2017 AFL season: Round 13 preview

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    The last of the bye rounds is here, but while the last six teams enjoy their week off this weekend, it doesn’t mean this weekend’s round of matches will be short on action.

    The West Coast Eagles will feature on Thursday night football for the second time this season when they host the Geelong Cats, and will be keen to resurrect their premiership hopes after three straight losses.

    Elsewhere, St Kilda will be out to bounce back from its dismal showing against the Crows when they face North Melbourne at Docklands, while Carlton will be buzzing following their upset win over GWS last week.

    Here is your full guide to Round 13.

    West Coast Eagles versus Geelong Cats
    Round 13 kicks off with a blockbuster in Perth between the West Coast Eagles and Geelong Cats, two teams coming off a week’s rest following contrasting starts to the season.

    The Eagles appeared to be flying after they defeated the Western Bulldogs by eight points in Round 8, after which they had a 6-2 record, but have stumbled in the weeks leading up to their bye, losing their last three games.

    This included a heavy loss to Essendon on the road, which has again raised questions over the ability of Adam Simpson’s men to perform outside of their home state.

    Now they get the chance to prove that they can really beat the best teams on a consistent basis when they welcome the Geelong Cats to Perth tomorrow night.

    Prior to their week off the Cats made a mockery of what was supposed to be a tough clash against the Adelaide Crows at home, defeating the ladder leaders by 22 points.

    Like North Melbourne and Melbourne did before them, the Cats centered their victory around shutting down Brownlow Medal favourite Rory Sloane, while they also got some good service from the duo dubbed ‘Dangerwood’.

    Again, Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood will be crucial to the Cats scoring their second win in Perth this season, after they had beaten Fremantle by 42 points in Round 1.

    They did beat the Eagles in their previous meeting, by 44 points in Round 7 last year, but that was at Simonds Stadium. That said, facing the Eagles in Perth is a different proposition altogether, but the Cats’ good form should get them home here.

    Prediction: Geelong Cats by 18 points.

    North Melbourne versus St Kilda
    After losing their first five games of the season, many feared a long season ahead for North Melbourne.

    However, in recent weeks they have been able to lift their form, winning four of five games before slipping up against Richmond at Etihad Stadium in their last outing before the bye.

    Despite their recent spike in form, they still sit in 15th place on the ladder, but will have a chance to continue their climb up the ladder when they face St Kilda under the roof this Friday night.

    In recent weeks questions have been asked as to whether the Saints are actually improving this year or not.

    After defeating Carlton in Round 8, they were 5-3. But since then, they have lost their last three matches by an average of 49 points, the worst of them by 57 points against the Adelaide Crows last Friday night at the Oval.

    Without Nick Riewoldt in the side, Alan Richardson’s men were no match for a side in serious contention for the premiership, and managed only seven goals for the entire match.

    The former captain is in line to return this Friday night, but not even his return will guarantee a return to form for a side that has, to say the least, performed modestly in 2017.

    Not helping their cause will be the fact they have also lost their last six matches against the Roos; in fact, the Saints have not beaten them since Ross Lyon left the club at the end of 2011.

    Prediction: North Melbourne by six points.

    Todd Goldstein North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Richmond versus Sydney Swans
    The first match on Saturday afternoon sees the Sydney Swans, off the back of a big win over the Western Bulldogs, take on a vastly improved Richmond side at the MCG.

    Fresh off the bye, the Swans put the cleaners through the Dogs to win by 46 points and breathe some life back into their season, after injuries and poor form plagued the first half of their 2017 campaign.

    They now sit 14th on the ladder and their percentage of 105 per cent is the best of any side currently outside the eight, a strong indication that they have been competitive in most (if not all) of their matches so far this year.

    Their opponents, Richmond, are the second-best defensive side and their resurgence in form this year has been put down to a massive change in attitude following their poor 2016 season, which ended with a 113-point defeat to the Swans in their previous meeting.

    In that match, the Swans led by as much as 136 points but, knowing it could not mathematically be knocked off top spot back then, slowed down in the final quarter, kicking three goals to the Tigers’ five.

    It will be a completely different Richmond side the Swans face at the MCG this Saturday afternoon, and the now fourth-placed side should start favourites to resume their season with a win.

    Prediction: Richmond by 14 points.

    Port Adelaide versus Brisbane Lions
    In a season that has thrown up some unpredictable results, two of them stand out from last round: the Brisbane Lions’ huge win over Fremantle which snapped a nine-game losing streak, and Port Adelaide’s poor effort against Essendon at Etihad Stadium last week.

    Last week’s bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the Brisbane Lions, who despite struggling at the bottom of the ladder are starting to buy into the values Chris Fagan has brought into the club.

    In the lead-up to their match against the Dockers last week, they received a massive boost when it was announced that second-year forward Josh Schache had re-signed with the club for a further two years.

    It was a huge reversal from years past when they lost some of their young stars to other clubs, namely Sam Docherty, James Aish, Elliot Yeo, Billy Longer, Jack Crisp and Jared Polec, among many others.

    Their fans were also rewarded for their persistence this year with their second win of the season, by 57 points against a dismal Fremantle side at the Gabba last Saturday night.

    They face a totally different proposition altogether when they face Port Adelaide at the Oval this Saturday.

    Despite its dismal loss to Essendon last week, the Power still boast the best defence in the competition and its percentage is 133 per cent, second only to cross-town rivals the Adelaide Crows who have the bye this week.

    Their recent record against the Lions is also very strong as well, winning their last three meetings by an average of 84.6 points. They are also 2-0 against them at the Oval, including a 113-point win in round 4, 2014.

    Conversely, the Lions must be wishing that this match was at AAMI Stadium rather than the Oval, where they have an average losing margin of 103.75 points, including a 138-point thrashing by the Adelaide Crows in their last visit to the venue late last season.

    All the statistics should point to an easy bounce-back win for Port Adelaide this Saturday.

    Prediction: Port Adelaide by 50 points.

    Gold Coast Suns versus Carlton
    After copping criticism from all corners following their 102-point thrashing by the GWS Giants in Round 2, the Gold Coast Suns have turned a corner over the last ten weeks, winning five of nine matches and relieving the pressure on off-contract coach Rodney Eade.

    The Suns’ revival continued last Saturday when they defeated Hawthorn at the MCG, leading by more than 40 points in the third quarter before settling for a 16-point victory.

    It marked just their third win at the venue and their first against a side other than Melbourne, whom they beat by 60 and eight points in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

    This Saturday night they host a revitalised Carlton side coming off a massive upset victory over the GWS Giants at home last week, which in turn came after their Round 11 bye.

    Rather than feel intimidated by the presence of the hardened Giants, the Blues took it right up to the second-placed side and led for the majority of the contest, before eventually hanging on to win by a solitary point.

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    It eclipsed their 19-point win over Geelong in Round 10 last year as their best win in recent years, and vindicates the foundations for success that coach Brendon Bolton has laid for the struggling club.

    It will now remain to be seen if they can bring that momentum with them to the Gold Coast, where the Blues were 54-point losers in Round 3 last year (Jacob Weitering received a Rising Star nomination in that match).

    Prediction: Gold Coast Suns by 24 points.

    Western Bulldogs versus Melbourne
    Round 13 ends with just the solitary match on the Sunday, between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.

    The Bulldogs have started this season rather sluggishly, failing to string together more than two wins in a row, but still sit just inside the eight on percentage with six wins and five losses for the season.

    Last week they put in their worst performance for the year when they lost to the Sydney Swans by 46 points, after which it was suggested that there could be a premiership hangover at the Whitten Oval.

    This Sunday they face a Melbourne side that is also 6-5 for the season, but higher on the ladder on percentage.

    The Dees, for the second match in a row, came from well behind to defeat Collingwood by four points, with much-maligned former number one draft pick Jack Watts proving to be the hero.

    Eight years after his infamous AFL debut against the Pies, which has become a point of discussion in subsequent years, Watts turned the tables by kicking the match winning goal and then saving a would-be goal from Scott Pendlebury a minute later.

    However, it was Christian Petracca who was judged to be best on field by former coach Neale Daniher, who presented the trophy named in his honour to the third-year player.

    It will now remain to be seen if the Dees can continue on their merry form this Sunday against an out-of-sorts Western Bulldogs side at Etihad Stadium.

    Recent history, however, favours the Dogs, who have not lost to Melbourne at Docklands since late 2007 and are unbeaten at the venue since Round 18 last year.

    Prediction: Western Bulldogs by 12 points.

    Byes: Adelaide Crows, Collingwood, Essendon, Fremantle, GWS Giants, Hawthorn.