Round 23 AFL Preview

Friday
Collingwood vs Essendon @ The MCG - 19:50

In the first game of the last game of the regular season two finals contenders, in Collingwood and Essendon, go head-to-head at the MCG on Friday night. With Essendon finding some good form, in part thanks to getting some senior players back from injury in time to help them move up the ladder, this shapes as a match that should be very entertaining. Not to be outdone, the Magpies have won their last three matches, albeit against lower-ranked opposition, and are currently sitting in 5th place on the ladder after another good season. With the Mapies having won the past three encounters between these two teams, I am going to stick with them for this encounter.
Collingwood by 15 points

Saturday
Sydney vs St. Kilda @ The SCG - 13:45

Up at the SCG this weekend we have the 15th placed Sydney Swans taking on their neighbours, being the 14th placed St Kilda, and after their win last weekend, the Swannies are looking like the tippers choice for this match on their home ground. In what will be Franklin's 300th AFL match, he is looking a likely inclusion for this encounter, while the Swan's Jarrad McVeigh could also be included for a farewell match after a long career in footy. While the Saint's Jade Gresham is a chance to make the trip north, at this stage of the season I couldn't imagine the St Kilda football department wanting to take any chances with a guy who would arguably be their best player.
Sydney by 17 points

North Melb. vs Melbourne @ Blundstone Arena - 14:10

Down in Tassie's Blundstone Arena, we have a match between one of the competition's big 'after the halfway point of the year' improvers in the Kangaroos, coming up against one of the season's surprisingly most disappointing teams, in the Demons. As this is their first match-up for the year, we have no head-to-head form guide to go by, instead, we can take an overview of the year to get an idea as to how the teams may play in this fixture; after the way Melbourne lost to the Swans last week, and how the Kangaroos absolutely tore apart the Power, I can see no sensible option but to go for North Melbourne to finish off their season on a high note, and for the Demons to wonder just what went wrong.
North Melbourne by 25 points

Geelong vs Carlton @ GMHBA Stadium - 16:35

At GMHBA  Stadium this Saturday the 'we were at the top of the ladder for so much of the year' Cats will face off against a Blues team that is definitely heading in a more positive direction under the stewardship of new coach David Teague, and when looking at the stats for the two teams, I'm surprised to see that the Blues aren't too far behind the Cats. In another interesting find, this will be only the second time these two teams have met down in Geelong for the past decade, who would have thought...? While I am expecting the Blues to get some dominance in ruck contests, the Cats backline should be well enough drilled to stop the Blues from kicking a winning score, while the Cat's smalls make life hard at the other end. While I think this match will be closer than many think, the Cats should manage to get the win.
Geelong by 11 points

Gold Coast vs GWS Giants @ Metricon Stadium - 19:25

In a match the Giants are probably glad to have before entering the finals, as it will give them a chance to see which structures they feel will work best for them over the next lot of important games, they head north to the Gold Coast to take on the cellar-dwelling Gold Coast Suns. Not only have the Giants averaged more Marks, Kicks, Handballs, Goals, and Frees against their opponents this round, it is looking like they will be getting Cameron, Finlayson and Sam Taylor back for this match. Yes, a match that was also looking tough for the Suns now appears to be a match that will be against even harder opposition. For the Suns fans out there there is some good news, this is the last match of the season...
GWS Giants by 64 points

West Coast vs Hawthorn @ Optus Stadium - 20:10

Over at Optus Stadium this weekend we will see the Eagles heading home, after their tight-fought loss to the Tigers last weekend, to take on a Hawthorn team who is coming off having won their previous two matches, one of them a huge victory over a quality team in the Giants! While the Eagles will be hoping that spearhead Kennedy can shake off his late-season blues (across his last three matches, he has only had 19 disposals and three goals), this won't be easy as he comes up against the quality Hawthorn backs of Frawley and Sicily. Both of these defenders have been in great form lately, and Frawley matches up really well against the Eagle tall. In the middle, we will see two of the competitions best, in Elliot Yeo and James Worpel fight for dominance in a great tussle.
West Coast by 17 points

Sunday
W. Bulldogs vs Adelaide @ Mars Stadium - 13:10

The red-hot, in-form, high-performing Western Bulldogs will take their great form to Ballarat this weekend, where they will meet the almost dysfunctional Adelaide Crows in a match that will probably determine if the Bulldogs manage to rocket their way into the 2019 Finals. While the teams are only separated by two places, the Bulldogs are 8th while the Crows are sitting in 10th, the way the two teams have been playing across the past month has been worlds apart! Not only have the Bulldogs won seven of their last ten matches, they have done it in style! During this time, they have accounted for the likes of the Bombers, Giants and Cats. For the Crows, they have had great wins over the Tigers and Giants, but more recently their form has deteriorated to the point of losing four of their past five. This match makes for a pretty easy decision.
W. Bulldogs by 29 points

Richmond vs Brisbane @ The MCG - 15:20

At the MCG this Sunday afternoon, the top of the ladder Lions travel down to meet the Tigers at the venue that has become a bit of a Richmond Fortress, for a match that both teams will be fighting hard to win. The Lions will want to hold onto a Top 2 spot, ensuring they get the benefits of the double-chance in the finals, while the Tigers will be looking to stay in the Top 4 and cement themselves a home final to kick things off. While the home team will be without their Number 1 ruckman again, they are looking to see their skipper, Trent Cotchin, make his long-awaited return to the field. The big question is how key defender, Dylan Grimes pulls up after rolling his ankle in the match against the Eagles. In good news for the Lions, Christensen is looking like he should only miss a week. This should be a great contest between two quality teams.
Richmond by 4 points

Port Adelaide vs Fremantle @ Adelaide Oval - 16:40

In a match between the Dockers and Power at Adelaide Oval this Sunday afternoon, we will see a fixture in which only one team has any chance of taking part in this year's finals series, and a Dockers team that has seen their head coach fired just this week. While the Power suffered a huge loss to the Kangaroos last week, where they couldn't slow down Ben Brown from kicking 10 goals, the Power just have to come out in this match and make a strong statement, but do they have the heart to do it? With Ross Lyon getting sacked as the Dockers coach, I am also very aware of the 'our coach has just been sacked, we really need to show the world that we can play' syndrome that so often takes place. With so much on the line the Power just has to win, and they have the team to do it.
Port Adelaide by 32 points

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