Richmond will take on GWS in Saturday’s AFL grand final without Jack Graham, who has been ruled out with a shoulder injury.
We have reached the halfway mark of the 2019 AFL season, with six clubs to rest their feet after what has been a demanding first half of the season.
Essendon, Fremantle, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs can all sit back and relax for one week while the other twelve clubs continue to engage in action as the months get colder and the race for finals positions heats up.
Friday night sees one of only two matches at the MCG for the round, with Richmond looking to hit back after being embarrassed by North Melbourne under the roof at Marvel Stadium last week when they tackle the ladder-leading Geelong Cats.
Carlton will look to put the past behind them when they face the Brisbane Lions in what will be David Teague’s first match as caretaker coach, while the GWS Giants’ premiership hopes will be put to the test when they tackle the Crows in Adelaide in the evening.
The only match on Sunday will see the West Coast Eagles attempt to end a decades-long hoodoo when they face the Sydney Swans at the SCG, while the round finishes on Monday afternoon with the annual Queen’s Birthday clash between Collingwood and Melbourne at the G.
Here is your guide to Round 12.
Richmond vs Geelong Cats
After a dismal loss against North Melbourne last Friday night, coach Damien Hardwick will want to ensure there is no repeat for this side when they host the Geelong Cats at the MCG to kick off Round 12.
The Tigers entered the match against the Kangaroos thinking they would be handed the win, but were handed a brutal reality check that highlighted the fact that they are no longer the team that many feared.
Again, high-profile recruit Tom Lynch endured a dirty day in the office as he was shut down by the North defence, but Dustin Martin and Sydney Stack both shone, with the former gathering 21 disposals and the latter winning a Rising Star nomination.
Things will not get any easier when they face the Cats, who are two games clear at the top of the ladder and probably should be undefeated had they not taken the GWS Giants so lightly at home in round four.
In that match, they led by 20 points at quarter-time, 21 at half-time, and were up by 22 early in the third quarter but were ultimately found wanting by a side which is a genuine premiership contender in 2019.
Last Saturday night, without the suspended Gary Ablett Jr who is now ineligible for this year’s Brownlow Medal, they overcame a slow start and a plucky Sydney Swans outfit to win by 22 points, with Patrick Dangerfield kicking a goal at the absolute death.
While the Cats have dominated the Tigers for the most part of this century, they have lost their last three against them, all at the MCG, but I think they can reverse the trend and maintain their comfortable buffer at the top of the ladder.
Prediction: Geelong Cats by 20 points.
Carlton vs Brisbane Lions
The spotlight will be on Carlton when they face the Brisbane Lions in what will be caretaker coach David Teague’s first match in charge at Marvel Stadium this Saturday afternoon.
After a dismal run of form over the past four-and-a-half seasons, including just four victories in the past 43 matches, the Carlton board ran out of patience with coach Brendon Bolton and gave him his marching orders following 77 matches in charge for a return of just 16 wins.
The final straw was the 41-point loss to a half-strength Essendon side at the MCG last Sunday, in which they posted the season’s lowest score so far with a return of just 4.9 (33).
Co-captain Patrick Cripps was one of many who endured a dirty day in the office, shut down by Essendon second-gamer Dylan Clarke.
Teague, a former best-and-fairest winner with the club when he was recruited by then-coach Denis Pagan as part of the club’s recycled player policy in the noughties, steps up for the first of eleven matches in which he has to prove his worth as a coach.
It doesn’t get any tougher than facing the much-improved Brisbane Lions, who rebounded from a heartbreaking one-point loss to Fremantle in the west to dispose of Hawthorn by 19 points at the Gabba last Saturday night.
The highlight of their win was a Jackie Chan-style goal from forward Cameron Rayner at the back end of the match, demonstrating just how much talent and potential the Lions have produced over the past few seasons.
And while the Lions will start warm favourites this Saturday afternoon, they’ll be aware of a Carlton side which will have a point to prove after the week from hell.
Prediction: Brisbane Lions by 30 points.
Gold Coast Suns vs North Melbourne
Last Friday night’s impressive win over Richmond will count for nothing if North Melbourne cannot take down the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium this Saturday afternoon.
After a poor start to the season, Brad Scott offered to step down as Roos coach, but not before guiding his side to a 25-point win over the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium in the Indigenous Round.
Assistant coach Rhyce Shaw stepped up and he couldn’t have asked for a dream start to his stint as caretaker coach as the Roos humiliated the Tigers under the roof at Docklands.
Mason Wood and Ben Brown kicked nine goals between them against the Tigers defence, which was missing Alex Rance due to a season-ending knee injury he suffered on the opening night of the season.
Another big bag for Brown, who is third in the Coleman Medal race behind clear leader Jeremy Cameron (38 goals) and Tom Hawkins (31), looms against a Gold Coast side which has badly fallen away since starting the season 3-1.
The Suns started promisingly against the GWS Giants in Sydney last Saturday afternoon, being within five points at the first change of ends, but after kicking 3.3 (21) in the first quarter would barely double that by the final siren, finishing with 6.7 (43).
It was their heaviest defeat in what has been a promising season for Stuart Dew’s side, which is showing signs of improvement in most matches even if their results suggest otherwise.
However, given the Roos are starting to gather some form which could see them make an unlikely run towards September, it looms as another long afternoon in the office for Dew.
Prediction: North Melbourne by 34 points.
Adelaide Crows vs GWS Giants
The only match on Saturday night sees the GWS Giants head to the City of Churches for the first of two times this season when they tackle the Adelaide Crows at the Adelaide Oval.
Despite the loss of co-captain Callan Ward due to a season-ending knee injury, as well as the departure of several key players at the end of last season, the Giants continue to be right up there among the contenders for this year’s premiership.
Leon Cameron’s side were challenged early against the Gold Coast Suns, but broke the shackles after quarter-time to record an 83-point win and move past Collingwood into second place on the ladder, after the Pies were upset by Freo at the same time.
The clash against the Crows, who last week came from five goals down to beat Melbourne by two points in Darwin last Saturday night, will present their first serious measure of their premiership credentials following weeks of beating down on much weaker opposition.
Crows co-captain Rory Sloane remains a chance of facing the Giants despite suffering a hamstring injury against the Dees, and Don Pyke will need his presence if the Crows are to have any chance of winning this Saturday night.
After the Crows produced two victories over the Giants at the Oval in 2017 by a combined margin of 92 points, the seventh-year club turned the tables last year, winning by 16 points at the Oval in Round 11 and then by 14 points in Canberra in Round 21.
While Adelaide Oval no longer holds any fears for the Giants, I still think the Crows can pull off an upset here.
Prediction: Adelaide Crows by 20 points.
Sydney Swans vs West Coast Eagles
The only match on Sunday sees the West Coast Eagles fly east with a twenty-year hoodoo hanging over their heads – you’ll have to go all the way back to May 23, 1999, to find the last time the Eagles left the SCG with four premiership points.
Sure, they have won once at ANZ Stadium (in 2007) and three times at Giants Stadium (2013, 2016 and 2018) since then, but the Moore Park hoodoo is one that has haunted the club this millennium.
But Adam Simpson’s men will get the chance to bury their SCG curse when they face a Sydney Swans side that has been competitive in most matches this season, belying their current ladder position of 15th (3-8 record).
The Eagles posted over 100 points for just the second time this season when they kicked 21 goals in a 61-goal demolition of the Western Bulldogs at home, putting their premiership defence back on track after heavy losses to Port Adelaide and the Geelong Cats in rounds 5-6.
On the other hand, the Swans stretched the Geelong Cats at Kardinia Park, starting impressively and being within arm’s reach in the final quarter before going down by 22 points.
Coach John Longmire, who is sure to attract the attention of Carlton after they sacked Brendon Bolton earlier this week, put the defeat down to his side’s inaccuracy in front of goal.
Still, he would’ve been pleased at how his young side is standing up to the demands of AFL football, with Nick Blakey again impressing against the Cats.
While this Sunday presents the ultimate litmus test for the Swans, you can expect them to again be competitive, but I think the Eagles have that extra step in them to end their SCG hoodoo.
Prediction: West Coast Eagles by 18 points.
Collingwood vs Melbourne
Round 12 concludes on Monday afternoon with the annual Queen’s Birthday clash, which will be preceded by the fifth edition of the Big Freeze at the G, in which past players such as Brendan Fevola, Jimmy Bartel and Sam Mitchell will take the plunge for a good cause.
It will also mark a changing of the guard as for the first time since the fixture became permanent in 2001, Collingwood will be the home side, following 18 straight years in which Melbourne was the home side.
This followed a successful campaign by Pies president Eddie McGuire, who argued that the Dees were trying to making the most of this fixture after copping some commercially tough draws in recent years.
On the field, both the Pies and Dees will be attempting to rebound from gut-wrenching defeats last weekend, with the Pies going down to Fremantle by four points and the Dees blowing a five-goal lead to lose to the Adelaide Crows by two points in Darwin.
The narrow loss proved costly in particular for Nathan Buckley’s side, which slipped to third on the ladder behind the GWS Giants which enjoyed a thumping 83-point win over the Gold Coast Suns at the same time as the Pies-Freo match.
As for the Dees, well, they can just about forget about finals after what has been a poor first half of the season, which has not been helped by a mounting injury toll.
They appeared to turn a corner when they led the Crows by 31 points at one point, only to switch their minds off the task and end up suffering their eighth defeat of the season.
It will now remain to be seen whether Simon Goodwin can lift his side for what will be their biggest match of the season, which they have lost the hosting rights to for this season.
Prediction: Collingwood by 22 points.
Bye: Essendon, Fremantle, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs