AFL Round 22

The season just keeps getting better and better with Collingwood wobbling like it’s the 1970s and the Crows dropping one they should never have dropped, while in cold old Melbourne the Cats consolidated and the Blues got themselves back in the picture. It’s anyone’s Cup this year, and we’re in for a wild six-week ride, starting with this weekend.

Richmond v Essendon - The battle of the sashes and, really, it doesn’t mean a lot. The Bombers  are absolutely terrible and that means this is a danger game for good ole Richmond . Surely they can post a win here? Although, thinking about it, the Bombers’ returning injured will have a game or two under their belts and will be set a challenge by the uber-proud James Hird. Can his boys lift? On paper it’s even, but I reckon the Tiges will have the fitness edge and Essendon might even do a little experimenting for next year. Richmond by 12 points.

St Kilda v GWS - The Saints  are still in the hunt, theoretically, and in a game that is 18 on 18 the Giants  are in this fixture theoretically. Except the Giants aren’t. I reckon the Sydney-siders can be quietly pleased with their season (they have won a lot of matches at the line for punters). But I’d be leaving this natch alone. St Kilda by 66 points.

Port Adelaide v Brisbane - The Lions  are looking to bring up the City of Churches double, having dealt the Crows a terrible blow at the Gabba last Saturday night. Port  will need to sustain their effort for a little longer than in their previous two outings when it’s lasts until Buddha Hocking has reached for his first sip of water. They have a chance in this, but the Lions form is good enough. Their defence is sound and their mid-fielders will hold their own against the hosts. Brisbane by 17 points.

Sydney v Hawthorn - The game of the round, and for those who don’t have a Vic-centric view of the world, one of the games of the season. They just don’t quite rate Sydney  in Melbourne, yet. But I suspect that they’ll be made to sit up and acknowledge the Swans as a genuine flag chance after this. The Swans may not win it, but I cannot see them letting Hawthorn  get away. It will be a brutal contest where the Hawks try to do all in their powers to get the left-footers out and running, while Sydney will try to muscle the ball forward in whatever way they can. Shane Mumford can have a big influence in this match. At the other end Luke Hodge is starting to get his hands on the footy after a long lay-off. If the match is played on Sydney’s terms then they will win, and vice versa. It’s at the SCG which works in favour of the Swans. And I will back the grunt of their Home Brand mids. Could be a kick in it. The Swans by 5 points.

West Coast v Collingwood - This is only marginally second billing to the SCG match, but it is a lot harder to work out. West Coast  were OK against the Cats a fortnight ago, but not brilliant, and they just did enough against Port. The Pies  were very flat against North. Was that an aberration? I reckon the Pies have a real task to get themselves up, especially in the hothouse which is Subiaco. They will need to silence the crowd. The Eagles, with their strong ruck division and their tall forwards, match up well against Collingwood, and they have the experience in the backline to handle an out-of-form Dawes and an out-of-contract Cloke. The Eagles may do some damage here and keep their top four hopes alive. West Coast by 14 points in another thriller.

Gold Coast v Carlton - Carlton  have had one of the weirder seasons in the history of footy and may just continue to fight back sufficiently to make the eight. This fixture is no gimme, but it’s close to one. The Blues will be looking to boost their percentage against the Suns  in their fight for that eighth spot. Too much experience. Too much class. Too much to play for. The Blues by 57 points.

Geelong v Western Bulldogs - The Cats  have their last two matches at home and, given their relatively poor percentage, will be hoping to build it here. This will be one-sided with the Cats a chance to kick a cricket score against the Bulldogs  if the weather is adequate. Geelong by 76 points.

North Melbourne v Fremantle- The momentum and the hype are with North , and why not. They have plenty to offer: a good ruckman, strong in-and-under players, tremendous runners with pace and skill, and a bit of unheralded steel in the backline. They have developed cohesion over the past month or so, and are very good at making and using space. So The Dockers  are up against it. Ross Lyon will need to be at his tactical best to find a way of winning this. The contested ball is the key, and I can’t trust Freo to deliver on that. North by 21 points.

Melbourne v Adelaide - This match will be played above the shoulders. The Crows  need to bounce back after their costly loss to Brisbane, which may have left some mental scars. If that is the case, the Demons  can play without a care in the world and take it up to the visitors. I think Melbourne are worth a ticket at the line, but Adelaide to win by 23 points.

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