Round 4 Preview: Carlton to halt Essendon’s momentum?

15 April 2011

Written by: Ben Waterworth

Richmond v Collingwood: Friday 15/4 – 7.50pm at MCG

Two Victorian powerhouses of the AFL kick off this weekend’s round of action under the bright lights of the MCG.

Yes it was against the Hawks, but Richmond was very poor last weekend. The Hawks’ forward line did as they pleased against an inept defensive unit, which was missing Luke McGuane, Kelvin Moore and Alex Rance. Jack Riewoldt had a dirty night at the other end of the field, finishing with just one goal from eight touches and a $900 fine for an ‘obscene hand gesture’ towards the Hawthorn bench.

Conversely, Collingwood is currently multiple steps ahead of any other team in the league. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect to come out of last weekend’s 28-point win over Carlton was the form of Jarryd Blair. The 2010 rookie added another dimension to an already powerful Magpie forward line, booting a career-best five goals and possibly collecting three Brownlow votes in the process.

The Tigers’ backline still has plenty of holes. Therefore, the midfield needs to take control of the game and stop the ball from entering into Collingwood’s forward line. But with the likes of Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas in the middle, it’s wishful thinking. Pies to win very comfortably.


Collingwood by 54 points

Hawthorn v West Coast: Saturday 16/4 – 2.10pm at Aurora Stadium

Two of the most in-form teams in the competition face off in the Apple Isle on Saturday afternoon.

After a first round hiccup against Adelaide, the Hawks have been in awesome knick over past the two weeks. Shaun Burgoyne is back in peak fitness, Josh Gibson seems settled in the back line and Lance Franklin, well… he’s just a superstar. However, the Hawthorn backline has been dealt a massive blow recently with emerging young defender Ben Stratton ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Very few predicted West Coast to be playing this well at the start of the season. Despite a 13-point loss to Sydney last weekend, the Eagles are in great touch and, along with Essendon, have been the surprise packet of the season to date. They have been led superbly by the ruck combination of Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui, who are capable of beating any opposition ruck duo on any given day.

Hawthorn’s record at Aurora Stadium is extremely impressive, but the Eagles’ record isn’t too bad either, winning two of five games at the same venue. However, the Hawks have proved in recent weeks they are a genuine premiership contender this season and with Sam Mitchell and Cyril Rioli returning to the line-up, they should maintain their healthy Launceston record.


Hawthorn by 30 points

Carlton v Essendon: Saturday 16/4 – 2.10pm at MCG

The Blues and the Bombers are the two most successful teams in AFL history with 16 premierships each. After a decade to forget, both heavyweight clubs are on the up again and will be keen to prove who the better team is on Saturday.

Despite losing by 28 points, Carlton won the respect of many last weekend. The Blues found themselves in front of the all conquering Pies at quarter-time, but were blown away in the second term. However, they never gave up and fought out the game right until the final siren. Skipper Chris Judd and Bryce Gibbs are in good touch through the midfield, while Jeff Garlett currently sits equal first on the goal kicking tally, something not many would have predicted pre-season.

The Bombers have continued to surprise most footy fans with their performances on the field. Pre-season, many thought they wouldn’t win any of their first five games, but after three rounds they’ve beaten Western Bulldogs and St Kilda and narrowly lost to Sydney away. Captain Jobe Watson is playing inspiring footy in the midfield, while big boys Tom Bellchambers, Michael Hurley and Paddy Ryder have all made their presence felt over the first three weeks.

Besides a 76-point loss last season, Essendon has had the wood over Carlton in recent years, winning the past eight games between these two teams. But the Bombers will be coming off a five-day break, whereas Carlton will have had an eight-day rest. If the Blues put four consistent quarters together and make full use of their fresh legs, they should bring the much-hyped Bombers to a standstill in front of a packed MCG.


Carlton by 18 points

Sydney v Geelong: Saturday 16/4 – 7.10pm at SCG

Sydney and Geelong were expected to slide down the ladder this season, but a new coach and inspirational performances by senior players have seen both teams prove their critics wrong.

They haven’t been totally convincing and might’ve won their two games by a total margin of 18 points, but the Swans have been brilliant to watch so far this season. Under new coach John Longmire, they have defied their non-believers and improved from last season’s finish. Experienced players, such as Adam Goodes and Jude Bolton, have stood up in recent weeks and have proved they still have plenty to give their team.

Geelong has won three from three and couldn’t be happier. New coach Chris Scott has stepped into his new role with supreme confidence and seems to have his players working well together. Like the Swans, the Cats have been well served by their experienced players. But they have also unleashed new kids such as Mitch Duncan and Daniel Menzel, who will both play a major role in the team’s development.

The last time these two teams played each other at the SCG in 2005 has become known as the ‘Nick Davis’ game. Sydney livewire forward Davis booted four last quarter goals – including the match winner in the dying seconds – to snatch victory from the heartbroken Cats and send the Swans into the preliminary final. The stakes won’t be that high on Saturday night, but a close margin is almost inevitable. However, the Cats have been a little more convincing so far this season and should cope with the small confines of the SCG just fine.


Geelong by 12 points

Port Adelaide v Adelaide:  Saturday 16/4 – 7.10pm at AAMI Stadium

The South Australian ‘Showdown’ is always fascinating viewing and the 30th edition shouldn’t be any different with both sides desperate to make amends for ordinary performances last weekend.

Adelaide was extremely disappointing against the Dockers on Saturday, particularly after having the week off in round two. The Crows were rusty and uncompetitive in the first term, allowing Fremantle to skip out to a five-goal lead at the quarter-time break. They probably broke even with the Dockers over the final three quarters, but the Crows knew they missed out on a golden opportunity to beat a serious finals-contender at home early in the season.

Port Adelaide was never in the contest against the Cats – nor were they expected to be. Yes the Power are a young team, but surely their supporters must be sick and tired of their team underperforming on a weekly basis. There appears to be little commitment and work-rate at the moment, something that is purely unacceptable in such a professional competition.

Adelaide deserves to start this game as red-hot favourites. But when it comes to the South Australian derby, form doesn’t count for anything. The Crows should still win, but expect Port Adelaide to finally pull out a competitive and consistent four-quarter effort.


Adelaide by 24 points

Gold Coast Suns v Melbourne: Saturday 17/4 – 2.10pm at Gabba

Both of these teams will be looking to put silly issues behind them on Sunday when they verse each other on the mighty Gabba turf.

Melbourne’s Brent Moloney was stripped of his vice-captaincy title after being asked to leave a nightclub at around 2.30am on Monday morning due to intoxication. It’s a shame for the midfielder, who had been in brilliant form, averaging 27 disposals a game over the first three weeks of the season. Moloney will still play this weekend, but will not carry as much authority and, maybe, respect as what he did previously.

Like the Demons, Gold Coast had to deal with a redundant matter over the past few days with the suspension of experienced defender Campbell Brown. The ex-Hawk will miss the next four weeks of the season for two hits on Barry Hall and Callan Ward last weekend, with the latter receiving mega publicity. The Suns can’t afford to lose any more 2010 uncontracted players because they already lack experience and big bodies.

There were some positive signs for Gold Coast during its loss to the Dogs last weekend, particularly during the second half. This match could quite possibly be the Suns’ first competitive game because no one is convinced about Melbourne yet. The Dees will win, but by how much is anyone’s guess.


Melbourne by 30 points

Fremantle v North Melbourne: Sunday 17/4 – 2.40pm at Patersons Stadium

The fourth round of the season concludes in Perth with two teams in very contrasting form.

While their opponents performed well below par, we shouldn’t take anything away from the Dockers’ effort during their 24-point win over the Crows last weekend. Perhaps the most impressive aspect about the victory was that they did it without Aaron Sandilands on the field. In his absence, young guns Nathan Fyfe and Stephen Hill accumulated 55 quality possessions between them, and when those two players get that much of the footy, Fremantle will always be tough to beat.

Most people seem to have overlooked North Melbourne’s tough start to 2011. The Kangaroos started the season against West Coast in Perth, returned home to play the dominant Collingwood in round two and then had the weekend off last round. Now they have to travel back to Patersons Stadium to take on the in-form Dockers. It’s certainly not an ideal start.

The Roos know Todd Goldstein and Drew Petrie are very capable of competing with Sandilands in the ruck. However, the Dockers have proven they don’t need the big man to win games anymore. Expect them to win their third game of the season reasonably comfortably.


Fremantle by 42 points


Brisbane Lions, St Kilda and Western Bulldogs

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