Preview of AFL Round 6 matches (all times AEST).
FRIDAY, May 4
Western Bulldogs v Collingwood at Etihad Stadium 7.50pm
Head to Head: Bulldogs 42 Magpies 104 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 6 2011 – Magpies 15.15 (105) bt Bulldogs 8.9 (57) at MCG
Tab Sportsbet: Bulldogs $6.25 Magpies $1.10
Sportingbet: Bulldogs $7.00 Magpies $1.10
Victories over winless Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney have relieved some pressure for the Bulldogs. But a goalless first quarter against the Giants last weekend is hardly the sort of form to suggest their misfiring attack is ready to click or they are likely to beat the Magpies. Collingwood are coming off an impressive win over Essendon and a nine-day break, have Brownlow Medallist Dane Swan in magnificent form and are boosted by the return of Heath Shaw and Ben Reid.
Key: Collingwood’s defensive pressure was questionable in the first few rounds, but has risen considerably since. With two experienced backmen returning, expect the Bulldogs’ scoring woes to continue.
Tip: Magpies by 50 points
SATURDAY, May 5
Essendon v Brisbane at Etihad Stadium 1.40pm
Head to Head: Bombers 21 Lions 15 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 8 2011 – Bombers 15.12 (102) bt Lions 9.12 (66) at Gabba
Tab Sportsbet: Bombers $1.16 Lions $5.25
Sportingbet: Bombers $1.18 Lions $4.85
Bombers’ prime movers Jobe Watson and Brent Stanton were relatively quiet against Collingwood on Anzac Day and Stewart Crameri was well held. That Essendon still nearly snatched a high-pressure win shows their increased steel this season. It makes this an enormous challenge for the Lions, particularly with the Bombers getting some players back from injury. It is hard to read much into Brisbane’s loss to Geelong at a semi-submerged Gabba last Saturday night, but it might have them more fatigued than a Bombers side coming off a long break.
Key: The suspension of Brisbane tagger Andrew Raines should ensure Watson and Stanton have enough freedom to do some midfield damage.
Tip: Bombers by 25 points
Geelong v Melbourne at Skilled Stadium 1.45pm
Head to Head: Cats 123 Demons 83 drawn 2
Last clash: Round 19 2011 – Cats 37.11 (233) bt Demons 7.5 (47) at Skilled Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Cats $1.03 Demons $13.00
Sportingbet: Cats $1.03 Demons $12.00
The return to Geelong will bring back nightmares for the Demons, after last year’s 186-point thrashing cost Dean Bailey his job. Results-wise, their lead-up form this time is worse. Last year, Melbourne had won three of their previous five games. This year, they are none from five under Mark Neeld. But they have at least produced competitive efforts against the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda in the past two rounds and regain Mitch Clark and James Frawley. Kicking a decent score looms as their biggest challenge.
Key: With the likes of Tom Hawkins, James Podsiadly and Steve Johnson, the Cats boast clearly superior attacking power, so the Demons need to at least break even in the midfield.
Tip: Cats by 50 points.
Gold Coast v Fremantle at Gold Coast Stadium 4.40pm
Head to Head: Suns 0 Dockers 1
Last clash: Round 15 2011 – Dockers 17.10 (112) bt Suns 9.8 (62) at Subiaco
Tab Sportsbet: Suns $6.00 Dockers $1.11
Sportingbet: Suns $7.00 Dockers $1.10
Both clubs are missing hugely-influential players. The Dockers are without key pair Aaron Sandilands and Nathan Fyfe. But Fremantle’s depth means they should cope much better than the Suns without their skipper Gary Ablett. The closest Gold Coast have come to a win this season was against Essendon at Metricon Stadium in round three. But even with 45 touches and two goals from Ablett, they could not quite triumph. The Dockers are showing the sort of consistent intensity under coach Ross Lyon that he instituted at his former club St Kilda, so are unlikely to drop their guard.
Key: Dockers’ midfield stars David Mundy, Michael Barlow and Stephen Hill have been building some nice form and should give their side a class edge.
Tip: Dockers by 35 points
St Kilda v Hawthorn at MCG 7.40pm
Head to Head: Saints 71 Hawks 75 drawn 2
Last clash: Round 8 2011 – Hawks 14.15 (99) bt Saints 10.9 (69) at MCG
Tab Sportsbet: Saints $3.50 Hawks $1.30
Sportingbet: Saints $4.00 Hawks $1.25
This shapes as an important test for both clubs. The Saints have made a solid start under Scott Watters, but have only beaten the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and Gold Coast so far. The Hawks had coped reasonably well with a tough early draw until last weekend’s second-half trouncing from Sydney. This match provides the Saints the chance to claim a big scalp and the Hawks to show last round was an aberration and they haven’t lost their desire, class or hardness. The loss of key defender Josh Gibson won’t help the Hawks.
Key: When his teammates were winning the ball, Jarryd Roughead starred with five goals in the first half against the Swans. There is the potential for an opposition nightmare if Lance Franklin can also rediscover his form.
Tip: Hawks by 15 points
Sydney v Adelaide at SCG 7.40pm
Head to Head: Swans 10 Crows 21
Last clash: Round 15 2011 – Crows 8.9 (57) bt Swans 6.14 (50) at AAMI Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Swans $1.25 Crows $4.00
Sportingbet: Swans $1.25 Crows $4.00
Two of the competition’s form sides square off, with both having legitimate reasons for confidence. The unbeaten Swans were superb against Hawthorn last round. Rising midfield star Josh Kennedy is near-favourite for the Brownlow Medal, Adam Goodes is in fine touch and they are receiving plenty of help from veterans and youngsters. But the Crows are also playing well and have won seven of their past eight meetings with the Swans, including their past three at the SCG.
Key: The Crows perhaps rely more heavily on a few stars than the evenly-spread Swans, Scott Thompson and Patrick Dangerfield particularly important to their hopes of an upset.
Tip: Swans by 10 points
SUNDAY, May 6
Carlton v Greater Western Sydney at Etihad Stadium 1.10pm
Head to Head: Blues 0 Giants 0
Last clash: N/A
Tab Sportsbet: Blues N/A Giants $34.00
Sportingbet: Blues $1.01 Giants $21.00
The Blues have rested three of their biggest stars – Chris Judd, Matthew Kreuzer and Jarrad Waite. It shouldn’t matter. It is still hard to imagine the Giants getting close to Carlton, given their depth and talent in midfield, attack and ruck. GWS have uncovered some very promising youngsters, with defender Tomas Bugg earning a Rising Star nomination against the Bulldogs last round and Jeremy Cameron booting five goals. But the Blues are stronger, fitter and more experienced.
Key: Robert Warnock needs to make the most of his chance in the ruck, with Kreuzer absent, while the likes of Ed Curnow and Mitch Robinson can expect more midfield time with Judd and the injured Andrew Carrazzo missing.
Tip: Blues by 80 points
Port Adelaide v Richmond at AAMI Stadium 3.15pm
Head to Head: Power 14 Tigers 6
Last clash: Round 10 2011 – Power 13.11 (89) bt Tigers 10.14 (74) at TIO Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Power $2.15 Tigers $1.70
Sportingbet: Power $2.05 Tigers $1.75
Both clubs have been very competitive against decent opposition in the early rounds. But with only a win each from five games, both will see this clash as must-win. A week after losing Robbie Gray for the season, the Power have lost another forward, Jay Schulz, to injury. but with John Butcher and Justin Westhoff kicking four goals each against Adelaide last weekend, they still have some decent attacking avenues. The Tigers will want to sharpen up in front of goal, after inaccuracy cost them the chance of an upset win over top-placed West Coast last weekend.
Key: With Trent Cotchin, Brett Deledio and Dustin Martin all in good form, the Tigers might have a slight edge in midfield class.
Tip: Tigers by 5 points
West Coast v North Melbourne at Subiaco 4.40pm
Head to Head: Eagles 20 North Melbourne 19
Last clash: Round 1 2011 – Eagles 13.14 (92) bt North Melbourne 13.10 (88) at Subiaco
Tab Sportsbet: Eagles $1.25 North Melbourne $4.00
Sportingbet: Eagles $1.24 North Melbourne $4.10
The Kangaroos almost pulled off an upset over the Eagles in Perth last year, falling just four points short despite being smashed in the ruck, as they were missing Hamish McIntosh and Todd Goldstein. This time, both are available for what looms as an engaging battle with unbeaten West Coast’s Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox. The Eagles’ loss of forwards has continued, with Josh Kennedy joining Mark LeCras and Mark Nicoski on the sidelines, leaving a heavy responsibility on Jack Darling and Quinten Lynch.
Key: Young Eagle Andrew Gaff and veteran midfield colleague Daniel Kerr are in great touch, so the Kangaroos will want to clamp down on that pair.
Tip: Eagles by 15 points