Round 6 Preview: Crunch time for Kangaroos

28 April 2011

Written by: Ben Waterworth

West Coast Eagles v Melbourne: Thursday 28/4 – 6.40pm at Patersons Stadium

Round 5 finished on Tuesday and Round 6 begins on Thursday – that’s a pretty quick turnaround! But don’t question the round’s opening match, because it should be an entertaining contest with both teams having a rest in the last round.

Have we gone too early on West Coast? It started the year with two convincing wins against Port Adelaide and North Melbourne – the two clubs that currently occupy the 14th and 17th positions on the ladder. The Eagles followed up with losses to Sydney and Hawthorn – the two teams that currently occupy the eighth and fifth positions on the ladder. Are we a little too excited about the Eagles? Time will tell.

However Melbourne is one team we certainly shouldn’t sing the praises of too loudly either. The Demons have been unconvincing so far this season, winning two, drawing one and losing one, with the two wins against lowly Brisbane and Gold Coast. In fact if it wasn’t for Liam Jurrah and Brent Moloney, the Dees could’ve easily lost their Round 3 clash with the Lions. Perhaps last round’s bye came at the perfect time because it gave both the players and coaches time to analyse the first month and reassess the rest of the season.

This will be a big test for both clubs and a win would give either team much needed confidence and momentum. West Coast will fancy its chances because it’s always tough for a Victorian club to travel to Perth. But after a confidence-boosting 90-point win over the Suns and the weekend off to rest and recuperate, Melbourne should be primed to take this one out in a close one.


Melbourne by 18 points

Sydney v Carlton: Friday 29/4 – 7.40pm at SCG

Here’s the dilemma you face this Friday night. Do you watch the royal wedding while sipping plunger coffee and nibbling on some homemade scones? Or do you watch a tough and physical clash at the SCG between two genuine finals contenders? Maybe a combination of both? Scones, coffee and footy does sound tempting.

Before the start of every season, very few predict Sydney to finish in the final eight. But the Swans always seem to find a will and a way to prove their doubters wrong. This season is no exception, with John Longmire’s men currently occupying eighth spot on the ladder, having played one less game than the majority of the top eight.

It wasn’t ideal, but Carlton would’ve been glad to escape with a win against Adelaide on Saturday night. The Blues looked sharp in the first quarter but failed to convert a plethora of opportunities on the scoreboard. To their credit, they withstood a fierce final-term challenge by the Crows, with Marc Murphy and Andrew Walker producing brilliant performances.

If you choose to watch this game over the royal wedding, you won’t be let down. We saw how close these two teams are to each other when they played in an elimination final in 2010, which Sydney just won. Both clubs have improved this season too, so expect another close one. However the Swans play the SCG better than anyone else in the competition and should have too much experience on their home turf.


Sydney by 10 points

North Melbourne v Port Adelaide: Saturday 30/4 – 2.10pm at Etihad Stadium

Plenty of harsh adjectives were used to describe the performances of both of these teams after their respective Round 5 matches. Therefore the winner of this match will breathe a little easier, while there will be grave concerns for the loser.

After being touted as top eight contenders pre-season, the Kangaroos sit ugly at the bottom of the ladder. Their loss to Richmond was inexcusable and if it wasn’t for Drew Petrie, who booted six goals at full-forward, the result could’ve been even more humiliating. The Roos led by 13 points at three-quarter time but wasted so many chances in the final term, kicking 2.8 while the Tigers slammed on seven goals straight.

Port Adelaide made history on Saturday – for all the wrong reasons. It became the first team to ever lose to the Gold Coast Suns, and didn’t it cop a pasting from the press the next day. Spineless, leaderless and pathetic were just some of the words thrown around after the Power squandered a 40-point lead midway through the third quarter.

Crunch time has arrived for these two teams. A win isn’t just needed, it is a necessity. All the pressure will be on North Melbourne because they sit on the bottom at the moment and are playing at home. However the Roos’ midfield, led by Brent Harvey and Andrew Swallow, should rise to the occasion and help the team get their first win on the board for 2011.


North Melbourne by 30 points

Richmond v Brisbane: Saturday 30/4 – 7.10pm at MCG

They may sit 12th and 16th on the ladder, but these two teams certainly have won respect for the way they’ve gone about their business so far this season.

Richmond thoroughly deserved its first win of the season last round with a gritty and determined performance against North Melbourne. The Tigers were led superbly by second-year player Dustin Martin, who won plenty of accolades. Martin showed why he is rated one of the best young players in the competition, booting four goals and gathering 33 touches. His strength around the stoppages and in one-on-one situations up forward was breathtaking.

The Lions almost knocked off St Kilda last round, but were eventually outclassed by a silkier and more disciplined unit in the end. Their biggest concern lies in their offence. Without Jonathon Brown up forward, they are the second lowest scoring team for the season. If the Lions want to remain competitive in 2011, they need to rectify that statistic immediately.

The Lions proved last week they won’t be slouches when playing at the Gabba this season, but they will still struggle away from home. A confident and motivated Richmond should make the most of Brisbane’s inexperience on the hallowed MCG turf and win reasonably comfortably.


Richmond by 24 points

Adelaide v St Kilda: Saturday 30/4 – 7.10pm at AAMI Stadium

The top eight seemed liked a certainty for these two teams before the start of the season – especially for one of them. But those prospects seem grim at the moment, unless either one of them can turn it around soon.

It’s difficult to assess Adelaide’s performance against Carlton last weekend. The Crows were poor in the first quarter, allowing the Blues to skip out to a 27-point lead at quarter time. However accurate kicking from gun forwards Taylor Walker and Kurt Tippett lifted the team and got them back into the contest. The Crows led by 11 points at one stage during the final term, but gave the Blues too much space around half-forward, allowing Jordan Russell and David Elllard to kick match-winning goals.

Speaking of hard to assess, what can we make of the Saints? Five rounds into the season, the 2009 and 2010 runners-up currently sit 11th on the ladder with one win, one draw and two losses. Do the players have the same motivation as the past two years? How much are the Saints missing Lenny Hayes? Yes they defeated Brisbane, but are they now in danger of missing the eight? The fact there are so many questions no one knows the answers to at this early stage of the season is a concern.

Pre-season, not too many would’ve picked St Kilda to lose this one. However its fluctuating form has many unsure of what they will produce on a weekly basis. Adelaide’s form isn’t much easier to predict either though. Perhaps the Saints might be a little more confident after last week’s win, but who knows really?


St Kilda by 20 points

Essendon v Gold Coast: Sunday 1/5 – 1.10pm at Etihad Stadium

Confidence and momentum are massive factors in team sport. So can one team’s inspirational victory, against the odds, stimulate any hope of replicating the same feat the next week?

Essendon took another big step forward in its development as a team on ANZAC Day, despite losing to Collingwood by 30 points. After a poor first quarter, the Bombers stuck with the mighty Pies in the second and third terms, even hitting the front at one stage. They have found two gun players in Stewart Crameri and Dyson Heppell, who were outstanding on the big stage, while their three ruckmen strategy continues to work well.

It was a magnificent afternoon for Gold Coast on Saturday when it won its first ever AFL game against Port Adelaide. While the Power played appallingly, don’t take anything away from the Suns, who at one stage trailed by 40 points during the third quarter, but managed to finish the match three points ahead. Michael Rischitelli was again the club’s best player, Gary Ablett and David Swallow produced terrific second halves, while Brandon Matera earned a NAB Rising Star nomination for his electric four-goal effort.

But you get the feeling the Suns will be brought back to reality on Sunday. Essendon would’ve learnt a lot from Anzac Day and should trounce the Suns.


Essendon by 72 points

Collingwood v Western Bulldogs: Sunday 1/5 – 4.40pm at MCG

The game of the round, in many people’s eyes, sees two teams, who have dominated the top four positions over the past four years, go head-to-head at the AFL’s colosseum.

On Anzac Day, Essendon achieved what no other team had been able to achieve so far this season: it exposed Collingwood’s weaknesses. There were brief moments during the second and third quarters where the Bombers moved the ball almost quicker than Usain Bolt sprints in a 100 metre race. The Magpies’ defence was therefore cut open and the Bombers remained in the match. Collingwood pulled away to win comfortably in the end, but it’s now official – Pies players are human afterall.

Western Bulldogs has beaten Brisbane and Gold Coast and lost to Essendon and Fremantle – in other words, it hasn’t proved anything yet this season. Perhaps its biggest concern is the lack of consistency from some of the more senior players, particularly Barry Hall and Adam Cooney. Hall only kicked two goals against the Bombers and Dockers, while Cooney has only accumulated 30 or more touches once – against the Lions in Round 2.

This will be a big test for the Dogs and it will determine where they currently stand as a team. If they want to remain a force to be reckoned with, they need to stand up on Sunday. Expect the Pies to get the four points, but the Dogs can make it either a hard-fought win or an easy win. Hopefully it’s the former.


Collingwood by 30 points


Fremantle, Geelong, Hawthorn