WITH just a month left of home and away football in 2015, there are several season-defining matches this week that will shape the finals frame.
The Tigers, who just a week ago looked likely to challenge for a top-four spot, need to win desperately just to maintain their spot in the eight.
The Crows travel to Etihad with a win needed to force their way back in to eighth and the Cats host the Hawks in a contest that could dictate Hawthorn’s chance to get two home finals.
Swans vs. Magpies
Friday, August 14th, 7:50pm, SCG
Sydney – $1.92 (-17.5)
Collingwood – $1.92 (+17.5)
The round begins on Friday night in Sydney with the Swans facing the Magpies as the home side endeavours to force their way back into the top four.
Collingwood made its way back onto the winners list last week with a hard-fought win over arch rivals Carlton.
Sydney was outshone down in Geelong by the Cats and as a consequence lost its place in the top four.
The Swans will again be without former Coleman medallist Lance Franklin who missed last week’s match with a back complaint.
The Magpies are set to welcome back Travis Cloke, who has missed the last three weeks of football with a calf injury.
Despite still missing Franklin and a few of their best midfielders down on their optimum output, the Swans should prove too classy for the Pies given what is at stake for the 2014 grand finalists.
Tip: Sydney to win $1.42 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Luke Parker to get 30 or more disposals $3.30 via Sportsbet
Bombers vs. Crows
Saturday, August 15th, 1:45pm, Etihad Stadium
Essendon – $1.91 (+26.5)
Adelaide – $1.91 (-26.5)
The early Saturday afternoon game this week sees the struggling Bombers facing the surging Crows at Etihad Stadium.
The Bombers have been poor in the last fortnight, losing heavily to the Western Bulldogs and GWS in consecutive weeks.
Adelaide’s unlikely victory last week at home against the Tigers has left the door ajar for an improbable finals berth, with the Crows sitting just .1% behind eighth-placed Geelong.
The Crows remain unchanged from last week’s side.
Essendon is set to include forgotten men Tayte Pears and David Myers, both of whom have spent extended amounts of time on the sidelines through injury.
The Crows form has fluctuated from fantastic to frail over the course of the month, but given what is at stake and the state of Essendon’s morale at the moment, the match should be a walk in the park for the visitors.
Tip: Adelaide to win $1.26 via William Hill
Exotic: Most possessions group 2 – Ben Howlett $9.00 via Sportsbet
Kangaroos vs. Saints
Saturday, August 15th, 2:10pm, Blundstone Arena
North Melbourne – $1.91 (-30.5)
St Kilda – $1.91 (+30.5)
The state of Tasmania plays host to the Kangaroos and Saints this week, with North in desperate need of a win to consolidate its position in the eight.
The Saints were blown off the park early last week against depleted Fremantle and never were in the contest.
The young St Kilda side is starting to show signs of slowing down in the latter stages of the year with the end of the home and away season lingering for Alan Richardson’s chargers.
The Kangaroos are on a hot-run right now and outlasted a plucky Melbourne Demons outfit to register another win which kept them into sixth position, just ahead of Richmond on percentage.
With plenty to play for, the Roos should be able to sweep aside the Saints and continue their match towards another finals run.
Tip: North Melbourne to win $1.20 via William Hill
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Nick Dal Santo $6.00 via Sportsbet
Power vs. Giants
Saturday, August 15th, 4:35pm, Adelaide Oval
Port Adelaide – $1.92 (-23.5)
GWS – $1.92 (+23.5)
Saturday afternoon at Adelaide Oval sees the struggling Power hosting the Giants in a match that the visitors have to win to keep their maiden finals appearance dreams alive.
The Power were dismal last week, getting destroyed by the Dogs at Etihad Stadium.
For a team that prides itself on the fact it will ‘never give up’, the lack of effort from last year’s preliminary finalists was staggering.
The Giants did what they had to against Essendon last week, overturning a half time deficit to run out comfortable winners.
The Power have made wholesale changes at the selection table, with five players omitted from last week’s defeat.
The Giants have lost three of their prime movers in Tom Scully, Stephen Cogniglio and Adam Trealor to injury, which will make it very tough to break even against a strong Power midfield.
The Power are out of finals contention, but they will have a point to prove against an undermanned GWS side and should win comfortably.
Tip: Port Adelaide to win $1.29 via Crownbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Toby Greene $4.50 via Sportsbet
Cats vs. Hawks
Saturday, August 15th, 7:20pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Geelong – $1.91 (+27.5)
Hawthorn – $1.91 (-27.5)
Two of the biggest rivals over the last five years clash at the MCG on Saturday night, with the Cats and the Hawks set to renew hostilities under lights at the home of footy.
The Cats are surging towards the finals after a hard-fought win over the Swans last week.
The Hawks bounced back from their lacklustre showing against Richmond a fortnight ago, overturning a three quarter time deficit to defeat West Coast in Perth.
Steve Johnson will play his 250th AFL game for the Cats after serving his one game suspension for striking Brisbane’s Alan Christenson.
The Hawks regain premiership duo David Hale and Brian Lake from injury.
Despite having great form coming into this one, the Hawks should be far too strong for Geelong, with a top-two spot beckoning for the reigning premiers.
Tip: Hawthorn to win $1.25 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions/most goals – Jordan Lewis/Jarryd Roughead $14 via Sportsbet
Lions vs. Blues
Saturday, August 8th, 7.20pm, GABBA
Brisbane – $1.92 (-3.5)
Carlton – $1.92 (+3.5)
Saturday night between the Blues and the Lions at the GABBA looms as the match no one will watch with both sides struggling to string wins together.
The Blues were gallant but ultimately fell short last week against the Pies, with young gun Patrick Cripps again dominating for the Blues.
The Lions were competitive but struggled to contain Gold Coast’s two key men up forward in last week’s Q-Clash, going down to their sunshine state counterparts by 14 points.
Just one win and two percentage points separate the two teams at the foot of the ladder.
Brisbane coach Justin Leppitsch stated during the week his side were determined to end the season with more wins to their name, and they will not get a better chance in 2015 to register four points.
Expect the Lions to prevail in a close contest.
Tip: Brisbane to win $1.78 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Tom Rockliff $3 via Sportsbet
Tigers vs. Suns
Sunday, August 16th, 1:10pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Richmond – $1.91 (-32.5)
Gold Coast – $1.91 (+32.5)
The first Sunday game of the round sees the Tigers hosting the Suns at the MCG in a match that the home side cannot afford to lose.
Richmond will be ruing a missed opportunity to keep in the hunt for a top-four finish after their meek effort against Adelaide last week.
Tigers coach Damian Hardwick lamented his side’s lack of effort saying the defeat felt like ‘a 100 point loss’.
The Suns registered just their third win of the season last week, taking care of fellow Queenslanders Brisbane in the Q-clash.
The Tigers are set to welcome back midfielder Brett Deledio, whose run and creativity was sorely missed against Adelaide the week before.
The Tigers are in danger of slipping out of the eight if they do not win the games they are supposed to on the run home to the finals.
There will be no such danger here, with Richmond looking to register a big percentage boosting win against an inferior opponent.
Tip: Richmond to win 40+ $2.20 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer –Tyrone Vickery $10 via Sportsbet
Bulldogs vs. Demons
Sunday, August 16th, 3:20pm, Etihad Stadium
Western Bulldogs – $1.91 (-29.5)
Melbourne – $1.92 (+29.5)
Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium sees the white-hot Dogs hosting the Demons in a match that the Bulldogs need to win to maintain their position inside the top-four.
The Bulldogs were ruthless last week and dispatched the Power with consummate ease.
The win gives Luke Beveridge a realistic chance of guiding a team whose ambitions would have been just to sneak into the finals this year into an unlikely top-four berth.
The Demons fell short against North Melbourne last week, but will be buoyed by the game of young forward Jesse Hogan, who continues to impress on his way to a potential rising star award in his second season of AFL.
The Dogs are set to welcome back captain Robert Murphy who missed last week’s match through injury.
The Bulldogs have a great recent record at Etihad Stadium, while the Demons have a dismal one, with a losing record stretching back over seven years.
Expect this trend to continue with the Dogs likely to win by another big margin.
Tip: Western Bulldogs to win 40+ $2.35 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer –Jack Redpath $13 via Sportsbet
Dockers vs. Eagles
Sunday, August 16th, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
Fremantle – $1.92 (-9.5)
West Coast – $1.92 (+9.5)
The final game of the round sees the Dockers clashing with the Eagles with the Derby bragging rights, plus a potential minor premiership on the line.
The Dockers were ruthless last week against the Saints, shutting the home side out early on their home ground to run out easy winners.
The Eagles were brilliant but just lacked the finishing touches in last week’s narrow loss to Hawthorn.
The Eagles will be without Mark LeCras and Jeremy McGovern for the vital clash, with the duo set to miss through suspension and injury respectively.
Fremantle welcome back superstar midfielder Nat Fyfe, who has missed the last fortnight of football with a groin injury.
Given the players Eagles have lost, and the big name of Fyfe returning for Fremantle, expect the Dockers to get the win and sure up their place atop the AFL ladder.
Tip: Fremantle to win $1.58 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Matthew Pavlich $9 via Sportsbet
Ross Glendinning Medal: Nat Fyfe $4.50 via Sportsbet
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