AFL Predictions – Round 20

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Blindside Sport’s Official AFL Predictions for Round 20 of the 2013 Premiership season are in!

(16) St.Kilda v (1) Hawthorn – Etihad Stadium

Last time they met: R6 2012, Hawks by 35

The season can’t come to an end soon enough for the Saints. The loss of Rhys Stanley and Tom Simpkin heaps further pressure on an already undermanned defensive side, ironically coming up against the leagues most formidable attacking team. After making a name under Ross Lyon as a top-notch defensive team, the back 50 has been St.Kilda’s Achilles heel for the last two years now and they desperately need to land multiple key defenders in the offseason. Veteran Jason Blake will surely be called into a side who will be pitted against the Hawthorn talls of Franklin (196cm), Roughead (193cm), Gunston (193cm) and Hale (201cm). As has been reported by Roy Ward, in the past two seasons no side that has come up against the Hawks following a loss has come within 5 goals of them. Despite the loss of Luke Hodge to a broken thumb, Hawthorn will be out for swift revenge after last week’s poor display against the Tigers and should enjoy another percentage boosting win.

Prediction: Hawthorn’s key forwards to feast on a vulnerable St.Kilda defense. Hawks by 55.

(7) Richmond v (12) Brisbane – MCG

Last time they met: R19 2012, Lions by 48

The yellow and black army is up and about, with the possibility of a first finals berth since 2001 now looking a certainty. After a sensational performance against premiership-fancy Hawthorn, the Tiges have their eyes set on cementing a home final – entirely achievable with their run home. Trent Cotchin appears to have recaptured his 2012 form, averaging 32 disposals and 5 tackles across his last four games, whilst Jack Riewoldt appears to be presenting as well as he has in recent years across half forward. Brisbane were less than convincing against a weakened St.Kilda, losing Jonathon Brown to a foot injury early on that will see him out for the rest of the season. Fingers crossed that the champion will kick on next year, as the Lions are still in sore need of their next key forward and marking target (sorry, Daniel Merrett just won’t do). Pearce Hanley continued his strong season with an earlier than expected comeback last week, as he ran riot across half-back and the midfield.

Prediction: Richmond to easily account for a Lions side lacking tall targets. Tigers by 50.

(3) Geelong v  (8) Port Adelaide – Simonds Stadium

Last time they met: R9 2013, Cats by 48

It’s not all doom and gloom at Geelong (has it ever been lately?) after they suffered just their fourth loss against the Roos last week, as they march towards another top four placing. If they are to regain a top 2 placing however, every game from now on is a must-win scenario, helped by 3 games played at Simonds Stadium between now and Round 23. Port Adelaide’s magnificent victory in last week’s showdown has been a major talking point; even making it’s way onto Facebook group “Greatest Sporting Moments’ newsfeed, alongside the likes of classic NBA, NFL and EPL moments. The performances of Ebert, Boak, Wingard and Westhoff has been none other than exceptional this season, but its hard to see a side like Geelong allowing the Port Adelaide match-winners enough freedom to provide any hope of an upset. Expect a lockdown role to be performed on the classy Hamish Hartlett, who is averaging 24 disposals and 5 inside 50’s across his last three matches. Much has been made of Tom Hawkins’ recent form; however expect him to bounce back this week as he has a knack for performing against the Power, most recently booting 6 goals against them at AAMI Stadium earlier this year. The Cats are still stronger across all areas on the ground and should earn another victory at their newly developed fortress in Geelong.

Prediction: Hawkins to fire and Cats to find top gear late in the game, ending Port Adelaide’s heroic run. Cats by 30.

(9) Carlton v (15) Bulldogs – Etihad Stadium

Last time they met: R17 2012, Blues by 18

The Bulldogs have continued to string together impressive performances against quality sides; matching premiership fancies Sydney last week for 3 quarters, even beating them at the tackle count. The improvements of the likes of Grant, Dalhaus, and Liberatore appear to have turned their season around, giving supporters firm hope of a competitive and much improved ladder position next year. On the other hand, Blues fans endured a disappointing week as after being blown away in the second half by the Dockers, the Power performed a miracle comeback at AAMI to put the Blues two wins out of the eight, with finals looking even more unlikely. In what would have been noted down earlier as a “W” in their run home, the Dogs resurgent form now gives them every chance of performing an upset, making this one of the games of the round. All eyes will be on Marc Murphy to see if he can overcome a heavy tag again, this time likely from Liam Picken.

Prediction: Blues to bounce back and keep their finals hopes alive in a hard-fought win. Blues by 20.

(2) Sydney v (6) Collingwood – ANZ Stadium

Last time they met: R9 2013, Swans by 47

Round 2 of last years Preliminary final rematch should be a much better game than earlier in the season, where the Swans coasted to an 8 goal victory. Confidence is high for the Pies after a ruthless tackling display against Essendon, whilst also impressively restricting their opponents to just 7 goals for the match. The Collingwood side is as close to full strength as they have been all year, with only Darren Jolly and Dale Thomas absent. With Dane Beams back and firing on all cylinders, opposition sides will have to really lock down hard on the Pies’ midfield. For the Swans, this is what they crave. Filled with plenty of hard bodies in the midfield, Sydney will no doubt look to make the Pies work for every possession. The Swans were surprisingly exposed to finals intensity football last week against the Dogs, but were once again too classy when push came to shove. The Swans challenge you to play football for a full 120 minutes, something which is hard to keep up with, even for the best sides in the competition. The Pies will be thankful that Adam Goodes isn’t in the lineup this week, as his performance last time they met defied belief. Collingwood will need to repeat their intensity from their match against the Dons if they are to have any shot at knocking off the high flying Swans

Prediction: Two way running from the Swans will not be matched by the usually leaky Collingwood defense. Swans by 24

(14) Gold Coast v (17) Melbourne – Metricon Stadium

Last time they met: R7 2013, Suns by 60

We all knew the misfortune surrounding the Demons on-field and off-field issues, but did anyone really expect a performance as abysmal last week against the Giants? It’s one thing to kick a team when they’re down but after being completely outplayed against a team largely consisting of 19-21 year olds, the Demons 2013 season is at an all-time low. Nathan Jones continued to toil and fight in the middle whilst key teammate Colin Sylvia looked simply disinterested, finishing with just 13 disposals. If Neil Craig has any hope of coaching next year he will need to demand a much better defensive effort and strong showings from the under-performing senior players. A good sign for the Suns was seeing the likes of Prestia and Bennell above Gary Ablett in their best players for last weekend, as they continue their strong sophomore seasons and appear to be rapidly developing into quality players. After stating this week that he has no desire to return to the Cats and that he loves playing on the Gold Coast, there’s no reason not to expect another huge outing for the little master. 38 disposals last time they met seems easily achievable again, however expect him to do most of his damage up forward as he continues to become more acquainted in a forward role. You’d be mad not to have him as captain this week in any form of fantasy football.

Prediction: Suns to notch their 7th win of the season against the Demons, with Ablett locking down another three Brownlow votes. Suns by 40.

(5) Essendon v (11) West Coast – Etihad Stadium

Last time they met: R14 2013, Bombers by 7

Another huge week for the Bombers saw them drop out of the top four for the first time since round 11 and it looks unlikely whether they will be able to regain it. Various sources within the club have finally confirmed that the ASADA on goings are having an effect on the on-field performances of their players, with last weeks drubbing at the hands of the Pies sparking more backlash from the media. Jobe Watson’s return last week was one of the few positives, as he looks to repeat his heroics last time these two sides met in an under-fire performance after his On The Couch interview. The Eagles enjoyed a strong performance against the Suns, with Josh Kennedy and Dean Cox starring, whilst Sharrod Wellingham finally turned in another solid outing. The loss of Courtney Dempsey is further bad news for the Bombers, however they should welcome back the ever-important Stuart Crameri after a stint in the VFL.

Prediction: Essendon to overcome another tough week and back it up on the field, accounting for the Eagles in a close one. Bombers by 12.

(13) Adelaide v (10) Kangaroos – AAMI Stadium

Last time they met: R9 2013, Crows by 1

The last time these two teams met seemed to put the nail in the coffin for the Roos finals chances, with the Crows staging an incredible comeback much to the disbelief of the football world. It would appear that karma is a thing in football, as the Crows experienced a similar fate with the Power unbelievably stealing the points in the final minutes, through one of the luckiest bounces in history. A stunning win against the Cats displayed just how strong this Kangaroos side is, whilst also highlighting how disappointing it is that they won’t be there in September. Jack Ziebell stepped up big in the absence of Andrew Swallow, and Daniel Wells got off the chain booting a career-high 4 goals. In what was arguably the most telling performance last week however, was Boomer Harvey’s ability to outplay a tag of Taylor Hunt and amass 37 disposals in an age-defying performance.  The Crows will aim to put up a strong defensive effort, which they are renowned for under Sanderson, ensuring that the Kangaroos game winners are contained. Much of this game will rely on the Crows restrictive abilities, as they once again look for Dangerfield to shoulder the load in attack.

Prediction: Kangaroos to back up their performance last week and display that they belong in the eight, albeit to the frustration of their supporters and the football world. Roos by 20.

4) Fremantle v (18) GWS – Patersons Stadium

Last time they met: R17 2012, Dockers by 95

Last weeks well-deserved victory ensured the Giants won’t finish season 2013 winless, which just a few weeks ago looked more likely than not. It’s hard to pit an argument for the Giants here, as they face one of the toughest assignments in traveling to face the Dockers at home, who are looking to cement their newly staked top four position across the final rounds. Jeremy Cameron will find it hard to operate against the miserly Fremantle defense, especially if Fremantle are able to limit the Giant’s midfield supply, which they have shown a knack for doing all season long. Enjoying an injury free run within their midfield, the Dockers depth in the engine room is formidable, as the likes of Fyfe, Mundy, Barlow & co. will look to build confidence towards what should be a deep September assault. Another game under the belt for Aaron Sandilands will be invaluable, as if healthy; he provides one of the bigger x-factors that could affect this year’s finals campaign. This would be the ideal team for Matthew Pavlich to return against, as last time they met he casually booted 7 goals in their big win.

Prediction: Expect a ruthless performance from Ross Lyon’s men, as they give the Giant’s a reality check after last week’s breakthrough. Dockers by 80.

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