John Harms on AFL Round 17

Steady as she goes in flag betting at the moment with the top three holding their price. Freo are still good shopping and will firm if they beat Richmond on Sunday, and if the media scrum keeps speculating about the plight of the Bombers.. Trying to find the one to emerge from the bottom half of the eight is difficult. A fun ticket on Port might be handy at the odds.

North Melbourne v Carlton

Well, this would have to be the Battle of the Disappointed and the Disappointing in 2013. Both promised so much in the days when the leaves were still on the trees. But they have delivered so little. It might be the case of the less-disappointing wins this one. Carlton have fought matches out, but have had some salary-collectors among the crew. North have dominated matches and then capitulated. So I suppose it comes down to how you measure levels of disappointing. I expect North to dominate this match at times. And, as I have been a fool for them during their bleak winter, I am going to suggest they will have their noses in front at the death. The Kangas by 19 points.

Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs

TattsBet should run a book on the temperature at the Tamar end of Aurora Stadium in Launy. They may get more turnover on that, because the Hawks are certainties here, no matter which players are given the weekend off. The Hawks by 55 points.

St Kilda v Port Adelaide

Who’d have picked it! This is one of the matches of the round. The Saints: desperate to find a way to win, and to find a way to meld their older brigade with their emerging crop. Port Adelaide: playing for the spot in the eight. Port’s draw is pretty good from here in. They play a few teams from the southern end of the ladder. So, they can make their own way into the finals – if they win matches like this one. That probably puts some pressure on them, but they have the game and the fitness to give this a real shake, even though it is in Melbourne. This should be a really entertaining match. Port by 7 points.

Gold Coast v Collingwood

Had this been played a month ago, the Suns would have been a real chance. But they’ve dropped off a little, as the Pies have rallied. The battle of the midfield will be interesting here, but I can’t see the Pies forwards being contained. Collingwood have too much to lose to be complacent up there on the coast. Maggies by 21 points.

GWS v Essendon

I have kept an eye on the wooden spoon market which has been interesting all year. And, would you believe, this is a match between the two faves to take it out. GWS are hot favourites to win it, while the Bombers are being kept safe by bookies. All points to the tabling in mid-August (or thereabouts) of the report. The Bombers will win this by any margin they like. Possibly 77 points.

Melbourne v Brisbane

Oh to be in Darwin, which always looks fantastic for these July matches. Everyone’s in racing carnival mode and punters have a few good runs under the belt. They’ll be booze-fit by Cup day. The Lions have a sniff, having dealt with North last week. Leuenberger is really something. Matt Maguire is looking like the grand old man of the back-line again and Jono Brown is the grand old man of the forward line. Brisbane’s mids can find the footy and they have some penetrating kicks in their ranks. This all adds up to trouble for the Dees. I reckon the Fuchsias will be competitive early but the Lions will kick away. Hopefully they’ve had a win at Fannie Bay that afternoon – it’s probably their best result. Brisbane by 20 points.

Richmond v Fremantle

It looks like the best Sunday we’ve had for a while. This early match should be a cracker. The Tiges come up against a genuine contender and have the advantage of playing at home. But they have a long way to go. In the equivalent fixture last year, they lost miserably. However Matthew Pavlich has been banished for three weeks, and the Tiges have 20 games more experience. This match provides an opportunity to gauge the relative worth of players like Fyfe against Martin, to see who really influences games. My sense is that Freo have players who understand this better, and hence I’m going with the Dockers, because they are competitors. In a good contest, Freo by 9 points.

Adelaide v Geelong

The Crows have dropped off since absolutely dacking the Cats in this fixture last year. They were brilliant that Autumn day at AAMI Stadium with their spare defender (Reilly) carving the Cats up. Jacobs was also very good. By comparison, the Cats have improved in the last twelve months. Strategy will play a role here, but the more important parameters are pressure on the ball-carrier and strength in the contest. The Cats have the edge. They’ll win the footy and then run it beautifully through the big open spaces. The Crows, playing for their season, will do all they can to stop them. Geelong by 15 points.

West Coast v Sydney

Sydney have gone well against the Eagles in recent times and this should be no different. In the best game of the round – Sunday twilight for two weeks in a row – the Swans have so many ball-winning options. The ruck battle will be intriguing: Eagles mobility v Swans traditional big blokes. Nic Nat needs to fire for the home side to win. They need something to lift them from the mundane. The Swans, with the superior midfielders, to be too good. Sydney by 12 points.