and behaved inappropriately at the team’s hotel. After a putrid loss! Unacceptable. Connors has been suspended for eight weeks while Luke McGuane, Dean Polo and, everyone’s favourite, Ben Cousins have all been suspended for a week. Not good enough boys.
  3. St Kilda can win without Nick Riewoldt. All the talking leading up to last Friday night’s game between the Saints and Collingwood was about how Luke Ball would fair against his old club. But the focus soon shifted to Riewoldt. The star centre half-forward went down just before half time with a serious hamstring injury, which immediately put St.Kilda on the back foot. But the Saints were able to steady and eventually win the game by 28 points.
  4. Cyril Rioli can win a Brownlow medal. If you caught the game between the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn last Sunday, you would’ve been treated to something special. Rioli put together his own highlights tape. Silky smooth skills, intense tackling, electric speed and breathtaking goals. He did it all. Despite the fact that his team went down by 16 points, Rioli was easily best on ground. The umpires should be sacked if he doesn’t receive three Brownlow votes. When he fully recovers from injury and gets his aerobic capacity up to a midfielder’s standard, Rioli can win a Brownlow.
  5. Brent Harvey is a class act. We probably already knew that, but he proved to the football world that he has lost none of his touch. Harvey himself labelled his five possession game against St Kilda in round two as the worst game of his illustrious career. What a difference a week can make. Against West Coast last Saturday, he played one of his best games of all time. Harvey collected 44 possessions during the Kangaroo’s 25-point win, which included a spectacular seven-bounce run towards goal that unfortunately finished with a behind.

What to look forward to in Round 4:

–          St Kilda and Fremantle currently sit first and second on the ladder. But in reality, the Saints are underdone and Fremantle have a wonderful opportunity to knock them off this Sunday. With Riewoldt injured and Justin Koschitzke sidelined due to suspension, the Saints will be vulnerable. The young Dockers have surprised many, winning their first three games of the season. Against Geelong- the reigning premiers- last week, they showed great class and maturity during the last 10 minutes, when the game was up for grabs. Captain Matthew Pavlich was inspirational, kicking five goals and gathering 26 possessions in a best-on-ground performance. The Saints snuck home against the Pies, but really, Collingwood lost the game more than St.Kilda won it. Fremantle have momentum, a win away from home and a giant in Aaron Sandilands. This is their week.

–          Saturday night’s game between Brisbane and the Western Bulldogs looks set to be the game of the round. Brendan Fevola and Jonathon Brown have continued to work in tandem superbly, kicking another eight goals between them against Port Adelaide last weekend. If the Bulldogs had kicked more accurately against Hawthorn, their 16 point winning margin could’ve been a lot bigger. The Lions are difficult to beat at home, but they come up against a tough opponent. Brian Lake and Dale Morris are very good defenders and are more than capable of shutting down Fevola and Brown. If the boys from Footscray bring their best to the Gabba, watch out! 

–          A big crowd is expected to pack the MCG on Saturday night when Collingwood take on Hawthorn. Last weekend, the Magpies basically kicked themselves out of the game and the Hawks were outclassed early in the game against the Bulldogs. Collingwood will regain key running defender Heath Shaw from a back injury. On the other hand, Hawthorn will lose their star goalkicker in Lance Franklin through suspension. At full strength, the Hawks are a better side on paper. But with Buddy out and Brad Sewell and Shaun Burgoyne still a couple of weeks away, Collingwood should win.

–          Before the start of the season, the round four clash between Richmond and Melbourne was being touted as the battle for the wooden spoon. After three rounds of football, the Tigers thoroughly deserve their favouritism for the spoon. Richmond has lost their first three games by a combined total of 183 points, that’s an average of 61 points per game. Not great. However, Melbourne lost to Collingwood by a point and then beat Adelaide by 16 points last week. More importantly, they’ve been impressive at the same time. The omissions of Connors and Cousins will hurt any chance that Richmond had of leaving the MCG with a victory. The Demons could have a rare field day.

Ben’s Tip Tally for 2010: 16 out of 24


Ben’s Tips for Round 4:

West Coast Eagles to beat Essendon

North Melbourne to beat Sydney

Adelaide to beat Carlton

Western Bulldogs to beat Brisbane

Collingwood to beat Hawthorn

 Melbourne to beat Richmond

Geelong to beat Port Adelaide

Fremantle to beat St.Kilda

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