AFL Round 21

This season just keeps getting more and more intriguing. The fine Collingwood win in Sydney has seen them firm for the flag, while Hawthorn rest in the background enjoying a couple of soft games. Meanwhile the Eagles remain in the mix with a win against Geelong, and Adelaide deal t with a mediocre challenge from the Dockers. So what complications befall flag punters this weekend?

Geelong v St Kilda - The Saints  must win to keep their faint finals hopes alive. Their prospects will be diminished if Saint Nick doesn’t come up. The worst scenario would be to find out that he’s not up to it when he hobbles off half way through the second quarter. It’s hard to win one player down these days. So there is pressure on the medical staff to make the right call. The Cats  have been to Perth and backing up has always been a consideration. And there is doubt over Tom Hawkins. So there are a few depends-ifs in this. I think the Cats defence will be too solid here, and they will win enough of the clearances to develop some flow. It’s a matter of whether they can find the right avenues to goal. Pretty tight. The Cats by 10 points.

Fremantle v Richmond - Despite their loss to Adelaide, the Dockers  are still in the hunt for the eighth spot, and they have the draw for it to happen. That includes this match at home against the enigma that is the Richmond  Football Club. The secret to a Tiger win is twofold: skilful use of the footy on the big, open spaces (that’s possible, but who really knows if it is likely); and contain Matthew Pavlich (which is what the Crows did). The mid-fields match up well, but if the Dockers win easy footy they may well expose the Tiges who are not the greatest chasers on the planet. I reckon Freo could break the Tiger spirit early, and win quite comfortably. The Dockers by 29 points.

Essendon v Carlton - These two clubs are fierce rivals and this will be a ding-dong barney. Hard to know what would please victorious Blues  supporters more: that they had kept alive their finals hopes, or that they had delivered a knockout blow to the Bombers. Essendon  have been in poor form. Are they tired? Why have their skills dropped off so? Carlton have been all over the shop. I reckon the Blues will be seeking revenge after their loss to Essendon early in the season helped de-rail them. Carlton by 3 points.

GWS v Melbourne - Best tip for this game: wear your thermals and take a coat. The nation’s capital will be freezing. Manuka is a good place to play footy though, and it rewards attacking teams. GWS  have won there. The Giants looked a little flat up at the Gold Coast but I reckon they’ll bounce back here and provide a better show. Whether the young bodies will hold up against the Dees  is a good question. You’d expect the Demons to win but it will be hard-fought and again a ticket on the Giants at the line is worth considering. Melbourne by 17 points.

Collingwood v North Melbourne - This is the game of the round and an ideal test for the emerging Kangaroos . The Pies are a competitive unit as we know. Fierce, uncompromising, determined. They are the best side at capitalising on their opponent’s errors. So, if North play an attacking brand of footy, and use the ball well, this will be a real contest. They have pace and the tall forwards to stretch the Pie defence. Collingwood  have a lot of players running into form: they will be thrilled with the past fortnight of D. Jolly. D. Beams is hot. North to match it with the Pies, but the favoured team to get on top in a ripper. Collingwood by 14 points.

Brisbane v Adelaide - If the Lions  were going a little better than they are this would be a tough road-trip for the Crows . But they really are a bumbling unit at times. The Crows have too much to play for, and their stars will lead them to an adequate victory. Adelaide by 19 points.

Port Adelaide v West Coast - You’d be very brave to concede that Port  has a chance here. The Eagles  will dominate the middle and once their big blokes get on their bikes and wheel themselves around the big ground this could be a picnic. The strongest will can’t match the superior talent of the visitors on this occasion. West Coast by 29 points.

Western Bulldogs v Sydney - This will be no trouble for the Swans . While the mid-field battle might be on in earnest the Swans won’t give too much away to the Bulldogs in the back half, and they could bust the game open with enterprising movement of the Sherrin. Too good, Sydney by 37 points.

Hawthorn v Gold Coast - Think of a number between 72 and 160 and that could be the margin. A complete mismatch. The Hawks will be trying to get through this unscathed. Their injured list is starting to become a concern. My number is 96.

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