This is the first in a series of articles where I’ve set myself the task of going through each draft year from 2001 onwards and picking the best 22 out of that draft year.
Another good week for us, picking up five out of six for the second time in a row.
We’re back to a full slate of nine games this round; let’s get into our thoughts.
Thursday 27th June
Essendon vs GWS
7.20pm at Marvel Stadium
The Giants managed to pull off a victory during their bye week, as the two other biggest contenders, Geelong and Collingwood, looked exceedingly vulnerable in a loss and unconvincing win respectively.
GWS have already blown out Essendon once this year and get the opportunity to do so again, this time away from the stronghold that is Giants Stadium.
Unfortunately for Essendon, their home ground advantage is dampened somewhat by the continued absence of Jake Stringer and questions around the fitness of Orazio Fantasia.
The Bombers are hanging onto the slimmest of outside chances at a finals spot; another loss makes the maths even more unfavourable.
Despite that shocker against Hawthorn at the MCG, GWS are currently 2-1 in the state of Victoria this season; they should be good enough to pick up another win here.
The tip: GWS
Friday 28th June
Geelong vs Adelaide
7.50pm at GMHBA
Now this is tasty. Adelaide, back in business after two quality wins before the bye, catching league frontrunners Geelong, fresh off their worst performance of the season.
The match-up of players and styles is tantalising right across the ground.
Adelaide have formed their identity around their defence this season, conceding the third least points in the league, while Geelong have done the same at the other end of the ground, with their re-tooled forward line producing both volume (most total points scored) and efficiency (league leading 1.89 points per inside 50).
What has elevated the Cats to be the dominant team of 2019, though, is the fact that their defence has also been stellar, conceding the least total points of any team thus far.
Meanwhile, the Crows offense, a couple of years removed from their barnstorming 2017, has been mostly middling; its season long mark of 82.3 points per game (ppg) only good for eighth in the league.
However, in the last three matches (all wins) Adelaide has upped that number to 91 ppg, which would be top four if maintained for the full season.
So to recap, that’s two great defences against a great offense and an offense playing great at the moment; and we haven’t even got to the midfields yet.
Tim Kelly has arguably been the league’s best player this season; Patrick Dangerfield is arguably the best player in the league full stop; Brad Crouch is in career best form; Rory Sloane is a killer and continues to be underrated.
I can’t wait for this game. The deciding factor though? GMHBA stadium, where the Crows haven’t won since 2003. The Cats will bounce back from a rare blemish.
The tip: Geelong
Saturday 29th June
Hawthorn vs West Coast
1.45pm at MCG
The Eagles reversed their usual method of winning this past week. Instead of sniping goals from limited opportunities, West Coast squandered lots of easy shots at goal but dominated territory and possession (season high +24 inside 50 differential).
It could be more of the same this week against a Hawthorn team that just lost the territory battle (-9 inside 50 differential) against a Swans team that usually spots their opposition 11 extra forward 50 entries per game (second worst in the league).
On top of that, the Eagles will welcome back the game changing Nic Naitanui, and possibly Tom Barrass, who will cover for the suspended Jeremy McGovern and further stiffen the already solid backline.
Related – how great is Brad Sheppard? The man never loses a contest.
The Eagles have been hot at the MCG lately, winning four in a row, including a game you may have heard about last year. I think they make it five in a row here.
The tip: West Coast
Sydney vs Gold Coast
4.35pm at SCG
Sydney have turned a bit of a corner in the past month or so, going from one of the worst teams in the comp to just plain old below average.
They’ve won three of their last five and with the bottom two teams plus a reeling Essendon on the docket for the next three weeks, have a good opportunity to bring their season ledger back to respectability.
Losing Lance Franklin again is a big blow, particularly since he was looking close to his best again, but the Swans forward line is deeper and more versatile than in years past.
Tom Papley is thriving up forward, Sam Reid is starting to get up to speed with AFL level competition after missing basically all of last year, Will Hayward and Dan Menzel are back from injury, and the emergence of Nick Blakey in his first season has probably been the biggest positive of Sydney’s season thus far.
The Suns sprung a huge upset on the Swans last year, so you’d think John Longmire won’t let that happen again. Gold Coast will be steadied by the returns of Touk Miller and Pearce Hanley, but the Suns just aren’t capable of playing at a high enough level for a full game against a superior team on the road.
The tip: Sydney
Collingwood vs North Melbourne
7.25pm at Marvel Stadium
Collingwood may have won on the weekend, but Nathan Buckley was absolutely scathing in his assessment of his own team, saying it was the “worst we’ve played for a long time” and publicly roasting Brodie Grundy, who ended up being voted best on ground.
Needless to say then, there will be no prizes for predicting that the Pies will come out breathing fire Saturday night.
In a scary sign for the rest of the teams in the comp, Collingwood continue to easily cover any personnel losses they incur; the latest being Matt Scharenberg dominating the VFL just as Jeremy Howe goes down with a calf injury.
Even if he doesn’t come straight back into the team this week though, Scharenberg illustrates the crazy depth that has allowed the Pies to overcome injuries/suspensions to key players such as Dayne Beams, Taylor Adams, Jamie Elliott, Tom Langdon, Jaidyn Stephenson and Mason Cox throughout the year.
So while the Kangaroos are playing a lot better since the departure of Brad Scott (more on them next week), there’s no way Collingwood are dropping this game.
The tip: Collingwood
Port Adelaide vs Western Bulldogs
7.40pm at Adelaide Oval
Do we have to take Port Adelaide seriously again? Keeping Geelong to 56 points (the Cats lowest for the season) will at the very least make us stand up and take notice.
It still makes me nervous though. This week’s game against the scuffling Bulldogs looms as a classic trap ahead of two big contests against finals contenders Adelaide and Brisbane.
On paper, the Power midfield dominance (first in inside 50 and clearance differential, third in contested possession differential) should overpower or at the very least negate the Bulldogs own strength in these areas (third in inside 50 and clearance differential, 11th in contested possession differential).
Add in the clear advantage Port Adelaide holds in forward and backline talent, plus the Adelaide Oval (where the Bulldogs are 1-5 all time), and this should be an easy win. I’ll tip Port, but you can’t make me feel comfortable about it until they get the job done.
The tip: Port Adelaide
Sunday 30th June
St Kilda vs Richmond
1.10pm at Marvel Stadium
The time is now for Richmond to get their campaign back on track.
After three straight losses, by an average of 45.7 points, the Tigers have found themselves on the outside of the finals picture looking in, thanks to a very ugly percentage of 92.
But don’t write them off just yet, because here come the reinforcements. Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards, Kane Lambert and David Astbury should be back this week.
Jayden Short won’t be far behind, and even Jack Riewoldt and Toby Nankervis are creeping closer to their returns. Even better for Richmond fans, the Tigers get a chance to resurrect that flagging percentage figure with match-ups against the hapless Saints and struggling Suns over the next two weeks.
St Kilda may be only one win behind the teams jostling for the last couple of finals spots, but don’t kid yourself about what they are.
The fourth worst percentage in the league reveals the Saints’ true nature. At least Dan Hannebery actually looked pretty good! Let’s hope he can stay healthy now and prove me wrong.
The tip: Richmond
Brisbane vs Melbourne
3.20pm at Gabba
When a team comes into a season with legitimate premiership aspirations and proceeds to play like garbage, it’s only natural to have a nagging feeling that they may eventually figure it out again.
But, in the case of Melbourne this year, you have to squash that feeling until they give us a reason not to.
The Demons managed a win last week, but while a line of 13 goals seven behinds may look like Melbourne figured out how to kick at goal again, they also had seven shots that didn’t register a score and finished the match at 1.25 points per inside 50, barely above their season long, league worst figure.
Meanwhile, Brisbane did what a finals team should and convincingly knocked off a lesser team on the road; now they have to repeat that at home, where they are 5-1 this year.
If you believe the Lions will make the finals, and I do, then this game has to be a win.
The tip: Brisbane
Fremantle vs Carlton
5.20pm at Optus Stadium
I honestly don’t want to spend too much time even thinking about this game. Even with a couple of fresh injuries to Jesse Hogan and Stephen Hill, anything less than a comfortable win would be an absolute disaster for Fremantle.
The Dockers can see your Patrick Cripps and raise you a Nat Fyfe. The outside run of Ed Langdon, Brad Hill and co. should run amok against their inexperienced counterparts, and the solid, scrambling back line led by Luke Ryan and Joel Hamling will be able to limit the Blues’ budding tall forward crop.
Plus, the Dockers are much better at home, going 5-2 so far; with one of those losses against fellow Optus Stadium tenants West Coast. Save your bullets for next week against the beatable Demons, Carlton.
The tip: Fremantle
Last week: 5-1
Overall record: 76-41