AFL Round 11 Preview

Former Brisbane Lion Richard Champion
Former Brisbane Lions star Richard Champion previews Round 11 of the AFL for TattsBet.

TattsBet AFL Round 11 Preview


Sydney Swans v Geelong
Thursday May 29, 7.10pm (AEST)
SCG


It’s all about the SCG debut of the Buddy & Tippo Show. The new-look Sydney Swans twin focal point of Buddy Franklin and Kurt Tippett has been brutal in their first two outings together elsewhere, and has elevated the Harbour City team from fifth in premiership betting to equal second, and from $9 to $5. They are now legitimate flag contenders as they look to stamp another mark on the competition against heavyweights Geelong in a blockbuster Thursday night start to AFL Round 10.

After the Swans kicked 86 goals in the first seven games, including 39 in two games against lowly opposition, they’ve piled on 15 and 18 in the last two since Tippett’s return from injury. His presence alone has helped free up Franklin, who has taken nine contested marks in the last two games after he managed just three in the first five. Between them, Franklin and Tippett have bagged 14 goals and 13 contested marks in their two games together to spell double danger for opposition backlines, as Buddy chases one major to become the 29th player in history to kick 600 career goals.

On a five-game winning streak and coming off a bye, the Swans have had an extra week’s preparation than Geelong, who are on a second consecutive six-day turnaround plus travel, after a 20-point home win over North Melbourne last Friday night. But in a worrying statistic for coach John Longmire, they’ve only beaten Geelong twice in 14 matches since 2006. It’ won’t help that Mike Pyke will miss again, but Ben McGlynn is expected to return after missing last start through illness. Tom Mitchell will be seriously considered after his astonishing 64 possessions and four goals for the Reserves.

The Cats have won their last three against the Swans and boast a 16-12 aggregate record at the SCG, including two of their last three. Also, Steve Johnson, who collected 26 possessions, four goals and three Brownlow Medal votes last time the sides met, will return from suspension to provide a welcome boost for the visitors, although Tom Lonergan and Corey Enright will miss. Cam Guthrie, one of the League’s most improved players this year, will play his 50th game for the Cats.

One thing is for certain – it’ll be a torrid affair on the small confines of the SCG and every possession will be hard-earned. Geelong, who have lost only to Port Adelaide and Fremantle this year, both interstate, are the No.1 tackling team in the competition at 75 tackles per game. And Sydney rank No.3 in the same key statistic at 74 per game.

My Tip: Sydney 12 points.


St Kilda v Collingwood
Friday May 30, 7.50pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium


What does Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley do with Travis Cloke? Club legend Tony Shaw went so far as to suggest the out-of-form spearhead should have a run in the Reserves, and if he was anyone but the Magpie favourite, it’d be right on the cards. After all, after averaging 3.2 goals and 2.7 contested marks per game last year, Cloke has managed just 10 goals and 12 contested marks in nine games this year. He’s kicked multiple goals this year only twice. And if you exclude the Round 5 clash with North Melbourne, when he kicked four goals and took five contested marks, his sorry tale of woe turns into a statistical nightmare.

Still, it’s to Collingwood’s credit and Buckley’s huge pleasure that they sit sixth on the ladder with a 6-3 win/loss record with such little input from their No.1 match-winner, who did take 10 marks and kick four goals last time they met in Round 6 last year. An eight-point win over West Coast last week after they lost tall defenders Ben Reid and Sam Frost before halftime was massive, and will see the Pies start overwhelming favorites against a St.Kilda side which has lost much of its early season glow.

While Cloke struggles up forward for Collingwood, Nick Riewoldt has done exactly the opposite in the corresponding role for St.Kilda. He’s been in sensational form, and is in a Round 10 race with Lance Franklin to become the 29th player in AFL history to kick 600 goals. He needs six while Franklin is just one away, meaning the Swans boom recruit is more likely to get there first, but regardless it will be a monumental effort matched only by one Queenslander – the legendary Jason Dunstall.

David Armitage, sidelined since Round 4 by a bad knee laceration, is hopeful of resuming with the Saints, but James Gwilt and Blake Acres have joined a long injury list. For Collingwood, Lachlan Keeffe will come back in for Nathan Brown, who will miss the rest of the year with a recurrence of shoulder problems, while Patrick Karnezis will push for a chance after six goals in the VFL last week.

Significantly, St.Kilda have not beaten Collingwood since Round 3 2010. In head-to-head meetings since then they’ve lost six and drawn the 2010 grand final. But at Etihad Stadium overall it’s 5-5. And despite kicking 17-7 against the Eagles last week, Collingwood boast the worst kicking accuracy in the competition at 44.6%.

My Tip: Collingwood by 49 points.


Melbourne v Port Adelaide
Saturday May 31, 1.10pm (AEST)
TIO Traeger Park, Alice Springs


Traegar Park, a boutique ground in Alice Springs that can accommodate about 10,000 fans, will host an AFL premiership match for the first time on Saturday afternoon. It will become the 44th different venue to host an AFL premiership fixture after Melbourne elected to forgo a home match against Port Adelaide to take the game to the ‘’red centre”. It’s a bold move against an opponent which doesn’t need any help, but at least in Indigenous Round, the Demons stand to get a good marketing return from what shapes as a huge on-field assignment against the ladder leaders.

Port are on a six-game winning streak which includes Geelong, Fremantle and Hawthorn, and have been nothing short of sensational. They are playing the sort of football that wins premierships, and if an All-Australian side was picked tomorrow, they’d have a number of candidates. Robbie Gray will play his 100th game for the Power, but Hamish Hartlett will miss through suspension and Angus Monfries must pass a fitness test.

Melbourne, a laughing stock early in the season, have at least restored some respect and credibility under coach Paul Roos, and before a welcome bye last week, had won two of their previous three against Adelaide and Richmond. At least now their game plan looks to have some structure, and there is a new spring in the step of Demon youngsters, who have known little but recurring hardship in recent years. James Frawley is likely to return from injury, but Chris Dawes’ one-match suspension is a huge blow.

Port have won four of the last five against Melbourne, but their one loss to the Demons in this period did come in the NT – they were beaten by eight points when the teams met at TIO Stadium in Darwin in 2011. The Power rank 1st in the League for inside 50 entries and marks inside 50, and 3rd for centre clearances, while the Demons are 17th, 16th and 18th in these three key statistics.

My Tip: Port Adelaide by 41 points.


Brisbane Lions v Carlton
Saturday May 31, 4.40pm (AEST)
Gabba


It will be 14 days between the Brisbane Lions’ last outing and this one. They’ve had to live with a shocking 87-point hiding from North Melbourne last time out for an extended period, but at least there was an up side. It came via a gala club celebration at which premiership heroes Chris Scott, Chris Johnson, Shaun Hart and Darryl White, and former Brisbane Bears captain Roger Merrett, among others, were inducted to the Hall of Fame, and Michael Voss was elevated to legend status. It was a sensational occasion, and the recurring message from each of the VIP’s was all about the hard yards they took before the success followed. Lions coach Justin Leppitsch will be hoping his bottom-of-the-ladder young troops were listening.

It’s been a torrid introduction to senior coaching for Leppitsch, who has stayed remarkably calm (at least on the outside) through his side’s 1-8 start to the season. The Lions have an 8-7 record overall against Carlton at the Gabba, but haven’t beaten the Blues since Round 2 2010, which was Brendan Fevola’s first game against his former club. At least this week they’ll welcome the return of Tom Rockliff, Joel Patful, Sam Mayes and possibly Matt Maguire, after all missed the Kangaroos massacre due to illness, injury and suspension.

Regardless of personnel, the Lions face a tough assignment against a Carlton opponent which has turned a diabolical 0-4 start to the season into four wins from their last five games. They’ve beaten the Bulldogs, West Coast, St.Kilda and Adelaide, while losing only to a red hot Collingwood in a streak that has restored self-belief in the Blues camp. Another win here and they’ll square the win/loss ledger in a week in which seven-year CEO Gregg Swann confirmed he’ll leave the club next month. Mitch Robinson will return from suspension, but Dylan Buckley is under an injury cloud, as Chris Judd prepares to possibly join vice-captain Andrew Carazzo in the VFL side.

In what just might be a little extra motivation for the Lions, Sam Docherty, one of the five first-round draft picks who walked out on the club at the end of last season, will play his third game for Carlton and his first against his former club. He impressed with 17 possessions and two goals against the Crows last Sunday and has quickly become highly regarded by Blues insiders. An upset beckons? Maybe.

My Tip: Brisbane by 16 points.


Essendon v Richmond
Saturday May 31, 7.45pm (AEST)
MCG


Dreamtime at the G, a foundation building block for the birth of the now traditional Essendon – Richmond showdown on the AFL’s Indigenous Round, will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the MCG Saturday night. It is a match associated with ‘The Long Walk’, a pre-game ritual which is a charity inspired by ex-Essendon player Michael Long, who walked from Melbourne to Canberra in 2004 to help put the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people back on the national agenda. On Saturday, organisers will hold a community celebration in Melbourne’s Federation Square, before Long, and an assembled supporter group that last year numbered 15,000, walk to the MCG to promote reconciliation. The naming of the match comes from “The Dreaming” in Aboriginal mythology, or Dreamtime. The winning club receives the Kevin Sheedy Cup, and the player judged best afield the Yiooken Award. The first Dreamtime game in 2005 attracted a crowd of 49,954, but it has topped 80,000 the last three years, and another bumper turnout is expected this year.

Brett Deledio will go into this year’s clash as the King of Dreamtime. Deledio, Brett Stanton and Chris Newman (who will miss this year due to injury), share the distinction of playing in each of nine previous Dreamtime matches. Deledio, with nine Brownlow Medal votes in Dreamtime games, heads this list from Jobe Watson (6). He also tops the all-time Dreamtime possession count with 204 from Stanton (196), Shane Tuck (183), Watson (177) and Nathan Foley (167). Matthew Lloyd is the all-time leading Dreamtime goal-kicker with 15, from Jack Riewoldt (13), Angus Monfries (10), Matthew Richardson (10) and David Zaharakis (10). Deledio won the 2012 Yiooken Award, following inaugural recipient Dean Polo (2006), James Hird (2007), Foley (2008), Jason Winderlich (2009), David Hille (2010) and Trent Cotchin (2011) and Watson (2013).

Essendon, who have won four of the past five Dreamtime matches for a 5-4 record overall, will regain Paul Chapman from suspension for his first Dreamtime outing, and would hope to have Winderlich back too. Jake Melsham is under a fitness cloud.

Jack Riewoldt will go into Round 10 leading the AFL goal-kicking after a career-best 11 goals in their 113-point slaughter of GWS last week. How quickly times change. A week earlier he was in the dog house at Tigerland after publicly questioning his team’s game plan and then, after a stinging rebuke from coach Damien Hardwick, jumping the Punt Road fence and running across a busy road to catch a train rather than confront the waiting media. Ivan Maric is tipped to play his first game of the year, after two goals and 41 hitouts in the VFL last week, but Daniel Jackson must pass a fitness test.

My Tip: Essendon by 14 points.


Adelaide Crows v Gold Coast Suns
Sunday June 01, 1.10pm (AEST)
Adelaide Oval


Are the Suns the real deal, or is their third place on the AFL ladder more a reflection of a soft draw than any realistic top four prospects? Cynics will point to the fact they’ve beaten only Richmond (13th), Brisbane (18th), Melbourne (15th), GWS (17th), North Melbourne (8th) and the Bulldogs (14th) in a phenomenal 6-2 start, but they can only beat who they are drawn to play. The next six weeks will tell. They play Adelaide (10th), West Coast (9th) and Hawthorn (4th) interstate, and Sydney (5th), Geelong (2nd) and Collingwood (6th) at Metricon.

This is certainly another imminently winnable one for the Suns, who have unearthed another star in the making in Round 10 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee Kade Kolodjashnij. It’s only early, but he’s had more possessions in his first seven games than the mercurial Jaeger O’Meara. The Suns, the No.1 contested ball side in the competition this year, will welcome the inclusion of Rory Thompson, who was a late withdrawal last week, to join Steven May in the key defensive posts against the potent Crows pair of Taylor Walker and Josh Jenkins.

Adelaide blew a chance to put themselves right in the thick of the finals race when beaten by Carlton last week. At 4-5, they are on the edge and one of four sides a game outside the top eight. If they are to play finals, they simply cannot afford to drop this one at home. Brent Reilly, stranded on 199 career games, will press for inclusion after a big game in the SANFL last week, as the club looks to extend a 5-0 head-to-head record against the Suns.

Interestingly, the Crows have committed fewer clangers than every other team in the competition this year (average 39.8 per game), and despite a five-game winning streak, Gold Coast sit at the opposite end of this statistical list (55.0 per game).

My Tip: Adelaide by 19 points.


Western Bulldogs v Fremantle
Sunday June 01, 3.20pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium


If three months ago you’d backed Fremantle to be 5-4 and seventh on the AFL ladder at Round 10 you would have got a fair price, but that’s exactly the dilemma of the 2013 grand finalists and 2014 pre-season flag fancies. And coach Ross Lyon would not be happy. A last-start home win over Geelong reminded punters of their top-end potential, but three consecutive losses interstate to Hawthorn, Sydney and Port Adelaide will serve as a reminder that unless the Dockers are ‘on’ this week they could slip further down the list.

All that spells bad news for the 14th-placed Dogs, who at 3-6 have paid a high price for an inability to put four good quarters together. They’ve played plenty of good football, but a diabolical third quarter which brought them undone in a 45-point loss to the Gold Coast last week is symptomatic of a problem which recurs all too often.

The Dockers, likely to regain Luke McPharlin to further compound the Dogs scoring woes, have won six of their last seven games at Etihad. But in what might give Dogs coach Brendan McCartney some hope, they have a 5-3 record overall against Freo at the venue and have a won four of their last five against them there. Clay Smith will miss for the home side through suspension.

My Tip: Fremantle by 48 points.


Hawthorn v GWS Giants
Sunday June 01, 4.40pm (AEST)
MCG


Not since the first three weeks in 1985, when St.Kilda lost by 100 points, 140 points and 113 points to Sydney, Carlton and Richmond, has an AFL side lost three games in a row by triple figures. This might by the day when the Saints are erased from this distasteful page in the AFL record books.

The GWS Giants, having lost by 111 points to West Coast in Perth and 113 points to Richmond at Spotless Stadium in their last two outings, will be desperate to avoid such an inglorious chapter in history, after much soul-searching this week. First-year coach Leon Cameron was at a loss to explain how his side could concede 54 goals, while scoring 17 in two games split by a bye. He even called on extra coaching help from Stephen Silvagni, Dermott Brereton and Craig Lambert to bolster his young side, which has slid alarmingly to lose six in a row after a magnificent win over the Sydney Swans in Round 1. They will certainly be looking for a better outcome to Tom Scully’s 50th game for the club, after Jonathan Giles and Callan Ward suffered humiliating losses in their half-century milestone games against the Eagles and the Tigers.

If the Giants can take heart from an opposition’s misfortune, they’ll not only face a Hawthorn side minus Sam Mitchell, Cyril Rioli, Josh Gibson and Brian Lake, but also dual premiership coach Alastair Clarkson, who was hospitalised on Monday night with severe back pain. Diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an inflammation of the nerves from the spinal cord, he was expected to remain in hospital for at least a week and be out of action for a minimum of three weeks. Low-profile Tasmanian Brendon Bolton, a six-year coaching offsider to Clarkson, was preferred to fellow assistant and former Carlton senior coach Brett Ratten for the indefinite caretaker role, that is tipped to stretch to the end of the season.

While Ben McEvoy is under a cloud for the Hawks, who have lost two games in a row for the first time since the 2012 grand final and Round 1 2013. Set for their first game at home in a month, they will welcome the return of Jarryd Roughead from suspension to bolster the Bolton confidence levels. And it won’t have escaped his attention that West Coast’s Josh Kennedy and Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt have taken the Giants for 11 goals apiece in their last two games. GWS selection could throw up anything, but at least they’ve got players in form at the lower level after their Reserves hammered an undermanned Gold Coast Reserves by 191 points last week. Tim Mohr, two NEAFL games into his comeback from injury, is one certain inclusion to bolster what Leigh Matthews rated the worst team defensive effort he’d seen last week.

The Hawks have beaten the Giants by 158 points and 83 points in their two previous meetings, and in their past four visits to the MCG, the Giants have lost by an average of 80 points. As much as you’d think the young Giants would find something special, this has ugly written all over it.

My Tip: Hawthorn by 85 points.


Richard Champion, former Brisbane Lion

@01champs


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