FN’s roving reporter DANIEL PAPROTH previews all the action in Round 21 of the AFL. He also provides some helpful hints for last-minute changes to your Dream Team and Supercoach teams as Fantasy Footy begins finals.
St Kilda vs Collingwood, Friday 7:40, Etihad Stadium
Collingwood faces one of their biggest tests in recent weeks against the resurgent St Kilda, a team far different from the one which won just one of its first seven games.
The Saints currently sit sixth on the ladder and appear best placed to snare a home elimination final, which will be crucial if they are still to make an impact in September.
The Magpies, meanwhile, continue on their merry way. They have the best percentage at this late stage of the season since 1902, and still have Heath Shaw and others to make their way back into the side. Even the inexperienced kids are putting up good numbers.
Collingwood by 30
Supercoach– Nick Dal Santo (St K), Luke Ball (Coll)
Hawthorn vs Port Adelaide, Saturday 2:10, MCG
Hawthorn almost had the game taken away from them by North Melbourne last week, but crucially found a way to win and remained in third position. They are tuning up for their best finals assault since 2008 in impressive style.
Sadly Port Adelaide has become the laughing stock of the competition. Jocular videos featuring them losing to “the bye”have surfaced online, and the pride of the club will be dented.
One hopes the likes of last week’s loss against Collingwood will not be seen again but it is hard to give the Power any sort of chance against the Hawks.
Hawthorn by 72
Supercoach– Lance Franklin (Haw), Hamish Hartlett (PA)
Fremantle vs Carlton, Saturday 3:10, Patersons Stadium
This is a must-win game for both sides as they try to hang on to the prospect of a home final. West Coast is breathing down Carlton’s neck for the double chance and Fremantle dropped out of the eight following a loss to St Kilda last week.
Many have predicted that, with an easier draw, the Eagles will take the Blues’ spot in the top four but if they keep putting up the performances they have recently – dominant wins over Melbourne and Essendon –they may just hold on to that spot.
The Dockers are still missing the most important piece of their puzzle – big man Sandilands – and Carlton will have enough to cover it.
Carlton by 16
Supercoach– Michael Barlow (Frem), Marc Murphy (Carl)
Western Bulldogs vs Essendon, Saturday 7:10, Etihad Stadium
Western Bulldogs’ resurgence unfortunately halted a few weeks ago, and it appears that now they are all but out of the finals race. They come off the bye this week and will have renewed energy following a loss to West Coast, but they have stiff opposition in Essendon.
The Bombers produced a stirring one-point victory last week – one that could have been snatched away from them had Sydney kicked straight in the last quarter – but they are one of four sides trying to fit into seventh and eighth on the ladder.
Jobe Watson has hit form again, they have impressive young kids in Dyson Heppell, Heath Hocking and David Zaharakis and a number of others. They haven’t recaptured their scintillating early-season touch but should win this one.
Essendon by 27
Supercoach– Matthew Boyd (WB), Dyson Heppell (Ess)
Brisbane vs Gold Coast, Saturday 7:10, Gabba
Danger game here for Brisbane, who have undoubtedly improved since losing to the Gold Coast earlier in the year, though their final-quarter fade-out against Adelaide, after leading by 20 at three-quarter time, was concerning.
The Suns’ loss to Geelong at Kardinia last week was to be expected – few would have been surprised at the 150-point margin, particularly with the side’s obviously best player sidelined through injury.
The Lions’ biggest shining lights this season have been Tom Rockliff and Jack Redden, and Aaron Cornelius looks a find up forward. Expect a win.
Brisbane by 14
Supercoach– Andrew Raines (Bris), Michael Rischitelli (GC)
Melbourne vs West Coast, Sunday 1:10, Etihad Stadium
Melbourne’s season went from bad to worse with a 76-point pounding at the hands of Carlton last week, disproving the new-coach-immediate-win theory. Their finals hopes – many had them finishing in the lower reaches of the eight at the start of the year – have been completely dashed and their percentage of 83.7 is the sixth-worst in the league.
West Coast has been perhaps the most impressive side in the competition in terms of where they’ve come from, and the stats provide for interesting reading. They have been in front for 70% of their game time, which is second only to Collingwood.
The Demons players will be filthy with their performances in recent weeks but whether they have the confidence and skill to prevent another thrashing is debatable.
West Coast by 38
Supercoach– Brad Green (Melb), Matt Priddis (WC)
Richmond vs Sydney, Sunday 2:10, MCG
Languishing in 14th place, with just five wins, is the not the season that everyone involved with Richmond envisaged – that stirring win over Essendon seems light years away. The upside is they have a relatively easy draw over the remaining rounds and can win seven or eight games if the play at their best.
Only the home ground advantage gives them a big hope in this game, as Sydney have been the better side and were unlucky to go down to Essendon last week. Their stalwarts continue to perform, as they have done all season.
Important game for the Swans to win if they are to keep in touch with the eight and the slight possibility of a home final.
Sydney by 20
Supercoach– Jake King (Rich), Adam Goodes (Syd)
Adelaide vs Geelong, Sunday 4:40, AAMI Stadium
Adelaide’s win up at the Gabba last week provided a bit of tonic for fans, players and officials alike, showing that the good players are there – they’ve just been horribly inconsistent. Taylor Walker kicked four last week, and young Jack Gunston popped up with three.
Geelong however showed they are far from done with – they have amassed an amazing 421 points in the past two weeks, winning two games by a combined 336 points. Steve Johnson is in dangerous form, and the three-talls option has looked good.
The really good sides win well away from home and not too many will be giving the Crows a chance here.
Geelong by 45
Supercoach– Scott Thompson (Adel), Joel Corey (Geel)