West Coast vs Melbourne, Thursday 8:40, Patersons Stadium
Huge game this one for both sides. West Coast have been better than many expected them to be so far, and with two wins and a positive percentage, they sit 10th on the ladder. Melbourne are two points higher and in 7th, with their draw against Sydney.
A huge inclusion for the Eagles is Mark LeCras, who was expected to miss up to 10 weeks after his hamstring injury in round one, but is “cherry ripe” according to coach John Worsfold. The young brigade, such as Luke Shuey and Jack Darling, have been impressive but the biggest plus for the Eagles is the home game; the Demons have lost their past 10 games there.
After some tipped the Eagles for the wooden spoon, they will be tested by Melbourne but should have enough talent to capitalise on the home ground advantage and record their third win.
West Coast by 6
Supercoach watch – Luke Shuey (WC), Luke Tapscott (Melb)
Sydney vs Carlton, Friday 8:40, SCG
The last time these two teams met was in a cutthroat elimination final last year, a match Sydney won by five points. Amazingly, Carlton haven’t won a game at the SCG since 1993, but will have their best chance in years on Friday night.
The tight confines of the SCG ground means controlling the ball in the midfield will be of great importance, and the Swans will be confident their tried-and-true midfield will be up to the job. Shane Mumford is in good touch and with Heath Grundy, Kieran Jack and others at his feet the Blues will be up against it.
Carlton’s speed will play a part against the hardened Swans bodies, but whether they can get enough ball against the notoriously tough Sydney side remains to be seen. Expect the streak to continue.
Sydney by 12
Supercoach watch – Heath Grundy (Syd), Heath Scotland (Carl)
North Melbourne vs Port Adelaide, Saturday 2:10, Etihad
A massive game for both sides after disappointing, at times embarrassing losses last week. Port Adelaide will be down on confidence after giving up a 40-point lead to the Gold Coast, but Kangaroos coach Brad Scott expects them to be “breathing fire”.
Not for more than 20 years has North Melbourne started a season with five consecutive losses, but their best chance of a breakthrough win comes against the Power. The usual performers for North are in good touch, but they need more from their lower bracket of players. Ball usage will be important as the Suns exploited Port Adelaide last week.
It’s been a miserable start to the season for both sides, and both will see it as a winnable game, but North Melbourne should give their fans something to appreciate with a win at Etihad, a venue Port struggles at.
North Melbourne by 23
Supercoach – Brent Harvey (NM), Chad Cornes (Port)
Richmond vs Brisbane, Saturday 7:10, MCG
Richmond will be confident heading into this game that they can improve their record to two wins and a draw from six games, and it can be said that they look a better unit this year than last.
Brisbane meanwhile remain winless, and could potentially be the only side without a win after this weekend, but what they do have is a number of talented young kids, and the more time is put into them the more the club will benefit. Broc McCauley will be their leading ruckman, and the likes of Tom Rockliff and Jack Redden continue to impress.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect for Tigers fans at the moment is the form of Dustin Martin, a veteran of just 26 games, who has been stellar so far this year. If he, Brett Deledio and others can get on top early, it could get ugly for the Lions.
Richmond by 25
Supercoach – Dustin Martin (Rich), Tom Rockliff (Bris)
Adelaide vs St Kilda, Saturday 7:40, AAMI Stadium
An intriguing match-up given the unexpected poor form of both sides so far this year. Adelaide haven’t been dominant at home so far this year, but kept the defensive-minded St Kilda to just 37 points in Round 22 at AAMI last year. To win this match St Kilda will need to take risks to score more often.
The Saints have a decisive edge in a midfield filled with more class, but few of their players are in the sort of form that will see them getting back to the heights of last year. For the Crows, reliance on Patrick Dangerfield and Scott Thompson is high, but both present a large problem for St Kilda. Shutting those two down will go a long way to helping the Saints win.
If St Kilda are serious about getting the season back on track, they should win – this is not a game they would have lost last year. But we are yet to see more than a glimpse of the hunger and form of 2010.
Adelaide by 15
Supercoach – Patrick Dangerfield (Adel), Stephen Milne (St K)
Essendon vs Gold Coast, Sunday 1:10, Etihad
The betting agency odds say it all about this game – Gold Coast are perceived to have next to no chance of beating Essendon, blowing out to as high as $18 with some agencies despite their impressive come-from-behind victory last week.
The unlikely Suns victory will have greatly boosted the confidence of all involved, and has proved doomsayers wrong – they have some serious young talent. But as the Bombers discovered in recent years, talent alone can’t win you big games of football.
Essendon were impressive in patches against flag favourites Collingwood last week, but coach James Hird expressed his displeasure at holding only 10 points after five rounds. He will be after a decisive four-quarter performance and the Dons should have no trouble here.
Essendon by 100
Supercoach – Leroy Jetta (Ess), Brandon Matera (GC)
Collingwood vs Western Bulldogs, Sunday 4:40, MCG
It has also been a disappointing start to the season for the Bulldogs, who currently sit ninth after four games, with two wins. Their healthy percentage aside – at 129.59% it’s the third best in the league – they need a big showing against the competition benchmark Collingwood.
Games against Essendon and Carlton have proved that the Magpies are mortals, and speed, breaking their zones and nullifying their defence are three key aspects in beating them. Many tipped these two sides to be playing off the grand final this year, so the Western Bulldogs, lead by Matthew Boyd who had a huge 45 touches last week, will come to play.
However Collingwood have been utterly impressive in every game, and sit unbeaten with a percentage of nearly 180. Their pressure should be too much for the Dogs to handle, and expect them to be unbeaten when they play Geelong in round eight.
Collingwood by 40
Supercoach – Travis Cloke (Coll), Matthew Boyd (WB)