Preview of AFL Round 8 matches (all times AEST).
FRIDAY, May 18
Collingwood v Geelong at MCG 7.50pm
Head to Head: Magpies 126 Cats 95 drawn 1
Last clash: Grand Final 2011 – Cats 18.11 (119) bt Magpies 12.9 (81) at MCG
Tab Sportsbet: Magpies $1.70 Cats $2.15
Sportingbet: Magpies $1.70 Cats $2.15
You would have had long odds at the start of the season that the first clash between the Magpies and the Cats since the epic 2011 grand final would be between teams ranked seventh and 10th on the ladder. In so far as it is possible for the biggest club in the competition, Collingwood have been flying under the radar for the past few weeks. Not so the Cats, who’ve endured a rare spell of uncomfortable scrutiny in the wake of a drubbing by Adelaide.
Key: The return of triple-premiership stars Jimmy Bartel, Mathew Stokes and Matthew Scarlett is sure to lift the proud Cats, who were humiliated last weekend by the Crows. But will it be enough? The Magpies regain Darren Jolly, Dale Thomas, Chris Dawes and Alex Fasolo.
Tip: Cats by 10 points
SATURDAY, May 19
Port Adelaide v North Melbourne at AAMI Stadium 1.45pm
Head to Head: Power 7 North Melbourne 19
Last clash: Round 14 2011 – North Melbourne 21.10 (136) bt Power 14.7 (91) at AAMI Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Power $2.75 North Melbourne $1.45
Sportingbet: Power $2.75 North Melbourne $1.45
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott promised heads would roll after the embarrassing loss to the Western Bulldogs and it was Liam Anthony who copped the selectors’ axe in the neck, replaced by Levi Greenwood. Port coach Matthew Primus must also be fast losing patience with some big-name members of his team who are riding a six-match losing streak. David Rodan was one of four players dropped. At least the return of key forward Jay Schulz from an eye injury should straighten up the Power in attack.
Key: With big Kangaroo Hamish McIntosh sidelined with a knee complaint, Todd Goldstein gets the chance to reprise the solo rucking role he performed to great effect in 2011.
Tip: North Melbourne by 22 points
Hawthorn v Fremantle at Aurora Stadium 2.10pm
Head to Head: Hawks 18 Dockers 7
Last clash: Round 19 2011 – Hawks 13.17 (95) bt Dockers 6.8 (44) at Subiaco
Tab Sportsbet: Hawks $1.19 Dockers $4.75
Sportingbet: Hawks $1.18 Dockers $4.80
If Ross Lyon can mastermind a win over Hawthorn in Launceston – a place where the Dockers have traditionally struggled – it will be the clearest sign yet of the positive effect he’s having at his new club. With the 500-goal milestone out of the way, Dockers’ skipper Matthew Pavlich could be set for a big day. The Hawks will be strengthened by the return of defender Josh Gibson from injury although Michael Osborne (knee) is a loss.
Key: The Hawks’ undersized ruck division will have their hands full containing Aaron Sandilands. After all, who doesn’t? But if they go close to breaking even, it will be a big win for Hawthorn.
Tip: Hawks by 29 points
Sydney v Melbourne at SCG 4.40pm
Head to Head: Swans 106 Demons 92 drawn 2
Last clash: Round 1 2011 – Demons 11.18 (84) drew Swans 11.18 (84) at MCG
Tab Sportsbet: Swans $1.08 Demons $8.00
Sportingbet: Swans $1.09 Demons $7.50
Sydney co-captain Jarrad McVeigh readily admits the Swans’ players embarrassed themselves in last weekend’s capitulation to Richmond. It’s unlikely to happen two weeks in a row. The Demons haven’t played at the SCG in five years – a quirky venue where Sydney make the most of a distinct home-ground advantage. Full-forward Mitch Clark and fullback James Frawley have been two of the few Demons who can hold their heads high in what has been a miserable year for the club, while Jack Watts, Liam Jurrah and Brad Green have been recalled. Irishman Tommy Walsh will finally make his AFL debut for the Swans.
Key: Sydney hard nuts such as Jude Bolton and Josh Kennedy will have taken McVeigh’s barbs personally, which is bad news for the Dees.
Tip: Swans by 52 points
Western Bulldogs v Gold Coast at TIO Stadium 7.40pm
Head to Head: Bulldogs 2 Suns 0
Last clash: Round 14 2011 – Bulldogs 17.8 (110) bt Suns 13.10 (88) at Gold Coast Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Bulldogs $1.15 Suns $5.50
Sportingbet: Bulldogs $1.17 Suns $5.00
As a fledgling club, Gold Coast and their coach Guy McKenna have understandably been cut plenty of slack. But the honeymoon period effectively ended following last weekend’s loss to first-year outfit GWS. In their first trip to Darwin, the Suns will need to show plenty against the Bulldogs. Oddly, they have played better this year when superstar Gary Ablett has been sidelined, forcing his teammates to pick up the slack.
Key: Bulldogs’ great Doug Hawkins has tagged Ryan Griffen as the team’s modern-day Rolls Royce and a Brownlow medallist in the making. High praise indeed.
Tip: Bulldogs by 30 points
Essendon v Richmond at MCG 7.50pm
Head to Head: Bombers 101 Tigers 84 drawn 4
Last clash: Round 16 2011 – Bombers 15.15 (105) bt Tigers 9.12 (66) at MCG
Tab Sportsbet: Bombers $1.50 Tigers $2.60
Sportingbet: Bombers $1.52 Tigers $2.50
This shapes as the biggest “clash of the sash” since the two traditional Melbourne clubs met in the 2001 final series. The 6-1 Bombers are flying having ended West Coast’s unbeaten run in commanding style last week. And there is plenty to like about the Tigers as well – especially their blue-chip midfield of Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin, Brett Deledio and Nathan Foley. A crowd of 90,000 is expected for the annual Dreamtime at the ‘G clash.
Key: Ivan “The Mullet” Maric has been heroic in the ruck for Richmond this year but he faces a massive task against in-form Bombers duo Tom Bellchambers and Paddy Ryder.
Tip: Bombers by 10 points
SUNDAY, May 20
Brisbane v Greater Western Sydney at Gabba 1.10pm
Head to Head: Lions 0 Giants 0
Last clash: N/A
Tab Sportsbet: Lions $1.18 Giants $4.90
Sportingbet: Lions $1.20 Giants $4.50
Brisbane skipper Jonathan Brown has laid down the law to the Lions’ players, telling them they are responsible for another poor start to the season – not coach Michael Voss. And when Brown talks, people listen, which isn’t good news for the young Giants. But Kevin Sheedy’s team will arrive at the Gabba in a buoyant mood having claimed their first win last weekend against the Suns. Stephen Coniglio was a deserving Rising Star nominee – the Giants’ third in the space of seven weeks.
Key: The Lions simply can’t afford to become the first club to lower their colours to the two expansion outfits.
Tip: Lions by 38 points
Carlton v Adelaide at Etihad Stadium 3.15pm
Head to Head: Blues 16 Crows 14
Last clash: Round 5 2011 – Blues 11.19 (85) bt Crows 12.7 (79) at Etihad Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Blues $1.35 Crows $3.25
Sportingbet: Blues $1.40 Crows $2.95
Adelaide have been super-impressive this year under new coach Brenton Sanderson – with the exception of their only previous trip to Melbourne which ended in a humbling loss to Hawthorn. They won’t want to produce a repeat effort at Etihad Stadium against Carlton, who were outclassed at the same venue by St Kilda last week. Marc Murphy was a non-factor against the Saints and he rarely plays two bad ones in a row.
Key: Coleman Medal pacesetter Taylor Walker has been a revelation for Adelaide this year and will be sorely missed due to suspension while pacy defender Chris Yarran’s return is a boost for the Blues.
Tip: Blues by 20 points
West Coast v St Kilda at Subiaco 4.40pm
Head to Head: Eagles 20 Saints 17 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 17 2011 – Saints 13.4 (82) bt Eagles 9.7 (61) at Etihad Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Eagles $1.40 Saints $3.00
Sportingbet: Eagles $1.40 Saints $2.95
The Eagles will be mightily relieved that the case of food poisoning that caused Daniel Kerr’s head to swell up is unlikely to result in him missing any football. But they will be sweating on the availability of fellow midfield tyro Matt Priddis, who was heavily concussed last weekend. St Kilda had a huge nine-goal return from their three small forwards Stephen Milne, Terry Milera and Ahmed Saad in the round-seven win over Carlton and would love something similar this time around.
Key: West Coast’s Dean Cox would fancy his chances of shading the ruck contests on his own. However Cox has been named in the forward pocket and Nic Naitanui returns from injury to first ruck, leaving the Eagles odds-on to dominate in this crucial area of the contest.
Tip: Eagles by 18 points