The Brisbane Lions’ leap from perennial cellar dweller to flag contender has caught everyone off guard.
We had another solid round, picking up seven out of nine with Michael Walters costing us a tip for the second week in a row (with an assist from the AFL’s inept goal review system).
It’s the first of the bye rounds this week, so only six games to ponder. On to our thoughts for Round 12.
Friday 7th June
Richmond vs Geelong
7.50pm at MCG
Geelong lead the league in wins, percentage, points scored, points conceded, quarters won, points scored per inside 50, and are a rounding error from being tied for least points conceded per inside 50.
That seems pretty good. In addition, with Gary Ablett coming back from suspension, the Cats are one Sam Menegola away from fielding a completely full strength team.
Meanwhile, Richmond are closer to middle of the pack in most of the above stats plus are still missing multiple stars through injury.
So why do I feel like Richmond are going to win this game? Let’s start with the venue.
The Tigers have won 18 of their past 20 games at the MCG (with both losses coming against Collingwood), whereas the Cats are an even 10-10 in their past 20 at the ‘G.
Richmond’s worst two losses this season have been at Marvel, they’re a different beast at their true home ground.
My second argument: the Cats are due for a loss. I know, I know. The whole “due” for a win or a loss thing is a lazy media trope; what I actually mean is that it’s very, very difficult to go on long winning streaks in the AFL these days.
Look at Collingwood this past week. The Pies were on a seven-game streak and most sane people (myself included) would’ve locked them in to beat Fremantle and at least their next four opponents (Melbourne, Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Hawthorn), good for 12 wins in a row.
But, as we saw, it’s not that easy. Geelong have also won seven straight and are likely to start favourites in every game for the rest of the season.
You’re telling me they’re about to win 18 games in a row? Not going to happen. Maybe it won’t be this week and maybe all my reasoning will turn out to be garbage, but call this one a pure gut pick.
Saturday 8th June
Carlton vs Brisbane
1.45pm at Marvel
For the second time in two weeks we have to predict how a team will fare in their first game with a new coach calling the shots.
North Melbourne showed us up last week to deliver their best win of the season; will the woeful Blues do the same?
The Lions are only 1-2 when playing in Melbourne this season and are scoring about a goal fewer while giving up two more goals per game than they usually do.
Unfortunately for Carlton though, they’re still Carlton; bottom two in points scored and bottom four in points conceded. This is a prime opportunity for the Lions to nab a victory away from the Gabba (five of their seven wins have come there) and head into their bye set up nicely for a run at securing a much-needed home final.
Gold Coast vs North Melbourne
4.35pm at Metricon Stadium
Speaking of new coaches – all hail Rhyce Shaw! In his first game in charge he figured out the keys to beating Richmond: don’t turn the ball over (North Melbourne had 57, tied for second lowest in Round 11) and tackle them harder than they tackle you (NM had 72, tied for most in Round 11).
Of course, that’s easier said than done, the players actually have to, you know, do it. On the other side, Gold Coast have been lauded by some for their feistiness in patches, but they’ve still settled into last place for points scored and percentage, while accumulating injuries to established players and guys who had taken a step up this season.
The only thing that makes me nervous about this game is the Roos 0-2 record in true road games so far this season – and two of the Suns three wins have been at Metricon…
Nah. In Rhyce we trust.
Tip: North Melbourne
Adelaide vs GWS
7.40pm at Adelaide Oval
Over the last few weeks GWS have officially joined Geelong and Collingwood as our clear top three contenders.
Yes, all they’ve done since the stinker against Hawthorn is beat up on three terrible teams, but that’s what the best teams do.
The Giants are number one in scoring shots for and against this season, with no apparent weaknesses in any area of the ground.
Meanwhile, Adelaide should be filthy with themselves for blowing opportunities against Brisbane and West Coast (and very nearly Melbourne) as they kick off the nightmare stretch of games we mentioned last week.
To recap: GWS, Richmond, Bye, Geelong, Port Adelaide. Brutal. Further cause for concern is that the Crows are only 3-3 so far at the Adelaide Oval, where three of those games will take place.
It’ll be very interesting to see how Adelaide will emerge from the next month, the feeling here is that it won’t be good.
Sunday 9th June
Sydney vs West Coast
3.20pm at SCG
In this week’s edition of “Stat you’ll read/hear in every article/preview of this game” we’ve got: West Coast have only beaten Sydney once in their past 12 games at the SCG.
In reality, the only one of those 12 games that might actually have some relevance is last year’s 15-point Swans victory, as the further you travel back in time the less and less alike these teams are to their present iterations.
I’ve been pretty skeptical of the Eagles over the past few weeks, even as they’ve racked up the wins, due to their middling to poor numbers in key areas such as points scored/conceded and inside 50 differential.
However, digging a little deeper we can see that the reigning premiers have been able to grind out these victories due to their efficiency at either end of the ground.
West Coast are third in points scored per inside 50 (1.73) and fourth in points conceded per inside 50 against (1.38). What’s more meaningful to me than the supposed SCG hoodoo is the loss of Eagles captain Shannon Hurn.
After a career-best year in 2018, the 31-year-old has taken another step up this season, currently smashing his career best averages for disposals, metres gained and rebound 50s while also operating at a career high disposal efficiency.
But it’s really the absence of his leadership and experience that will leave the biggest hole in the Eagles’ backline.
The Swans will also be missing one of their own captains (Josh Kennedy) though, and have been even worse than the Eagles in almost any metric you look at. So while I wouldn’t be completely shocked to see an upset, when you add in the fact that Sydney’s last 12 games at the SCG (they’ve won four) have only been marginally better than West Coast’s, it’s hard to make a compelling case for the Swans.
Tip: West Coast
Monday 10th June
Collingwood vs Melbourne
3.20pm at MCG
We said it last week and we’ll say it again this week: until Melbourne rediscovers how to score efficiently they can’t be taken seriously.
In two of their last three losses the Demons have had at least 15 more inside 50s and contested possessions than their opponents; but that dominance just hasn’t translated to actually putting up points.
In those two losses (to West Coast and Adelaide) Melbourne have kicked a total of 21 goals, 31 behinds at 1.27 points per inside 50 (slightly above their season-long mark, but still would be tied with Gold Coast for next worst in the league), ultimately going down by a combined 18 points.
This week they have to face Collingwood coming off a loss and without Dayne Beams, freshly sent off surgery.
The Pies are so deep and versatile though, that even covering for a player as good as Beams doesn’t seem like much of a problem. They can bring in key 2018 finals contributor Brayden Sier, shift Steele Sidebottom from the wing to the centre, give Jordan de Goey and Jack Crisp more time on-ball.
It’s a bit unfair really. The Pies are too good to lose two games in a row against lesser competition.
Last week: 7-2
Overall record: 64-35