Sydney v Geelong
It’s rare for me to tip against the Cats as I see life through the blue and white hooped glasses I was given at birth (to match the blood coursing around in my veins). However, I reckon the Swans have been over the (premiership) odds until recently, and if you still don’t believe that they’ll be competitive in September, have a look at a replay of their first three quarters against Essendon. They still have to get games into Shane Mumford (don’t mention his name to a Cats supporter) and they continue to play fast, cohesive footy when they have the ball, and mean defensive footy when they’re hunting it down. Ted Richards is a terrific leader in defence. Lewis Jetta keeps improving. The Cats, by comparison, look a little wounded. Podsiadly’s presence will help (assuming he plays), but the most important factor will be the contest in and around the packs. The plus for the Cats is they are still firing on one and a half cylinders, and this could always be the game where it comes together. Unlikely. A rampant Swans in a cracking Friday night match by 14 points . (Watch the weather: rain will help the Cats).
Western Bulldogs v Brisbane
Both sides have shown glimpses of good form, but rarely across four quarters. So there will probably be some ebb and flow in this match, and it may be whoever is flowing at the end who gets the points. I can see Brian Lake doing some damage out of defence, and Robert Murphy running off half back. Ben Hudson will relish the opportunity against his old mates and may be advantaged as the Dogs ruck brigade will be under-manned. This should be another entertaining game between sides in a similar place in the scheme of things. The Dogs at home by 11 points .
Collingwood v West Coast
Some are saying this is a Grand Final preview. With the Pies as flag favourites and the Eagles likely to enjoy a home preliminary final (that is, if things play out by the rulebook) those pundits could be right. However things rarely play out by the rulebook and the Pies have got a long list of injuries in what will be an arduous season. In this match, the clearances are a key. Even Darren Glass, as good as he is, will struggle on Travis Cloke if the ball keeps coming down the centre of the MCG. But the Eagles’ stoppers will be doing everything in their niggling power to put the brakes on the Pies on-ballers. And they’ll be hoping Nic Nac and Dean Cox can give them first use of the footy. They certainly have an advantage in the ruck against a Darren Jolly who, in the dead cold of June, is looking for the port and slippers. The Eagles are right in this. I think it will be very close. West Coast by 3 points (and tremendous value at the line).
Fremantle v Essendon
This is another terrific fixture in a round where the sides are evenly-matched, and if the Bombers have any claims to being a genuine contender they have to perform well here. No doubt they will look to run the footy. But sides are showing if you can shut them down they struggle to find an alternative approach. Ross Lyon will have Freo primed to shut the Dons down. This could be a low-scoring slog; a tactical battle between coaching boxes. I think Freo will be able to set the clamps. At home, The Dockers by 8 points .
Melbourne v GWS
Really, Melbourne should be $1.07 favourites for this. But Melbourne are Melbourne, and Shiraz Sheedy has really toyed with the minds of the fragile (Richmond being a classic example last Saturday). No doubt GWS have talent, and no doubt the Dees will be wobbly. Are they fragile? I reckon they are. If it were in Sydney I’d be tipping the Giants, but I reckon Melbourne will sneak over the line at the MCG. The Demons by 9 points .
North Melbourne v Adelaide
The Adelaide star continues to rise with solid defence, powerful mid-field, excellent run, and dangerous key forwards. Even The Porp is finding the footy after his injury woes. North on the other hand are playing like they’re waiting for the cricket season. This is a must-win for the Kangas, but the in-form Crows will travel well, and have too much all-round talent and system. Adelaide by 19 points .
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