The first game of the final four to be previewed is the Dreamtime at the G clash between Richmond and Essendon.
The two clubs have played each other 202 times, with the Bombers being ten wins in front of the Tigers. With the loss of Joe Daniher for the remainder of the season, the Dons are going to have to pull out all stops between now and September to meet my prediction of a finals berth.
Both sides should be slightly stronger after selection, with the exciting Daniel Rioli returning for Richmond along with debutante ruckman Callum Coleman-Jones, while Essendon will field Jayden Laverde and Shaun McKernan to replace Daniher and Mark Baguley, who still waits on the doorstep to be invited into the club of Essendon top 100 game players of all time.
The player rankings at Richmond will see Bachar Houli equal Mark Chaffey and Dylan Grimes equal Michael Pickering, with Nick Vlastuin moving into the top 90 game players by equalling Tom Simpson.
The Hs at Essendon will all advance, with Carl Hooker equalling Alan Noonan, Michael Hurley equalling Patrick Ryder and Dyson Heppell equalling Percy Ogden and John Williams.
The 11 games between Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney have been split almost equally, with the Demons holding a one-game advantage. I expect Greater Western Sydney to level the win-loss ratio with a comfortable victory over the Demons. The Giants’ Harry Himmelberg will play his 50th game.
Carlton currently has a 74 per cent success rate in their 219 games against the Saints. I expect this percentage to drop slightly after Sunday’s game, but it will be harder than form suggests. The Blues were stung badly by the huge loss to Greater Western Sydney and, like the game against Collingwood, can be expected to be looking for atonement. However, like the match against the Magpies, I expect them to come up short. The Saints by three goals.
Jack Newnes, the only elite player playing for the Saints on Sunday, will match the exploits of Fraser Gehrig, while Carlton’s Ed Curnow will equal Ken Baxter and Vin Waite.
The final game of the weekend sees Brisbane make the long trip to Perth to take on the unpredictable Dockers. The game tally between the two clubs is 15 wins apiece. Three players will celebrate 50 AFL games, and while at the older clubs it would not rate much of a mention, it is a significant milestone at the younger clubs.
Only 75 Brisbane players have reached the 50-game milestone, so those who do are members of the top-100 elite. Both Josh Walker and Hugh McCluggage will celebrate their half-century of games for the club, but it will be a sober celebration on the flight home, as Fremantle will win this game with the home ground advantage, dampening the achievements of Darcy Gardiner, who will equal Beau McDonald, and Eric Hipwood, who will equal Matthew Clarke and Jarrod Molloy.
Joel Hamling will play his 50th game and Darcy Tucker will match Robert Haddrill’s game tally for Fremantle.