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The Roar's AFL expert tips and predictions Round 20: Who wins the latest Pies-Blues mega-blockbuster?

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27th July, 2023
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For the first time this year, we saw perfect 9s in abundance in Round 19… but if you think that means tipping is at last about to get easier, you might need to think again.

We’ve got a swathe of tough games in what looms as another ripping round of AFL action – and while Collingwood’s clash with Carlton probably isn’t one of them, it’s definitely the perfect start to a weekend of rivalries and blockbusters.

There’s a Showdown, a QClash and the Rampe-Goalpost Cup (patent pending) between Essendon and Sydney in what looms as a July elimination final; plus other critical contests between the Western Bulldogs and GWS and Melbourne and Richmond; plus, of course, a SpoonBowl between North Melbourne and the Eagles out west.

Find out who our experts have backed – agree with their picks, or is there a roughie you’re certain will get the chocolates in Round 20?

Tim Miller

Last week: 6

Collingwood, Geelong, GWS, Brisbane, Essendon, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Melbourne, West Coast

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My tips continue to be a nightmare – 6 last week was about two under par in what turned out to be an easy week.

So let’s focus on continuing my streak of reverse-jinxing my Western Bulldogs to another victory in an important match against GWS. The Dogs are favourites, but the Giants are on a six-win hot streak and Ballarat should hold no fears for them, so this is a genuine 50-50 that, if my tipping record this year is any indication, I’ll end up on the wrong side of no matter who I back.

Circling back to the start of the round, a full-strength Carlton would be a red-hot chance against Collingwood in the form they’re in, but with Sam Walsh, Harry McKay, Jack Silvagni and a few others unavailable, not even the return of Patrick Cripps and Adam Cerra can convince me to tip them. You need to be at full health to beat the Pies this year, which the Blues most assuredly are not.

Saturday afternoon, aside from the Dogs and Giants, is quite straightforward too: Fremantle surely can’t do what they did last year and knock over Geelong in Geelong in their current form, while Brisbane haven’t lost a QClash since 2018 and it’s hard to see Gold Coast giving them much trouble.

Saturday night, though, promises to be fascinating: I’ve backed Port Adelaide to split Showdowns 1-1 this year with Adelaide, but even without Josh Rachele and Izak Rankine, the Crows are always a chance in the most difficult to predict match in footy. Either way, this will probably end up being close.

The other match might be even more important, with Essendon and Sydney reaching virtual elimination final time in their respective seasons. The Swans have been in much better form of late, and deserve to be favourites here: but I haven’t given up on the Bombers just yet, and at home in front of what should be a raucous crowd, I’ll take one last shot at making up some ground on *checks tipping list* absolutely everyone.

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I’m also going for broke a bit on Sunday; St Kilda’s clash with Hawthorn screams ‘danger game’ for their finals chances, and while they’re favourites, narrowly squeezing past West Coast and North Melbourne in the last month doesn’t bode well, even against the 16th-placed Hawks who knocked them over earlier this year. I’ll back Sam Mitchell’s underdogs to do it again and finally send the Saints out of the eight, where they probably belong on current form.

Richmond are a live chance to knock over a Melbourne team which is unlikely to fully capitalise on the Tigers’ weak key defensive stocks – I’m not brave enough to actually tip it, though, with the Demons dodging bullets like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix in the past few weeks.

And finally, home ground advantage – and the fact they’re playing North Melbourne – to inspire West Coast to knock over the Roos for their second win this season. They took the fight to the Saints and Tigers at Optus Stadium recently, so I’m surprised the Eagles aren’t favourites here, to be honest.

Patrick Cripps of the Blues avoids a tackle by Brayden Maynard of the Magpies

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Dem Panopoulos

Last week: 7

Collingwood, Geelong, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane, Essendon, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Melbourne, West Coast

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What a weekend of footy that we have coming up.

We’re already coming off some highly entertaining games and now we are met with some season-defining contests that will shape what we know of 2023. Yes please!

Question the fixturing all you want, but Carlton has made sure that Friday night is the best time to put on their contest with the Magpies. Some injuries will certainly affect their chances here, but they barely broke out of first gear last week, while their opponents West Coast had to fight super hard. Collingwood should win, but the Blues will have some confidence.

GWS’ magical run has them up to seventh, but a date against the Bulldogs in Ballarat is a tough one. The conditions will be swirly and reading the play defensively will be tough. It pushes the game in favour of the home team, but these Giants are finally making noise across the competition, and are a real chance.

Do games get any bigger than a Showdown? Sure, there’s no more brawling between the two clubs and the heatedness of the rivalry has cooled a bit to adapt to what 2023 is in the world, but you can be certain that there’ll be hard hits and aggressive play on Saturday night. Port should win and put the final nail in Adelaide’s season, but we know about the Jordan Dawson effect.

There’s a bit riding on Richmond’s game against Melbourne too. On one hand, we have a team that is pushing for an unlikely finals berth despite missing two of its most important players; on the other, a team in the exact same position, just fighting for an unlikely top-TWO spot. The Tigers need a forecast change to win this one, you’d think.

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We can’t sleep on Essendon and Sydney and the importance of that game, despite it being the lesser of the Saturday night contests. Without much fanfare, the Swans are only half a game behind the Bombers, which is quite astonishing. Six of the last seven between these two teams have been decided by less than 10 points. Bombers to win in a banger.

At this point, we just breeze through the lesser, more predictable games.

Geelong just can’t lose at home to the Dockers again, not with this much riding on the season. The Lions too, need to just sweep the Suns to the side and carry on their way to pushing for a top-two spot. I won’t keep hammering on about their credentials, though.

It’s rare that this deep into the season, you can absolutely guarantee that the 16th team in the league is better and will beat the 6th-ranked side. Yet here we are, in this alternate reality – Hawthorn to send St Kilda spiralling out of the eight at last.

Finally, who really cares about the bottom two teams? After conceding 10 to Charlie Curnow, it wouldn’t surprise to see the Eagles stack their team and win this game randomly against North Melbourne.

Richmond interim coach, Andrew McQualter speaks to his players during the round 11 AFL match between Richmond Tigers and Yartapuulti / Port Adelaide Power at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on May 28, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Richmond interim coach, Andrew McQualter speaks to his players during the round 11 AFL match between Richmond Tigers and Yartapuulti / Port Adelaide Power at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on May 28, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Cameron Rose

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Last week: 9

Collingwood, Geelong, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane, Sydney, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Melbourne, North Melbourne

I can’t remember the last time I got a perfect 9 – maybe 2020? In any case, an excellent Round 19 for me, let’s keep the good times rolling.

I’ve got Collingwood to end Carlton’s winning run – the Pies are different gravy to most of the teams the Blues have been beating, Port Adelaide excepted, and with injuries beginning to bite the Baggers have their work cut out for them.

Geelong at home was where Fremantle officially broke out last year, but this is a far inferior Dockers team to 2022 and the Dockers should handle them comfortably. I’m less certain about the Bulldogs beating GWS out in Ballarat, but the Dogs have a good record out there, Jason Johannisen is back and I feel the Giants might be due a loss.

Brisbane will win another QClash – they’ve not lost one since back when they were bottom for half a decade ago – while that night, the other big rivalry game (this one might be ever so slightly larger) should see Port Adelaide return to the winners’ list and shore up a suddenly shaky top-two spot against an injury-plagued Adelaide.

The hardest game of the round to tip might be Essendon and Sydney – I like the Swans’ form of late far better than the Bombers, who seem to have run their race this year. Swans for me to keep their faint finals hopes alive – and put a big dent in the Bombers’.

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Speaking of denting finals hopes, that’s what I reckon Hawthorn will do to St Kilda to officially end the Saints’ miraculous clinging to their top-six spot. It’s amazing, but the Saints, Collingwood and Melbourne are the only teams to have spent every round inside the eight, but there’s every chance they won’t be on Sunday night.

As for the Demons themselves, they’ll be too strong for a Richmond team that isn’t in as good a form as it seems – they’ve been pushed by both West Coast and the Hawks of late, neither of whom are in the Dees’ class.

Finishing off the round, whoever wins out of the Eagles and North Melbourne, footy will probably be the loser. Let’s go the Kangas for Brett Ratten’s sake – that man deserves a win to end his caretaker stint.

Players surround Jordan Dawson of the Crows after kicking the winning goal during Showdown 51.

(Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Liam Salter

Last week: 8

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Collingwood, Geelong, GWS, Brisbane, Essendon, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Melbourne, North Melbourne

We’ve got an undeniably incredible weekend of footy ahead of us – which typically means a nightmare time for us tipsters. 

Collingwood and Carlton kick us off, both with five-game winning streaks and both with statements to make. The Pies keep on rolling on, their latest win a magnificent one over arguably their closest premiership rivals in the Power. Carlton has won – and won big – over the last month, though they’d be scarred by their losses against the Pies in the last two years.

Am I totally convinced by Carlton being back? Not really. Can they win this? Absolutely. Will they? Nope – the Pies are just so damn good. 

Freo have a unique ability to win at GMBHA Stadium, but a team ruling Sean Darcy and Nat Fyfe out for the year is one desperately longing for the summer break – the Cats will earn the four points easily.

The Doggies and Giants hold a peculiar, fierce rivalry, and the in-form Giants are on track to Bradbury their way into finals. The Dogs have been alright this year, but I’m going the upset in Ballarat – the Giants know they need every win they can get.

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No such upset in the Q-Clash, though, with the Suns’ 2023 on life support and the Lions slowly gearing up for finals. 

It’s not quite last-chance saloon for either team, but Sydney visiting Marvel Stadium to play Essendon is a deeply important clash for both sides. The Dons have lost four of their last five, and don’t particularly like playing at Marvel, but the club is vastly more disciplined this year than last, and should keep their finals dream alive with an upset win here.

Another team fighting to keep their finals dream – however unlikely – alive is the Crows, who face Port. The general rule in Showdowns is that form means zip, nada, zilch.

That means – despite the Crows’ increasingly poor form – they’re a chance in this one. But let’s be real, the Power are the smarter tip, and one I’m much more confident in.

Confidence is not a feeling I have with the Saints, but somehow they’re still in the eight. How? I don’t know. But they’re up against the Hawks, who have looked the best of the cellar dwellers – and an incredibly enticing upset tip. Gun to the head, let’s go Hawks.

It’s much, much easier to back the Demons over the Tigers, while in the round’s finale we’ve got a 17th vs 18th battle with the Eagles hosting the Kangaroos. This is a weirdly hard tip, but North are favourites for a reason – let’s go with them.

Tom Stewart of the Cats looks to pass the ball

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

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Round 20TimDemCamLiamCrowd
COL vs CARCOLCOLCOLCOLCOL
GEE vs FREGEEGEEGEEGEEGEE
WB vs GWSGWSWBWBGWSWB
GCS vs BLBLBLBLBLBL
ESS vs SYDESSESSSYDESSSYD
ADE vs PAPAPAPAPAPA
HAW vs STKHAWHAWHAWHAWSTK
RCH vs MELMELMELMELMELMEL
WCE vs NMWCEWCENMNMNM
LAST WEEK67988
ROLLING TOTAL101113111109118
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