AFL Predictions – Round 5

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Blindside Sport’s Official AFL Predictions return for Round 5 of the 2014 Premiership season. With the two preliminary finals from last year just 2 of the mouth-watering contests on offer this Easter weekend, this week’s article was a pleasure to write. 

Brisbane v Richmond‘Gabba

Last Meeting: R20, 2013 – Richmond by 23

Thursday night sees two teams desperate to get a win on the board, after struggling to get their season off to a decent start. For Brisbane, this was always expected, given the struggling club fired Michael Voss in a desperate attempt at Paul Roos, and has consequently sent the club into a major rebuilding phase. For Richmond, their poor start is very unexpected, with many tipping them to break into the top 4 in 2014.

However, Richmond is clearly the better side in this matchup, so expect a comprehensive win. Brisbane hasn’t even won a quarter this year, and losing Matthew Leuenberger and Pierce Hanley last week won’t help the cause. It will be interesting to see if Trent Cotchin can shake the tag after being towelled up rather controversially by Brent Macaffer. Expect Tom Rockliff, Brent Maloney and Jack Redden to rotate through him.

Congrats to Jonathan Brown on 250 games this week. Could it lift the Lions to their first win of the year?

Prediction | The Richmond midfield will dominate and injury depleted Lions and record a comfortable win. Tigers by 30

Collingwood v North MelbourneMCG

Last Meeting: R23, 2013 – North Melbourne by 11

The first big heavyweight clash of the round sees two teams in good form looking to cement their place in the 8. North Melbourne were very impressive last week against the Swans, dominating all over the ground, but what was particularly noticeable was their pressure on the ball. Against the Swans, this doesn’t usually happen, and although many are saying the Swans lacked intensity, don’t underestimate how good the Roos were on Sunday. Collingwood crushed Richmond last Friday, with their midfield stepping up to lead the way – in the goal kicking as well. Dane Swan showed some signs of improvement, but still far from his best. He’ll work his way into the season, so Dreamteamers shouldn’t worry too hard.

This is a tough match to call. After two great wins, you would have to back North Melbourne. If they get up here, it’s three wins on the trot against quality opposition – a big statement to the rest of the competition, and even a push for a top four position. Collingwood’s midfield need to step it up another notch if they’re to contend with the Roos

Prediction | North Melbourne continues their impressive start to the season. I see a lot of 2013 Port Adelaide in this team, so expect a similar approach in this game. Roos by 20

Sydney v FremantleSCG

Last Meeting: Preliminary Final, 2013 – Fremantle by 25

The second blockbuster of the week sees a struggling Sydney team host the red hot Fremantle. Fremantle seem to be back on track after a terrible display against Hawthorn, with a comprehensive belting of a quality team in Essendon. Sydney on the other hand haven’t even bothered to show up this season. Yet… Sydney is down in all areas they pride themselves on – midfield clearances, contested ball and pressure on the opposition. For the first time in a long time, the Sydney outfit needs a good kick up the backside and get into gear. It’s a bit ordinary for a team filled with superstars.

As with all Sydney-Fremantle matches of late, this game will be won in the midfield. Based on form this season, Fremantle should dominate, but I can’t see the Swans rolling over like they have in their 3 losses this year. Ryan O’Keefe will be on notice, so too Dan Hannebery and Kieran Jack – all whose numbers have been down this year. Who will Crowley pick up though is a massive question. Hannebery towelled him up in their home and away clash last year, but he got the points over Jack in the Prelim – I’m expecting a rematch of this.

Prediction | Sydney will have a significantly improved performance from their first four rounds, but fall short against a quality Dockers team. Freo by 18

West Coast v Port Adelaide Patersons Stadium

Last Meeting: R5, 2013 – Port Adelaide by 5

Another interesting clash for the Easter long weekend. West Coast were found to be a bit below expectations last week against Geelong. Many who tipped them for top four are now firmly off that bandwagon – outplayed by a faster and more talented team in Geelong, the Eagles will most likely playing a sudden death final in the first week of finals. Port Adelaide is back in the winner’s circle with a demolition of Brisbane last week. Their ruthlessness was well and truly on display, something which you think was demanded of them from coach Ken Hinkley.

This match could definitely be a preview of an elimination final. Both teams are just that one step below the top of the competition, but definitely worthy and talented enough for a spot in September. The Eagles will dominate in the ruck department, which will hopefully keep the ball away from the dangerous Power midfield. A big question to be answered is of the running power of Port. Can they keep up with West Coast at Patersons? Saturday is expected to be a top of 33, which found Essendon out last week, so keep an eye out for late game fatigue.

Prediction | West Coast will be too hard to keep up with at home in the heat. A final quarter surge will see them over the line. Eagles by 12

Essendon v St KildaEtihad Stadium

Last Meeting: R4, 2013 – Essendon by 37

Surprisingly, both of these teams sit 2-2 heading into round 5 of the AFL season. Surprising mainly on the St Kilda front, but with two losses in a row, coming up against a quality team in Essendon will be a massive mountain to climb. The Bombers had a rough time of it over in the West, battling a quality opposition, the heat and a number of injuries. Of major concern is Brendan Goddard, but from what coach Bomber Thompson has been saying, it shouldn’t be a long term nagging injury. For Essendon’s sake, let’s hope it’s not.

After going into conservation mode during their previous match, the Bombers will be ready to go at full strength against St Kilda. They get Dustin Fletcher, Paul Chapman, and Patrick Ryder back into the team, which immediately strengthens what is a pretty solid team on paper. Essendon leads the league in disposals, and uncontested possessions, proving their fast paced style is leading to more ball use. Against a young and inexperienced St Kilda team, this may become a real showing of how hard a top team works.

Prediction | Essendon will completely blank last week with a resounding turnaround in form. Bombers by 45

Adelaide v GWS Adelaide Oval

Last Meeting: R7, 2013 – Adelaide by 135

You have to wonder if Adelaide kick started their season last week with a massive win over St Kilda. Yes it was St Kilda, and this week may be hard to tell against GWS, but they have to start somewhere. On the cusp of the finals last year, most didn’t think they would start the season 0-3, but that could quickly turn into 2-3 and back on track after this week. GWS continued their impressive start to 2014 with a great showing in Canberra against the Bulldogs in one of the matches of the year. Their pressure is incredible, they’re ranked second in contested possessions and they lead the competition in tackles.

Based on all of this, this should turn out to be a cracker of a match, but I think Adelaide will be too strong. After a win like in Round 4, the winning juices are back, and a side with so many quality players won’t let that slip. Patrick Dangerfield needs to lift though – if not for Adelaide then at least my Dream Team. He’s had a very below average start to the year. I expect a good showing from GWS though – their midfield is leading the competition in clearances thanks to the addition of Shane Mumford in the ruck and another pre-season of strength and conditioning

Prediction | Adelaide will continue from last week’s effort and get a good win against a rapidly improving GWS team. Crows by 20

Melbourne v Gold CoastMCG

Last Meeting: R20, 2013 – Gold Coast by 13

A great win by Melbourne last week and the first for Paul Roos as coach has given the Melbourne supporters some hope at last. One win isn’t enough though, and they need to keep it up in what will be a tough outing against Gold Coast. While there may not be a win here, a competitive match will prove that last week was no fluke. Gold Coast was completely outplayed last Saturday night against Hawthorn. Competitive in the first quarter and a bit, the class of Hawthorn shone through. The scoreline flattered them a little – the Suns definitely didn’t play as badly as a 99 point margin suggests. They’ll be looking to bounce back in this match though, as this is a game they should be winning to head to the finals. This is a real danger game though, so hopefully last week’s result is well and truly out of their minds and onto this week’s opponent. Ablett will be tagged by Jordie McKenzie again, who limited him to only 19 possessions in their last encounter. Chances are though he won’t be able to stop him two matches in a row.

Prediction | Gold Coast will know how dangerous this game is, coming off their loss and a stirring Melbourne win, so they’ll be on their game. Suns by 20

Western Bulldogs v CarltonEtihad Stadium

Last Meeting: R20, 2013 – Western Bulldogs by 28

A danger match for both teams here, where both teams will go into the match expecting a win. The Bulldogs because they had a great win last week and will look to keep their form heading into a match they should win. Carlton because they are a much better side than 0-4. With so much said about Carlton, they will be well aware of the further scrutiny that will come with another loss.

The Dogs turned what could have been a disaster into a major positive last week. They turned it on big time in towards the end of their match, producing a seven goals to one final term to see them get over the line. If they can keep this form up across a full four quarters, Carlton will have a hard time getting a win. The Dogs’ best game is heavy on clearances, and hard at the footy with a mountain of pressure – something which the Blues have struggled with in the past few years. Carlton just need a massive improvement in all areas. They lack intensity, leadership and any grit to win games they should win. Last week for example – they weren’t playing their best, but a side as talented as them should have been able to out-work, out-run and out-pressure a weaker Melbourne side. Their #UNITED campaign from their players had better be on show this week. Who knows what’ll happen if they lose

Prediction | Carlton needs to win, and I can’t see them offering a performance like any of their four previous matches. It won’t be pretty, but they’ll show up to play. Blues by 10

Geelong v Hawthorn MCG

Last Meeting: Preliminary Final, 2013 – Hawthorn by 5

Saving the best til last. The two undefeated teams heading into Round 5 square off in an Easter Monday heavyweight bout. The build-up for this has been, and will continue to be incredible right up until the first bounce. Their past 10 matches have been separated by an average of 9 points, with some of their matches coming down to the last seconds. Who could forget Travis Varcoe’s final minute miss in the Preliminary Final last year? He’d still be having nightmares about it.

Both sides obviously take good form heading in, both being undefeated, but it’s the way they’ve won their matches is what’s most impressive – big margins. Hawthorn is averaging a 52 point victory, while Geelong is at 37 points – both really worrying statistics for the rest of the competition. So who wins this match for both sides? Geelong needs a big game from Selwood, Johnson, Bartel and big Tom Hawkins, while Hawthorn will look to Cyril, Sam Mitchell, Luke Hodge and one of their key forwards to have a big game. Luke Hodge has had a quiet start to the year, so expect him to break out in a big way when they need him this week.

Prediction | I hope I’m wrong, but I think this won’t be as close at everyone thinks it will be. Hawthorn is the better side, by a considerable margin, and should come through when the time comes. Hawthorn in a relative blowout – Hawks by 20

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Religiously tennis - senior coach at Canberra School of Tennis, playing and watching. Sydney Swans nut and fan of the five day game.

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