So, flag punters, what did we sort out from last weekend? The Pies-Blues curtain-raiser for the round told us more about Carlton, but a little about Collingwood who are still sniffing about. The main game was Saturday night. The Cats were just too good again – to make it eleven in a row. That has to count for something! There has to be a reason. The funny thing is, in the public imagination, Hawthron have always been regarded as the better side. I reckon the Hawks would have started favourites in eight of those matches, and certainly would have spent many more weeks as flag favourites across the last five seasons. Work that out. And yet Geelong made the play in the first quarter and dominated the match to such a degree early that by the start of the second quarter Clarko went defensive. It turned into an intriguing battle that the Cats nearly threw away kicking 1.13 and the Hawks nearly pinched it.
At least now the Cats and Hawks are equal favourites. Not much is set to change in Round 16. And multis might be the way to go across some lop-sided fixtures.
Collingwood v Adelaide
There’s never a dull moment in Pie-land, especially when enigmatic figures like Nathan Buckley are knocking about with other enigmatic figures like Dane Swan and Harry O and heath Shaw. The Pies can be anything from world-beaters to capitulators. The Blues were the capitulators last Friday night and the Crows will probably fill that role this Friday night. This should be a breeze for the Pies. We might have the cricket on from about half-way through the second quarter. Collingwood, too organized, too many ball-winners, by 30 points.
Port Adelaide v Hawthorn
Thinking of cricket means thinking of the Old Dart and they say, over there, that if you don’t like London then you don’t like life. Well, while that doesn’t necessarily translate to Launceston as a pulsating metropolis, it can be applied in a round-about way to Port Adelaide. Because, if you don’t like how the Power are playing footy, you don’t like footy. Unfortunately they are not quite there yet. Hawthorn will be too experienced and too strong. The Hawks by 25 points.
Geelong v Melbourne
The Dees have made a little progress under Neil Craig. Just a little. If the Cats play as they did in the opening quarter against Hawthorn the Dees will spend the afternoon in damage-control. If the Cats are on, and motivated, this could be a slaughter. Geelong by 72 points.
Richmond v Gold Coast
It has to be said again: the world is better for having the Richmond Football Club. Their insipid effort last week has sent their fans into a panic with the memories of their trip to Far North Queensland last year coming hauntingly back. And just when you thought the Tiges fans were at their wobbliest the Suns make a big splash of the news that G. Ablett looks like being available. Look out! The Tigers should win this one, but anything is possible up there at Cazaly's in Cairns. I’m sticking with the Tiges experience and desperate need to stay in the race for the finals. It should be entertaining. Richmond by 9 points.
Carlton v St Kilda
I reckon a few Carlton players considered ducking out through Gate 3 after the match against Collingwood at the MCG last Friday. They had some passengers. And Mick Malthouse does not tolerate passengers. Apart from having his Olympic Exercise Book marked ‘TRADES’ open on his desk, he would also have given them a real serve. The up-side is that they have a lot of improvement in them. The down-side is that they have to be motivated enough to find it. The Carlton types do like a weaker side to belt and it is their very good fortune that they have drawn one here. Carlton to bounce back and keep their finals hopes alive. Blues by 20 points.
Brisbane v North Melbourne
You’d like to tip the Lions here and no doubt they will be in this for a long way. But the fluctuating fortunes of North are fluctuating up at the moment. Much care has dissipated and the pressure is off - until they become Final 8 contenders again. The Lions match up reasonably well here but North’s capacity to win the footy and their run will be hard for the Lions to contain. This is a good test for Michael Voss. North by 12 points.
Sydney v GWS
Nice to have an afternoon game at the SCG, especially if it stops raining in Sydney for a while. The Giants won’t like it so much though. I hope the showers are hot for them. And the Swans aren’t. A kindly Sydney, by 70 points.
Western Bulldogs v Essendon
You really want the cellar-dwellers of the competition to go up a gear and be a little more competitive in these games. Again, the Bombers have too much talent for the Dogs. The absence of Jobe Watson will not be a problem. However, it will be interesting to see whether the Bombers have to tweak anything in response. Essendon by 36 points.
West Coast Eagles v Fremantle
This is easily the game of the round. The Dockers brought back a few players against St Kilda and Pavlich and Sandilands should be better for the run. That’s the positive. The huge negative is losing McPharlin with a calf. Freo will win if they can limit the opportunities presented to the Eagles forwards. The Eagles will win if their big blokes get on top – everywhere. Tough one to line up, but I favour the Dockers to shut the game down and win enough of the contested footy to get over the line. Freo by 11 points