AFL Round 5 Preview

Former Brisbane Lion Richard Champion
Former Brisbane Lions star Richard Champion previews Round 5 of the AFL for TattsBet.

TattsBet AFL Round 5 Preview

Thursday April 17
Brisbane Lions v Richmond
Gabba, 7.50pm (AEST)

Jonathan Brown had played 248 games without a 100-point loss. Game No. 249 saw his side flogged by Port Adelaide by 113 points. What will No. 250 hold? Sadly for the hugely popular Brisbane Lions champion it’s hard to see anything but something similar as he becomes the eighth member of the 250 Club behind Marcus Ashcroft, Shaun Hart, Darryl White, Michael Voss, Nigel Lappin and Simon Black.

The Lions, the worst team in the competition this year for inside 50s, have been ravaged by injury and have eight of their best 22 missing. The Easter Bunny is going to have to pull an almighty rabbit out of the hat if they are to kick off Round 5 with anything but a fifth consecutive loss for new coach Justin Leppitsch against the club where he was an assistant coach for the past four years.

It’s not like Richmond are going to do them any favors. Coming off a 38-point loss to Collingwood last week they are 1-3 and in danger of losing touch with the top eight. Ranked the No.2 team in clearances, they’ve won their last five games at the Gabba for an 8-8 split overall, and their last four overall against Brisbane by an average 26 points.

My Tip: Richmond by 19 pts

Saturday April 19
Collingwood v North Melbourne
MCG, 1.40pm (AEST)

It’s been a big turnaround for North Melbourne. Four rounds into 2013 they averaged 103 points per game and were 1-3. At the same point this year they average just 82 points per game, but are 3-1 and chock full of confidence after steamrolling Sydney by 43 points at the SCG last week. They’ve always believed in themselves, but now they’ve got others thinking they really are legitimate.

The Kangaroos, with fullback Scott Thompson in rare form, will be hoping that Jack Ziebell will resume to help combat a super-slick Collingwood midfield. The Roos onballers will certainly need to be on their game after the Pies trio of Scott Pendlebury, Dayne Beams and a resurgent Dane Swan had 81 possessions and kicked eight goals in a 38-point Round 4 against Richmond.

But while Nathan Buckley would have been delighted with Swan’s improved form, he still has major concerns over the form of Travis Cloke, who has been held goalless in three of four games this year and could face a further headache against Thompson this week. Perhaps he can find something special to help usher Heritier Lumumba into the AFL 200 Club and extend his team’s recent 3-2 head-to-head edge over the Roos.

My Tip: Collingwood by 24 pts

Sydney Swans v Fremantle
SCG, 4.40pm (AEST)

When is it time for the Sydney Swans to panic? Despite a 1-3 start the season which has them 13th on the ladder the bookies are sticking firm, ranking them equal fourth in the premiership market at $13. But despite the popular “they’ll be right” consensus it might just be panic stations if they lose to Fremantle at the SCG on Saturday. Because at 1-4 they’d be in danger of losing touch with the top eight.

We’ve heard comments like ‘slow’ and ‘lost the hunger’ to describe the Swans this week after they were beaten by 43 points by North Melbourne at the SCG last week, and it’s going to take something special against an in-form Fremantle. Selection will be interesting amid talk of rushing Kurt Tippett straight back into the side despite a limited and injury-disrupted preparation.

The Dockers, humiliated by Hawthorn in Round 3, bounced back as good sides do when they hammered an undermanned Essendon in Perth in Round 4, and in a side depleted through the midfield Nat Fyfe will be a key inclusion after suspension.

Sydney have a 10-5 home record against Fremantle and have split their last five meetings overall with two wins and draw. But at their last meeting they went down by 25 points in Perth in the preliminary final last year. It’ll be a dog fight for Matthew Pavlich’s 150th game as Fremantle captain, with his side ranked No.3 on contested football and the Swans No.4.

My Tip: Fremantle by 13 pts

Essendon v St Kilda
Etihad Stadium, 7.40pm (AEST)

It will be a different Essendon side this week to that which lost by 53 points to Fremantle in Perth last Sunday, with Paddy Ryder, Paul Chapman, Dustin Fletcher and David Myers are all set to return. And it would want to be as the Bombers, likely to be without Brendon Goddard, set out to prove that Round 4 was a temporary lapse.

St.Kilda, too, will be looking to bounce back from an 86-point wake-up call from Adelaide in Adelaide last week, but their injury situation is getting worse not better. Nathan Wright will miss three months and David Armitage, becoming such a key figure in the midfield, will miss this week due to a nasty gash on his knee.

Essendon, the No.1 team in the competition for possessions and disposal efficiency, have a 4-1 recent edge over St.Kilda and an 11-6 record against them overall at Etihad.

My Tip: Essendon by 30 pts

West Coast v Port Adelaide
Patersons Stadium, 7.40pm (AEST)

Kane Cornes will qualify for AFL life membership this weekend, adding a 273rd AFL match to 26 pre-season games and one State of Origin game for a career 300. And if you asked him what he’d like to help celebrate the milestone it’d be easy – an end to a Patersons Stadium hoodoo which has seen Port Adelaide lose their last four in Perth and six of their last seven.

Coming off a 113-point home slaughter of Brisbane and with a 16-9 advantage in head-to-head meetings with the Eagles, Port will make the trek west full of confidence and boosted by the probable return of Chad Wingard.

West Coast, too, have something to prove after a 75-point hiding from Geelong in Geelong last week undid much of the good work of a 3-0 start against lesser opposition. They’ll welcome the return of Luke Shuey from suspension and the probable inclusion of Darren Glass, Matt Rosa and possibly Chris Masten. Doubts, though, surround Nic Naitanui.

It’s 6-6 head to head at Perth, and another close one looms as both sides confront the prospect of getting ahead of the pack at 4-1 or slipping back into the middle of it at 3-2.

Prediction: West Coast by 18 points

Sunday April 20
Adelaide Crows v GWS Giants
Adelaide Oval, 1.10pm (AEST)

Adelaide have a 3-0 head-to-head record against the GWS Giants and an average winning margin of precisely 100 points. Last time they met the Crows won by 135 and Tom Lynch kicked 10 goals. But to just expect more of the same could be fraught with danger in the 250th career game for Scott Thompson.

The young Giants had an average losing margin last year of 72 points. This year in an encouraging 2-2 start that figure has dropped to 17, and but for a poor final quarter fadeout against the Western Bulldogs last week after they had led at every change they could be 3-1.

Lynch made a successful SANFL comeback last weekend from a shoulder injury and is a likely inclusion for the Crows, who need to win to convince sceptics that their drought-breaking 86-point demolition of St.Kilda in Melbourne last week was no fluke after their poor 0-3 start and an embarrassing 43-point loss to Sydney last start at home.

Prediction: Adelaide by 28 points

Melbourne v Gold Coast Suns
MCG, 3.20pm (AEST)

This is a big test for the Suns. After an encouraging 2-1 opening to the season they were given a brutal 99-point wake-up call by the mighty Hawks last week. It was their biggest loss at Metricon Stadium and has posed questions about their finals credentials. It’s imperative against a side that they would have been expecting to beat that they bounce back.

Brandon Matera will return from suspension to bolster a Suns outfit that has won its last two games against Melbourne but has a 1-5 record at the MCG and ranks last in the competition for disposal efficiency at 66.2%.

It won’t be as easy as the Suns and most experts would have expected a week ago after Melbourne shocked Carlton in Round 4. Their pressure around the ball was good, and although underdone Chris Dawes bolstered a forward line that also looks better for the switch of regular fullback James Frawley. It was the Demons’ first win since Round 14 last year and they’ll go in with an elevated confidence.

After a week in which the tagging tactics of Collingwood’s Brent Macaffer on Richmond’s Trent Cotchin in Round 4 have been in the spotlight the Melbourne match-up with Suns skipper Gary Ablett will be typically crucial and extra interesting.

Prediction: Melbourne by 9 points

Western Bulldogs v Carlton
Etihad Stadium, 4.40pm (AEST)

Can things get any worse at Carlton? Ordinarily you’d think not after their first 0-4 start to a season since 1989, the first 0-4 start of Mick Malthouse’s 30-year coaching career, and an almost deafening public uproar led by Blues money man Bruce Matheson.

But things could very definitely get worse if they were to lose to the Western Bulldogs. And after the Blues’ diabolical performance against Melbourne last week and the Dogs’ come-from-behind win over GWS the Dogs will start favorites.

All eyes will be on Malthouse at selection (again). Does he recall Jarrad Waite and Jeff Garlett after they were sacrificed at selection last week? And will he rush the desperately needed return of Chris Judd among a fierce attack on the Blues on-field leadership?

The Dogs, with a 6-4 edge against the Blues overall at Etihad and a 3-2 advantage in recent meetings, have shown much of the character the Carlton have lacked but they will be stretched in defence with the suspended Dale Morris joining the injured Jordan Roughead on the absent list.

Prediction: Carlton by 14 points

Monday April 21
Geelong Cats v Hawthorn
MCG, 3.20pm

One of the most eagerly awaited home-and-away games of the year between two of the AFL’s biggest rivals. Appropriately, the last game of the Easter round brings together the two teams unbeaten through the first four rounds, and promises to be another beauty between the No.1 ranked offensive team (Hawthorn) and the No.1 ranked defensive team (Geelong).

Hawthorn, premiership favorites at $3, can hardly have been more impressive. After a Round 3 demolition of second-favorites Fremantle they walloped Gold Coast by 99 points at the Metricon last week. And Ben McEvoy and Ben Stratton look set to return this week to off-set the loss of Liam Shiels to injury.

Geelong, third in premiership betting at $7, have defied critics forecasting a slide and have transitioned a new generation of Cats into the top side beautifully. Andrew Mackie’s injury cloud is a rare worry for coach Chris Scott ahead of a showdown which boasts a remarkable history.

Hawthorn won their last meeting by five points in the 2013 preliminary final to end the dreaded ‘Kennett Curse’ and a run of 10 consecutive losses to Geelong dating back to the Hawks’ win over the Cats in the 2008 grand final. It was the 10th time in that 12-game sequence decided by 10 points or less and another epic looms.

Despite the loss of Buddy Franklin Hawthorn’s scoring has increased from 112 points per game last year to 128 points per game this year. They rank second in the League for forward 50 entries behind Geelong (of course). But Geelong, with Joel Selwood in such hot form he’s joined Gary Ablett as Brownlow Medal favourite and Steve Johnson second only to Ablett for possessions this year, have conceded on average just 64 points per game this year.

Prediction: Hawthorn by 21 points 

Richard Champion, former Brisbane Lion


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