Two rounds to go. Five tips behind the leaders. There's really only one clip I can use at this point. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX5jNnDMfxA&ab_channel=ViCross With the finals…
There are only eight rounds remaining before the finals get underway, and for some clubs crunch time has arrived as they look to either punch their tickets to September, or keep their hopes of featuring in the most coveted month of the year alive.
To kick off the round, the Brisbane Lions and Western Bulldogs will face off for the first time since last year’s semi-final thriller, which the Dogs won at the death in what is considered one of the greatest finals matches of the modern era.
St Kilda will be attempting to stop its season from going into freefall when they tackle Carlton at Marvel Stadium, while Essendon will be out to spring an upset over the Sydney Swans whose premiership stalwart Luke Parker will bring up his 250th AFL game.
Another ugly result looms for North Melbourne when they head down the highway to face the Geelong Cats, while the West Coast Eagles head east to face Richmond at the MCG on a high after downing the Bombers last week.
To round things off, Port Adelaide heads west for a potentially season-defining clash against Fremantle, which will be keen to rebound from last week’s disappointing loss to Carlton.
Here is your preview to Round 16.
Brisbane Lions vs Western Bulldogs
Crunch time arrives for the Western Bulldogs who head north of the Murray once again, this time to face the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba in what is a rematch of last year’s thrilling semi-final.
Luke Beveridge’s men have won their past two matches following the bye, kicking a score of 19.11 (125) on both occasions; last Friday night against Hawthorn, they started slowly, but booted 13 goals in a row to retain their place in the eight.
Things will not get any easier in the next fortnight when they make the trip to Brisbane, where an angry Lions side will be awaiting.
Chris Fagan’s side produced their worst performance for the year last Thursday night, crashing to a 64-point thrashing at the hands of Melbourne with the result ensuring they remain winless at the MCG since late-2014.
It wasn’t an ideal 61st birthday present for the coach, nor was it a good 150th game for fullback Harris Andrews.
Now the onus is on the Lions to hit back and hit back hard when they welcome the Bulldogs to the Gabba, with one thing at the top of their minds as they continue their chase for a double chance come September – revenge.
It was the team of the Mighty West that knocked the northerners out of the finals last year on their way to a second Grand Final berth in six years, and exposed the Lions as finals novices – with only one finals win in three years.
Back at home, the Brisbane Lions should hit back and ramp up the pressure on Melbourne in the chase for top spot on the ladder.
Prediction: Brisbane Lions by 20 points.
Carlton vs St Kilda
From an 8-3 record and fourth place on the ladder, St Kilda’s season is threatening to unravel, following disappointing losses to the Brisbane Lions, Essendon and the Sydney Swans over the past month.
Not even the return of their captain Jack Steele against the Swans last week could stop the bleeding, as they crashed to a 51-point defeat while the 4.8 (32) they scored was the lowest by any Brett Ratten-coached side.
Rightly so, the Saints have copped it from all corners, with Max King a target of criticism after he failed to boot a major.
They have now dropped to 10th place on the ladder and there will be no respite when they face a Carlton side which sits in fifth place on the ladder and is only a win or two away from returning to the finals for the first time since 2013.
Another strong performance up forward from Charlie Curnow and a best on ground showing by Sam Walsh were the catalysts as the Blues defeated Fremantle by 31 points at home last week.
It was the perfect response to their round 14 loss to Richmond in which they were beaten around the ball, and has their fans excited at the prospect of their side featuring past round 23 for the first time in nearly a decade.
Win against the Saints on Friday night and they will just about punch their ticket to the finals; as for the Saints, well, a win is a non-negotiable if they are to feature in September for just the second time since 2011.
Prediction: Carlton by 18 points.
Essendon vs Sydney Swans
Despite the Bombers’ poor form this season, fireworks are still to be expected when their side face the Sydney Swans at the MCG this Saturday afternoon.
Why, you ask? Because Luke Parker will be public enemy number one when he plays his 250th AFL game, with the memories of his taunting of Dylan Shiel back in round nine still fresh in the memories of Bombers fans.
The red and black faithful will be keen to ensure his milestone doesn’t go to plan as their side look to rebound from last week’s upset loss to the West Coast Eagles in Perth, which saw the westerners move off the bottom of the ladder.
They couldn’t have been so much more impressive the previous week when they put St Kilda to the sword at Marvel Stadium, producing some of their best footy for the year to breathe some life back into what had been a stuttering campaign.
The Swans head to the MCG also fresh off a huge win over the Saints, restricting them to only four majors for the match as they rebounded from their disappointing loss to Port Adelaide at the Oval.
It had been a tight contest for the first half, only for a five-goal-to-nil third quarter to put John Longmire’s side back on track and with an easy run home, will fancy themselves of claiming a double chance for the first time since 2016.
While they will start hot favourites against the Bombers on Saturday afternoon, they will not want to take the struggling side lightly, especially with another September campaign on the horizon.
Prediction: Sydney Swans by 30 points.
Adelaide Crows vs Melbourne
The last time Melbourne went to the Adelaide Oval to face the Crows, in round 10 last year, they came home with their tails in between their legs after suffering a controversial one-point loss at the death.
Over twelve months on, Matthew Nicks’ side will be hoping to repeat the dose and will have reason to believe it can do so, even though the Dees have restored their status as premiership favourites after three straight losses.
It was a case of “no Gawn, no worries” for the Dees as they came from behind at quarter-time to put the Brisbane Lions to the sword at the MCG with a 64-point victory, with former co-captain Jack Viney leading from the front in Max Gawn’s absence.
Many feared for the Dees’ premiership defence after their inspirational captain suffered a syndesmosis injury that has him sidelined for up to a month, this coming after they had suffered shock losses to Fremantle, the Sydney Swans and Collingwood.
But if anything, Simon Goodwin’s men have proved that they can win without their captain, and will start favourites to remain on top of the ladder when they tackle the Crows in the City of Churches on Saturday night.
They do face a side that is coming off its biggest win of the season, though it was only against bottom-placed North Melbourne.
Former captain Taylor Walker and Darcy Fogarty, playing his 50th game, combined for ten goals as the Crows registered their fifth win for the season, but just their second away from home this year.
Though they will fancy their chances of another upset win over the Dees, it’s the reigning premier that should prove their class.
Prediction: Melbourne by 24 points.
Gold Coast Suns vs Collingwood
It’s now or never for the Gold Coast Suns as far as their finals chances are concerned.
The Suns have over the past two months emerged as genuine finals contenders winning five of six matches between rounds eight and fourteen inclusive, though three of them came against sides currently not in the eight.
They could so easily have made it six wins out of seven, only to suffer a heartbreaking two-point loss to Port Adelaide at the Oval last Sunday, a result which meant that they remain winless against the Power ever since that breakthrough win at AAMI Stadium back in 2011.
With their good form comes the expectation that a medium-sized crowd will be on hand for the visit of Collingwood, who continue to impress under their rookie coach Craig McRae.
The Pies led the Giants by as much as five goals before they almost lost the match in the final quarter, when a deliberate decision against Darcy Moore saw the visitors charge back into the contest before the home side held on for an eleven-point win.
It marked the first time since 2019 that they had won five matches in a row, and has them sitting in seventh place on the ladder with seven rounds to go after this weekend.
It wasn’t that long ago that the two teams last met, with the Pies enjoying a 25-point win at the MCG, though the Suns side they face this Saturday night will be a different composition to the one they faced back at the start of May.
While the Suns would love to give a good account of themselves against such quality opposition at home, the Pies should make it six in a row on the road.
Prediction: Collingwood by eight points.
Geelong Cats vs North Melbourne
Things continue to go from had to worse for North Melbourne, as they set an unwanted streak with its 57-point loss to the Adelaide Crows in Hobart last week.
Not only did the Roos lose their 12th consecutive match and drop back to the bottom of the ladder, they also became the first side in VFL/AFL history to lose ten straight matches by at least 40 points.
Coach David Noble is also at risk of becoming the first rookie coach since the late Dean Bailey in 2008-09 to win the wooden spoons in his first two seasons as an AFL coach (notwithstanding Kevin Sheedy’s two-season stint at GWS in 2012-13 which also netted two last place finishes).
There was, however, a shining light in another horror afternoon for the Kangaroos, with Jackson Archer – the son of club great Glenn – making his debut and showing some of the grit his father did in over 300 games for the once-almighty club.
Their next task is travelling down the highway to face the second-placed Geelong Cats, who toasted Jeremy Cameron in his 200th AFL game with a thrilling three-point win over Richmond at the MCG last Saturday night.
It did come at a cost with Tom Stewart set to cop a suspension of at least three matches for his crude bump on Dion Prestia, which has been referred directly to the judiciary for assessment this week.
Even in his absence, the Cats would still be expected to easily account for the Kangaroos, after which they’ll face a much more sterner test of its flag credentials when they welcome reigning premiers Melbourne to Kardinia Park the next week.
Prediction: Geelong Cats by 40 points.
Richmond vs West Coast Eagles
After a frustrating and heartbreaking loss to the Geelong Cats last Saturday night, Richmond will start hot favourites to hit back when they welcome the West Coast Eagles to the MCG on Sunday afternoon.
It has left them in ninth place on the ladder, however, the Tigers remain well and truly in the finals mix and should give their September chances a boost against the Eagles who will be arriving on a high after recording just its second win for the season.
Adam Simpson’s men had struggled with injuries and COVID-19 protocols for most of the year, but they broke a nine-game losing streak in emphatic fashion, downing the Bombers by ten points and all but delivering the last rites to their campaign.
Five goals from Josh Kennedy proved that he is not yet a spent force, though he does turn 35 in August, as the westerners moved ahead of North Melbourne in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
They now arrive in Melbourne for their first of two matches at the MCG keen to make a contest after they copped a 109-point loss to the Tigers in the teams’ last meeting, back in round seven at Optus Stadium.
Of course, the MCG holds fond memories for the club, which famously came from behind to defeat Collingwood to the 2018 flag, which seems like a distant memory now given the struggles they are enduring.
Back at home, though, the Tigers should show no mercy as they make a charge towards September.
Prediction: Richmond by 60 points.
GWS Giants vs Hawthorn
It is hard to believe that it was over six years ago that the GWS Giants made the AFL competition take notice with a 75-point thrashing of the then-three time reigning premiers Hawthorn in their Sydney Showgrounds backyard.
Fast forward to now and both sides are struggling near the bottom of the ladder, sitting in 14th and 15th place on the ladder respectively with finals all but of the equation.
Despite a poor first half against Collingwood last week, the Giants fought back valiantly in the final quarter, falling just ten points short after giving away a 50-metre penalty in the final minute all but ending any hopes of a miraculous comeback.
Caretaker coach Mark McVeigh would’ve been pleased with how Phil Davis and Tim Taranto fared in their comeback matches, and while Braydon Preuss is eligible for selection again after a third suspension this year, whether he plays depends on how serious his ankle injury is.
Despite their poor season to date, this will be the third consecutive weekend they have featured on Channel Seven in Melbourne, so the spotlight will indeed be on them to perform.
They will fancy their chances at home against the Hawks, who are just below them on the ladder on percentage as they continue to adjust to life under Sam Mitchell.
The Hawks got off to a strong start against the Western Bulldogs last Friday night, but coughed up 13 straight goals to go down by 42 points, suffering their tenth loss for the season in the process.
Both sides are years removed from the peak of their powers, and while the Hawks are in the midst of building their new era the Giants are still in the process of searching for their new coach which will be hoping to do just that in Homebush.
While the Hawks have won three of their last four against the Giants, they have never won at Giants Stadium from six attempts; this includes two losses to Collingwood and Melbourne in the Sydney hub during the COVID-19-affected 2020 season.
At home, the Giants will again be banking on their leaders to notch their fifth win and give their next prospective coach, whoever it is, something to think about for 2023.
Prediction: GWS Giants by six points.
Fremantle vs Port Adelaide
To finish off the round, Port Adelaide head west with their finals chances still alive after they outlasted the Gold Coast Suns by two points in a thriller at the Oval last Sunday.
Ken Hinkley’s side got off to a fast start, and after falling behing several times withstood a furious comeback by the men from the holiday strip to record its 13th straight win against them dating back to mid-2012.
The result meant that the Power remained unbeaten against the Suns since that fateful 2011 match in which they became the first team to be beaten by the men from the Gold Coast at Football Park.
Port’s season is now evenly poised at seven wins and seven losses, and their defence has improved to the point where they have conceded the third-least points of any side, even though they sit in twelfth place on the ladder.
Next for them are Fremantle, which despite its 31-point loss to Carlton last Saturday afternoon have been one of the most improved teams this season and remain in the top four on percentage over the Blues.
Captain Nat Fyfe has escaped any punishment for making contact to umpire Robert O’Gorman after it was ruled that he was pushed into him by Matt Cottrell.
Their form at home has been strong, with the solitary defeat on home soil coming against St Kilda in round two. Recent history also favours the Purple Haze, which has not lost to the Power at home since the 2014 semi-final, and never at Optus Stadium.
On that note, the Dockers should not only hit back in front of their fans, but also almost certainly book their berth in September for the first time since 2015 in the process.
Prediction: Fremantle by 18 points.