Essendon vs Melbourne, Friday 7:40, MCG
The bye has proved to be more of an adversary to teams this season, rather than providing sides with a chance to iron out injury niggles and freshen up. However Essendon will be keen to seize this opportunity against a miserable Melbourne after their shock loss to Richmond two weeks ago.
One of the bigger news stories of the week of course was Carlton players claiming the Demons played “bruise-free” football in their 47-point loss, and rest assured Melbourne was livid. Expect to see their tackle count and pressure acts increase in response.
Bombers fans should have been worried by the loss to the Tigers – they lacked drive and direction without the inspirational Jobe Watson and a number of others – but aside from Nathan Jones and a couple of others the Demons are in the doldrums.
Essendon by 34
Supercoach – David Zaharakis (Ess), Nathan Jones (Melb)
Geelong vs Western Bulldogs, 2:10 Saturday, Skilled Stadium
The biggest-drawing club Geelong gets to play at Kardinia Park are another side down and almost out. Barry Hall looks set to miss, Adam Cooney and Ryan Hargrave are still out, and Lindsay Gilbee was poor. The Cats were jumped by Gold Coast in the first half last week but sailed home for an easy victory, the mercurial Steve Johnson kicking a career-best seven goals despite spending little time up forward this year.
This is a ground that Geelong has not lost at since 2007, and the Bulldogs haven’t played here since 2008, so it is hard to find reasons to back the Dogs. They have another debutant lining up, James Mulligan, and so will be banking on the speed of their youngsters to break lines early.
Chris Scott wasn’t entirely happy with his side’s performance last week, saying their contested work was not up to scratch. Expect that to improve significantly this week.
Geelong by 39
Supercoach – James Bartel (Geel), Daniel Giansircusa (WB)
West Coast vs Gold Coast, Saturday 3:10, Patersons Stadium
After a few weeks flying high the Eagles crashed back to earth last week, coming up against a superior Collingwood side that controlled the game from start to finish. Daniel Kerr, Josh Kennedy, Dean Cox and others were nullified but here they get a good opportunity to fire up again.
Gold Coast played in true a game of two halves last week – they impressed many early with their first half and led at half-time, but completely fell away in the second. A consistent four quarter performance is essential if they are to get near the Eagles at home.
It will be interesting to see if West Coast’s mammoth 20-goal belting of the Bulldogs in Round 9 was a freak one-off or if they can command that sort of dominance against a Suns side that has performed better than many predicted.
West Coast by 56
Supercoach – Matt Priddis (WC), Michael Rischitelli (GC)
Collingwood vs St Kilda, Saturday 7:10, MCG
Mick Malthouse described last week’s win against West Coast as their most “complete” win of the year – and that is a dangerous sign for the other 16 sides in the competition, who will struggle when Collingwood hits top gear.
St Kilda have won two on the trot, and were most impressive last week against an admittedly depleted Fremantle, but this is their toughest assignment of the season. Much will hinge on their attacking efforts, and if they come up short like in many games this year, the Magpies will make them pay.
Hawthorn came from a poor record last year to make the finals, and few could doubt the Saints have the list to push themselves in. But they’ve got a tough draw, a loss here will only put further weight on their backs.
Collingwood by 21
Supercoach – Dale Thomas (Coll), Jack Steven (St K)
Brisbane vs Sydney, Saturday 7:40, Gabba
Late last year, and earlier this year, as the fallout from Fevola saga continued, coaching obituaries were being written for Michael Voss. Now, he is seen once again as the man to lead this side up the ladder; they have two wins and are in with very good chance here.
Sydney’s season has proved to be a rollercoaster. Some good wins have been marred by uncharacteristic losses, and they will be wishing this game had been fixtured before some senior Lions found their feet, and before the return of Jonathon Brown.
It appears Daniel Bradshaw is also considering retirement after being continually dogged by injury, so he may well not return to the side. If they can win at the Gabba they can count themselves among finals hopefuls, but a revitalised Brisbane should have the edge here.
Brisbane by 16
Supercoach – Luke Power (Bris), Shane Mumford (Syd)
Hawthorn vs Fremantle, Sunday 1:10, MCG
Another fine performance last weekend by Hawthorn, and prolific games from their stars, sees them sitting a comfortable third, with just two losses for the year. At this stage they should be being taken more seriously as a flag contender, particularly with Buddy having so many shots at goal – he’s been inaccurate but we all saw what happened in his golden year of 2008.
Fremantle are at the other end of the spectrum; they appear to be in as much strife as some of the bottom-ranked clubs, perhaps even more so. The loss of Aaron Sandilands has obviously hurt them greatly, and if they lose too many games by too much they are in great danger of reaching a point of no return.
There won’t be much love from punters for the Dockers here – their Melbourne record is atrocious, and this is a Hawthorn side determined to prove 2008 wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan success.
Hawthorn by 65
Supercoach – Brent Guerra (Haw), Greg Broughton (Frem)
North Melbourne vs Adelaide, Sunday 2:10, Etihad Stadium
Last week’s loss was nothing short of heartbreaking for North Melbourne. Their 14th position is flattered by the fact they have the best percentage of the teams sitting on two wins, and a number of the exciting young players haven’t come this year as many would have hoped.
Adelaide meanwhile continues to frustrate their fanbase, their insipid 40-point loss to Brisbane at home last week among their worst losses for the season. Once again Scott Thompson had 36 disposals and one shudders to think of the results should he go down.
This match all hinges on which team turns up – in both cases. Both will view this as a very winnable game, but the Crows seem to be really lacking the ferocity needed to win games of football.
North Melbourne by 28
Supercoach – Scott Thompson (Adel), Brady Rawlings (NM)
Port Adelaide vs Carlton, Sunday 4:40, AAMI Stadium
Port Adelaide were the focus of another big news story this week, with their significant financial problems causing headaches throughout the off-field personnel. Whether these issues translate to the players remains to be seen, but they finally got their second last week in Darwin.
Carlton, however, are playing their best football for a decade, and previous travelling issues will not dent their confidence here. Chris Judd is dominating both on-field and in Brownlow Medal markets, and he is being well supported by a host of in-form players, Marc Murphy chief among them.
Travis Boak came to the party last week for the Power, and Robbie Gray kicked four in a promising performance, but their overall season performances suggest they don’t have the cavalry to withhold a Blues onslaught.
Carlton by 37
Supercoach – Danyle Pearce (Port), Chris Judd (Carl)