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Opinion

The Roar's AFL expert tips and predictions: Round 18

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14th July, 2021
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Just when we thought we had this season figured out.

Not many people will look back on 2021 as a year they were totally proud of their tipping, but it looked like we’d finally got things figured out as the home-and-away season wound down.

Enter another upset apocalypse.

Last week was utter carnage and it showed on the tipping scoreboard. Dem Panopoulos, who’s led the panel all season, crashed and burned to a lowly score of two! Even the ever-wise Crowd could only manage three, while Liam Salter couldn’t get above 50 per cent either with four.

What I did score? Five points, thanks for asking.

It means we have an almighty race on our hands now; Dem, Liam and the Crowd are all tied on 91 points and I’m just behind on 90. Bring on the home stretch!

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Stirling Coates

Geelong, Richmond, Sydney, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Essendon, Collingwood, West Coast

It hasn’t been the most inspiring fortnight for Geelong – woeful inaccuracy from the Blues was a big a factor as any in their win last week – but they’re well entrenched in the top four now and can start jostling for a home qualifying final.

Fremantle are in good form and will give the Cats a good shake, but Geelong have a good recent record against the Dockers and should get the job done.

Friday night sees a gobsmackingly out of form Richmond fighting desperately to keep their season alive against Brisbane. The Tigers can kiss a third straight premiership goodbye, but it looks like a finals appearance could even be out of the question at this stage.

As woeful as Damien Hardwick’s men have been, I’m prepared to back them thanks to the MCG factor and the fact their backs would be putting a dent in the wall by now.

I fully expected the Swans to cop bruising after bruising over the last few weeks and have been pleasantly surprised by their good results. They’ll need their wits about them against a series of sides chasing top eight spots, but I’ll back them against the Giants.

The two twilight games don’t warrant much analysis; the Bulldogs will rebound against the Suns and Melbourne will pile more pain on the Hawks.

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Christian Petracca of the Demons celebrates a goal

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Saturday night has become an interesting game all of a sudden. The Saints are surging and, on current form, I’m actually backing them to displace West Coast in the eight.

They’ll hit a speed bump this week, however. Port Adelaide have an excellent record against St Kilda and haven’t lost to them in Melbourne since 2010. Power to win.

Sunday’s three games are also a bit harder to tip once you scratch beneath the surface.

On paper, the improving Bombers should have North Melbourne’s measure comfortably, but the Kangaroos are hitting some good form too and could make things difficult.

Collingwood and Carlton matches have been won almost exclusively by the Magpies in recent years and, now that Robert Harvey appears to have got the cogs turning, I expect that to continue.

West Coast look prime for the taking when they travel to Adelaide in the final match of the round, but the Crows have been flying under the radar a bit in 2021 in terms of how bad they’ve been. Eagles to rebound.

As much as it goes against almost my entire football-watching life, the Demons knocking over the Hawks is this week’s shoo-in.

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Dem Panopoulos

Fremantle, Brisbane, GWS Giants, Western Bullogs, Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Essendon, Collingwood, West Coast

Last round was the epitome of the “everything is fine” meme.

My two big calls were Hawthorn and Carlton to cause upsets and the rest of the round to go to plan. That went well.

Now the competition is super tight, just what the masses wanted. It’s go time.

I’ve found logic hasn’t necessarily been helpful with tips this season, so we’ll rely a little less on it.

Fremantle take on the Cats in a big Thursday night clash. It’s a tough run for the men in purple to make finals, I personally think they’ll miss, despite thinking an upset is on the cards here.

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The clash between Richmond and Brisbane on Friday night used to be eagerly anticipated. Even though Brisbane has won two of its last 21 at the MCG, and I have a piece coming tomorrow exploring the issues currently facing them, I cannot, in good conscience, keep tipping the Tigers. It hurts me twice as much.

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Ballarat taking over as the home of football is unexpected. Gut feel suggests the Giants may right the wrongs of last week and sneak over the line in this one.

There isn’t much to unpack in the next two fixtures except for the ridiculousness of there being two twilight games on a Saturday. What a waste of the footy-watching public’s time. At least they should be one-sided.

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If I was to lock one game in this week, it’d be Port Adelaide to beat the Saints. The Power are not a good team, but they enjoy playing teams outside the eight and match up well here.

Essendon really should beat North Melbourne, although we are getting to the point where the fixture opens up a little for the Kangaroos; just remembering the reaction to suggesting that they won’t win the wooden spoon on Good Friday!

Collingwood and Carlton is another one of those clashes that doesn’t mean a whole heap, but the caretaker coach influence is real.

Now, if I had to lock in a second game for the week, it’s West Coast to beat Adelaide. The Eagles will play finals, contrary to everyone’s reaction right now, and the Crows like the look of Jason Horne so much that they mightn’t be keen on winning again.

Liam Salter

Geelong, Brisbane, Sydney, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, St Kilda, Essendon, Carlton, West Coast

Warning! It’s a suspiciously easy round of tipping…which is never, ever a good sign.

Freo is starting the round off tonight with a clash against the Cats. Fremantle, in the eight with so much on the line, in primetime and back at home. My jaded self sees this as a recipe for disaster. The Dockers have the midfield prowess to match it with the Cats, but I’m concerned a still inconsistent forward line might struggle.

I’m going to tip Geelong, but it should be close.

Brisbane’s horrid record against the Tigers – and an even worse record at the MCG – comes to the fore on Friday night. Neither team impressed last week, but Brisbane’s loss hasn’t yet emerged into a trend to the extent of Richmond’s struggles. The loss of Eric Hipwood is far from ideal, but no matter what historical records Damien Hardwick’s men hold, they inspire very little confidence and I’d expect their battle for finals to become more desperate with a loss here.

Saturday has a couple of obvious tips. The Suns host the Bulldogs in Queensland and, despite the Suns having good form of late, the Dogs will be needing to bounce back. Pair that with the potential inclusions of Aaron Naughton and Josh Dunkley and they win this easily.

Josh Dunkley of the Bulldogs handpasses the ball

Josh Dunkley (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

It’s much the same with the Melbourne vs Hawthorn clash, which will see the Dees earn a super comfortable win.

The Ballarat Sydney Derby also has a heavy favourite – the Swans – and I’m not going to go against the grain here. The Giants could get the win, but Sydney are favourites for a reason and have top four in their sights.

Saturday’s St Kilda versus Port clash is interesting, though. Three weeks ago, the Power win this in a canter. Now, I’m not so sure. Ken Hinkley’s men were so disappointing last week that they seem like a prime target for the resurgent Saints to upset.

It’s not as if St Kilda are a reliable team to tip – far, far from it – but they’re a significantly stronger side now than a month ago and have the motivation to gun for finals. Call me crazy, but I’m backing the Saints.

Sunday’s games are all a bit ordinary. Only two of the six teams playing are potential finalists. Essendon should stay in that finals race with a win over the Kangaroos – and if I’m being logical, West Coast are set to beat the Crows to close out the round.

It must be noted that upsets in either of those clashes wouldn’t surprise.

Finally, Sunday’s other clash is Collingwood versus Carlton. I’ll go the Blues, but who really cares either way?

Round 18 Stirling Dem Liam Crowd
FRE vs GEE GEE FRE GEE GEE
RCH vs BL RCH BL BL BL
GCS vs WB WB WB WB WB
MEL vs HAW MEL MEL MEL MEL
STK vs PA PA PA STK PA
NM vs ESS ESS ESS ESS ESS
COL vs CAR COL COL CAR CAR
ADE vs WCE WCE WCE WCE WCE
GWS vs SYD SYD GWS SYD SYD
Last week 5 2 4 3
Total 90 91 91 91
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