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A look at three of the key matches this round
Adelaide v Hawthorn
Thursday 18th June, Adelaide Oval, 7:50PM (AEST)
Recent three year commitments from Rory Sloane and Richard Douglas are sure to inspire confidence in the Crows outfit and where they’re headed, but they face an almighty task in taking on Hawthorn, who are finally able to field a full strength team following a spluttering start to the season.
Who to watch
Adelaide – Eddie Betts. The forward pocket superstar has made Adelaide Oval his own since joining the Crows, this goal the latest in a highlight package for the ages. Furthermore, for all the praise rightfully given to Hawthorn’s backline, it lacks a true lock down defender when it comes to an opposition’s small forwards, with Taylor Duryea looming as the likely match-up. If Eddie gets off the chain early, look out.
Hawthorn – Jordan Lewis. After a superb start to the season, Lewis’ two match suspension in Round Eight has seen his form decline noticeably. A shoulder injury, coupled with the team’s bye last week, have left him lacking the match consistency he needs to return to his best. Against the dynamic duo of Dangerfield and Sloane, he’s unlikely to get a better chance to test his game against the best. A commendable performance could see the 2014 Best and Fairest winner return to the lofty standards he has established for himself, priming him for the back half of 2015.
8.2 – 1.2
This was how the scoreboard looked at quarter-time in Hawthorn’s last encounter at Adelaide Oval. While they face an entirely different team this time, they are unlikely to have fond memories of their last outing at the venue. A fast start will be a key focus for them, and if Adelaide are to come out on top they’ll need to direct all of their efforts towards weathering the early Hawthorn storm.
Adelaide staggered to the bye while Hawthorn charged towards it. With a week off, hopefully the Adelaide of the first three rounds can return. However, with Hawthorn scarily now sporting the healthiest list in the AFL, even Adelaide’s best may not be enough.
Hawthorn by 24
Richmond v West Coast
Friday 19th June, MCG, 7:50PM
Tipping against Collingwood last week, I found out how dangerous it can be to write off a team’s wins as ‘easy’ due to the caliber of their opponents. West Coast’s form simply cannot be underestimated, and a win from them would not raise many eyebrows given their immaculate start to 2015. Still, Richmond are, perhaps as they’d like, flying under the radar, their most recent blip a barnstorming first quarter on the way to handing Fremantle its only loss of the season so far. Coming off a week’s rest and playing at the MCG, Richmond poses West Coast its biggest test yet.
Who to watch
Richmond – Jack Riewoldt. His goal-kicking stats may not jump off the page like a Josh Kennedy, but Riewoldt is proving as crucial as ever to Richmond’s chances of success, and his team-orientated football is more noticeable than ever. With Jeremy McGovern unlikely to play at 100% (he suffered a corked calf in Round 11 and is in doubt), an already decimated Eagles backline will need to be outstanding in order to quell the influence of Riewoldt, and an efficient forward line in general.
West Coast – Mark LeCras – The crafty forward has always been good at creating his own opportunities, but this year he has taken his game to another level. He has kicked 21 goals, but has racked up 15 goal assists, a number greater than any other forward in the AFL’s top 50 goal-kickers. Nick Vlaustin looks set to tackle (no pun intended) LeCras on Friday night, and must ensure he does a full lockdown role. Simply restricting the number of goals LeCras kicks will not be enough.
3-13 – West Coast’s record at the MCG in its past 16 games there. Those three wins came against the ever-struggling Dees outfit. Furthermore, they haven’t played at the home of football since Round Ten last season. If West Coast are to be genuine premiership contenders, prime performance at the MCG is obviously a must, and with this their only match of the home and away season there, they simply must make the most of it.
Richmond have been playing sublime attacking football of late, and are at their most dangerous when expectation is not burdening them. If West Coast get the win, they will once again make every doubter look like a fool. They have their chance once more.
Richmond by 8
Greater Western Sydney v North Melbourne
Saturday June 20th, Spotless Stadium, 4:35PM
Mumford. Patfull. Davis. Coniglio. These are players representing the heart, soul, and grit of the immensely impressive 2015 Giants outfit, and their inability to get on the park this week, and for the foreseeable future, spells doom for the Giants, and the Kangaroos will likely be licking their lips this week.
Who to watch
Giants – The Defense – Indeed, the entire GWS defense is where this game will be won and lost. Decimated in the backline, the Giants will need their defenders to muster some sort of fight in order to prevent a blowout, and perhaps Heath Shaw’s brilliance as the loose man may have to be sacrificed in exchange for limiting the opportunities of one of North’s forwards.
Roos – Todd Goldstein – Hitouts are often criticised for not truly contributing to a team’s success, but there can be no doubt hitouts to advantage are crucial. Against a Giants side with no Shane Mumford, Goldstein has the chance to have an enormous influence on the game, both in the ruck and potentially up forward. Looks set for a monster.
Goal-kicking accuracy – GWS are ranked last in the competition in this area, going at 46.6% so far. While North aren’t exactly impressive either (11th in the comp with 49.8%), an injury-plagued GWS will find it difficult enough to create opportunities, and so their conversion must be on point (or, more specifically, on six points) if they are to have any chance of causing an upset.
GWS face a huge challenge this week against North, who are fated to continue their flaky 2015, often winning after a loss and losing after a win. Any variation in that formula this week would be a massive surprise.
North by 40