TattsBet AFL Round 10 Preview
Geelong v North Melbourne
Friday May 23, 7.50pm (AEST)
There was a noted media commentator this week who called ‘time’ on the magnificent era of Geelong. Sure, all good things must come to an end, but to write off the side that has dominated the competition for the past seven years is fraught with danger. From 2007 onwards, the Cats have played 181 matches for 140 wins, one draw and just 40 losses. They are 13-6 in finals, and have won three flags (2007-09-11)… and nine rounds into the 2014 season, they sit fourth on the ladder with a 6-2 record. Time? Not yet.
Granted, the Cats have lost two of their last three by 40 points and 32 points. That’s un-Cat-like, but they were to flag-contenders, Port Adelaide and Fremantle, and both were interstate. On Friday night, they are back home at Simonds Stadium, where they’ve won 45 of 47 games since Round 3 2008, including seven of their past eight against North, and this year have beaten Adelaide by 38 points and West Coast by 75 points. Having won eight of their last 10 against North, but lost two of the last three, they will welcome the return from suspension of Matthew Stokes, but will be without Steve Johnson to the same frustrating “holiday”.
It is, of course, the brother v brother coaching dual. And not just brothers – twin brothers and former Brisbane Lions premiership team mates. The head-to-head record between Geelong’s Chris Scott and North’s Brad Scott is 2-2. Chris, who was inducted into the Lions Hall of Fame on Wednesday night, won the first meeting by 66 points at Simmonds Stadium, but since then there have been three close games at Etihad Stadium – Brad by 17, Chris by 4 and Brad by 10.
North, rocked by the news earlier this week that Daniel Wells is still at least a month away and further disrupted with confirmation that Nathan Grima will miss again, are coming off an 87-point canter against Brisbane last week. More importantly, they have behind them wins over Port, Sydney and Fremantle. Another big scalp here and they’ll start to the get the sort of recognition they cherish.
Statistically, North rank 16th in the League for inside 50 entries (47.5 per game) against Geelong’s seventh (54.1), while Geelong are ranked third for marks inside 50 (13.9) and North are 14th (9.2).
My Tip: Geelong 31 points.
GWS v Richmond
Saturday May 24, 1.40pm (AEST)
It’s been a week both clubs would rather forget. On and off the ground.
Richmond were humiliated by Melbourne last weekend on the day they were supposed to honour the passing of Coach of the Century Tom Hafey. They carry little resemblance to the 2013 side that won 15 matches to play finals. Despite only minimal personnel changes, they’ve lost all ability to move the ball quickly, and to make matters worse, they’ve lost David Astbury and Nick Vlastuin to injury and Trent Cotchin is under a cloud. Ex-GWS midfielder Anthony Miles, who played 10 games for the Giants in their first two years, has been promoted from the rookie list and his set to play his first game for the Tigers against his former club. This could be the first of a string of changes in response to a performance last week which had coach Damien Hardwick shaking his head in disbelief, as he tries to manufacture a win for what will be a twin milestone celebration for Brett Deledio (200 games) and Bachar Houli (100).
The Giants, on a five-game losing streak and reeling from a 111-point hiding at the hands of West Coast at their last outing, have spent much of the week buried in the on-again, off-again Toby Greene saga. First he indicated he would appeal against a club-imposed five-match suspension and $5000 fine for a night out on the town in Melbourne, and then back-tracked to cop it on thin. Whatever, it’s been an issue the club could have done without, but the stiff penalty on their 2012 B&F runner-up was a strong and uniforming message from the Giants leadership group.
So, despite their poor recent form, the Giants will fancy their chances of springing an upset against the desperately out of form Tigers. They’ll draw confidence from the fact they are 2-0 at Spotless Stadium this season, and 2-1 when ruck giant Shane Mumford plays. And after missing the last five games, Mumford is set to return along with Jeremy Cameron, Adam Treloar, Courtney Dempsey and possibly 2013 22-gamer Tim Mohr, who although underdone would be an ideal replacement for Nick Haynes, who will be sidelined for three months with a broken ankle. Giants skipper Callan Ward will become the second player after Jonathan Giles to play 50 games for the AFL’s youngest club.
Richmond have won their two meetings against GWS by 12 points and last year 121 points at Spotless, but this has upset written all over it in a result that would send the Tigers into a full-blown crisis.
My Tip: Giants by 16 points.
Collingwood v West Coast
Saturday May 24, 4.40pm (AEST)
Dayne Beams will become the 38th Queenslander to play 100 AFL games, and the second at Collingwood behind 1990 premiership hero Gavin Crosisca, as the Pies look to rebound from a last-start loss to the Crows in Adelaide. The former Gold Coaster, in supreme form this year averaging 28 possessions per game, has enjoyed a golden run, with 71 wins and two draws in his first 99 games.
Nathan Brown is in line to play his first game since Round 2 in an inclusion which will give coach Nathan Buckley some welcome flexibility among his tall brigade, and Alex Fesolo will hope to prove his fitness to inject extra speed down back. Ex-Lion Patrick Karnezis is also pushing for his first chance in Magpie colours.
West Coast, who kicked 30 goals for the first time in club history when 11 majors from Josh Kennedy spearheaded a 111-point rout of GWS last start, will need to do better again if they are to convince the knockers. Having lost four on the trot prior to what was little more than a practice run against the Giants last time out, they’ve beaten only the Bulldogs (12th), Melbourne (14th), St.Kilda (15th)) and GWS (17th). And if they are post a win that would prove they are worthy of finals consideration, they’ll have to do it without Mark LeCras, who is suspended. Josh Hill is a possible inclusion.
West Coast have only once beaten Collingwood in 10 meetings at the MCG – in Round 2 1995 and have beaten them only once in their last five meetings overall - in Perth in 2012. They’ll be buoyed by the re-signing of Nic Naitanui, who, with Dean Cox, will look to do a job on the young Pies combination of Brodie Grundy and Jarrod Witts. The Pies are the most inaccurate team in the League, converting at just 41.7%, while the Eagles rank sixth for accuracy at 49.8%.
My Tip: Collingwood by 24 points.
Port Adelaide v Hawthorn
Saturday May 24, 7.40pm (AEST)
This is the third time this year the top two sides on the ladder have done battle, and just as it was when Geelong beat Hawthorn in Round 5 and Port Adelaide beat Geelong in Round 6, it's a feature affair. The Hawks remain premiership favorites at $3.75, while Port are third in the betting at $5.50, just behind Sydney ($5), but ahead of Geelong and Fremantle ($6.50), in what is a remarkably open market.
Both teams are fresh from a bye but Hawthorn, looking to rebound from a last start loss to Sydney, will lose the injured Josh Gibson and Cyril Rioli, as well as the suspended Jaryd Roughead. Luke Hodge will return and Brad Sewell is in line for his first senior outing of the year, and perhaps Liam Shiels for his first game since Round 4. For the first time this year they will start underdogs against a Port side that is on a five-game winning streak, which includes wins over Geelong and Fremantle, and is likely to be bolstered by the inclusion of No.1 ruckman Matthew Lobbe.
Fittingly, this is a contest which brings together the two highest scoring and most potent teams in the League. The Hawks rank first at 19 goals a game, with the Power are second at 17 goals a game, while the Power lead the competition for inside 50’s at 57 per game, with the Hawks next best at 55 per game. Also, Hawthorn are the most accurate side in front of goal, converting at 60.9%, with Port third at 52.2%.
Hawthorn have won their last five against Port by 45,72,46,165 and 32 points since early 2007, but with such a heavy absentee list against an in-form opponent at interstate venue where the hosts have been invincible this year, it’ll take a herculean effort to continue that dominance.
My Tip: Port by 16 points.
Gold Coast Suns v Western Bulldogs
Sunday May 25, 3.20pm (AEST)
In eight matches this season the Gold Coast Suns have equalled their entire win tally of their first two seasons in the AFL. Sitting a record fifth on the ladder with a 6-2 record, they will have a chance to further consolidate their position in the top eight with yet another winnable game against the 12th-placed Western Bulldogs. Although critics will point to the fact that the Suns have only beaten North Melbourne of the top eight, they’ve captured the imagination of the competition with their bright, entertaining brand of football. And their last two first-quarters have been their best in 74 games, setting up comfortable wins over North and St.Kilda. Kade Kolodjashnij is tipped to return from injury as fellow first-year star Sean Lemmens battles to prove his fitness and Luke Russell looks forward to becoming the 12th player to post 50 games for the Suns.
The Bulldogs, who beat Melbourne last start before a bye last weekend, will lose the injured Troy Dickson and the suspended Liam Jones, and will need to be convinced that Tom Williams has overcome the calf problem that saw him kick a career-best three goals on one leg against the Demons. Ayce Cordy and Marcus Bontempelli loom as likely inclusions.
The Dogs have a 3-1 record in head-to-head meetings with the Suns, but the Suns, at home for the first time in a month, broke through last time they met by 32 points at Metricon in Round 8 last year, when Gary Ablett picked up three Brownlow Medal votes.
Ablett, leading the League this year in disposals, contested disposals and clearances, is coming off another freakish performance against St.Kilda of four goals and 37 possessions (22 contested). With a midfield support cast that includes Jaeger O’Meara, Dion Prestia and David Swallow he promises to make life difficult for the talented Dogs engine room of Ryan Griffen, Matthew Boyd, Tim Liberatore and Adam Cooney.
My Tip: Suns by 28 points.
Carlton v Adelaide Crows
Sunday May 25, 4.40pm (AEST)
It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around. Adelaide’s season was all but dead when they lost to Melbourne in Round 7, but after a bye and an outstanding win over Collingwood last week, they are back in the finals mix. Taylor Walker’s long-awaited return has made a massive difference to their forward line structure, with Josh Jenkins much better suited to the No.2 role, and not surprisingly, the Crows’ premiership price shortened from $67 to $34 in the last week after what coach Brenton Sanderson described as the club’s best defensive effort during his reign against the Pies. Brent Reilly, dropped last week when due to play his 200th game, is likely to have to wait another week, while Walker could be excused a few anxious moments – it was in the corresponding game last year that he blew out his knee.
Carlton, coming off a bye, have made a similarly drastic improvement after a similarly poor start, winning four of their last five. They will lose Mitch Robinson to suspension, but are likely to regain Andrew Carazzo and Jarrad Waite. They will look to quickly regain the momentum of three wins from their last four starts, broken only by a Round 8 loss to Collingwood. And although Chris Judd is long odds to return from injury this week, the mere fact that his name has been mentioned in dispatches will enthuse Blues fans.
Key statistics? Adelaide are now the best centre clearance side in the competition, while Carlton are 10th, while Adelaide rank second for contested marks and Carlton are 15th.
Surprisingly, they’ve met only three times at the MCG, where the record favours Carlton 2-1. Overall in Melbourne it’s 13-8 to the Blues, who beat the Crows by 32 points in their only meeting last year.
Heath Scotland, a 250-game veteran with Collingwood and Carlton, will do a lap of honour pre-match after announcing his injury-forced retirement on Tuesday, while ex-Carlton teammate Eddie Betts, who transferred to Adelaide over the summer, will face his former club for the first time in a match in which the form lines have been difficult to follow.
My Tip: Crows 13 points.
Richard Champion, former Brisbane Lion