The bye rounds are behind us and we’re back into the full swing of things.
This weekend looms as a round of footy that could have huge ramifications on your tipping leagues.
We have made our tips and predictions for all nine games and made some big calls on a few 50-50 contests.
Brisbane v Geelong
Thursday night – Gabba
If the last meeting between these two sides is anything to go by, then we’re in for a treat.
It was a fiery affair down in Geelong which had Cats coach Chris Scott entering a verbal altercation with Lions players among other controversies.
The game itself was a beauty with Isaac Smith snapping a late goal to edge the Cats in front before Zac Bailey was denied a holding the ball on Mark Blicavs just metres out. The home side would hang on by a solitary point.
Thursday sets up to again be a cracker with both Brisbane and Geelong in fairly good nick entering Round 15.
The Lions have won eight of their last nine, only going down to Melbourne, and have scored 90 or more in seven of those matches.
They produced a workmanlike victory over North Melbourne in Tassie last week, perhaps with one eye on this crunch top four clash.
Geelong needed every ounce of their experience in getting over the Western Bulldogs by five points courtesy of Gary Rohan’s after-the-siren finish.
They play the Gabba fairly well (apart from the second half of last year’s Grand Final), winning six on the trot at the venue prior to the 2020 decider including a comfortable 40-point Preliminary Final triumph over the Lions.
If looking for something to swing the match in one side’s favour, Geelong losing Mitch Duncan could just be enough to make a decision on face value.
It promises to be a beauty and a very hard contest in which to tip, but the Lions narrowly get the nod for few other reasons than simply a gut feel.
Tip: Brisbane by 7 points.
Richmond v St Kilda
Friday night – MCG
Richmond and St Kilda meet for the second time this season in a primetime slot, with the previous encounter coming in Round 5 at Marvel Stadium.
That’s a game Saints fans won’t want to remember quickly, with the Tigers dominating from midway through the second quarter to run away 86-point victors.
Richmond dominated from the source in that clash, with Toby Nankervis (22 disposals, 40 hitouts) dominating rookie ruckman Paul Hunter in just his third game.
Nankervis’ dominance helped Richmond to a +16-clearance differential, with Dustin Martin (34 disposals, one goal), Shai Bolton (29 disposals, one goal) and Shane Edwards (29 disposals, one goal) doing the rest.
While Nankervis won’t be fit for this match as he returns from injury, Richmond will still be confident in their ability to get the job done.
They welcome back triple-premiership stars Dion Prestia and David Astbury for the clash, which they’ll be desperate to win to keep a buffer between them and sides on the doorstep of the eight.
For St Kilda, they’ll be hoping Rowan Marshall gets up for this game as he returns from an ankle injury, while Seb Ross and Tim Membrey will return to the side after missing the Round 13 clash with Adelaide for personal reasons.
Recent history between the two sides suggests Richmond win, and win well, as they’ve claimed victory in six of the past seven games head-to-head by an average margin of 46 points.
Couple that with recent form lines of each club, and it’s impossible to look past the Tigers in this one.
Tip: Richmond by 31.
North Melbourne v Gold Coast
Saturday – Blundstone Arena
North Melbourne will be licking their lips knowing they have a shot at a rare win this weekend, taking on Gold Coast in Tasmania.
The Suns won comfortably when these sides met back in Round 2, kicking 14 goals to five – though Round 2 feels like it was 10 years ago.
Gold Coast has arguably been in worse form than the Kangaroos in the last fortnight, with the Roos taking two points from GWS and being ultra-competitive against Brisbane.
Both of those games were at Blundstone Arena in Hobart as well, a venue North Melbourne clearly has developed an advantage at.
How the Suns adapt to the Tassie conditions will be the question and coming off an unusual week in the spotlight, the pressure will be on them to come out firing.
It’s hard to know what to expect from two young teams. They both boast tough midfield units, but Todd Goldstein should control the ruck battle.
With Robbie Tarrant now finding his feet down back, the Roos have the right matchup for Ben King, while the Suns desperately need Sam Collins back up the other end.
If it all clicks for Gold Coast, they should win, but North Melbourne has the toughness across the board to pinch this game off the flaky Suns.
Tip: North Melbourne by 10 points.
Collingwood v Fremantle
Saturday – Marvel Stadium
Collingwood emerge from the winter bye with a new man at the helm, and two wins on the bounce. Long-time assistant Robert Harvey will steer the Woodsmen to season’s end, following Nathan Buckley’s fairytale farewell with an upset over Melbourne at the SCG.
Demon defender Jake Lever explained to SEN Breakfast how the Pies’ fusion of an offensive element to their deeply-critiqued possession game was the bedrock of their upset of the ladder-leaders.
“They lowered their eyes, they didn’t want to bomb it in… when you think the ball is going 50 metres and it ends up going 20 metres, it’s really hard to defend. That first kick and then the kick out the back, that hurt us at times,” Lever detailed.
Collingwood will host Fremantle, who have won only one game on the road this season. Justin Leppitsch explained to SEN’s Whateley early in June how the Dockers diverge from the tempo-oriented Magpies.
“Fremantle are 17th for back half uncontested marks, they’re very direct and go forward,” he spelled out. “They’re fifth for inside 50s, and third for score percentage going inside 50. The one problem… they’re 15th for accuracy. They’re playing fast, they get it in there, but they’re missing.”
Conversely, the Magpies are last for forward entries. For a time, they weren’t scoring when it did go in there, but Jamie Elliott has been a transformative presence. The 28-year-old kicked six goals in the earlier win over Adelaide, and his leading patterns helped unravel the Demons’ defence.
Fremantle are set to regain Nat Fyfe and Matt Taberner after eking out a win over Gold Coast at home before their bye, but it is difficult to trust them away from Perth.
Tip: Collingwood by 10 points
Essendon v Melbourne
Saturday night – MCG
It’s a big two weeks coming up for Essendon.
Last week’s win over Hawthorn lifted the Bombers to within a game behind eighth-placed Richmond with a percentage of 103 – the best of any club outside the top eight.
The 13-point victory in Launceston was largely thanks to Jake Stringer’s brilliance with the out-of-contract Bomber finishing with 29 disposals, 12 score involvements, seven tackles, six clearances and four goals.
Saturday night’s clash with ladder-leaders Melbourne looms as an acid test for Essendon with Geelong to come the following week.
It’s a match-up where defence meets attack with the Demons conceding the least number of points of any side in the competition, while the Bombers are second for points scored.
The bye came at the right time for the top-of-the-table Demons.
An upset loss to Collingwood on Queen’s Birthday was a shock to the system but the week off would have allowed them to freshen up before the run home to the finals.
Coach Simon Goodwin would want a fast start from his side after they trailed at half-time in their last two games against the Magpies and Brisbane.
The Demons to get home in an entertaining contest.
Tip: Melbourne by 18 points.
Port Adelaide v Sydney
Saturday night – Adelaide Oval (subject to change)
Port Adelaide play host to Sydney on Saturday in a match that could determine the finals fate of both clubs come the end of the season.
The Power are chasing a top four finish and the all-important double, while the Swans – who have looked vulnerable in recent weeks – have a season-defining month coming up.
John Longmire’s side travel to Adelaide to play the Power followed by difficult matches against West Coast, the Western Bulldogs and cross-town rivals GWS.
Sydney was well beaten by lowly Hawthorn in their previous match before last week’s bye.
Port Adelaide returned to the winners’ list with an easy 50-point win over struggling Gold Coast in Robbie’s Gray’s 250th game for the club.
Gray’s knee injury put a dampener on the win with the four-time All-Australian expected to miss up to eight weeks with a torn left medial ligament.
The result kept Ken Hinkley’s men withing touching distance of the top four with only percentage separating them and fourth-placed Brisbane.
An interested subplot to this match is Port intercept defender Aliir Aliir playing against his old club for the first time.
Aliir has starred down back for the Power and is in the conversation for the recruit of the year following his departure from the Harbour City.
The Power have won their past four games against the Swans, including the previous two meetings at Adelaide Oval.
Tip: Port Adelaide by 23 points.
GWS v Hawthorn
Sunday – MCG
The Giants are standing on the front porch and banging on the door after taking care of Carlton by 36 points last weekend.
The victory placed Leon Cameron’s side within touching distance of the top eight and with a fairly handy draw of games ahead.
That run, which includes home games against Gold Coast and Sydney, kicks off in round 15 when they host Hawthorn at the MCG in what presents – on paper at least – as a very winnable fixture.
Alastair Clarkson will likely attempt to stifle GWS, as evidenced by how the Hawks set up in defence against Essendon, as he strives to keep his side in the contest.
The Giants were tested on the odd occasion by the Blues, but were in the end able to shoot themselves out of trouble, scoring 100+ for just the third time this season.
Stand-in captain Toby Greene was again formidable with four goals and 20 disposals, and in this sort of mood should prove difficult to contain. Jeremy Finlayson also chipped in with five majors, giving the Hawks something to think about after he booted four in this fixture last year.
While they will find it difficult to score as freely against an organised Hawks side, the Giants should not have too many issues in banking a seventh win of the season.
Initially scheduled for Giants Stadium, the match had to be shifted to the MCG as a GWS home game due to a COVID outbreak in Sydney.
Tip: GWS by 22 points.
West Coast v Western Bulldogs
Sunday – Optus Stadium
West Coast and the Western Bulldogs will meet on Sunday in a fascinating game between two sides jostling for positioning in the top eight.
The Bulldogs remain second on the ladder, but any slip-ups could see them on the precipice of dropping out of the top four, following their narrow loss to Geelong.
West Coast meanwhile is building momentum in seventh place and a win here could see them back in top four contention themselves.
The Eagles are a much stronger side on paper than they were a month ago and have done an excellent job holding their spot in the top eight despite the absentees.
The Dogs meanwhile could be excused for having a down week. They effectively have not had a bye round given the extra travelling they have been subject to in the last few weeks and they have once again found themselves flying across the country.
Whether they have the energy to topple Eagles in Perth will be an interesting facet of the game.
The Dogs held on in a thriller when these two sides met earlier in the season, winning by seven points in Round 2.
They also got the chocolates during their 2020 encounter in an equally tight affair.
Expect a tough contest, but the Eagles have the firepower in attack to worry the Bulldogs and if they can break even through the midfield, they should get it done at home.
Tip: West Coast by 4 points.
Carlton v Adelaide
Sunday – Marvel Stadium
The pressure continues to build at Princes Park ahead of a crucial Sunday twilight clash against Adelaide.
How the Blues proceed from here is anyone’s guess, but they’ll have to be wary against a Crows side that have markedly improved in 2021 and would love nothing more than to pile on more pressure and pull off the win away from home.
Carlton’s key position players in Harry McKay and Jacob Weitering, as well as Sam Walsh continue to play well, but they’ll be looking for more from their second tier if they are to break the cycle and record a win on Sunday.
GWS opted to tag Walsh last week, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Adelaide opt to deploy a negating player to curtail arguably the Blues’ most important player right now.
These sides met late in the 2020 season, with the Crows prevailing relatively easily at Metricon Stadium.
It’s anyone’s guess how this game plays out, but on exposed form Adelaide probably starts this one as favourites.
Tip: Adelaide by 4 points.