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Opinion

The Roar's AFL expert tips and predictions: Round 20

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28th July, 2021
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This is an extraordinary finish to the season we’re being treated to.

I thought we were in for a thrilling finish last week – but my expectations are being exceeded!

Liam Salter, the Crowd and I all managed scores of five points, but Dem Panopoulos roared back into form with excellent upset tips of North Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney to score seven.

That means the three of us are all level on 102 points and the Crowd is narrowly ahead on 103. It’s genuinely anyone’s game!

Stirling Coates

St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Geelong, Melbourne, West Coast, Sydney, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Richmond

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A horrible percentage means St Kilda – despite being two points out of the eight – can kiss finals goodbye for 2021. Still, they’ve done well to turn things around after a truly disastrous start to the season and should kick Round 20 off with their eighth win in nine games over the Blues.

The Western Bulldogs are absolutely flying and have to be the premiership favourites at this stage of the season. Unless we have funny winds wreaking havoc in Ballarat again, I expect their bout with the Crows on Saturday to get very, very ugly.

North Melbourne are coming along in leaps and bounds. They may avoid the wooden spoon yet but if even if they collect the ‘honour’, they’ll be one of the happier last-placed sides in some time.

They can certainly make life difficult for Geelong in Hobart, a ground the Cats have never played at, but the visitors should pull away.

Melbourne are really starting to skid off track as we approach finals. The minor premiership is almost certainly out of reach now and even their top-four spot could be under threat from Port and Brisbane.

Gold Coast are finishing this season in reasonable form and will really back themselves for the boilover, but surely the Demons have the class to get the job done.

West Coast are doing just enough to keep a firm grip on their finals spot, but they’re not doing anything to suggest they’ll be a threat once September begins. Collingwood are desperate for 2021 to finish, so expect the Eagles to collect another good-looking win – but it won’t change much.

Tim Kelly of the Eagles celebrates a goal

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

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Sydney, on the other hand, are coming home with a very wet sail. They won’t want to leave it until the second half for the third week in a row; Essendon have too much to play for and will keep their foot on the throat if the Swans don’t start on time.

But with Lance Franklin back in the line-up and the structure intact, Sydney should get up again.

Moving to Sunday, Brisbane are far too good to be troubled by the reeling Hawks – Launceston, Melbourne or elsewhere.

The Giants gave their season an almighty boost with last week’s upset win, but the going gets tougher against Port and I don’t expect them to keep up.

Finally, Fremantle’s shot at a finals spot is surely done and dusted now that Nat Fyfe is finished for 2021. They should be able to push Richmond all the way, but the Tigers will get up.

The shoo-in of the Week simply has to be the Dogs inflicting a world of pain on the Crows in Ballarat.

Dem Panopoulos

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St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Geelong, Melbourne, West Coast, Essendon, Brisbane, GWS, Richmond

To quote the great Frank Costanza, “I’m back baby!”

Last round worked out relatively well, making the run home between the experts and the Crowd one to follow closely.

No shying away from tipping against the grain, although Round 20 mightn’t throw up that many shock results if we’re being completely honest with ourselves.

I suppose we should thank the AFL and its rolling fixture for putting the focus on the Matildas this Friday night, after scheduling a St Kilda-Carlton clash. The Blues are terrible and David Teague’s fighting for his job, unfortunately.

It looks as though we’re getting a Ballarat clash on the weekend as restrictions ease in Victoria, which is good for the Bulldogs to get away from the big smoke. They’ll win easily.

I’d be surprised if the Cats knew where Tasmania was, which is probably why they’ve at least tried to push for the fixture to be played somewhere else. I’m sure we’ll find out on gameday. North have been impressive but Geelong’s on another level.

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I don’t really have too many concerns over the Demons at the moment, although they’d want to recapture a little more form heading into the business end of the season. Gold Coast are playing elite footy in patches, a contender should be able to deal with that though.

The private school kids, I mean Eagles, need to win a game in Victoria to at least give some semblance of relevance if they make finals.

Essendon against Sydney is fascinating given the closeness of the contests between the two, and the fact both have played horrifically in Queensland over the past few years. The Swans’ victory over Brisbane is an outlier.

I might tip the upset here, everyone assumes Franklin winning his challenge locks the Swans here but I’m not too sure.

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Brisbane should be able to win even though this game in Tasmania against Hawthorn, while I think the Giants may well get another win under their belt if the fixture lands anywhere but the MCG, which means that’s exactly where it’ll be.

Finally, the Dockers and Tigers play in a season-defining match. I think any game away from Victoria has been beneficial to Richmond, so against my better judgement, I’ll tip them.

Liam Salter

St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Geelong, Melbourne, West Coast, Sydney, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Richmond

I thought we would’ve learnt that giving the Blues a Friday night slot is not a good idea – I can only assume Seven is trying to divert eyes to their Olympics coverage.

As for the result, I’m going to give it to the Saints – they’ve been spirited in defeat the last fortnight while Carlton were awful last weekend. The addition of Rowan Marshall and the Blues’ nasty injury list makes the choice even clearer.

Saturday starts with three pretty one-sided clashes, which is both lacklustre and worrying from a tipster’s point of view. We begin with the Western Bulldogs and the Crows in Ballarat. Adelaide broke a considerable losing streak with a win over the Hawks last weekend, but they would be kidding themselves to think they’re a chance against the Dogs outfit bolstered by a returning Josh Dunkley.

It’s a similar story in Tasmania. Geelong are likely the competition’s best side at the minute and, despite winning three from their last five, I can’t see North producing much more than a minor challenge.

Isaac Smith of the Cats looks to pass the ball

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The Suns are the kind of team the Demons lose to, and I can see them scaring the Dees for a quarter or two, but I don’t expect they’ll do enough to win.

Brisbane will bounce back and – like the Cats and Melbourne – defeat a bottom-four side in the Hawks to keep their top-four aspirations alive.

Saturday’s twilight will either see a big Eagles win or an extremely narrow Collingwood victory; recent precedent suggests no alternative. The Eagles are now relatively safe inside the eight barring any mistakes, and absolutely need to take care of the Pies before entering a tough run home. The Pies will be tougher than they look, but I’ll back Adam Simpson’s men to take care of ‘em.

Essendon, too, can ill afford to drop any more games if they want to make finals, but Sydney is an ominously tough opponent. The duo love a close game – the combined margin in their last four encounters is just 24 points – but gut-feel suggests this will get a bit ugly for the Bombers. Sydney are just that good.

In a weekend of uninspiring encounters, the Giants – newly in the eight – taking on Port should enthral. Port Adelaide’s record against top eight teams remains dubious, but the Giants haven’t yet proved themselves a legitimate competitor and, despite the return of Toby Greene, I’m not confident enough to tip them.

Finally, back in their customary Sunday twilight time slot is a patchwork Freo, who take on a struggling Richmond. For once I’m grateful for the crappy time slot: this won’t be a classic and, while Freo should be competitive on their home deck, the Tigers will win.

Round 20 Stirling Dem Liam Crowd
STK vs CAR STK STK STK STK
WB vs ADE WB WB WB WB
NM vs GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE
GCS vs MEL MEL MEL MEL MEL
COL vs WCE WCE WCE WCE WCE
ESS vs SYD SYD ESS SYD SYD
HAW vs BL BL BL BL BL
GWS vs PA PA GWS PA PA
FRE vs RCH RCH RCH RCH RCH
Last week 5 7 5 5
Total 102 102 102 103
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