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AFL Round 14 Preview (minus Thursday night’s match)
Welcome back to the MugPunter’s weekly AFL preview, and fair to say I’ve missed a few very intriguing topics in my time off. Where to start, the 3 bye rounds that ended up producing many thrilling games and upset finishes, Milne charge for rape, and this week the 2012 Brownlow medallist admitting he took a PED. The facts have constantly been blurred on the last 2 topics, but no one can deny the fantastic footy that’s been on display. The comeback from the Brisbane Lions was epic, brilliant football and it’s why we all love this game. What we don’t like is the fact one of the best players in the game has potentially taken a banned substance and still played last night in Perth. The early start to this round has stuffed me around a bit, interesting having a Thursday night game, not complaining but would like to know why.
Decided to not include that game in my preview simply for this fact: I don’t believe Jobe Watson should have taken the field, as a reigning B&F of the competition this is sending out the wrong message to everyone. The news isn’t great for Essendon supporters, personally feel they are guilty but it’s still roughly 4-6weeks until the investigations currently taking place come out with findings. For some interesting reading, encourage you to go onto The Roar’s website (theroar.com.au) and read some of Glenn Mitchell’s work, some of the wisest analysis of this situation using previous examples from other sports.
So do we then cheer for the Eagles? Well take your mind back to when Ben Cousins was there, winning Brownlows, and a premiership, and took recreational drugs. A snort of coke or a jab of a PED, what’s better? An argument at the time was dismissed but was an interesting point by Neil Craig, Adelaide coach at the time. He said it could be possible that drugs like cocaine or speed, much like the one’s Ben was said to have used whilst playing, could be used for a quick burst on game day, while obviously being a health risk it would give a player an edge. As the cliché’s go, it’s the “one-percenters” that make the difference in such a tight sport, whether it’s a recreational or anti obesity drug, I don’t want to see either in sport.
For something of a more positive note, this is the AFL’s Women’s round, and while some of the initiatives in the past have neeb very noble from the AFL, this year they’ve gone one step further. The best women footballers in the country will play in the inaugural AFL Women’s Exhibition game on Saturday between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. More info on the game can be found HERE and I for one feel it’s an excellent initiative, and would love to see some TV footage oneday of the girls going at it and showing their talents. In a strange way, I’m more looking forward to this than the main event between the Dogs and Dees, as both sides currently are poor as you can get.
Below is the table before last night’s match, Port amazingly in the eight after their upset win against Sydney last round, absolutely noone would have picked that result!! Also worth noting Carlton just outside the 8 but playing well enough to get back in by season’s end, would have to think they should leapfrog Port at somestage.
Now after last night’s thrilling win, inspired by guess who Jobe Watson, Essendon have temporarily moved into 2nd place and West Coast have seen their slim finals chances slip further away. It’s entirely possible that both the Eagles and Crows could miss out on finals this season after expectations from last year had them in the top 4, extremely disappointing for both John Worsfold and Brenton Sanderson.
Onto this weeks games, tonight we have Carlton traveling to the SCG to take on the Swans. Sydney on the rebound after a shock loss to the Power here and in what’s likely to be wet conditions too, where they certainly didn’t thrive in last week. Longmire would need to get his players to lift, now is probably a better time comparitively for a form slump than say during the finals but a few very winnable games coming up this is Sydney’s chance to get back into the top 4 and secure themselves a second chance in the finals. On the Swans, their gamestyle is all about pressure and tackling where they rank no 1, but Port showed last week, move the ball around quick enough and they perhaps can’t keep up. A hiccup or something opposition teams will try to emulate? Time will tell. Interestingly for Carlton, with all his experience this is the first time in some 13 years Mick Malthouse will coach at the SCG, the rest of the clashes between these sides and with Collingwood have been blockbusters moved to the larger ANZ stadium. The Blues have been close but not quite good enough in recent weeks against the Hawks and Essendon so they should on form get close to Sydney here. Infact Carlton yet to be totally thrashed by a side, their losses have all been within 3 goals, which should give their fans confidence that they will compete right to the end, moreso after a week’s break. Tipping Sydney here, Goodes is a big out for Sydney as is Murphy, but a handy in for both sides with Jack and Yarran back. At home, Swans should be good enough and bounce back strongly, if wet though watch out could be a thriller.
First of the 4 Saturday games comes from the not so sunny Gold Coast, where yours truly will be heading down for the clash between the Suns and Crows thanks to my friends at @AfterTheClock (Follow them for great reads on many great subjects for blokes). On these teams current form, the Suns should be favourites as the Crows have been hopeless of late, 3 losses on the trot has basically eliminated themselves from Finals action. To get in from here, feel they need to finish the season on 12/13wins, which would mean winning 7/8 of their final 10 games, and looking at the draw, this is one of those absolute must win games for the Crows. But, I don’t know if they can, this Suns side at home is a very confident bunch, and it’s not just the nicely developing youngsters too, could say Campbell Brown is in some of the best form after his suspension. Where the Suns have been let down is they don’t quite have the ability to match the best teams for 4 quarters, Adelaide though is far from the best in the comp at anything right now, in fact they looked lost against Richmond before their break, and listless in their thrashing at the hands of Sydney. The big question is this, at their best the Crows win, at the Suns best, they win but need Adelaide to continue playing poorly, which I feel they will for the rest of their up and mainly down 2013 season. A real tight game this, the Crows have a perfect record at Carrara never losing there and average winning margin of 70 points against the Suns, but this Gold Coast side are breaking all their club records this season. In the likely miserable weather can see them sneaking home by a slim margin Saturday. Hate to think how the Crows would be travelling without Dangerfield right now!
Next game is from back in SA with the Power after their upset win host Collingwood, could Port snag another top 4 contender this week? Unlikely, but who knows especially if it is wet. Wet weather footy changes the dynamic of this great game, and the best teams can adapt to any conditions, look at Geelong over recent years as a great example. Hard to think the Pies are just one spot above Port but still feel they have the squad to push for a top 4 spot, and a draw in the next month that they can capitalize on and build some winning momentum. 3 relatively simple wins before the bye for Collingwood has made things a bit more rosey at the Lexus centre and perhaps at the beginning of the season this would have been penciled in as a win, particularly with quite an impressive record in Adelaide and winning the past 6 games between the sides. Luke Ball back in the side is a great story, could be an extra lift they need this week, Hudson the people’s beard comes in for the injured Jolly too. For Port, their skipper and vice come back in the side, Boak and Trengove would have been proud of their team’s performance last week but will need a repeat this round, if it’s wet that’d be to their advantage. Surprisingly perhaps, but Ken Hinkley has done a fantastic job in his first season with Port, 4th best defence going around and for a club some said last year was with the likes of Fitzroy he has turned into a fighting team that won’t go down easy anymore. A return to the Port of old perhaps? A win would certainly help, if it rains leaning Port and Travis Cloke’s impact to be minimal, if Dry Collingwood for sure…but how much energy will one upset win take out of the Power’s tank? Tipping Pies, avoiding the risk!
Saturday night we have 2 games, one a blockbuster down at Kardinia Park, Cats v Freo. The other is simply an avoid at all costs match Dees v Dogs. Lets start off positively and look at Fremantle, who have won the last 2 games between the sides including last years elimination final, thanks to an epic game from skipper Matthew Pavlich, He won’t be on the field this weekend, neither will Mundy Barlow or big Sandilands. But that’s not to say it’s a bad thing for Freo, they’re in sensational form having not lost since round 4! Fyfe is superb, probably doesn’t get the accolades he deserves but is probably their best in the West. Geelong meanwhile had a shock loss, so unexpected and from nowhere it’s hard not to see them bounce back this week. To be up by 52 and lose is just simple, un-Geelong like, never happens!! Stevie J is out thru suspension and that’s unfortunate as you want to see the best players out there, but such is life with the AFL’s impossible to decipher suspension system. I’m liking Geelong to bounce back, last week happy to put that down as a giant hiccup they needed to have. Previously they had won games just by showing up for a 10minute burst to blow teams away, even with Fremantle’s miserly defence (highlighted by restricting North to 29points last week) a 10min burst could be the difference. Whether the Dockers can squeeze that burst down to just 2/3 goals or Geelong run riot and bang thru 8 in a quarter will be telling, worth remembering too Fremantle have only won once at Kardinia Park. Don’t expect this game to be a shootout, whatever the total points for the game, go the unders and Geelong to win by a slim margin and slot nicely into 2nd on the ladder.
Now the letdown, go from a match between 2nd and 3rd on the table, to 2 teams that are struggling on so many levels this season. The Demons under caretaker coach Neil Craig did appear to look slightly better last round, but honestly it’s hardly like they could play worse. Whoever the fortunate soul is that takes the position full time needs patience and needs help, as Melbourne have very few players if any that are genuinely good enough at AFL level. The Bulldogs are better, but that’s like comparing syphilis with hepatitis, they both suck but one’s just a bit more sucky. Could say the same thing with the Western Bulldogs, there wouldn’t be many guys there that would jump into other top sides, but their list looks more promising and their defeats haven’t been as big blowouts. This game surprisingly will be at the MCG where the crowd will be all dressed as great and green seats…but as mentioned previously with the Women’s AFL match played as a curtain raiser it’d a fantastic opportunity for the young girls to play on the grandest of stages, an experience I’m sure they would all be very chuffed about! For the mens clash though, I’m really struggling to make positives here, potentially the only Victorian side Melbourne could beat, and vice versa for the Dogs, Interestingly the Dees haven’t beaten the Dogs since 2007, and my tip is they may get close but it should be 4points to the Bulldogs.
As for the future of both these sides, the Bulldogs will probably keep developing down the bottom of the table for 5more seasons as their best players who are all over 28 retire and Gia who is currently working like a playing-assistant coach will take the reins over from McCartney at some stage. I like that idea in theory, but it will as I said, take time to flourish, whether the boys from the West can afford that is the question. Melbourne well, I can’t see Neil Craig wanting to go back as a full time head coach, infact I feel Melbourne may well drop him end of the season from his assistant duties too. Many high ranking scalps have moved on now from the club, and personally feel they need to trade out their dead wood in the playing list for young draft picks. Coaching wise, smart people want Mark Williams in charge and I feel he’d be excellent at whatever he chooses to do, but while at Richmond as an assistant, he might be best sticking it out and waiting for Hardwick to slip up, and then take the reigns of a stronger, finals contender club. By slip up, I’m saying look at Richmond’s draw, they may only need 4/5 wins out of 10 to make finals but that’s no certainty regardless what form they are in. Someone from left-field for the Melbourne job would be Gary Ayres, a man with a better than 50% record at AFL level for Adelaide, and who has coached Port Melbourne very strongly in the VFL. His methods were criticised as being too defensive orientated…I’m sure the Dees would much rather that then the current round of spankings currently dished to them! Matthew Knights, Rodney Eade, and Paul Roos are other names bandied around as potential coaches but honestly, no idea why people think Knights is any good coaching, and the others simply wouldn’t be interested.
Sunday’s matches begin down at Launceston, where if it’s cold and wet in the rest of the country you can bet it’ll be colder and wetter in Tassie! Which could keep this from blowing out, although it’s hard to go past the home side Hawthorn from winning comfortably over the Brisbane Lions. Last Sunday night was one of the most unbelievable finishes to a game ever, the Lions came from nowhere to grab that. And when I mean nowhere, at one point Betfair had them matched at $111 to win…very happy punter who jumped on at that price! But get the feeling they’ve played all their Aces in one hand and left nothing for this week against equally strong opposition, Rich back helps especially after re-signing with the club. If it’s wet the Lions will manage to stay in range with the Hawks but can’t see them providing 2 upsets in a row. Voss was said to have just let the boys do their own thing against Geelong and they won! Last time I heard a coach say that was the aforementioned Gary Ayres, and the Crows beat the Bulldogs that day, only for Gary to lose his job days later. While the win buys time for Voss, they still won’t play finals, and still have a talented but not hard working enough side, not enough to stop the Hawks winning their 12th in a row and equaling a club record. Hard to look past Hawthorn here, letalone for the premiership such is their form. Hardly a big statement that but their list is full of players in career best form, they really are standouts in 2013 so far. If dry, the Hawks will win by 10 goals, expect Franklin and Roughhead to toy with Merritt down back and Lisle in the ruck. If wet, half that to just 5 goals, and leave it to the final quarter to make the winning margin more comfortable.
Next up, Sunday Arvo footy from Etihad stadium, and this should be a onesided affair, with the Kangaroos hosting the Giants. There are promising players coming out of GWS but as a team, they aren’t clicking and working together for long enough yet, managing a couple of good quarters a game at best before the inevitable rolling over. I can’t see Sheedy still coaching there next year, perhaps staying on as a consultant role would be more his thing to assist the young guys but what’s more evident is Leon Cameron as head assistant shouldn’t be there. It’s a results driven business and if GWS go without a win this season (likely) surely he cannot still be considered as the full time solution, shows how big a loss it was for the men in orange when Mark Williams left to join Richmond. But alas, watch in joy as the best young prospect in the land Cameron hopefully kicks a small bag, why the fuss about GWS aiming for Buddy when this kid could be as good but with consistency and less of the big personality that Franklin has weighing on his shoulders. North though have been poor this season, flat out looking at results they haven’t been far off, but it’s not enough to just win against the easybeats. They should convincingly get over the top of the orange brigade this week, but there are tougher challenges ahead for North, would need to just about win 8 of their last 10 and then rely on results to make finals. North by 8goals. Interestingly, the last win Sheedy has had over the Kangaroos was back in 2001, long time between drinks.
Final game is the twilight fixture between the Saints and Tigers at the MCG, in a game that Richmond should win comfortably. The Saints were average but good enough to notch up their 3rd win of the season against the Dees last round while the Tiges won by 10goals against the Dogs, so both sides coming in with some positive form. But this St Kilda side are a bit of a rabble, couple of players shining and going well but collectively, Scott Watters is going to have a tough time grabbing more wins this season. Richmond to me play a confidence game, when they have the momentum and they get all cocky they are brilliant to watch and deserve the plaudits they receive, but like all overly-confident type they have a downside. When things are against them, (albeit not in the past 3 weeks) they can crumble under pressure and start to drop off on those little one-percenters. I can’t see the Saint’s getting close, but if they want to give themselves a chance, they need to get into the Tigers early, scoreboard pressure in the first quarter and build confidence. Unlikely it will happen, so tipping the Tigers by 5goals.
So tips for this round are Sydney, Gold Coast, Collingwood, Geelong, Bulldogs, Hawthorn, Kangaroos and Tigers. Follow on twitter at @mugpuntaus and @AfterTheClock Best of luck for this weeks matches, hope your team wins!