THE PRE-MATCH PREVIEW (Round 11) – David Zita, Twitter – @DavidZita1
PORT ADELAIDE V GEELONG
Friday, 7:50 PM, Adelaide Oval
Who would’ve called this match being between 9th and 10th before the start of the season?
The ferocious run of Port Adelaide looked set to make a serious premiership tilt in 2015, while the ever-consistent Geelong outfit looked set to defy Father Time once more.
While both prospects are still achievable, they are presently a stretch, both sides sitting at 5-5 coming into the round.
Indeed, the side that emerges with the 4 points will find their top 8 chances bolstered considerably, while the other will be left hanging on by a thread to their 2015 finals campaign.
PORT – Ollie Wines. With the majority of attention being paid to skipper Travis Boak, Wines has flown under the radar in his return from injury, amassing 24, 29, and 33 touches in his first three games back. Looks set for a big one.
GEELONG – Joel Selwood. No surprise here, but after a mediocre start to the season, Selwood was back to his best against the Bombers, gathering 26 possessions (18 contested) and going at 80% efficiency, as well as kicking two goals. Can he break this game open like he has so many others in his career?
Contested Possessions – Geelong rank last in the competition for average contested possessions (127.7), while Port rank equal tenth (136.3).
This has been a large contributor to Geelong ‘s ranking of 18th in clearances, something key to their mauling at the hands of West Coast two weeks ago, who amassed 61 inside 50s to 34. If they want to avoid a similar result, and bolster their clearance numbers, grunt work in the clinches is a non-negotiable.
Port’s victory over the Bulldogs was emphatic, as was Geelong’s over the Bombers. However, with a five-day break and a trip to the south for the Cats, the home ground advantage of the Power cannot be underestimated, and they look set to get their season back on track, however tight the final margin may be.
Port by 15
GOLD COAST V FREMANTLE
Saturday, 1:40PM, Metricon Stadium
Well this could get ugly.
This match pits 1st against 18th, and expect it to show. The Dockers are coming off their first loss of the season, and will be savagely determined to prove it was only a hiccup in an otherwise barnstorming season so far.
Freo could very well approach this match as a testing ground, judging how to best deal with the loss of key defender Michael Johnson for roughly 10 weeks. Additionally, Ross Lyon could be forgiven for resting a few of his senior players, following the team’s 9-1 start and the undermanned Gold Coast side they face.
WHO TO WATCH
Suns – Charlie Dixon – Perhaps the most upsetting part of Dixon’s refusal to adhere to club standards is the regard in which he is held by his teammates and coaches, who see him as a key pillar of their side for the present and, more importantly, the future. He needs to restore the team’s faith in him, and has the capacity to tear games apart if he’s firing.
Dockers – Matthew Pavilich – had a poor game last week by his lofty standards, and against a sub-standard Gold Coast backline (Steven May the latest in a long list of outs), look for him to bounce back like the champion of the game he is. Tip: Watch this game with a bit of Pavlova on your plate.
While Fremantle are the second best defensive team in the comp, conceding only 65.5 points a game, the Suns are the worst offensive team, averaging only 69.7 points a game.
It truly is the extremely stoppable force of the Suns attack vs the incredibly immovable object that is the Fremantle defence.
If you’re not a Fremantle supporter, best to look away now.
Freo by 85 points
WEST COAST EAGLES V ESSENDON
Saturday, 4:35PM, Domain Stadium
Bomber supporters can blame it on the WADA debacle if they want, but the fact of the matter is the side is playing woeful football.
Conversely, the Eagles are playing in front of their home crowd, and coming off a nail biting loss against North Melbourne, and will be looking to reassert their dominance against a uninspired Bomber outfit.
WHO TO WATCH
Eagles – Jack Darling – Hasn’t played since round 23 last season, and had a five goal haul for East Perth last week in the WAFL. He doesn’t need to play lights out football, but if he can provide even a little of what he’s capable of, any AFL backline will tremble at the thought of taking on West Coast.
Bombers – Jake Carlisle – Averages less than one hitout across 77 games… but is taking on the most athletic ruckman in the competition on Saturday. Bellchambers has been shown no mercy for his string of subpar performances, and Carlisle’s performance in the ruck will make an enormous difference in the final outcome.
Goals. Perhaps the most underrated stat of them all, the ability to kick goals is simply a must. The Eagles are excelling in this department, second in the league with an average of 15.9 goals a game, while the Bombers are 14th with an average of 10.9. Following a goalless first half last week, the Bombers must convert when given the opportunity.
The Eagles will be too good, but look for the Bombers to show some form of spark following a week of unrelenting criticism.
Eagles by 35 points
NORTH MELBOURNE V SYDNEY SWANS
Saturday, 7:20PM, Etihad Stadium
The Kangaroos continue to excel at imitating Katy Perry, their ‘Hot n Cold’ form perplexing supporters and opposing teams as to which outfit will show up on match day.
Conversely, the Swans have proved (as ever) a picture of consistency, overcoming some early season dips to enter round 11 on a five match win streak.
There may be a sting in the tail for the Roos, who found their 2014 finals campaign brought to a screeching halt by the Swans, who won by 71 points in the Preliminary Final.
WHO TO WATCH
North – Todd Goldstein – one of the competition’s premier ruckmen, and needs to have a blinder to stop Mike Pyke from giving the dangerous Sydney midfield any more chances than they’ll create for themselves.
Swans – Lance Franklin – Following an early season slump, Buddy has been slowly but steadily returning to his best form, and a matchup against North (who he famously kicked 13 goals against in 2012) is sure to have him licking his lips.
Clearances – The Swans are third in the comp with an average of 42 clearances per game, while North sit at 15th with 36.6. The Swans forward line is devastating enough without a wealth of opportunities, and the Roos have to work to ensure such chances are limited, while opening up the door for players like Petrie and Thomas to make an influence at the other end.
North will be far more comfortable at Etihad than the Swans, but Sydney will bring their brand of footy under the roof and be rewarded with the 4 points… but only just.
Sydney by 9 points
COLLINGWOOD V GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
Sunday, 1:10PM, MCG
A year ago, this clash proved a nail biter, but no one would’ve picked it as such at the time. Now, GWS are a force to be reckoned with and, while they are potentially susceptible to fatigue in the latter stages of the season, they should have no problems getting up for a game against the in-form Pies at the home of football.
WHO TO WATCH
Pies – Travis Cloke – has kicked nine goals in his last two encounters with the Giants, and a haul of seven straight goals last week shows the conversion rate Pies fans want to see from their key forward. Phil Davis needs to be at his peak if he hopes to reign in the contested mark machine.
Giants – Callan Ward – Has been in lukewarm form to start the season, but was back to his brilliant best last week with 32 touches, 12 tackles and a goal. With Ryan Griffen struggling to make a consistent impact, look for Ward to put the load on his shoulders.
Marks inside 50 – The Pies rank equal first in this area with 15.1 per game. The Giants will need to ensure they body up on the Pies, and back in old Pie Heath Shaw to support as the third man.
The Giants have surprised many with their ability to sustain high intensity football against high quality teams. Last week, they even did what good teams quite often do: bounce back hard after a loss. The Pies are well placed, but the Giants are the better side so far this year.
Giants by 8
ST KILDA V MELBOUNRE
Sunday, 4:40PM, Etihad Stadium
It hasn’t exactly got the hype Collingwood vs. GWS does this week, but both teams will go into this fully aware of a great chance to snag four points and, while the quality of football may not be as high, the intensity will certainly match all other encounters this week.
WHO TO WATCH
Saints – Jack Steven – Playing the best footy of his career, and as a reward for effort will likely wear the hard tag of Bernie Vince. Whereas the Dal Santos and Montagnas used to absorb much of the heat, Steven will now be the centre of attention, making for a test that will be captivating to watch.
Melbourne – Tom McDonald – his stellar 2015 season hit a massive pothole last week, with Travis Cloke kicking four goals on him in the first quarter. Undoubtedly an All-Australian candidate, his response, against one of the great forwards of the modern era no less, will be enthralling to watch.
Last 10 games – St. Kilda hasn’t lost to Melbourne in its past 10 matches against them, a club record. Furthermore, Melbourne has lost its past 20 games at Etihad Stadium. This will undoubtedly create some doubt in the minds of Demons players, and they’ll have to ensure they have a fast start in order to exonerate such uncertainty.
St. Kilda are playing better footy than many predicted at the start of the year, and such form has rewarded them with favouritism against the Dees. However, Melbourne has shown a great amount of potential, with Jesse Hogan at its centre, and will fully believe this is their match to win. So do I.
Demons by 14