AFL Round 15 Preview

Former Brisbane Lion Richard Champion
Former Brisbane Lions star Richard Champion previews Round 15 of the AFL for TattsBet.

TattsBet AFL Round 15 Preview

Geelong v Essendon
Friday June 27, 7.50pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium

This will be an odd feeling for Essendon coach Mark Thompson. In a crunch game for both sides, he will coach for the first time against the club he piloted for 11 years from 2000-10, and took to the 2007 and 2009 premierships.

As the run to the finals begins, Geelong desperately need to bounce back after an historic loss to Gold Coast on the tourist strip last week, and Essendon, impressive home winners over Adelaide, need to keep winning to keep in touch with the top eight.

The Cats have slipped to fifth on the ladder. It’s not somewhere they haven’t been before – they were as low as sixth at Round 11 – but the bookies have responded significantly after their indifferent recent form. They’ve blown out their premiership price from $9 to $13. It’s the first time this year they have been in double-figures.

Essendon blew out from $81 to $101 and are 10th in the market in what is more of a reaction to Gold Coast’s win than anything else. The Suns clearly have the inside running on eighth spot which looks the best the battling Bombers can do.

Certainly, an Essendon loss this week, and it’ll be next to impossible for them to make the finals. And history says they are up against it. Geelong have won eight of their past nine meetings since 2006 by an average 57 points.

Paul Chapman will return to bolster the Bombers, who re-signed Michael Hibberd and Heath Hocking this week, to help lift at least temporarily some of the doom and gloom mentality encapsulating the club as the supplements scandal heads towards a crescendo. Geelong will lose Mathew Stokes and are still uncertain whether Harry Taylor will resume.

My Tip: Geelong by 17 points.

Hawthorn  v Gold Coast Suns
Saturday June 28, 1.45pm (AEST)
Aurora Stadium

If it’s possible for a defending premier to slide under the radar, then Hawthorn are doing just that this year. While all the premiership hype is around Sydney and Port Adelaide, the Hawks are travelling beautifully with a 10-3 win/loss record and doing a mighty job riding out a shocking injury run. So well are they travelling that Ben McEvoy and Ben Stratton played in the VFL last week.

But this isn’t the automatic game punters may have thought when Jack Gunston (five goals) and Jaryd Roughead (four goals) put on a clinic as the Hawks streamrolled the Suns by 99 points at Metricon Stadium in Round 4. Not after the Suns shocked Geelong last week to claim their first win over a top four opponent.

The big difference is the venue. This is not at on the tourist strip, where the Suns are so comfortable. It’s at a venue Hawthorn have won their last nine, and 16 of their last 17. They’ve not lost at their Tasmanian home since Round 5 2012.

Hawthorn, the No.1 scoring team in the League this year, have won all five games against Gold Coast by 71, 9, 64, 26 and 99 points. It’ll be a monumental effort by the Suns to turn that around, even with the mercurial Harley Bennell having confirmed his status as one of the competition’s most exciting players with an equal club record six goals against the Cats last week.

My Tip: Hawthorn by 24 points.

St Kilda v Richmond
Saturday June 28, 2.10pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium

Who would have thought Richmond, finalists last year, would have found themselves in a battle for the wooden spoon at Round 15 this year? But that’s exactly where they are after a disastrous slide from a 15-7 home-and-away record last year, to sit 16th at 3-10 this year.

In an extraordinary seven-way battle for the dreaded spoon, Richmond, Brisbane and St Kilda are split only by percentage on three wins, and Carlton, Bulldogs, GWS and Melbourne are locked together on four wins. This game will go a long way to determining the wooden-spoon fate of both sides.

St Kilda's Queenslander David Armitage and Richmond’s Dustin Martin will each post their 100th AFL game as their respective sides look to build on a little momentum last week. While both finished losers, Richmond at least pushed flag favorites Sydney for a half, and St Kilda were encouraged by their defensive efforts in a 33-point loss to West Coast.

Ironically, the key to victory for each side could be a pair of cousins - Jack Riewoldt for Richmond at one end, and Nick Riewoldt at the other end, for St Kilda.

Jack remains the No.1 player in the competition for marks inside 50 this year, averaging 4.5 per game, and his record against the Saints is better than any against any other club. He’s kicked 33 goals against them in nine games, including four bags of six and three bags of seven. Nick, so impressive early in the season, has struggled for opportunity of late, and has kicked only one goal in each of his last two outings. But he remains the player who most influences the outcome of St Kilda games.

Richmond, who are likely to be bolstered by the inclusion of Dan Jackson and Chris Newman, have won their last three meetings with St Kilda by 8, 17 and 64 points. The Saints, who will be bolstered by Leigh Montagna’s return but could lose Lenny Hayes, have dominated the Tigers at Etihad, winning 10 of their last 11 at the venue.

My Tip: Richmond by 18 points.

Fremantle v West Coast
Saturday June 28, 4.40pm (AEST)
Patersons Stadium

Matthew Pavlich, games record holder at Fremantle, heads a very exclusive 200-Game Club at the Dockers. It boasts just seven members – Pavlich (304), Shane Parker (238), Shaun McManus (228), Luke McPharlin (222), Paul Hasleby (208), Aaron Sandilands (206) and Antoni Grover (202). On Saturday, in the 40th WA derby against West Coast, the club will welcome an eighth member - David Mundy, the second youngest at 28 behind Pavlich.

But it hasn’t all come easily for Mundy, who was drafted from the Murray Bushrangers at No.19 in 2003 with a pick traded by the Bulldogs for Steven Koops, who played just 11 games for the Dogs.

Mundy played in a 2004 Subiaco WAFL premiership, before getting his chance in Round 6 2005. But he became just the eighth player in history to play 100 consecutive games from debut, and hasn’t looked back. He’s played 199 of a possible 215 since his debut, and 10 of the 16 he’s missed were with a broken leg in 2011.

Also in the milestone stakes this week, Queenslander Lee Spurr, eligible to be drafted in 2005 and not actually taken until 2011 after a stellar apprenticeship in the SANFL, will play his 50th AFL game for Fremantle. Matt Rosa will play his 150th for West Coast.

And in the news Dockers fans were most anxiously awaiting, Nat Fyfe, who was arguably the hottest off-contract property in the game, committed to the club on Thursday for a further three years.

This is the 40th derby between the two WA sides. It’s 21-18 to the Eagles overall, but the Dockers have won the last four and eight of the past 11, including a 21-point triumph in Round 4 this year, when Lachie Neale had 32 possessions to win the Ross Glendinning Medal as best afield.

Fremantle, who held Brisbane to a solitary point in the first half last week and a club record low overall, are on a five-game winning streak cruising towards a top four finish on the back of a soft draw. West Coast, likely to regain Dean Cox, have posted back-to-back wins after a nightmare 1-7 stretch crucified their finals hopes but they have still beaten only one top eight side this year – Gold Coast in Round 9.

My Tip: Fremantle by 32 points.

Brisbane Lions v North Melbourne
Saturday June 28, 7.40pm (AEST)

North Melbourne won’t need any special motivation for coach Brad Scott’s Brisbane homecoming on Saturday night. With a finals berth still not guaranteed, and a worrying ability to lose games they are meant to win, they’ve got plenty to play for.

Bu if were looking at peripheral issues they need only consider recent history between the clubs. The Lions have won their last five meetings at the Gabba, and nine of their last 10. The Kangaroos haven’t won in Brisbane since 2005. They’d be thinking it’s about time.

Although North have been up and down this year, one thing they’ve done very well is travel interstate, with victories over West Coast, Fremantle and Sydney. The Brisbane trip won’t hold any special fears.

It will be an emotion-charged night at the Gabba as the home side, embarrassed by Fremantle last week when they were held to a solitary point in the first half, will farewell club champion Jonathan Brown after he confirmed his retirement midweek.

The Lions will include James Aish after he was rested last week, and will at least take solace from the fact that they’ve been much more competitive at home. Ryan Lester, too, is a likely inclusion. North, who won their Round 9 meeting by 87 points, and have won four of the last five between the sides, have Andrew Swallow under a cloud and will need to find a replacement for the injured Robin Nahas.

My Tip: North Melbourne by 21 points.

Sydney Swans v GWS Giants
Saturday June 28, 7.40pm (AEST)

Adam Goodes has played 339 AFL games and is the record holder at the Sydney Swans. But this will be a very special occasion for the 2014 Australian of the Year. His 340th game this week will see him equal Andrew McLeod’s record for most games by an indigenous player.

Goodes will sit alongside the former Adelaide Crows champion at the top of a list which also includes
Michael O’Loughlin (303) Gavin Wanganeen (300), Darryl White (268), Chris Johnson (264), Shaun Burgoyne (257), Peter Matera (253), Nicky Winmar (251) and Jeff Farmer (249).

But as much as this will be a wonderful moment, it is not what Goodes and his teammates are about this week. This is all about revenge, and bragging rights in the Harbour City. The pride of the Swans was massively dinted when they were upset by the Giants by 32 points in Round 1, and a repeat result would be unthinkable for the premiership favourites.

Sydney are on a nine-game winning streak that is the club’s best since 2012. But it’s almost 80 years since they won a club record 12 straight in 1935, which is the last time they won 10 or more in a row.

GWS, too, are on club record pace for consecutive wins, albeit at a totally different level. They posted back-to-back wins for the first time in club history when they were outstanding in outlasting Carlton last week.

The Swans have lost Rhyce Shaw for two-three week,s but expect to get Kurt Tippett back to complete their superstar forward line. GWS are hoping Jeremy Cameron, who kicked four goals in their shock Round 1 victory, will return.

My Tip: Swans by 28 points.

Western Bulldogs v Melbourne
Sunday June 29, 1.10pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium

This is another crunch game in the wooden spoon stakes, with the winner able to at least rest a little more comfortably in the knowledge that they’ll be two wins off the bottom, with eight games to play. But the loser will be right in the gun for the game's dreaded prize.

Melbourne continue to show plenty of good signs under Paul Roos, and have come through a tough four weeks with their reputation enhanced, despite a 1-3 record. They lost to Port by 20 points in Alice Springs, Collingwood by 33, beat Essendon by 1 and lost by 41 to North last week, when they fell off the pace a bit, as coach Roos declared they were “mentally fatigued”.

The Dogs were similarly disappointing last week, copping a 72-point hiding from Port in Adeaide, but like the Demons, they’ve shown significant improvement of late, highlighted by a Round 13 win over Collingwood.

When the two sides met in Round 8, the Dogs took the honors by 16 points. The Demons had their chances late, but didn’t have the same self-belief that Roos has instilled in them.

Both sides will need reinforcements. Melbourne have lost Jordie McKenzie (suspension) and Daniel Cross (fractured leg), while the Dogs have lost super-sub Daniel Giansiracusa (suspension) and are expected to be without skipper Ryan Griffin, who looked an old man last week when he could barely get up due to back spasms. Ex-Giant Sam Darley will debut for the club.

The Dogs have dominated head-to-head meetings over the last decade, winning eight of their past nine, including a club record six on the trot from 2008-2012, and a 16-point triumph at the MCG in Round 8 this year. The Dees, too, have a shocking record at Etihad, having lost 17 in a row there and gone winless since Round 19 2007.

My Tip: Bulldogs by 24 points.

Adelaide Crows v Port Adelaide
Sunday June 29, 4.10pm (AEST)
Adelaide Oval

If there’s one thing history tells us about the SA Showdown, it is that form counts for nothing. It doesn’t matter that the Power sit second on the ladder with an 11-2 record, or that the Crows are 11th at 6-7. Likewise, that Port smashed the Bulldogs by 72 points last week, while the Crows succumbed to Essendon by nine. 

This is about this week and nothing else. And about bragging rights in the City of Churches.

The bookies have Port Adelaide clear favourites, and understandably so, but there have been plenty of upset wins in the Showdown, which overall favours Port 20-16, after their success in the last three.

A loss simply isn’t an option for the Crows if they are to keep their faint finals hopes alive. It could leave them three wins outside the top eight, with eight games to play. But Port, desperately keen to retain a top two spot and homeground advantage in the finals, will be no less motivated.

Statistically, Port, with an unblemished 8-0 record at Adelaide Oval, are the No.1 centre clearance side in the competition, while Adelaide are third. It’s a battle within the battle that will be crucial, as the Crows look to turn around a 54-point loss to the Power in Round 2 this year, which was the second-biggest margin in Showdown history. Only Port’s 65-point win in 2001 has been bigger.

Port will welcome Hamish Hartlett back from suspension, while Adelaide are expected to include Tom Lynch in his first AFL game since a broken jaw in Round 7. He starred in his SANFL comeback with 31 possessions last week.

My Tip: Port Adelaide by 38 points.

Collingwood v Carlton
Sunday June 29, 7.10pm (AEST)

The Carlton faithful would hate the look of the Tattsbet premiership market this week. There are seven teams equal at the bottom of the list at $1001 – Western Bulldogs, St.Kilda, Richmond, GWS Giants, Brisbane, Melbourne and Carlton. 'How entirely inappropriate' they’d be thinking.

The Blues non-appearance in this year’s finals was confirmed when they were beaten by GWS last week, and now they’ve lost four on the trot. In fact, they’ve beaten only the Bulldogs, St.Kilda and Adelaide this year in a diabolical 3-10 run, which has everyone at the club on notice in a week in which Bryce Gibbs provided a rare spot of good news by inking a new five-year contract.

Collingwood are on a two-game losing streak, having lost to the Bulldogs and Hawthorn, but they will be strengthened by Steele Sidebottom’s return from suspension and possibly Tyson Goldsack from injury. Rising Star favourite Tom Langdon is under a cloud. Carlton will welcome back Marc Murphy, who pulled out in the warm-up last week. Simon White will miss with injury.

Collingwood have won their last three matches against Carlton, and took their Round 7 clash by 34 points, when the big guns did the damage. Dayne Beams kicked four goals, Dane Swan had 32 possessions and Scott Pendlebury 26. 

And in one from the statistical oddities file, Carlton have received most free kicks in the League this year (18.5 per game) and Collingwood least (14.7 per game). Don’t tell Eddie!

My Tip: Collingwood by 16 points.

Richard Champion, former Brisbane Lion


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