Preview of AFL Round 20 matches (all times AEST).
FRIDAY, Aug 10
West Coast v Geelong at Subiaco 8.40pm
Head to Head: Eagles 22 Cats 21 drawn 1
Last clash: Finals Week 3 2011 – Cats 17.15 (117) bt Eagles 10.9 (69) at MCG
Tab Sportsbet: Eagles $1.95 Cats $1.85
Sportingbet: Eagles $2.00 Cats $1.82
The Cats are surging – with wins over Essendon, Adelaide and Hawthorn in the past three rounds – while the Eagles are slumping, having suffered big defeats in three of their past four games. Captain Darren Glass returns from suspension to help restrain in-form Cats power forward Tom Hawkins. Geelong’s biggest issue will be countering Eagles star ruck double-act Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui with a weakened ruck division. But even when dominating the hit-outs, West Coast have struggled at ground level recently while the Cats have hit form in that area, although the loss of James Kelly will hurt.
Key: Having battled slow starts for much of the season, the Cats have turned that around in a huge way in recent weeks. Another fast start could dent West Coast’s confidence.
Tip: Cats by 10 points
SATURDAY, Aug 11
St Kilda v Melbourne at MCG 1.45pm
Head to Head: Saints 84 Demons 118 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 5 2012 – Saints 12.12 (84) bt Demons 10.6 (66) at MCG
Tab Sportsbet: Saints $1.06 Demons $9.50
Sportingbet: Saints $1.05 Demons $10.50
The Saints need other results to go their way to make the finals. But a win against the Demons would at least keep them in with a chance, so they shouldn’t lack motivation. Their recent form has been very solid, with stars Brendon Goddard, Lenny Hayes, Nick Dal Santo and Leigh Montagna all performing. The Demons posted their third win of a dismal season against Gold Coast last round, but are unlikely to have the class to back it up.
Key: With an experienced, in-form midfield and the firepower of Nick Riewoldt, Stephen Milne and Ahmed Saad in touch in attack, the Saints look too strong.
Tip: Saints by 60 points
Adelaide v Fremantle at AAMI Stadium 2.10pm
Head to Head: Crows 17 Dockers 11
Last clash: Round 10 2012 – Crows 17.9 (111) bt Dockers 12.10 (82) at Subiaco
Tab Sportsbet: Crows $1.40 Dockers $3.00
Sportingbet: Crows $1.43 Dockers $2.85
With very winnable games in the last three rounds, second-placed Adelaide will be poised to book a top two spot if they can down the Dockers. A Fremantle win will lift them into the eight. The Dockers have already won five in a row and were very impressive in thrashing West Coast last round, with stars forward Matthew Pavlich and midfielders Nathan Fyfe, Michael Barlow, David Mundy having all found top form. The midfield battle should be engaging, with Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield and Scott Thompson two of the AFL’s form players.
Key: If Kurt Tippett can pass a concussion test and join fellow marking target Taylor Walker in the Crows’ attack it could tip the balance.
Tip: Crows by 5 points
Gold Coast Suns v Greater Western Sydney Giants at Gold Coast Stadium 4.40pm
Head to Head: Suns 0 Giants 1
Last clash: Round 7 2012 – Giants 13.16 (94) bt Suns 9.13 (67) at Manuka Oval
Tab Sportsbet: Suns $1.42 Giants $2.90
Sportingbet: Suns $1.43 Giants $2.85
Gold Coast were the Giants’ first victims in a memorable round seven clash. Another loss to GWS would almost certainly consign the Suns to the wooden spoon and even fewer wins than their debut 2012 season. Their form is inferior, with the Giants beating Port Adelaide last round while Gold Coast were thrashed by lowly Melbourne. The Suns are at home, while GWS are missing some key players to injury, although Gold Coast have lost a heap of players to injury too.
Key: Surely the fact that the Suns still haven’t won an AFL game at home and were upset by the Giants in their first meeting will drive them to get one back this time.
Tip: Suns by 12 points
Sydney v Collingwood at ANZ Stadium 7.40pm
Head to Head: Swans 79 Magpies 137 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 14 2011 – Magpies 13.21 (99) bt Swans 14.9 (93) at ANZ Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Swans $1.50 Magpies $2.60
Sportingbet: Swans $1.52 Magpies $2.55
The Swans are a game clear in top spot, on a nine-match winning streak and were again sharp in all aspects in downing Carlton last round. Collingwood were much less impressive in scraping past St Kilda and have now lost midfield star Dane Swan to a club-imposed suspension. While that all points to a Sydney win, Collingwood can take confidence from winning their past 10 clashes with the Swans, including six at ANZ Stadium and have regained Alan Didak and Chris Tarrant. If Sydney win, they’ll be hard to shake from top spot.
Key: Sydney have improved since they last met Collingwood more than a year ago, adding pace and flair to their renowned contested ball strength. It should be enough to break the head-to-head drought.
Tip: Swans by 15 points
Carlton v Brisbane at Etihad Stadium 7.40pm
Head to Head: Blues 25 Lions 16
Last clash: Round 2 2012 – Blues 23.16 (154) bt Lions 9.9 (63) at Gabba
Tab Sportsbet: Blues $1.20 Lions $4.60
Sportingbet: Blues $1.20 Lions $4.60
Carlton are finally starting to get something near their best side together, with Andrew Walker and Mitch Robinson returning this round to add to the recent comebacks of stars Jarrad Waite, Marc Murphy and Andrew Carrazzo. It might have come too late to help the Blues’ finals bid though. After a bright patch in the middle of the season, the Lions’ year has trailed off badly, with their only win in the past five rounds a narrow victory over Gold Coast. The Lions struggled in the midfield against Richmond last round and face another big challenge in that department against a classy Blues on-ball brigade.
Key: With Waite having made a strong comeback last round, the Blues finally have the forward set-up to capitalise on their midfield work.
Tip: Blues by 35 points
SUNDAY, Aug 12
Hawthorn v Port Adelaide at Aurora Stadium 1.10pm
Head to Head: Hawks 10 Power 15
Last clash: Round 11 2012 – Hawks 16.12 (108) bt Power 9.8 (62) at AAMI Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Hawks $1.01 Power $17.00
Sportingbet: Hawks $1.01 Power $17.00
Hawthorn had their long run of comfortable victories halted in spectacular fashion by Geelong last Friday night. But another huge win can be expected on Sunday. Based on Port’s dismal form in losing to Greater Western Sydney last round, a Hawks victory in the realm of their 115-point thrashing of North Melbourne on their most recent trip to Launceston can’t be ruled out. The Power should get an emotional jolt from the sacking of coach Matthew Primus. Then again, they showed precious little resolve when his job was on the line, so it’s not guaranteed.
Key: Thankfully for the Power, the Hawks are still missing star forward Lance Franklin, who kicked 13 goals in their most recent game in Launceston.
Tip: Hawks by 85 points
Richmond v Western Bulldogs at MCG 3.15pm
Head to Head: Tigers 75 Bulldogs 69 drawn 2
Last clash: Round 8 2011 – Bulldogs 23.15 (153) bt Tigers 18.10 (118) at Etihad Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Tigers $1.16 Bulldogs $5.25
Sportingbet: Tigers $1.16 Bulldogs $5.25
The Tigers’ finals hopes are pretty much dashed while the end of the season can’t come fast enough for the Bulldogs. The Dogs are on a seven-match losing streak and faded terribly against North Melbourne last round. They have lost livewire Luke Dahlhaus to injury and rising midfield star Tom Liberatore to a club-imposed suspension. Richmond showed heart to overcome Brisbane last weekend after a run of close losses. In what has been a season of near misses the Tigers will relish the possibility of a commanding victory.
Key: With Liberatore and injury victim Daniel Cross missing from the Dogs’ midfield, Richmond’s depth of talent in that department should make the difference.
Tip: Tigers by 40 points
Essendon v North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium 4.40pm
Head to Head: Bombers 95 North Melbourne 51 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 1 2012 – Bombers 14.20 (104) bt North Melbourne 15.12 (102) at Etihad Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Bombers $2.25 North Melbourne $1.65
Sportingbet: Bombers $2.30 North Melbourne $1.62
Having lost four of their past five games to be on the verge of falling out of the eight, the Bombers must make a stand. They are separated from the seventh-placed Kangaroos and ninth-placed Fremantle by only small percentage gaps, so a loss would give a big leg-up to one of their closest rivals for finals spots. The return of Dustin Fletcher and Stewart Crameri should help. But the Kangaroos, who lost to the Bombers after the siren in round one, are confident after seven wins from their past eight games.
Key: North have had few injuries this year, giving them a settled, confident side, while the Bombers’ revolving selection door is swinging as hard as ever.
Tip: North Melbourne by 15 points