AFL Round 9 Preview

Former Brisbane Lion Richard Champion
Former Brisbane Lions star Richard Champion previews Round 9 of the AFL for TattsBet.

TattsBet AFL Round 9 Preview


Adelaide Crows v Collingwood
Thursday May 15, 7.50pm (AEST)
Adelaide Oval

Taylor Walker is set to make his long-awaited comeback from knee surgery for Adelaide as they put their finals prospects on the line against an in-form Collingwood. Having beaten only St.Kilda, GWS and the Western Bulldogs, the hot-and-cold Crows will slip to 3-5 in the win/loss column if beaten in a Thursday night blockbuster to open Round 9.

Collingwood, with 30+ senior players available for selection in a rare embarrassment of riches, have won their last eight games against Adelaide since a narrow loss in Round 22 2007, and enjoy a 25-11 record overall against the club that joined the competition in 1991. 

The Crows will welcome the return of Richard Douglas from suspension and possibly Ben Rutten and Andy Otten, but will lose Tom Lynch and Matthew Jaensch to injury. They are ranked 16th for contested possessions and tackles - worrying stats for coach Brenton Sanderson.

My Tip: Collingwood by 9 points.


Essendon v Sydney Swans
Friday May 16, 7.50pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium

It took a long time to get Buddy Franklin and Kurt Tippett in the Sydney Swans forward line together, but it was worth the wait. The boom recruits were superb as the team from the Harbour City beat premiers Hawthorn last Friday night to firm from $9 to $6.50 in the AFL premiership market.

Suddenly all the talk of poor culture has been forgotten at the Swans, who have beaten 2013 grand finalists Fremantle and Hawthorn in a four-game winning streak that sees them sit behind only Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Geelong on the ladder.

Essendon, hoping Jason Winderlich will be fit to play, have struggled massively up forward of late and haven’t kicked more than 10 goals in a game since Round 3.

They face a rejuvenated Sydney side that's now the No.1 tackling team in the competition, has won four of its last five against the Bombers, and lost the fifth by a point at Etihad in 2011.

The question remains – how much is the imminent threat of possible sanctions over last year’s supplements scandal weighing on the minds of the Essendon players?

There will be a battle within the battle, with Sydney’s Josh Kennedy the No.1 ball-winner in the competition at 246 opposed to Essendon’s Dyson Heppell, who is ranked No.2 for possessions at 233.

My Tip: Sydney by 31 points.


Richmond v Melbourne
Saturday May 17, 1.40pm (AEST)

It will be all about Tommy Hafey at the MCG on Saturday, as the Tigers pay homage to their 'Team of the Century' coach and four-time premiership mentor who died on Monday aged 82 of cancer. Every player who played in a Tigers premiership under Hafey will be invited to join a guard of honor for the Punt Road favourite, who also coached Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney.

It’ll be an emotional time at Tigerland, but Richmond coach Damien Hardwick will be quick to remind his players that the best way to recognise Hafey’s passing is to ensure they win. At 2-5, after four losses in their last five games, they simply cannot afford to drop one to a side that sits 17th on the ladder. At least they were competitive from quarter time in their last outing against Geelong, and have won their last four matches against Melbourne, but ex-captain Chris Newman will be missing for up to a month.

The Demons, narrow and valiant losers to the Bulldogs last week, have looked more like an AFL side in recent weeks, but they have an injury cloud over James Frawley, which coach Paul Roos will be desperate to see lifted.

My Tip: Richmond by 21 points.


North Melbourne v Brisbane Lions
Saturday May 17, 4.40pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium

North skipper Andrew Swallow is set to play his first AFL game since a ruptured Achilles tendon in Round 18 last year. It is a welcome boost for a Roos outfit that has had a fortnight to ponder a costly loss to Gold Coast in Round 7 and simply cannot afford to drop this to one of the competition cellar-dwellers. Daniel Wells is the other possible inclusion, but it’s more likely he’ll miss again.

It’s been the Jeckyl & Hyde Kangaroos – very good when they’ve beaten top four contenders Port Adelaide, Sydney and Fremantle, but dreadfully disappointing in losses to Essendon, Collingwood and Gold Coast by an average of 39 points.

Brisbane, who will play their first game in Melbourne for the year, were at least competitive against Essendon last week, when a little extra polish may have seen coach Justin Leppitsch grab his second win. But they will need a reshuffle this week after losing Matt Maguire to suspension in his long-awaited return to the seniors.

North hold a 4-3 edge in the last seven meetings between the sides which have all gone with home-ground advantage.

My Tip: North Melbourne 32 points.


Fremantle v Geelong
Saturday May 17, 7.40pm (AEST)
Patersons Stadium

Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich will become the first player from a WA-based club to play 300 AFL games. In a phenomenal career which has included six B&F awards, six All-Australian selections and eight club leading goal-kicker awards, 32-year-old Pavlich has flown across the country no less than 132 times for official AFL matches. And that’s not including pre-season games and other commitments. A lot of frequent flyer points.

On top of 160 games at Patersons Stadium and three at the WACA in Perth, he’s played at 12 other venues – Etihad Stadium (41), MCG (29), AAMI Stadium (21), SCG (12), Gabba (8), Simmonds Stadium (8), York Park in Launceston (7), Metricon Stadium (2), Adelaide Oval (1), StarTrack Oval in Canberra (1), TIO Stadium in Darwin (1) and Stadium Australia in Sydney (1). In a huge credit to his resilience, Pav’s had 10 seasons in which he’s played 20 games or more, and only last year, when injury restricted him to 12 games, has he played fewer than 18 matches.

Captain since 2007 and in charge for 153 games, he provides a weekly reminder of what might have been for Collingwood and Richmond. They preferred Josh Fraser and Aaron Fiora at selections No.1 and No.3 in the 2009 draft, either side of Fremantle’s choice of Paul Hasleby at No.2, before the Dockers took Pavlich at No.4.

It shapes as a double milestone moment for Pavlich, who has won All-Australian selection at full back, half forward, centre half forward, full forward and on the bench (twice), He needs just two goals to become the 28th player to reach 600 career goals.

But it’s not just the Pavlich show. It’s a crunch game for Fremantle, who have lost three of their last four and four of their last six to slip from equal premiership favouritism at Round 2 at $4 to the fifth line of betting at Round 8 at $8 and 8th on the ladder. They have had a tough draw, losing to Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, Sydney and an in-form North Melbourne. And they are yet to play any side outside the top 10 in the market. But coach Ross Lyon was so moved after they were over-run by Port last week that he insisted his side was “not one of the best teams in the competition”. Another loss and the top four will start to look a little distant.

The Dockers have crucial injury clouds over defenders Luke McPharlin and Zac Dawson. At least they will have homeground advantage against a Geelong side coming off a bye and set to welcome the return of Andrew Mackie to compensate for the loss of Matthew Stokes to suspension.

And while it will never be top of mind, the Cats won’t have forgotten that it was the Dockers who ended their 2013 campaign in the qualifying final down at the Cattery.

Geelong have won eight of 14 clashes with Fremantle at Patersons Stadium, but only one of their last three visits to Perth.

My Tip: Fremantle by 16 points.


St Kilda v Gold Coast
Sunday May 18, 4.40pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium

On 18 May 2013, Zac Smith’s world fell apart. He did his knee against the Western Bulldogs at Metricon Stadium. But 12 months later to the day, on 18 May 2014, the forgotten young ruck star is set to resume from a knee construction, as the Gold Coast Suns continue their early season march towards an historic finals berth.

It will be an unusual return, given he’s not played in the Reserves, but he’s met every criteria set by the medical and conditioning staff, and the loss of fill-in ruckman Tom Nicholls last week is likely to prompt Suns coach Guy McKenna to take what he will consider a logical decision rather than a calculated gamble.

On a club record three-game winning streak and fresh from a bye after their first win at Etihad Stadium over North Melbourne in Round 7, the Suns may also recall veteran Nathan Bock after he’s done the hard yards in the Reserves in his second comeback from a 2012 broken leg.

Sam Day, part of a formidable key forward setup alongside Charlie Dixon and Tom Lynch, will become the 11th player to post 50 games for the Suns behind Gary Ablett, Trent McKenzie, Jarrod Harbrow, Danny Stanley, Matt Shaw, David Swallow, Dion Prestia, Jared Brennan, Michael Rischitelli and Harley Bennell.

St.Kilda, so encouraging early, have lost their last three and have been hard hit by injuries to senior players. Nick Riewoldt was crunched last Monday night in a hard-fought loss to Carlton and if he were not to come up the consequences would be dire.

The Saints have a 4-1 edge in head-to-head meetings, having lost only to the Suns by 13 points at Metricon in Round 1 last year. Significantly, Riewoldt, a Gold Coaster the competition newcomers would love to have in red and yellow, has kicked 17 goals in four games against his could-have-been home club.

My Tip: Gold Coast 24 points.


Richard Champion, former Brisbane Lion



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