Hawthorn vs Geelong
We probably don’t realise how lucky we are to be witnessing this modern rivalry. Hawthorn and Geelong have given us some of the best games of footy of the last five years. The latest chapter will unfold at the ‘G tonight, in front of what is surely to be a 90,000+ crowd. The two met a fortnight ago, and to squeeze another football cliché into this paragraph, it was a game of two halves.
The Hawks won that game but they were not entirely convincing and recent history is on the Cat’s side.
Hodge will be a huge inclusion for the Hawks. Their fearless captain, who seemingly cannot play football without a grimace on his face, will solidify the backline and allow Sam Mitchell more freedom. His piercing left boot will be useful to cut through Geelong.
Tom Hawkins kicked seven last week, and if one player knows how to wipe smiles off Hawthorn supporters, it’s him. However reigning Norm Smith medallist Brian Lake will get the gig on the big man and he’s shown since moving to Hawthorn that he can handle the Tomahawk. Their match-up will probably decide the game.
Geelong are a much faster team than Hawthorn, with the return of Stevie J and Motlop, the Cat’s best chance to win will be to exploit this.
If the Hawks are able to shutdown Hawkins it’s tough to see Geelong kicking enough goals to win. Could this be the end of the Kennett Curse?
Player to watch: Stevie J, love him or hate him, he’s undeniably Geelong’s key.
Tip: Hawks by less than a goal.
Sydney vs Fremantle
Sydney lost to Richmond last week, but they were undermanned and could be forgiven for not being as desperate as the Tigers. This week, they are strengthened by the inclusions of Kennedy, Franklin, Pyke, Bird and McGlynn.
Sydney have been the league’s strongest side this season, proving that a forward line can function with three talls. The Buddy experiment has so far proved successful with a Coleman Medal around his neck, but the Swans would love to see him to wear a premiership medal as well.
If Fremantle is to have any hope of beating the minor premiers it rests on the unbelievably broad shoulders of Aaron Sandilands. The ruckman is in line for his fourth All-Australian selection, and should give Fremantle first use of the football. With Fyfe returning and bolstering their run-and-carry through the middle, they can be competitive.
While Fremantle are strong defensively they’re about to face the best forward line in the competition. Buddy and Tippet each demand a high-class defender. Once you add Goodes into that mix, you’re going to stretch any backline. Even with the defensive pressure of Ross Lyon’s men, the fact that Luke McPharlin is missing will mean that Fremantle could be haemorrhaging goals.
Sydney, at home, should be too strong for the Dockers.
Player to watch: Nat Fyfe, needs to play out of his skin to get the Dockers over the line.
Tip: Sydney by 25 points.
North Melbourne vs Essendon
Saturday Night footy at the ‘G, and two Victorian clubs in an elimination final: this is what September is about. Both teams have been wildly inconsistent this season.
North will be able to bring back McDonald, Firrito, Greenwood, Thomas and Goldstein, while Myers is returning for Essendon. Unfortunately the Dons will still be without Jake Carlisle, who’s still struggling with a hamstring injury.
If Carlisle were in, Essendon would be favourites. Without the match-winner, they become overly reliant on young Joe Daniher. Paddy Ryder will also have to spend more time in the forward line, giving the Roos the upper hand in the centre square.
Ryder also added an extra element to this game by announcing mid-week that he might leave Windy Hill. How will this affect him come Saturday night?
This game will also become a battle between two ex-Saints. Essendon’s Goddard and North Melbourne’s Dal Santo both played in the 2010 St. Kilda team that drew and eventually lost the replay to Collingwood. Both are now closing in on the end of their careers are running out of time to win a flag.
Player to watch: Chapman; in a game that needs something special he could be the one to produce.
Tip: Essendon by 12 points.
Port Adelaide vs Richmond
The Richmond fairytale has had the entire AFL community engrossed. It’s easy to become blinded by the Tiger bandwagon, before realising that Port were a few points off the top four.
The Tigers beat the minor premiers last week and haven’t lost in nine games. They should come into Sunday’s match with an unchanged line-up.
There will be added venom in this game with Port unhappy the AFL has asked they don’t wear their home strip despite it being their home game.
The Power’s wunderkind Chad Wingard and the Tiger’s hardworking Steven Morris will be an interesting battle. Meanwhile, high-flying forwards Jack Riewoldt and Jay Schulz will both be looking to put their teams through.
It will be interesting to watch how the Richmond team react to Port captain Travis Boak, after comments he made after the Tigers beat the Power earlier in the year. Ex-Port defender Troy Chaplin may be keen to have a few choice words with the midfielder.
Player to watch: Dustin Martin is Richmond’s excitement machine.
Tip: Tigers by a goal.