AFL Round 12 Preview

Former Brisbane Lion Richard Champion
Former Brisbane Lions star Richard Champion previews Round 12 of the AFL for TattsBet.

TattsBet AFL Round 12 Preview


Geelong  v Carlton
Friday June 6, 7.50pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium


Since about 9.40pm on Thursday 29 May Geelong coach Chris Scott would have been battling various states of anxiety. Initially it would have been pure shock after his side was humiliated by the Sydney Swans by 110 points last time out. It was their worst loss since 1990 and their worst loss all-time to the Swans.

Then, as time passed, he’d have been asking himself “did that really happen?” Was it merely an aberration for a side having a downer in its third game in 18 days against a fresh and talented-laden opponent that was very definitely ‘’on”. Or was it something more sinister for the long-term benchmark team in the competition?

Scott will get some sort of answer on Friday night against a Carlton side battling its own woes after a devastating loss away loss to the Brisbane Lions last Saturday. And while the sixth-placed Cats are still right in the mix despite their percentage taking a fearful hammering, the finals hopes of the 12th-placed Blues are in tatters. At 4-6 they’ll need a miracle.

Yes, Carlton have hit back when adversity has struck earlier in the season, but whether they can do it again in a week in which they sacked first-round draft pick Brad Bootsma for mis-use of social media is questionable. Carlton haven’t beaten Geelong since Round 5 2010, while the Cats have won their last four against the Blues and have prevailed in all 11 meetings between the two sides at Etihad by an average 43 points.

Interestingly, Geelong, who hope to regain Corey Enright and Tom Lonergan, have the worst record in the League for goal-kicking accuracy at 45.1%. And Carlton, who expect to welcome the inclusion of Andrew Walker, are second-worst at 45.8%.

The big question for Carlton coach Mick Malthouse is what to do with Chris Judd. Does he bring him straight back into the side, which ended in disaster when he lasted five minutes in his only outing for the year in Round 5, or does he stick to his original plan and run him in the VFL?

My Tip: Geelong by 28 points.


Hawthorn  v West Coast 
Saturday June 7, 1.40pm (AEST)
Aurora Stadium


Brendon Bolton didn’t see that coming. Caretaker coach at Hawthorn for at least the next five weeks and possibly through into the finals, he would have been hoping for an easy introduction to the top job when the 2013 premiers took on their 2013 wooden-spooners last Sunday. But eight minutes into the final stanza they were just three points in front and had an almighty fight on their hands.

Bolton was one mightily relieved Alastair Clarkson fill-in when he emerged from his coaching debut with a 20-point win in what was testimony to the winning know-how and pure class of a savagely depleted Hawthorn outfit. But he wouldn’t want to go through that again.

West Coast, dreadfully disappointing since starting the 2013 season as premiership favorites, had a chance to restore some credibility against North Melbourne in Perth last Sunday and delivered their lowest score against North Melbourne in their 28-year history in a 38-point loss more comprehensive than the final margin. Only a Matt Priddis goal after the siren spared the Eagles the embarrassment of the club’s lowest total at Patersons Stadium.

West Coast’s season is officially on life support at 4-6, although the fact that they’ve beaten only the Bulldogs (14th), Melbourne (15th), St.Kilda (16th) and GWS (17th) probably says they’ve stopped breathing already. Certainly, they’ve picked a bad time to make a trip to Launceston, where Hawthorn have won their last eight and 15 of their last 16.

For the second week in a row the Hawks face an opposition senior coach who served as an apprentice under Clarkson. Last week it was GWS’s Leon Cameron, and this week it’s West Coast’s Adam Simpson, who worked for the Hawks from 2010-13.

Hawthorn, who have won four of their last five against West Coast, could be steadied by the return of Jordan Lewis, Ben Stratton, Ben McEvoy and possibly Cyril Rioli, but may be without David Hale. The Eagles, with Will Schofield set to play his 100th game, will regain Darren Glass but have been struck a massive blow with the loss of Josh Kennedy.

My Tip: Hawthorn 19 points.


Port Adelaide  v St Kilda 
Saturday June 7, 4.40pm (AEST)
Adelaide Oval


Is it an omen? Port Adelaide posted their seventh consecutive win last weekend when they survived a monumental challenge from Melbourne in Alice Springs. The last time they won seven on the trot was 2004. And the seventh win in that sequence was the grand final.

Coach Ken Hinkley won’t be letting his troops think of such things, and instead will be looking to correct the mental lapses which turned what should have been a relative canter against the Demons into a dogfight. It took a special finish from the super-fit Power to get the points, but it’s a good side that plays poorly sometimes and wins, and Hinkley won’t complain about being two wins clear at the top of the ladder.

On Saturday Hinkley will be opposed for the first time to his 2013 chief lieutenant and the man he encouraged to chase the St.Kilda job this year – Alan Richardson. The pair are close and know each other’s football thinking inside out. There will be no surprises either way.

Port, with an 8-3 record against St.Kilda in Adelaide and unbeaten at their new Adelaide Oval home, will regain Hamish Hartlett from suspension, but have Travis Boak and Chad Wingard, among others, awaiting a late medical. The Saints, hammered by Collingwood last week, expect David Armitage to play his first AFL game since Round 4 after a run in the VFL last week.

My Tip: Port Adelaide by 41 points.

 


GWS Giants  v Essendon 
Saturday June 7, 7.40pm (AEST)
Spotless Stadium


At some stage this year, the GWS Giants are going to spring an upset. It could so easily have been against Hawthorn last week, when so many little things that could have swayed the result went against them. Maybe it’ll be this week!

That is certainly a possibility, which will make Essendon coach Mark Thompson a little edgy, because he’ll understand fully that after working so hard to lay a 5-5 platform for their season this is one the Bombers simply cannot afford to drop.

The Giants won back a lot of respect last Sunday when, after consecutive 100-point losses to West Coast and Richmond, they pushed the premiers to the final siren. They had 100+ tackles for the third time in the club’s short history to set a benchmark for coach Leon Cameron, and showed the sort of four-quarter effort that is expected and required at this level.

The League’s youngest side has lost to Essendon by 39, 39 and 66 points in their three meetings, but they’ve been in touch at halftime in the last two, and will at least go in with their confidence levels restored somewhat.

Jeremy Cameron’s one-match suspension will leave GWS without their most potent attacking weapon, while Michael Hurley is tipped to return for Essendon, who could be tempted to give Shaun Edwards his first game in a red and black jumper against his former side.

My Tip: Essendon by 28 points.


Western Bulldogs  v Brisbane Lions 
Saturday June 7, 7.40pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium


Jonathan Brown will break an obscure AFL record on Saturday night. It will be his 255th AFL game in jumper No.16, taking him one game beyond the previous most in No.16 held by ex-Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs star Terry Wallace.

But the player who was originally going to wear No.30 until Stefan Carey arrived at the Gabba won’t care less. He’s only interested in team success in the twilight of his career, and after a standout win over Carlton last week, the Lions champion will be seriously contemplating two in a row against the 14th-placed Western Bulldogs.

The Dogs, who have beaten only Melbourne in their last six, are crying out for a key forward like Brown in his prime. They had 26 more inside 50’s than Fremantle last week but lost by 38 points. At least coach Brendan McCartney has a few options. Matthew Boyd is tipped to return, Liam Jones is available to return after a two-week suspension and Jarrad Grant has impressed in two comeback outings in the VFL.

Lions coach Justin Leppitsch isn’t so fortunate. He’s got a real selection headache on his hands after Trent West joined Matthew Leuenberger on the “specialist ruckmen with a season-ending knee injury” list last week. Part-timer Stefan Martin, who has played only one AFL game since Round 4 last year, is tipped to get the job, although Leppitsch could take a punt on basketball convert Archie Smith for what would be his debut. Ash McGrath, too, is in the mix.

The Lions have won three of their last four against the Dogs, but have won only two of their past 11 matches at Etihad.

My Tip: Western Bulldogs by 38 points.


Gold Coast Suns v Sydney Swans
Sunday June 8, 3.20pm (AEST)
Metricon Stadium


Seven rounds into the 2014 AFL season the Sydney Swans were sixth in premiership betting at $9. They had a 4-3 record, but had only beaten Fremantle of the contenders, and hadn’t exactly convinced the punters that the arrival of Buddy Franklin was going to make them a serious flag contender.

That all changed in two and a half hours four weeks later when the Swans produced easily the most devastating performance of the season to obliterate powerhouse Geelong by 110 points. Franklin and Kurt Tippett combined for nine goals on the back of some exquisite midfield service, and all of a sudden the Swans were premiership favorites at $3.75.

 

The upshot was plenty of southern bleating about the Swans cost of living allowance which Swans officials didn’t take well. They felt they were all but accused of cheating. It wasn’t what Suns coach Guy McKenna needed, given that the only thing worse than a superstar Swans outfit in top form is a superstar Swans outfit in top form with a touch of anger.

Sydney, who have beaten Gold Coast in their only three meetings by 70, 72 and 41 points, are on a six-game winning streak that has made a mockery of their Round 1 loss to GWS. With Heath Grundy set to play his 150th game they present a formidable challenge for a Suns outfit looking to bounce back from a 32-point loss to Adelaide last week as they head into a tough patch in the fixture.

That the Suns only trail the Swans on percentage is something of an oddity, and not until they beat one of the top sides will they deserve to be ranked in the same category. Rory Thompson, missing for the past fortnight, looms as potentially a big in for the Suns as they look to contain the Franklin-Tippett combination. Likewise Harley Bennell, but Trent McKenzie and Danny Stanley are doubtful starters.

In an interesting side battle, the best two ball-winners in the competition and arguably the best two players in the competition will be opposed in the midfield. Sydney’s Josh Kennedy (317 disposals) tops the League in possessions just ahead of Gold Coast’s Gary Ablett (314). They are ranked in the reverse order for contested possessions, while Ablett (55 votes) narrowly leads Kennedy (52 votes) in the Coach’s Association Player of the Year Award.

My Tip: Sydney Swans by 25 points.


Fremantle v Adelaide Crows
Sunday June 8, 4.10pm (AEST)
Patersons Stadium


Taylor Walker is minus his trademark mullet in his return to AFL football this year, but he’s lost none of the flare and match-winning brilliance that has made him a favourite with Adelaide Crows fans and a key to his club’s finals hopes this year.

In his third comeback last weekend, Walker was outstanding with five goals in a 32-point win over the Gold Coast Suns. Moreover, he moved with great freedom and flair in a real confidence-booster for Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson.

The Crows still have their doubters despite the fact they’ve gone 5-2 after an 0-3 start. And understandably so, given their two losses in that time have been to Carlton and Melbourne, and that in a 2-2 record interstate, they’ve beaten only St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs. It’s a hard form line to follow, and on the road against the 2013 grand finalists they face an uphill battle.

Fremantle, 38-point winners over the Dogs last week, have been a lot more convincing, and unlike Adelaide have beaten the sides they are expected to beat.

Interestingly, despite the fact that Aaron Sandilands is the No.1 ranked ruckman in the competition for hit-outs, Fremantle are ranked 17th for centre clearances. And Adelaide are No.1 at winning the ball from the middle of the ground.

My Tip: Fremantle by 32 points.


North Melbourne v Richmond
Sunday June 8, 7.10pm (AEST)
Etihad Stadium


Rival coaches Brad Scott and Damian Hardwick will share a personal milestone on Saturday night when each posts his 100th game as an AFL coach. But that’s where the similarity starts and finishes. Otherwise, it’s been an altogether contrasting week for the men in charge.

Scott, whose North Melbourne side is coming off an excellent 38-point away win over West Coast, would have been rightfully well-pleased with himself. After all, the Kangaroos have had two wins in Perth in five weeks, are the only side to have beaten ladder leaders Port Adelaide, and also boast an away win against new premiership favorites Sydney. Of course he’d be happy.

But it gets better. In the last 12 weeks, they play only two sides currently in the top eight. So, while they are only one game inside the eight now, a top four finish isn’t out of the question, if they can find the consistency which has been their only big downfall this year.

Hardwick has had a week from hell. It’s been a time of exhaustive internal soul-searching and a microscopic external examination, which only a big Melbourne club in crisis can command. Half a game from a top four finish last year, they sit 13th on the ladder with a 3-7 record. Their season is gone, and had Hardwick not signed an off-season contract extension to the end of 2016, he may have suffered the same fate.

North, with skipper Andrew Swallow to play his 150th game, have beaten Richmond at their last three meetings and have a 7-3 record overall against them at Etihad.

My Tip: North Melbourne by 39 points.


Melbourne v Collingwood
Monday June 9, 3.20pm (AEST)
MCG


Melbourne travelled 2,000 km to Alice Springs last week only to come home empty-handed, yet it was one of the best things they’ve done his year under new coach Paul Roos. While Roos insisted a 20-point loss to Port Adelaide should have been a win, it was like a win to the doubters. It was all about respect and credibility, and after seven years with very little of either, the Demons are starting to turn things around. No more are they are laughing stock.

On Monday they have a huge chance to take another step in the right direction, on a stage as big as they will find themselves in 2014. In the annual Queen’s Birthday blockbuster against Collingwood and hopefully a crowd upwards of 75,000. They have lost the last three QB clashes by 83, 42 and 88 points. Overall, it’s 8-4 head-to-head to Collingwood, with a draw in 2010. Melbourne haven’t won since 2007. This is the Demons’ big chance.

Brad Green (12) and Alan Didak (11) have played most Queen’s Birthday matches, while Didak, Travis Cloke, Chris Tarrant and Adem Yze have kicked most goals in these feature matches. Each has 12. Dane Swan has eight Queen’s Birthday Brownlow Medal votes from seven outings to lead all comers, while Cameron Bruce (215) and Swan (204) are the leading possession-winners.

Swan has taken the three Brownlow medal votes in each of the last two games after Sherrod Wellingham, Aaron Davey, Scott Pendlebury, Tarkyn Lockyer, Russell Robertson, Bruce, Travis Johnston, Josh Fraser, Paul Licuria, Tarrant and Anthony Rocca had done likewise in earlier games.

Swan, Luke Ball and Brodie Grundy are likely to return from injury for the Pies this week to help off-set the loss of the suspended Steele Sidebottom and the injured Nick Maxwell and add to a side that was delighted to see Travis Cloke hit some form with a five-goal haul in an 86-point win over St.Kilda last week.

Melbourne, valiant losers to ladder leaders Port Adelaide in Alice Springs last week but beaten by 88, 42 and 83 points by Collingwood in their last three meetings, will be a much more formidable proposition following the return of Chris Dawes from suspension to take on his former club.

My Tip: Collingwood by 29 points.


Richard Champion, former Brisbane Lion

@01champs


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