Blindside Sport’s Official AFL Predictions for Round 21 of the 2013 Premiership season are in!
(1) Hawthorn v (5) Collingwood MCG
Last time they met: R3 2013 Hawks by 55
The excitement surrounding this week’s Friday night match is in stark contrast to last weeks Hawks-Saints game which drew a paltry 530,000 (lowest rating Friday night slot of the season). As outlined in this weeks ‘AFL talking points’, the return of Dayne Beams has bolstered the Magpies midfield depth, resulting in arguably their performance of the season, outworking and running over the Swans’ much-maligned midfield. Combining with the likes of Pendlebury, Swan & Ball, Beams has reminded the football world just how damaging the Collingwood midfield can be (wind back to 2010), and they appear to be hitting form just at the right time. On the other hand the Hawks have endured a fairly average fortnight, accounting for St.Kilda without really being challenged last week, with Cyril Rioli’s form being a real concern amongst the Hawks faithful. Buddy Franklin is set to return this week against a team that struggles to match up on him, averaging 4 goals a game against the Pies. Last time they met the Hawks ran away with the game in the second quarter, but expect a much closer match this time around due to the absence of Hodge and the inclusion and form of key Pies.
Prediction: Hawthorn’s forwards to provide a match-winning display, in contrast to the Magpies proving wasteful in attack. Hawks by 22.
(6) Richmond v (9) Carlton MCG
Last time they met: R1 2013 Tigers by 5
In the second instalment of what has become one of great opening round rivalries of modern times, both teams have trodden different paths since being on even points at Round 11 this season. Richmond sit comfortably at 6th position having finally secured a finals placement, whereas the Blues are seemingly assured of missing out in September, barring any point stripping in light of the ASADA scandal. Trent Cotchin looks to have rediscovered his 2012 form with yet another strong performance last week against the Lions, whilst Brandon Ellis has continued his excellent season and appears set for a strong finish in the Tigers B&F. It’s hard to comprehend which was more disappointing news for Blues fans this week; either losing Judd to a medial ligament strain or hearing the talismanic midfielder label his team as a “mediocre team” alluding to the fact that they are nowhere near becoming a top-tier side in the AFL. Brett Deledio was the difference between these two teams last time they met, so expect a strong tag on the Tigers’ star to come from Malthouse’s men. The last two matches between these sides have been decided by a total of just 9 points, so expect another hard-fought contest.
Prediction: Richmond continues their run towards September, accounting for the Blues in a spiteful contest. Tigers by 30.
(8) Port Adelaide v (15) Gold Coast AAMI Stadium
Last time they met: R4 2013 Port by 38
After last week’s well-documented defensive tactics by the Demons, Port Adelaide players should be bracing for a big performance from the little master. Not since 2007 has Gary Ablett faced consecutive weeks with less than 20 possessions, so Kane Cornes and the power midfield will have their work cut out for them again this time around. It’s not surprise that a big reason for the Power’s resurgence this year has been their impressive record at AAMI stadium, winning 7 of 10 home games and in the process re-establishing it as a tough trip to make for any team in the competition. Interestingly, both teams lineups last time they met aligned similarly in terms of average ages, games played and even boasted the same average height and weight. Another fact is that these teams share is that both lists are clearly on the rise and possess promising youngsters who should carry their teams to finals berths in the coming years. Only a match-winning performance from Gary Ablett can steal this from the Power, who now have multiple stars across the field who are capable themselves of turning a game on its head
Prediction: If Port is able to win their 12th game of the season and with the Blues and Roos facing tough matches, it should solidify their spot in the eight and finally assure them of playing in September. Power by 24.
(7) Essendon v (11) Kangaroos Etihad Stadium
Last time they met: R20 2012 Roos by 24
Three huge losses in a row has resulted in the Bombers giving up their top 4 position but the real issue of concern for supporters remains whether they will be stripped of premiership points and miss out on another finals berth. On the other hand, after last week’s loss to the Crows, North Melbourne is one of the teams who will be hoping for that exact penalty on the Bombers as they seek to capitalize on finishing 9th and taking that second chance. These two teams have not met in 2013, with their last encounter including a vintage performance from Boomer Harvey resulting in a strong Kangaroos victory. The Bomber’s mental resilience will again be tested this week, however the return form of Jobe Watson surely helps instill a bit of much-needed belief amongst the team.
Prediction: Kangaroos to run over the top of an under siege club, who simply aren’t as mentally focused as their opponents. Roos by 18.
(13) Brisbane v (18) GWS Gabba
Last time they met: R8 2012 Lions by 92
Regardless of whether Michael Voss’ sacking was justified given his performance as head coach, the general consensus that the timing of it was decidedly poor and disrespectful, I wholeheartedly agree with. Supporters at a club function reciprocated these sentiments, with players in the media also expressing their disappointment and surprise to the decision. It will be interesting to see how the Lions perform after these events, especially since they are the unquestionable favourites in a home game where every supporter expects and demands a win. On a positive note, it will be great to see Mark Harvey back in the coach’s box after his well-documented ‘exit’ at the Dockers. The Giants came crashing back to Earth last week after their win against the Demons, being annihilated by a ruthless Fremantle outfit by 113 points in Subiaco. The league’s worst defence will aim to combat the likes of Daniel Merrett who booted 7 goals in their previous matchup and will again be asked of a similar performance given the absence of Jonathon Brown.
Prediction: The Lions won’t perform as well as their effort in recent weeks, but still will have enough class to overcome a surprisingly strong Giants effort. Lions by 52.
(10) West Coast v (2) Geelong Patersons Stadium
Last time they met: R20 2012 Eagles by 5
It’s hard to gage West Coast after last week’s demolition of Essendon, in light of everything that has gone on at Windy Hill. Nonetheless, the form of Wellingham, Cox, their key forwards and the return of Scott Selwood should make this a tough contest. Geelong haven’t beaten the Eagles at Paterson’s stadium since 2010, and their current form may be a little concerning to Cats diehards, as they hope to hold on to a top-two placing with Fremantle and Sydney breathing down their necks. The ruck was a huge factor in West Coast’s victory last time they met, with the Eagles winning over 73% of hitouts giving their midfield a huge advantage. Despite the absence of Nic Naitanui, Geelong still seemingly lack continuity with their ruck divisions, with the promising Vardy coming up against an established, in-form tap ruckman in Dean Cox. Joel Selwood is arguably the form player in the competition right now, amazingly kicking 10 goals in his last four games playing predominately as an inside midfielder. His brother will be expected to go head-to-head with him, as he looks to prevent another big performance that would have the Cats skipper loom as a genuine threat to Gary Ablett for this years Brownlow.
Prediction: Despite holding on to a slim chance of finals if the Bombers are to be stripped of points, the Cats have plenty to play for with a home Qualifying final on the line and should be up for the task. Cats by 10.
(17) Melbourne v (4) Fremantle MCG
Last time they met: R9 2013 Dockers by 90
Another dream match up this week for Dockers fans as they look to steal a home Qualifying final thanks to their solid end of season draw. In just Fremantle’s second visit to the MCG this year, expect a large portion of the crowd to comprise of opposition scouts having a look at Fremantle’s makeup in anticipation of a strong September push. To coincide with their abysmal season on field, the Demons are averaging their lowest crowd numbers ever from data that goes back to 1987, averaging just 25,149 per game (which includes the Queen’s Bday match). Matt De Boer’s words this week echoed the hungriness of this Dockers outfit as it will be interesting to see if Ross Lyon does choose to rest any of his players in light of a busy September coming up. If key players are rested, either way it should not affect the outcome of this match as the Dockers are a far superior team that now has a strong ethos, regardless of who takes the field. The league’s worst attack faces the leagues stingiest defence, so the Demons may struggle to even top the 4.4 28 scored against the Kangaroos three weeks ago.
Prediction: Another percentage boosting win for the Dockers, which could see them almost overtaking the Swans in 3rd position. Dockers by 110.
(3) Sydney v (16) St.Kilda SCG
Last time they met: R5 2013 Swans by 16
After being out-muscled and out-worked against the Pies, the Swans will look for swift revenge against an undermanned and inexperience St.Kilda outfit. Despite the Saints’ poor performances of late, matches between these two sides have been very competitive, with the previous two clashes proving to be closer than many expected. In the historical round 5 matchup in New Zealand, Sydney proved to have too much class in the midfield and managed to overcome a vintage performance from Nick Riewoldt and win the first international premiership points in history. It’s hard to see Sydney coming out flat after last week’s effort and with the Saint’s missing many from their previous clash, I expect this to be a much less competitive encounter. With what is likely to be a 9th debutant in Shenton for the Saint’s this weekend, the Swans have far too much class and bigger bodies around the ground. If Sydney are able to dominate the clearances (1st in the competition in 2013) at the small SCG, then this game could get out of hand quickly. Expect the improving Tom Curren to match up on Daniel Hannebury this week, who enjoyed a field day against the Saints last time they met.
Prediction: Swans to notch a big win and continue their fight for a top 2 position. Swans by 65.
(15) Bulldogs v (12) Adelaide Etihad Stadium
Last time they met: R4 2013 Crows by 52
Much attention will be placed on nullifying the performance of Rory Sloane, who displayed why he is a fan-favourite in Adelaide in a match-winning performance against the Kangaroos. Liam Picken is the obvious candidate for the job, however it will need to be a team effort as the Crows are superb in assisting players who are tagged through the use of blocking and checking at stoppages. Much has been made of the improvement made by the Bulldogs youngsters, however I feel that it is an incredible injustice for me not to mention the performances of Robert Murphy this year who has reminded the football world of what a champion he is. Tom Liberatore’s breakout season continues to roll on, as the #1 centre clearance and overall clearance leader goes head to head with arguably the most damaging player in the competition, Patty Dangerfield. Liberatore certainly has to credit some of his statistics however, to the season Will Minson is having; which is in stark contrast to his opponent at the other edge of the circle this week in Sam Jacobs. While it was great to see another Crow step up and take some of the heat last week off Dangerfield, this game looms as another potential big game for the young star, who is primed for a big finish in this years Brownlow medal. Last time they met, Bulldogs star Ryan Griffen was held to his lowest output of the season tallying just 15 disposals, which proved crucial in the Crows easy victory. With the Bulldogs strong run of form in recent weeks, this game should be a cracker and one of the games of the round.
Prediction: Adelaide in a tight one, thanks to the heroics of you guessed it – Patty Dangerfield.