Round 17 AFL Preview
West Coast vs Collingwood @ Optus Stadium - 20:10
The first game of the round pits the second-placed West Coast Eagles against the third-placed Collingwood Magpies at Optus Stadium in Perth on Friday night. The Eagles are coming off a huge win over their cross-river rivals and will be feeling pretty good about their chances of putting a bit of space between themselves and the team immediately below them on the ladder. I've heard on the grapevine that the Magpies players have had their training loads increased, in preparation for their run at another finals campaign. If this is true, it would explain their lacklustre performances over the past few weeks. Adding to the loss to the Eagles in the Grand Final last year, whether at Optus Stadium or the MCG the Magpies haven't been able to match the Eagles over their past four matches and, riding a wave of improving performances, I think the Eagles will again be too much for the Magpies to match over in Perth.
West Coast by 16
Sydney vs Carlton @ The SCG - 13:45
The Swans return home from their loss to the Bombers, at the MCG last weekend, to take on the Carlton Blues at the SCG on Saturday afternoon. After having a terrible game against Essendon last round, the Swans should be switched on for this game in front of their home crowd. With Franklin still being out, Sydney really needs to improve where they get the ball in the Forward 50 and make more of their scoring opportunities. Since Teague took over as the interim coach at Carlton, the Blues have won two of their past four matches, the games they lost were each by less than a kick. While Chris Judd made it sound like Teague had little chance of retaining his coaching gig, they certainly have improved under his guidance. If this game was played at the MCG I would be leaning towards Carlton but as I can't remember a time that the Blues have won a game at the SCG, I will be going with the Swans.
Sydney by 4 points
Hawthorn vs Fremantle @ UTAS Stadium - 14:10
Having won their match last weekend against the Magpies, the Hawks will be heading down to Tasmania to try and notch another win against the reeling Fremantle Dockers. Last weekend the Dockers suffered a huge 91 point loss and will have to be wondering just what went wrong, and how they can get things back on track? Unfortunately for them, playing Hawthorn in Tasmania has not been a fixture that has given them much joy. Over the past four games against the Fremantle Dockers at UTAS Stadium, the Hawks have won all of them and have a winning average of over fifty points from their outings. The Hawk's Dan Howe will likely tag Nat Fyfe, and Sicily will be out to repel every Docker attack heading his way. What have the Dockers got up their sleeves to get a win here?
Hawthorn by 28
Essendon vs North Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium - 16:35
The two teams meeting at Marvel Stadium this Saturday afternoon are both sitting just outside the Top 8 and need to keep their momentum going to have a chance of breaking into finals contention. The Bombers beat the Swans last week, in a game they were without Dyson Heppell for, while North Melbourne kept their winning ways going, having won five of their last six matches. The Bombers are also doing well having won four of their past five matches. While the Kangaroos have a long injury list, they have been doing well without some stars being available. While the Bombers did win without Heppell last weekend, they may have to add Hurley to those missing from action for this match. From what was seen last week, I think the Kangaroos aggressive play will match the Bombers well.
North Melbourne by 13
Gold Coast vs Adelaide @ Metricon Stadium - 19:25
After last week's worrying lack of effort against cross-town rival Port Adelaide, it will be interesting to see which players board the plane to take on the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night, but after last weekend's debacle, the Crows could do worse than introduce some new blood into the team. For the Suns, they provided next to no opposition for the Tigers last round, but the return of Sam Day would have been a ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day. With last week's lack of effort weighing heavily on their minds, I am expecting a much-improved effort by the Crows this round.
Adelaide by 34
Geelong vs St. Kilda @ GMHBA Stadium - 19:25
After suffering a surprise loss to the Lions last weekend, the Geelong Cats will be facing off against the Saints at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night. In a game that pits the team first on the ladder, against the fifteenth placed St Kilda, I am sure the Cats will be going into this match as firm favourites, as they should! As the last time the Saints were able to get a win down the Princes Fwy was 1999, if they managed to get a win Saturday night, they would have every reason to party like it was that year. With the likes of Ablett, Dangerfield, Hawkings, Blicvas etc etc, anything but a big win would be a failure in the eyes of the Geelong coaching staff, players and supporters, and rightfully.
Geelong by 38
Richmond vs GWS Giants @ The MCG - 13:10
On our first game Sunday afternoon, the Richmond Tigers will be hoping to welcome back star forward Jack Riewoldt as they take on the visiting GWS Giants at the MCG. Even a couple of weeks ago I would have been locking this in as a sure win for the Giants, but not only have the Tiger's play improved, the Giant's form has been so up-and-down as to make picking them to win an ever risky prospect. While Lachie Whitfield and Shane Mumford are likely inclusions, Josh Kelly is unlikely and Stephen Coniglio is uncertain to play. For the Tigers, Jack Riewoldt is a good chance to be ready to play, his addition to the team will make for a tough decision at the selection table. While my first thought is that the Giants should win this match, it is at the MCG, a ground they don't play well while their opponent absolutely does.
Richmond by 11
Western Bulldogs vs Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium - 15:20
In a game that sees the 12th place Western Bulldogs take on the 15th placed Melbourne Demons at Marvel Stadium in a game that will have a different meaning to either team. For the Bulldogs, they must get a win here to keep any hopes of a chance at the finals alive, while the Demons really just need to win for their own self-respect; after most "experts" having Melbourne in their Top 4, the Demons have shown little to give any indication as to why so many picked this to finish so high. As both teams are coming off exciting wins last round, this should be a willing match that sees two strong midfields go head-to-head in the part of the field that must be won. Once the ball is moved forward, it is the Doggies who have the better performed forward line, with Aaron Naughton having taken 33 Marks this year, and kicking 4 Goals last week.
Western Bulldogs by 17 points
Port Adelaide vs Brisbane @ Adelaide Oval - 16:40
Coming off a great win by each team last weekend, the Port Adelaide Power will play host to the Brisbane Lions at Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon. The Lion's five-goal Eric Hipwood looks a chance to miss this match after suffering a knee injury against the GWS Giants, leaving a hole in the Lion's forward line that would normally be hard to fill. Fortunately for the Lions, it looks like Oscar McInerney will be ready to come straight back into the team from missing last week's big win. After losing the fixture in Round 3, Port Adelaide needs to make sure they play this match at the intensity they brought to the second half of their match against the Crows last round. If they don't, they may find that their form of "win one, lose one" continues further into the season. The Lions will need to keep an eye on the talented Robbie Gray, while Brisbane's Lachie Neale will need to be kept in check, else he may reach his lofty disposal numbers from the last match, being 43.
Port Adelaide by 14