John Harms on AFL Round 18

Good old Collingwood caught a snake last week in a highly entertaining match on the Gold Coast. They’ve drifted for the flag and may provide good shopping for the astute keeper of the premiership portfolio. The battle for eighth spot is on, with the draw now being the element of the from-guide to study. As for the Cats, interpret that how you will! I’d say coughing up leads is becoming a bigger and bigger concern both in terms of ladder position and form leading into September.

Essendon v Hawthorn

The AFL schedulers must be pretty pleased with themselves. First v second on a cricket-less night of winter cold where the best spot is in front of the TV. This could be a massive ratings bonanza – not to mention the plague which will descend on the Etihad (yes, Etihad, which is not a win for the schedulers, or the fans of the two clubs). Add the Essendon saga and that these two get on like the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote and you have a bottler. Hawthorn go in as obvious favourites and have the all-round side to carry that expectation. However, the Bombers will throw everything at them. Were Jobe Watson playing, they’d have more of a chance. As it is, they lack Hawthorn’s leadership in the mid-field. What the Dons do have going for them is they’ve been able to use the ongoing speculation about the use of illegal substances (or otherwise) to their advantage. With the rumours flying around Melbourne at the moment (seems everyone knows a copper who knows someone), that the ASADA report is ready to go, the Bombers might have a relentless we’ll-show-you mindset that might be too much for the Hawks. Not for me though. Hawthorn by 14 points.

Gold Coast v Carlton

The schedulers have nailed this one as well. A few weeks ago the Suns embarked on a campaign promoting the visit, in successive weeks, of two of Melbourne’s biggest: Collingwood and Carlton. They couldn’t have done it better against the Pies – a match which will be remembered. So, now they take on the disappointing Blues. The Suns have youth, spirit and rising belief; Carlton have trouble. The Suns have the big men to influence the match, but may find it hard to contain Carlton’s nippy goal sneaks. The locals also have Ablett and O’Meara and a mid-field which can get the better of Carlton’s over-rated gang. This is another terrific match. The Suns by 6 points.

Melbourne v North Melbourne

North are the masters at finding a loss. Going down to Carlton by a point was another brilliantly creative way of getting done. That cannot happen here. Although the Demons are showing something they can’t match it with North. Surely not. The Roos by 35 points.

Collingwood v GWS

The Pies will be pretty happy with a home fixture against the easybeats at this moment. Blessed relief for an outfit drifting in the market. They need this sitter while they re-group and sort out their run into the finals. They have some big matches coming up and, the way they play sometimes, they may find themselves just hanging on to their spot in the eight. Win a couple of them and they will be knocking on the door of the four. Collingwood by 80 points.

Geelong v St Kilda

The Saints didn’t need Geelong to have another fade-out loss, especially to the Crows. The Cats will be fired up for this, at home, where they just don’t get beaten. The Cats don’t have a settled side – made even more unsettled through suspensions – nor do they have the ruthless streak that characterized them a few years ago but they do have a stack more going for them than the Saints. The Cats by 28 points.

Fremantle v Adelaide

The Crows will be chipper after their brave win against the Cats but they will run into a straight-left here that will sit them down for a quarter or two. An under-manned Freo were overwhelmed by an improved Tigers in the end last Sunday but at home they will be a different proposition, especially with so much riding on the outcome. The Crows continue to play for their season. No doubt the return of Hayden Ballantyne will ensure the Crows are focused (on belting him). Freo still have some big names out, but they should be tight enough to withhold the visitors. The Dockers by 16 points.

Port Adelaide v Brisbane

Port have become the darlings of the competition this year which is no mean feat for a club which is traditionally about as popular as the Grim Reaper. They continue to play entertaining, fast-flowing footy for bursts which are long enough to keep them in most games, and have allowed them to remain genuine finals aspirants. They are solid in the back half, have some fiery ball-winners, and some talented creators up forward. They will be Alberton-rabid at home in a match they must win. Port by 15 points.

Western Bulldogs v West Coast

The Doggies might fancy themselves here against a dis-spirited West Coast side which is a shadow of the premiership favourite it started the season as. The Dogs’ youngsters – Liberatore, Hunter, Wallis, Dahlhaus, Stevens et al – have a chance to throw themselves into a game in conditions under the roof which suit them. I like them at the line, and I reckon they can go very close straight out. Western Bulldogs, in a big upset, by 2 points.

Sydney v Richmond

This is another test for the Richmond Football Club who have finally beaten a side above them. This is a much harder proposition. The Swans remain the most determined outfit in the competition. They crave victory like K. Rudd craves a camera. But that sort of desire will test the Tigers. The mid-field battle will be interesting here: glamourous, attacking Tiges versus hard-hat, defensive Swans. I’ll be looking for the Swans on the counter-attack as well. I prefer the Swans big blokes, and I think their back six will work together to keep the Tiges out. This is a huge match for both clubs. The Swans by 17 points.