AFL Round 6 Preview

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

TattsBet AFL Round 6 Preview

Friday April 25
Collingwood v Essendon
MCG, 2.40pm (AEST)

Finals aside, it’s the biggest game of the year. A sellout crowd likely to top 90,000 at the MCG will see the Pies and the Bombers do battle on Anzac Day for the 20th time.

For the historically minded, Collingwood have a 10-8 edge, with an unforgettable draw in the first Anzac Day Clash in 1995. The ageless Dustin Fletcher holds the record of 16 Anzac Day matches from Matthew Lloyd (13) and Scott Lucas (12), while Lloyd (36) is the leading Anzac Day Clash goal-kicker from Sav Rocca (25) and Travis Cloke (21).

James Hird (2000-03-04), Rocca (1995-98) and Scott Pendlebury (2010-11) are the only multiple winners of the Anzac Day Medal, Hird (12 heads the Anzac Day Clash Brownlow Medal votes from Pendlebury (10), and Fletcher (262) is the day’s leading possession-winner all-time from Dane Swan (241), Hird (235), Brett Stanton (230) and Jobe Watson (222).

It’s a crunch game for both sides for contrasting reasons. Collingwood’s season is on the up after an outstanding win last week over North Melbourne, while Essendon have dropped two in a row to Fremantle and St.Kilda after a fine start.

With the Cloke back to his very best last week and the midfield trio of Pendlebury, Swan and Dayne Beams in special touch, the Pies will start slight favorites in one which, like most Anzac Day clashes, that could go either way.

If Essendon are to repeat their 2013 win in this annual bonanza and avoid a repeat of losses in 2010-11-12 much will hinge on the fitness of Brendon Goddard, who has been desperately missed the past two weeks.

My Tip: Essendon by 14 points.

St Kilda v Brisbane Lions
Westpac Stadium, 5.45pm (AEST)

Just where does Nick Riewoldt sit among the all-time St.Kilda greats. It’s a topic of much debate lately after the skipper’s phenomenal start to the season, and there are plenty saying he’s edged ahead of Robert Harvey, Darrel Baldock and Tony Lockett?

He’s equal leading goal-kicker with 17 and averages a career-best 20.2 possessions and 11.2 marks per game through the first five rounds. And on Friday the one-time Gold Coaster will look to inflict further pain on the club which, with a minor change to the AFL’s draft concessions rules in 2000, could easily have been his.

The Saints, coming off a sensational win over Essendon, will host their second Anzac Day clash in Wellington and will be keen to break their off-shore duck after losing by 16 points to Sydney there last year.

The Lions are the only side in the competition without a win despite Jonathan Brown’s flashback to his brilliant best in his 250th last week, and rank last in disposals, contested possessions, contested marks, marks inside 50 and inside 50s. They’ll welcome the return of Daniel Merrett and possibly Pearce Hanley but whether that’s enough to cause an upset is questionable.

My Tip: St.Kilda by 21 points.

Fremantle v North Melbourne
Patersons Stadium, 8.45pm (AEST)

How do you follow the form of North Melbourne? After excellent wins over Port Adelaide and Sydney in Rounds 3-4 they barely fired a shot in a dismal effort against Collingwood last week. And now they face last-start losers Fremantle in Perth to close out the Anzac Day festivities.

The Kangaroos rank 15th for forward 50 entries compared to the Dockers’ 4th, and coach Brad Scott will be desperately hoping an out-of-sorts Drew Petrie finds lost touch to mark his 250th game in which he might be directly opposed to the game’s other milestone man – Fremantle’s 200-gamer Michael Johnson.

North have an overall 14-9 record against Fremantle but have lost nine of their last 10 at Patersons Stadium, including their last six. Their last win in Perth was Chris Connolly’s last game in charge of the Dockers in Round 15 2007.

The suspended Scott Thompson, cornerstone of the North defence, is a massive out, perhaps opening the door for Queenslander Joel Tippett to debut for the Roos 30 months after his last AFL game for Gold Coast in 2011.

The Dockers are minus small forwards Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters, but it’s more than 12 months since they lost two in a row and they are coming off a loss to Sydney last week.

My Tip: Fremantle by 30 points.

Saturday April 26
Gold Coast Suns v GWS Giants
Metricon Stadium, 1.40pm (AEST)

The competition’s two new clubs will go head to head for the fifth time, with the Gold Coast Suns holding a 3-1 edge after a surprise loss in the first meeting in Canberra two years ago.

The Suns, eighth on the ladder with a club best 3-2 start to the season, gave an indication of just how far they’ve come when they beat Melbourne last week and were genuinely disappointed with their performance. And that despite yet another brilliant performance from Gary Ablett, who leads the competition in disposals at 34 per game.

The young Giants, set to play their 50th AFL game, desperately missed experienced off-season recruits Heath Shaw and Shane Mumford in copping a 65-point belting from Adelaide in Adelaide last week, and will be hoping both are cleared to return.

The Suns have won 10 of their last 16 at Metricon Stadium, and beat the Giants by a club record 83 points last time they were on the tourist strip in the last game of last year.

My Tip: Gold Coast by 28 points.

Carlton v West Coast
Etihad Stadium, 4.40pm (AEST)

It’s been a much calmer few days at Carlton. After four weeks of utter turmoil amid a diabolical 0-4 start the Blues bounced back with a comprehensive Round 5 win over the Western Bulldogs. Even Mick Malthouse has been chirpy despite losing Chris Judd five minutes into his comeback.

Malthouse be even happier still if they can beat West Coast, and not just because they’ll get their season back on track. It would be his 400th win as an AFL coach, making him only the second person behind the legendary Jock McHale to reach this mark.

Swingman Lachlan Henderson confirmed his standing as arguably the Blues’ most important player with a stellar performance up forward last week, but not for the first time Malthouse will be wishing he had two Hendersons this week as he tries to combat an imposing Eagles forward lineup headed by Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling.

Carlton ruckman Robert Warnock, coming off arguably the best game of his career, faces a massive task against the West Coast duo of Dean Cox and Nick Naitanui.

The Eagles, coming off successive losses to Geelong and Port Adelaide after a 3-0 start, need a win to stay in touch with the leaders. They have a 4-11 record against Carlton in Melbourne but are 3-2 up in last five meetings with the Blues overall.

My Tip: West Coast by 31 points.

Melbourne v Sydney Swans
MCG, 7.40pm (AEST)

Paul Roos, coach of Sydney for nine years and 202 games, will find himself trying to plot the downfall of the Swans for the first time at the MCG on Saturday night. And he’ll be the first to admit it will be a monumental task.

After an indifferent start to the season the Swans were back to something like their combative best in overpowering Fremantle last week, with Buddy Franklin showing signs of his best with four goals and a midfield led by Josh Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh and Dan Hanneberry shedding the early cobwebs.

After a breakthrough win over Carlton in Round 4 Melbourne were brought back to earth against Gold Coast last week despite another herculean effort from Nathan Jones, who continues to show why he’s the heart and soul of the club.

Interestingly, the Demons have won nine quarters this year and the Swans just eight.

Kurt Tippett’s long-awaited return for Sydney has been delayed yet again by a cracked rib suffered last week in the Reserves, but still it’s hard to see how they won’t be too strong for the battling Demons in the 50th AFL game for Queenslander Rohan Bail.

My Tip: Sydney by 38 points.

Sunday April 27
Western Bulldogs v Adelaide Crows
Etihad Stadium, 1.10pm (AEST)

Brendan McCartney and Brenton Sanderson, long-time coaching colleagues at Geelong during their apprenticeship days, will go head to head as senior coaches on Sunday when McCartney coaches the Bulldogs for the 50th time against Sanderson’s Crows.

It’s 2-1 to Sanderson since the pair stepped into their respective top jobs in 2012, and with both clubs at 2-3 this year both will desperate for a win for reasons much more important than bragging rights. A win here and they’ll be right in touch, but a loss will put them two games outside the top eight.

Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield was sublime last week with 33 possessions and five goals as they belted the GWS Giants by 65 points, but he’ll find things tougher with the Dogs’ Marcus Picken hot on his tail.

The Dogs, who let slip a golden opportunity against Carlton in Round 5 when they backline was outmuscled badly, have a 6-1 advantage over the Crows at Etihad but, significantly, they are 13th in the competition for centre clearances this year up against an Adelaide side which leads the League in this key statistic.

My Tip: Adelaide by 18 points.

Richmond v Hawthorn
MCG, 3.20pm (AEST)

There’s no good time to play Hawthorn, but when they are coming off a loss it’s worse than normal. And when they are coming off a loss and favourite sons Sam Mitchell and Shaun Burgoyne are playing their 250th AFL game together it’s a nightmare. But that’s the lot facing a Richmond side which has its own milestone motivation via the 150th game of Daniel Jackson.

Hawthorn were uncharacteristically sloppy in going down to arch rivals Geelong in another epic battle between the two sides last Monday, and coach Alastair Clarkson, who hasn’t lost two in a row since Round 4-5 2012, will be expecting a much better performance.

As much as he didn’t say it, Clarkson may have regretted the non-selection of grand final hero Brian Lake last week, and after a disrupted start to the season Lake is set to return this week to play on Richmond’s No.1 goal-kicker Jack Riewoldt.

The well-rested Tigers did just enough to get over the top of a winless Brisbane on Easter Thursday, and after an unconvincing 2-3 start to the season they need a big scalp.

It’s a monumental task, but Damien Hardwick’s men have reason to be confident. They were, with Geelong, one of only two teams to beat Hawthorn in 2013, and in fact have bettered the Hawks convincingly at their last two meetings.

My Tip: Hawthorn by 36 points.

Port Adelaide v Geelong Cats
Adelaide Oval, 4.40pm (AEST)

For the second week in a row the round will finish with a 1st v 2nd blockbuster, as Geelong, the competition’s only unbeaten side after a superb win over premiership favorites Hawthorn, treks west to Adelaide to tackle an inform Port Adelaide, who are coming off a similarly impressive win over West Coast in Perth.

Last time the teams met the Hawks ended the Power’s fairytale 2013 campaign in the semi-finals, but Power coach Ken Hinkley, who did much of his apprenticeship at Geelong, is convinced his side are bound for bigger things in 2014.

Geelong enjoys an 18-8 advantage over Port overall, with one draw, and have won the last five meetings. But only once in the last five have they played in Adelaide – when the Cats won by eight goals in Round 9 last year – and this will be their first meeting at Adelaide Oval.

The Cats and the Power are not just top of the ladder for wins. They are the best two scoring teams in the competition and the two best for inside 50s. They also rank third and fourth for tackles. It all makes for an absolute belter.

My Tip: Geelong by 19 points.