North Melbourne vs Carlton
Crucial match for North Melbourne and Carlton with both sides among a group of five teams on 28 points between eighth and 12th on the ladder. With the competition as even as it is this year, the standard 12 wins might not be enough for a finals berth.
The Kangaroos were desperately unlucky last week going down to West Coast after leading by 35 points. And while Dean Cox played one of the best games of his career North had themselves to blame and must arrest these concerning final quarter fade-outs.
Carlton on the other hand turned around two months of negativity with a gigantic win against Collingwood. It was only 23 points, but it meant a great deal. With Chris Judd looking better and Marc Murphy not far away, the Blues could be back.
Carlton by 32
SC – Brent Harvey (NM), Chris Judd (Carl)
Melbourne vs Fremantle
Hard to imagine a game that people would care less about than this one. The crowd will surely be embarrassing, and with Melbourne’s lack of good skills and Fremantle’s boring game style, it’s not going to be the game of the year.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold significance for the two teams playing though. If the Dockers can get up they could theoretically slide into the top eight, though their percentage and other results will work against them.
Melbourne just wants as many wins as possible before the season is out. Some pundits had them playing finals this year but it appears they are at least two or three years away from that goal. We’re going with the Dockers given they beat Richmond at the MCG.
Fremantle by 10
SC – James Magner (Melb), Matthew Pavlich (Frem)
Port Adelaide vs Essendon
Port Adelaide should feel confident heading into this game of football. They were absolutely belted byAdelaide in the Showdown last week but Essendon are coming off an even heavier loss to St Kilda, and traditionally they don’t travel well to Adelaide.
The Power are still struggling with just the four wins so far this season, but can set themselves a goal of getting out of the bottom four. The Western Bulldogs are the most likely to slide down and Port can leapfrog them if they win here.
The Bombers’ loss to the Saints was so out of character for them this season. Their previous three losses – one point to Collingwood, six points in a shocker against Melbourne and four points against Sydney when they almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat – were all close. They should rebound this week.
Essendon by 24
SC – Travis Boak (Port), Jobe Watson (Ess)
Richmond vs Gold Coast
Finals are certainly still a possibility for Richmond, but they must ensure they hold good form from now until the end of the season. One thing integral to that is goal kicking – they should have massacred Melbourne last week but kicked 13.23.
Gold Coast played probably their best game for the season against Geelong. They went down by 14 points, extending their losing streak to 21, but showed some fight and will fancy themselves chances in this contest. Coincidentally though the Suns last victory came in Round 17 last year against the Tigers. Can they do it again?
It’s important for clubs to start looking for percentage, as it looks likely to be the difference between a number of sides come finals time. The Tigers’ is 107.7, and it could use some boosting.
Richmond by 70
SC – Trent Cotchin (Rich), Gary Ablett (GC)
Geelong vs Collingwood
Not the 1 vs 2 blockbuster we’ve come to expect since 2007 but this is still an important clash for both teams. Collingwood will feel much more comfortable and confident heading into finals if they finish top two, otherwise they may surrender a home final to an interstate team – making it much harder to make it to the Grand Final.
Geelong meanwhile is battling to keep its head above water. Importantly they’ve moved to 9-5, two games clear of the five-club pack chasing eighth place, but they will desperately want to avoid an interstate elimination final.
Following the loss to Carlton, Collingwood’s pride is wounded and they will be hell-bent on winning – they could have been a game clear on top if they’d won. Meanwhile Geelong’s form has been totally underwhelming.
Collingwood by 34
SC – Joel Selwood (Geel), Dale Thomas (Coll)
Brisbane vs St Kilda
Brisbane was brought back to the earth with a thud last week after their 47-point loss to Sydney. It showed that for all their improvement they are still a way off becoming a power team again like they were in the first half of the 00′s.
St Kilda’s result contrasted completely with the Lions’ loss – their 71-point hammering of Essendon was a massive result that saw them climb to the top of the five-club pack battling it out for eighth place. They are two games behind the Cats but their percentage is much better.
The Gabba has become a tougher place to travel to this season – not even West Coast were able to overcome the Lions up there – but the Saints should make their mark.
St Kilda by 11
SC – Jonathan Brown (Bris), Lenny Hayes (St K)
Greater Western Sydney vs Adelaide
Greater Western Sydney are starting to show signs of weariness. After weeks of competitiveness, their 162-point annihilation at the hands of Hawthorn last week – one that could have been worse had Buddy been fully fit and the Hawks had kicked straighter – showed the Giants’ season might be about to get a lot tougher.
They take on Adelaide this week, who have an 11-3 record. Thankfully, it’s in Blacktown, and not at AAMI Stadium, which suggests the margin might be a little kinder to Adelaide.
With Sydney, West Coast and Collingwood all with tough games this weekend it is a great chance for the Crows to assert themselves and take the top spot on the ladder.
Adelaide by 78
SC – Jeremy Cameron (GWS), Patrick Dangerfield (Adel)
Western Bulldogs vs Hawthorn
Western Bulldogs beware. Hawthorn last week, a side still missing spiritual leader Luke Hodge and with a less-than-fully-fit Buddy Franklin, destroyed GWS and showed that they plan to take no prisoners in the final weeks of the home-and-away season.
Franklin is out for the next three weeks, which will hurt, but they have found ways to kick goals without him and the Bulldogs defence has hardly been one of the best in the competition.
The Bulldogs have to show some fight in the remaining rounds of the season. They are no chance for finals but if they play at their competitive best they could surprise a few.
Hawthorn by 65
SC – Luke Dalhaus (WB), Brad Sewell (Haw)
West Coast vs Sydney
Will we be watching a preview of the Grand Final come Sunday evening? If West Coast and Sydney can snare the top two spots – a good chance, given they both have relatively easy runs home – it could be 2005/06 all over again.
Those Grand Finals, though low-scoring, were some of the best of the modern era. The attack on the ball was ferocious and even Victorian fans dismayed by not having a team in the game found plenty to love.
Sydney won easy last week and West Coast showed a lot of character to come back and beat North Melbourne in Tasmania. This could go either way but given it’s in Perth you’ve got to give the edge to the Eagles.
West Coast by 12
SC – Dean Cox (WC), Adam Goodes (Syd)
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