Preview of AFL Round 15 matches (all times AEST).
FRIDAY, July 6
Collingwood v Carlton at MCG 7.50pm
Head to Head: Magpies 116 Blues 124 drawn 4
Last clash: Round 3 2012 – Blues 18.14 (122) bt Magpies 9.8 (62) at MCG
Tab Sportsbet: Magpies $1.22 Blues $4.35
Sportingbet: Magpies $1.22 Blues $4.35
The AFL landscape has completely shifted since the last time these two met in round three, when Carlton smashed the Magpies. Then it was Collingwood and coach Nathan Buckley under pressure. Collingwood have since won 10 in a row, and the Blues have lost four on the spin to put their coach Brett Ratten under the pump. The Magpies have resisted the temptation to bring back Scott Pendlebury, giving him another week off to heal his minor leg fracture. The Blues have made three changes in an attempt to find form, including dumping ruckman Robbie Warnock. Now out of the eight, the stakes are massive for Carlton against their traditional enemies.
Key: Chris Judd looked back to his best last weekend, and will need to bring more of the same to help turn around the Blues’ season.
Tip: Magpies by 13 points
SATURDAY, July 7
North Melbourne v West Coast at Blundstone Arena 1.45pm
Head to Head: North Melbourne 19 Eagles 21
Last clash: Round 6 2012 – Eagles 17.18 (120) bt North Melbourne 15.5 (95) at Subiaco
Tab Sportsbet: North Melbourne $2.75 Eagles $1.45
Sportingbet: North Melbourne $2.70 Eagles $1.47
While the Eagles continue to play great football, North have stamped themselves real finals contenders with two excellent wins in successive weeks. They’re unbeaten since being embarrassed by Hawthorn before the bye. North believe taking the Eagles to Hobart could work in their favour, adding a layer of the unknown in making the West Australians travel out of their comfort zone. But while North are starting to gather some big scalps, their consistency against the very best sides remains a question mark.
Key: Kangaroos midfielder Daniel Wells was exceptional last weekend, but will he – rather than Brent Harvey – cop a Scott Selwood hard tag to limit his effectiveness?
Tip: Eagles by 26 points
Melbourne v Richmond at MCG 2.10pm
Head to Head: Demons 79 Tigers 101 drawn 2
Last clash: Round 3 2012 – Tigers 20.13 (133) bt Demons 11.8 (74) at MCG
Tab Sportsbet: Demons $4.90 Tigers $1.18
Sportingbet: Demons $5.30 Tigers $1.16
Richmond can put aside their week from hell by returning to the winners’ list against the struggling Demons. Without Dustin Martin and the sacked Daniel Connors after their much-publicised sleeping pill episode, as well as suspended Daniel Jackson and injured Dylan Grimes and Jake King, the Tigers have been forced into wholesale changes. They’ve needed to make few changes all season, so a test of their depth will be interesting. Melbourne come off a 10-goal towelling by Brisbane. Without injured Mitch Clark, they don’t appear to have anything near the weaponry to deal with even an understrength Tigers outfit.
Key: Expect the brilliant Trent Cotchin and workhorse Shane Tuck to step things up in midfield to help the depleted Tigers.
Tip: Tigers by 38 points
Sydney v Brisbane at SCG 4.40pm
Head to Head: Swans 22 Lions 21 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 24 2011 – Swans 18.11 (119) bt Lions 9.13 (67) at SCG
Tab Sportsbet: Swans $1.16 Lions $5.25
Sportingbet: Swans $1.17 Lions $5.10
The Lions are beginning to think themselves finals chances after some good recent form. Brisbane midfielder Jack Redden is back to his best and is part of a quality Lions engine room – which includes Brownlow Medallist Simon Black and Tom Rockliff. Key forward Jonathan Brown comes off a four-goal haul against Melbourne. But a big test awaits in Sydney. The Swans just keep winning, staying both in the top two and below the radar.
Key: Can Sydney superstar Adam Goodes find his best in his third match back from injury? Usually performs well against Brisbane and there were good late signs against GWS last week.
Tip: Swans by 26 points
St Kilda v Essendon at Etihad Stadium 7.40pm
Head to Head: Saints 63 Bombers 138 drawn 4
Last clash: Round 3 2011 – Bombers 21.10 (136) bt Saints 12.12 (84) at Etihad Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Saints $3.00 Bombers $1.40
Sportingbet: Saints $3.05 Bombers $1.38
Essendon’s drive towards a top-four spot received another boost with an Etihad Stadium smashing of the Western Bulldogs last weekend. The Bombers play the sort of football under the roof which St Kilda – for so long the kings of Etihad – have made their trademark. The Saints come off a deflating late fadeout loss to North Melbourne last weekend. They lose Brendon Goddard through suspension. Underrated Jason Blake and Rhys Stanley are both injured, leaving them short of tall options. But Saints tagger Clint Jones returns, meaning Essendon’s Brent Stanton can expect a hard night.
Key: After a stop-start season, Essendon’s Michael Hurley is finding his range up forward with 11 goals in his past two matches. How the Saints stop him is pivotal.
Tip: Bombers by 32 points
Port Adelaide v Adelaide at AAMI Stadium 7.40pm
Head to Head: Power 17 Crows 15
Last clash: Round 5 2012 – Crows 16.14 (110) bt Power 14.7 (91) at AAMI Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Power $4.00 Crows $1.25
Sportingbet: Power $4.00 Crows $1.25
Despite the Crows going well and Port struggling, Showdowns are invariably close encounters where the formbook goes out the window. There was enough pluck and grit in Port’s honourable loss to Geelong last weekend to suggest they’ll give the Crows something to think about. The return of midfield gun Travis Boak from injury and reliable Jacob Surjan adds depth. Adelaide fought back late to see off Richmond last weekend and remain well in contention to make the top four. But so close is the competition, they need to win this game to avoid slipping off the pace.
Key: Crows spearhead Taylor Walker’s suspension means Kurt Tippett must carry the forward load alone.
Tip: Crows by 11 points
SUNDAY, July 8
Hawthorn v Greater Western Sydney Giants at MCG 1.10pm
Head to Head: Hawks 0 Giants 0
Last clash: N/A
Tab Sportsbet: Hawks $1.01 Giants $17.00
Sportingbet: Hawks $1.01 Giants $17.00
The Hawks have included Lance Franklin in an extended squad despite his hamstring issues, and resisted rushing back Luke Hodge from a knee problem. Whether Franklin lines up or not is likely to matter little against GWS, and the Hawks should make it five wins in a row with a minimum of fuss. The Giants continue to show incremental improvement but, until they can put it together for four quarters, they’ll struggle against top-quality sides like the Hawks. Losing experienced Luke Power and young gun Dylan Shiel to injury won’t help.
Key: If Franklin doesn’t line up, the Hawks might be tempted to give Jarryd Roughead less time in the ruck and a permanent role forward. Roughead has been excellent all season since returning from a serious Achilles injury and could fancy himself for a bag.
Tip: Hawks by 68 points
Gold Coast Suns v Geelong at Gold Coast Stadium 3.15pm
Head to Head: Suns 0 Cats 2
Last clash: Round 20 2011 – Cats 29.14 (188) bt Suns 6.2 (38) at Skilled Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Suns $17.00 Cats $1.01
Sportingbet: Suns $17.00 Cats $1.01
The Suns continue to meander along without a win and copping regular hidings. A winless season beckons. Ex-Cats star Gary Ablett will get some hard-bodied support with the return of Jarrod Harbrow, Campbell Brown and Michael Rischitelli. Geelong keep winning without convincing, and won’t need to do much more than that to take the four points here. Paul Chapman, over a shoulder injury, heads a quality list of ins for the Cats’ extended squad. Geelong have spent the week preparing at the Gold Coast in an attempt to beat the Victorian winter blues.
Key: Will premiership coach and newly-appointed director of coaching Malcolm Blight make a difference in the Suns’ coaching box alongside Guy McKenna?
Tip: Cats by 108 points
Fremantle v Western Bulldogs at Subiaco 4.40pm
Head to Head: Dockers 8 Bulldogs 14
Last clash: Round 24 2011 – Bulldogs 15.17 (107) bt Dockers 8.13 (61) at Etihad Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Dockers $1.16 Bulldogs $5.25
Sportingbet: Dockers $1.22 Bulldogs $4.25
The Bulldogs have been hammered in successive weeks by Brisbane and Essendon, and it’s hard to know what to make of their season. Fremantle’s season is also up and down as they come to grips with balancing Ross Lyon’s defensive demands and the need for goals. Goals are also a problem for the Bulldogs, so a low-scoring affair beckons. The fact the game is in the west probably swings it the Dockers’ way.
Key: Few players are going better than Dockers skipper Matthew Pavlich. He kicked five last weekend against the ladder leaders and is regularly kicking half his side’s total. Expect Bulldogs defender Brian Lake to be given the job of stopping him.
Tip: Dockers by 25 points© AAP 2013
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