John Harms On AFL Round 20

God bless the Richmond Football Club. What a performance from the mighty Tiges, often a community of the battered and broken, but not this week. What has been going on at Tigerland for all these years? Well, they’re in the finals and Punt Road is a river of joyful tears.

The Richmond victory over Hawthorn and North Melbourne’s dismantling of Geelong have thrown the competition wide open again with the focus turning to Sydney who could well be flag favourites by this time next week. Of course they would have to beat the Pies this weekend for that to happen. And the Pies are making something of a rally themselves.

It looks to be an easier round to tip but nothing would surprise.

St Kilda v Hawthorn - This fixture always sends the mind of the footy public back to the 1971 Grand Final. Hawthorn  came from nowhere to snatch victory from the Saints  in a rather brutal encounter when even Carl Ditterich hit the deck. A different sort of brutality will be on show on Friday night. It could get very ugly. The Hawks by 60 points

Richmond v Brisbane - The Tigers  are there and I reckon they’ll be able to fill the MCG twice in the first week of the finals. Tigerdom is buzzing with the prospect. They’ve got a few more games to win first, and this one should provide no trouble. There is confidence in the camp and that spells trouble for the Lions . Richmond, far too strong, by 40 points

Geelong v Port Adelaide - I never ever thought I would see the day when Port Adelaide  became people’s second team. The despised thugs of Alberton have done the unthinkable: they are so young and enthusiastic and are playing such free, spirited footy that they have won the affection (definitely not the sympathy) of those of us who love the game. How could you not like them? How could you not like Ken Hinkley, the boy from Camperdown in western Victoria. Well, Kenny returns to Geelong on Saturday for a contest that promises so much, but may deliver less than expected. The Cats  are tough at home as we know and they will pick a more balanced side this week after their top-heavy blunder against North. The old Geelong pros may have their hands full with Chad Wingard and Ollie Wines but they shouldn’t have too much trouble. Experience will be telling here. But Port has absolutely nothing to lose. In an entertaining match, the Cats by 18 points

Carlton v Western Bulldogs - Until a few weeks ago Carlton  were beating up on weaker sides like the Bulldogs , which was keeping them in the finals race. However, things have changed at the Western Oval where the young Dogs have started to play with the far more drive. Their forward line functions better with Jones, Grant and Campbell as targets. Their young mid-fielders have won the footy and, just as importantly, not allowed their opponents to waltz through. They have really hardened up. Which can’t be said for the Blues who were flogged by the visiting Dockers last week. The Dogs will be up for this and their energy will be hard to match. They could take an advantage in the middle and Carlton may get the wobbles. The Dogs are a nice investment at the line, but I reckon, with finals at stake, and the fear of Mick Malthouse hovering about, Carlton will do enough. The Blues by 5 points

Sydney v Collingwood - This is the game of the round with the Pies  on the rise after getting a few players back – notably Tyson Goldsack, Luke Ball and big Keefe – and Dayne Beames (a star) now has a month of footy under his belt. However they travel to ANZ Stadium to meet a Sydney  side which continues to build. The mid-field battle will be a beauty here. I reckon the Swans have the players to go with Pendlebury and Swan but I don’t reckon the Pies have the depth to match-up on the wild cards of O’Keefe and Kennedy. I also think Mumford, Pyke and Tippett will cause the Pies a fair bit of trouble. This is a big test for Collingwood and a game which will tell us a lot about the prospects of these two clubs in 2013. The Swans by 17 points in a helter-skelter barney.

Gold Coast v Melbourne - You’d have to say that coming off a loss to GWS is not good form going into a fixture against a side who will be very keen on a home win here. The very talented Suns  will run Melbourne  ragged at home. Melbourne would be well-served to enjoy Dreamworld while they’re up there in the sunshine. Gold Coast by 40 points

Essendon v West Coast Eagles - We may well be at the stage of hoping the Essendon Football Club  still exists at lunch-time on Sunday, but I’m sure it will be OK and that they’ll be OK in this fixture. Although a home match against the struggling Eagles  is probably better than other possibilities. They’ll have too many ball-winner for the West Coast who have not much to play for anymore. The Bombers by 35 points

Adelaide v North Melbourne - This looms as one of the most engaging matches of the round. Both play free-flowing footy and, on the big ground, this should be an open, skillful contest. North  hang on to a slim hope for finals and, coming off a strong performance against the Cats, will be very hard for Adelaide  to beat. I have to tip them again. North by 11 points

Fremantle v GWS - The best thing to say about this fixture is that it will be educational for the youngsters. Perhaps management could take the Giants  for a tour of the port town, explaining the unlikely Tuscan influence. They will get belted by Freo  up at Paterson Stadium. Freo by 70 points

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