FREMANTLE superstar Nat Fyfe isn’t the only man thanking the heavens for the AFL Match Review Panel’s lenience.
Punters across Australia who have smashed the gun midfielder into red hot favouritism for the Brownlow Medal are also breathing a sigh of relief.
The volatile Fyfe was cited for a third time this season, but the Match Review Panel decided he had no case to answer as his high hit on North Melbourne’s Ben Jacobs was deemed to be “a legitimate attempt to win the loose ball, and that he contested the ball with his arms reaching out in front of his body.”
The MRP said he made “incidental” high contact to Jacobs’ face with his arm and a free kick was paid.
Although Fyfe’s body then followed through and hit Jacobs’ chest, the panel said there was insufficient forceful high contact to see him receive a third fine.
On receiving the news Fyfe would be cleared to play, our friends at Sportsbet.com.au wound the Docker’s price back in from $2.25 to the $1.75.
West Coast’s curly haired mid Matt Priddis is Fyfe’s nearest challenger at $4.50 as he seeks to win back to back Brownlows, while gun North Melbourne ruck man Todd Goldstein is next at $7 and red hot Adelaide Crow Patrick Dangerfield is $8, but both those men have drifted after Fyfe was given the all clear.
“It’s high fyfes all round for those punters who are on the Dockers star,” the bookie’s Christian Jantzen said.
“He lives to fight another day.”
At CrownBet.com.au, the AFL’s official wagering partner, Fyfe actually drifted out.
“It’s all very much alive in the Brownlow, Fyfe has drifted – again – to $1.75, out from $1.65, while Matt Priddis has shortened in to $4, from $6.50,” the bookie’s Rob Cumbrae-Stewart said.
Had Fyfe copped even a financial sanction, it would have been his third such incident of the year and that would have meant an automatic one match suspension and you know what that means – disqualification from the Brownlow race.
The match review did not come without some further controversy, after panel member Nathan Burke made some comments on radio about the incident.
“It is likely front-on contact, it will be rough conduct,” Burke said.
“We’ll look if he was contesting the ball — there are alternative ways to contest the ball.
“We’ll look at the level of impact. I’m pretty sure intentional (conduct) is off the table.
“I don’t want to talk too soon, but it would be (regarded as) accidental.”
In the wake of his comments, AFL operations manager Mark Evans asked him to step aside from the panel reviewing.
He did so and the remaining three panelists, Michael Christian, Luke Ball and Brad Sewell, were left to rule on the incident.
“I did ask him (Burke) to step aside from the Fyfe case – it was a more prudent course of action – and Nathan agreed to that,” Evans said.
Fyfe has had a stellar season that entered a slight lull in recent weeks, but if he wins this year’s Brownlow, he will become the first Docker to do so in the club’s history.
He had just 21 touches as the Dockers lowered their colours to North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on the weekend, 14.10 (94) to 12.11 (83).
Despite the loss, Fremantle is a steady $4.25 third favourite to West Coast and main fancies Hawthorn, which lost to Port Adelaide on Friday night, 16.12 (108) to 13.8 (86), and was subsequently wound out from $2.10 to $2.70 at CrownBet.com.au.
The Eagles were jammed in from $5.50 to $3.75 after they smoked the Western Bulldogs by 77 points, 25.12 (162) to 13.7 (85).
And no wonder Priddis is the man punters believe most likely to challenge Fyfe for the Brownlow, after he had a monstrous 37 disposals and seven tackles in the rout.
But he might have competition for the three votes from gun forward Josh Kennedy, who booted seven goals, had 21 disposals and plucked 14 marks in a superb tour de force.
With a lead of 17 goals, CrownBet has declared Kennedy the winner of the 2015 Coleman Medal and have paid out all single bets on him.
In other markets, Sydney has closed in on the double chance, they are in to $1.21, from $1.24, to finish in the top four, while the Dogs’ chance is all but gone after they drifted from $3.50 to $12, following their monstrous hiding at the hands of the Eagles.
It’s race in two for the final position in the top eight, with the Crows holding all the aces at $1.26, wound in from $1.30. Geelong’s draw with St Kilda has almost killed off its finals chances, drifting to $3.75 from $2.75.
And in the battle of the future legends, Carlton’s Patrick Cripps is back into favouritism at $1.80, in from $2.20, going back ahead of Melbourne key forward Jesse Hogan, who was wound out from $1.65 into $2, Cumbrae-Stewart remarking that the market had done a complete “180”.
On a less serious AFL betting note, the Sportsbet crew has released a market on exactly what deposed Essendon coach James Hird will do next, after he was dumped as the club’s mentor last week.
“James Hird just about has more university degrees than the Bombers have wins in season 2015, so he shouldn’t have any trouble getting a new gig,” Jantzen said.
“We’ve created a fictional market on what one of football’s brightest people will do next and it’s no surprise to see a return to being director at sports marketing company Gemba as the $1.66 favourite, given he helped create the business.
“Offers to be a commentator ($3) will no doubt come flooding in, and Hird is already a proven hit “On The Couch” ($16).
“Those scenarios are much more likely than Hirdy using his Bombers’ experience to become a pharmaceutical rep ($41), or become an AFL coach at a different club, which is priced at $101.
“Although he’d get a walk-up start at Essendon at the moment, Hird is $501 to return to the playing field at the age of 42.
“James Hird is far too intelligent to stay in the football world and it’s probably cost him millions by not moving into the corporate world sooner.”
Brownlow Medal Winner
Matt Priddis ($4.50, steady)
Todd Goldstein ($7, out from $6)
Patrick Dangerfield ($8, out from $7)
Daniel Hannebery ($14, out from $11)
Sam Mitchell ($14, out from $11)
Andrew Gaff ($16, out from $15)
Scott Pendlebury ($21, out from $16)
David Mundy ($26, out from $21)
Hawthorn Hawks ($2.70, out from $2.10)
West Coast Eagles ($3.75, in from $5.50)
Fremantle Dockers ($4.25, steady)
Sydney Swans ($10, steady)
Richmond Tigers ($15, in from $17)
Western Bulldogs ($31, out from $26)
North Melbourne ($31, in from $31)
Adelaide Crows ($51, in from $67)
Geelong Cats ($151, out from $126)
Top four finish
Sydney Swans ($1.21, in from $1.24)
Richmond Tigers ($6.50, in from $9)
Western Bulldogs ($12, out from $3.50)
North Melbourne Kangaroos ($26, out from $12)
Adelaide Crows ($81, in from $101)
To make the top eight
Hawthorn Hawks, West Coast Eagles, Fremantle Dockers, Sydney Swans, Richmond Tigers, North Melbourne Kangaroos and Western Bulldogs all sealed –
Adelaide Crows ($1.26, in from $1.30)
Geelong Cats ($3.75, out from $2.75)
Patrick Cripps (Carlton Blues, nominated in round four)($1.80, in from $2.20)
Jesse Hogan (Melbourne Demons, nominated in round nine ($2, out from $1.65)
Dom Sheed (West Coast Eagles, nominated in round 15) ($17, steady)
What will James Hird do next?
Return to Director of Gemba ($1.66)
Writer for Herald Sun ($4)
Writer for The Age ($12)
Join On The Couch ($16)
Gap Year ($26)
University Lecturer ($34)
Player Manager ($34)
Pharmaceutical Company Rep ($41)
Director of Football at any AFL club ($41)
Board member of any AFL club ($51)
Assistant Coach ($67)
AFL Coach ($101)
CEO of AFL club ($151)
Return to playing ($501)
WITH round 20 in the books the top-eight now looks to be set in stone.
The Crows and Kangaroos recorded vital wins to move clear of the logjam towards the tail of the top-eight, with a loss to the Hawks potentially ending Geelong’s finals run.
The Eagles recorded an impressive victory over the Dockers to keep their home qualifying final chances alive while the Western Bulldogs maintained their spot in the top-four with a crushing victory over the Demons.
The Tigers and Swans kept within reaching distance of a double-chance with important wins against the Suns and Magpies respectively to maintain the pressure on the Dogs in fourth place.
There were plenty of important matches over the weekend so let’s take a look at the action.
Round 20 review – Eagles down the Dockers to maintain their top-two chances
The round began on Friday night with the Swans outlasting the Magpies to keep their top-four chances alive with a spirited 11 point victory at the SCG.
The win keeps the Swans right in contention for a double-chance opportunity at the end of the season.
Sydney were led superbly by prolific on-baller Tom Mitchell who ended the game with a career-high 41 disposals.
One sour point for the victors was the loss of Luke Parker to a broken leg after getting tangled up in a nasty tackle late in the match.
Parker still remains hopeful that his season is not over but the stoutly build midfielder would need the Swans to make a deep September push to be any chance of taking the field again in 2015.
The loss spells the end of Collingwood’s finals hopes, with William Hill still offering a sizable $41 dollars on the Pies to pull off the miracle.
Saturday night saw the renewal of one of modern footballs fiercest rivalries, with Hawthorn brushing aside Geelong to the tune of 36-points at the MCG.
The Hawks led from start to finish and never looked in danger of conceding defeat after piling on seven goals to three in the opening quarter.
The reigning premiers were lead masterfully by their captain Luke Hodge and livewire forward Cyril Rioli, who combined for 10 goals.
The win further strengthens Hawthorn’s premiership credentials, with the Hawks now into $2.10 with Sportsbet to win the 2015 flag.
Another strong performance from Hawthorn midfielder Sam Mitchell has propelled the veteran Hawk into Brownlow medal contention.
Sportsbet has Mitchell as joint fifth favourite along with Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield at $14 to be named the fairest and best player in the AFL.
Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium saw the Bulldogs consolidate their position inside the top-four with a resounding 98-point win over the lowly Demons.
The Dogs kicked eight goals in the first term whilst holding the Demons to just two behinds to set up the victory.
The 15-goal win handed the Western Bulldogs a much needed percentage boost going into the final three rounds of the season, with Luke Beveridge’s men over 10 percentage points clear of the fifth placed Sydney Swans.
Despite holding a position inside the top-four, Crownbet has the Dogs as $3.00 outsiders to secure the double-chance heading into the finals.
The reluctance of the bookmakers may stem from the fact that the Dogs travel west to take on the Eagles in round 21, but with the Swans facing the Giants at Spotless Stadium they are no certainties to register four points.
The round concluded in the West with the Eagles snapping a six-game losing streak against the Dockers to record an impressive 24-point victory over their Western Australian rivals.
The Eagles kicked six goals within the opening 15 minutes of the match to set up the victory, with a four goal haul from Ross Glendinning medallist Josh Hill being the decisive contributor for the derby.
The Dockers seemed out of sync for the entire match, and despite a last quarter rally to get them within three goals, they never looked like taking the lead at any stage.
Despite conceding defeat, the Dockers still remain $1.28 favourites with Sportsbet to take out the minor premiership.
With the top-two positions on the ladder all but secured by the Eagles and the Dockers, the possibility that neither team will have to leave Perth until Grand Final day is a very real prospect.
Both teams are at $2.00 with Sportsbet to make the 2015 Grand Final.
The big injury news out of the weekend was the broken leg suffered by Sydney superstar Luke Parker.
Parker’s leg got caught underneath him after being tackled by an opponent midway through the fourth quarter and had to be taken from the field with the assistance of the Sydney medical staff.
The broken leg more than likely spells the end of Parker’s 2015 season, but the Swans are hopeful they can progress deep into this year’s finals series long enough to give their star on-baller ample time to recover.
Superstar forward Lance Franklin is also no certainty to return for the 2014 Grand Finalists with a lingering back injury not healing as fast as the Swans would have liked.
Another blow to West Coast’s already depleted back stocks with Will Schofield ruled out for potentially a month after sustaining a hamstring injury in Sunday’s victory over the Dockers.
With a top-two finish within their grasp it is unlikely that Schofield will be risked in the next three weeks with the Eagles instead focused on getting him ready for a possible home qualifying final.
IT is a big round of football this weekend with two matches in particular potentially shaping the final structure of the top eight.
The Tigers can push for a top-four berth with a victory over the Crows, but a win to Adelaide keeps their finals chances alive, while the Hawks and the Eagles play off effectively for the second spot on the ladder.
The Bulldogs and the Power face off in the match of the round, a game that may decide who plays finals and who misses out.
Crows vs. Tigers
Friday, August 7th, 7:50pm, Adelaide Oval
Adelaide – $1.92 (+4.5)
Richmond – $1.92 (-4.5)
The round begins on Friday night in South Australia with the Crows hosting the Tigers at Adelaide Oval.
The Tigers are in red-hot form and are in striking distance of a top-four finish after delivering one of the upsets of the season against Hawthorn last Friday night at the MCG.
The Crows came down to earth with a thud last weekend against Sydney at the SCG, going down by 52 points.
The loss leaves Adelaide outside the top-eight with a little over a month to go until finals.
A big question mark hangs over the head of Richmond superstar Brett Deledio, who did not travel with the team to Adelaide on Thursday morning, citing gastro.
Deledio is coming off the back of a match-winning four goal performance against Hawthorn and will be a massive loss if he is unable to take to the field.
So much on the line for both teams, but Richmond should prove too classy here, with the Crows looking understandably tired and deflated after several testing weeks.
Tip: Richmond to win $1.73 via Crownbet
Exotic: Most disposals group 1 Scott Thompson – $4.00 via Sportsbet
Magpies vs. Blues
Saturday, August 8th, 1:45pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Collingwood – $1.91 (-30.5)
Carlton – $1.91 (+30.5)
Saturday afternoon at the MCG sees two of the AFL’s biggest rivals renew hostilities with Collingwood hosting Carlton at the home of football.
The Magpies are in dire need of a win to keep their faint finals hopes alive and if there last outing against Melbourne is any indication, their top-eight chances are as good as gone.
Carlton have been abysmal after a mini-revival under caretaker coach John Barker, losing heavily to North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium last Saturday night.
Good news for the Pies with Ben Reid making his way into the side for the first time this year to finally play out his 100th game at AFL level, with Ben Sinclair also overcoming injury to force his way back into the side.
The Blues welcome back versatile swing-man Andrew Walker back into the fold after missing several weeks through injury.
Despite losing five games in a row the Pies are far superior to the struggling Blues and should come away with the victory.
Tip: Collingwood to win $1.20 via Crownbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 2 – Tom Bell $8.00 via Sportsbet
Bulldogs vs. Power
Saturday, August 8th, 2:10pm, Etihad Stadium
Western Bulldogs – $1.91 (-9.5)
Port Adelaide – $1.91 (+9.5)
Etihad Stadium is the venue for the match of the round with the red-hot Bulldogs hosting the in-form Power.
The Dogs are flying and within reaching distance of the top-four after dismantling Essendon last week at Etihad Stadium.
The Power kept the flicking finals flame alive with a comprehensive win over St Kilda at home.
The Bulldogs have lost inspirational captain Robert Murphy to injury but regain emerging midfielder Lin Jong.
The Power have recalled Jarmen Impey into the squad to replace injured on-baller Olly Wines.
It is all to play for, with both teams in dire need of a win for different reasons, but an upset looms large here with the Power’s experience and run-and-gun style the perfect game plan to disrupt the Dogs’ fast paced offense.
Tip: Port Adelaide to win $2.35 via William Hill
Exotic: Most possessions/most goals – Travis Boak/Justin Westhoff $54 via Sportsbet
Lions vs. Suns
Saturday, August 8th, 4:35pm, GABBA
Brisbane – $1.92 (+11.5)
Gold Coast – $1.92 (-11.5)
The GABBA is the scene for the second installment of this year’s Q-clash between the Brisbane Lions and the Gold Coast Suns.
The Lions were gallant in defeat down at Simonds Stadium last week, with the visitors right in the contest midway through the third quarter before being blown away late by the Cats.
The Gold Coast produced one of their finest performances of the year, splitting the points with the second placed West Coast Eagles in the first draw of the year.
The Lions suffered a big blow with gun on-baller Danye Beams ruled out for the year with a shoulder injury.
Zac O’Brien, who has impressed in the NEAFL, gets his chance at AFL level.
Michael Rischitelli finds his way back into the Suns’ side after overcoming an injury, with Josh Glen the man omitted.
Both teams are looking to run out the clock, with a host of injuries and a raft of off-field issues seeing both the Suns and the Lions languishing towards the bottom of the ladder.
Expect the Suns to get the points here in a game neither side will be too upset about losing.
Tip: Gold Coast to win $1.20 via William Hill
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Harley Bennell $3.50 via Sportsbet
Cats vs. Swans
Saturday, August 8th, 7:20pm, Simonds Stadium
Geelong – $1.91 (+2.5)
Sydney – $1.91 (-2.5)
Night time footy returns to Geelong on Saturday night with the Cats hosting the Swans at Simonds Stadium.
Geelong have won two on the trot and have forced their way back into the eight after looking like 2015 may be a wasted year.
The Swans bounced back in emphatic fashion last week, man-handling the Crows on the way to a 52 point victory.
The big story out of Thursday night’s team news is that Sydney superstar forward Lance Franklin will not make the journey down to Victoria after suffering a back injury last week.
Adam Goodes is the man that replaces the former Coleman medallist.
For the Cats Matthew Stokes gets another chance at AFL level after being dropped for a string of poor performances, with Steve Johnson set to miss after receiving a one match ban for striking.
Prior to the team selections Sydney would have been overwhelming favourites to take out the match, but with Franklin set to sit the game out the scales tip in Geelong’s favour.
Expect the Cats to keep their good form rolling, with another September campaign firmly in their sights.
Tip: Geelong to win $2.00 via Sportsbet
Exotic: To get 30 or more disposals – Jimmy Bartel $4.70 via Sportsbet
Eagles vs. Hawks
Saturday, August 8th, 7.20pm, Domain Stadium
West Coast – $1.92 (+5.5)
Hawthorn – $1.92 (-5.5)
Saturday night in the west sees the Eagles hosting the Hawks in a game that could hand the winner a top-two spot by the end of the season.
The Eagles were disappointing last week and will be kicking themselves that they could not get past the Gold Coast Suns, drawing with the second last team on the ladder at Metricon Stadium.
The Hawks were brought crashing down to earth after winning eight games in a row, losing to Richmond last Friday night at the MCG.
Intercept marking superstar Jeremy McGovern has overcome a leg injury to find his way back into the side for the Eagles, with Josh Hill the man making way.
Hawk Jonathan Ceglar gets another chance at AFL level after David Hale was forced to withdraw from the team with general soreness.
Despite their lacklustre performance last week, the Eagles are a much improved side in 2015 and should prove too much for the Hawks, especially on their home ground.
Tip: West Coast to win $2.10 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Matt Priddis $4 via Sportsbet
Demons vs. Kangaroos
Sunday, August 9th, 1:10pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Melbourne – $1.91 (+21.5)
North Melbourne – $1.91 (-21.5)
The first Sunday game of the weekend takes place at the MCG with Melbourne hosting the Kangaroos.
The Demons are fresh off their first victory over Collingwood since 2007, with Paul Roos’ men doing it in style, arguably their best win for the season.
The Kangaroos are motoring along and easily brushed aside Carlton last week to sit in seventh position.
North Melbourne have welcomed back Lachlan Hansen into the side for suspended backman Michael Firrito.
The Kangaroos currently sit inside the top eight, but with such a logjam of teams towards the lower half of the eight they cannot afford to drop games like this against lower ranked opposition.
Expect the Kangaroos to keep the finals dream alive and get the four points against the Dees.
Tip: North Melbourne to win $1.32 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer –Jarrad Waite $8 via Sportsbet
Giants vs. Bombers
Sunday, August 9th, 3:20pm, Spotless Stadium
GWS – $1.91 (-26.5)
Essendon – $1.92 (+23.5)
The lone Sydney match this week sees the Giants hosting the Bombers in a game the home team has to win to keep their finals hopes alive.
The Giants were brave last week but could not topple the top of the table Dockers, never quite doing enough to get within reach of Fremantle.
The Dons were dismal last week and were out of the game at quarter time against the Dogs. The players look tired and ready for the end of the season.
Big news for the Giants is that Jonathan Patton has finally made his way back into the side after overcoming an ACL injury that ended his 2014 season.
The Dons welcome back Michael Hurley and Heath Hocking, the latter playing his first game of the season after an injury riddled pre-season.
The Giants have been hard to beat at home and they should be far too strong for an Essendon team that is bereft of confidence.
Tip: GWS to win 40+ $2.40 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer –Jeremy Cameron $7 via Sportsbet
Saints vs. Dockers
Sunday, August 9th, 4:40pm, Etihad Stadium
St Kilda – $1.92 (+14.5)
Fremantle – $1.92 (-14.5)
The final game of the round sees the Saints and the Dockers clash on Sunday at Etihad Stadium, with the top of the table Fremantle hoping to keep the ball rolling in an effort to finish the season with the minor premiership.
The Dockers were terrific last week in a hard fought win over the Giants. The home side kept GWS at bay for the entire game and enjoyed a thoroughly professional win over their counterparts.
The Saints showed the first signs of fatigue this season, succumbing to the Power over at Adelaide Oval.
Fremantle will again be without Nat Fyfe after the Brownlow medal favourite failed to shake a groin complaint that kept him out of last week’s win over GWS.
The Dockers will be hoping history does not repeat itself this season after copping a hammering at the hands of the Saints at Etihad in 2014 which was one of the biggest upsets in recent AFL history.
That should not happen in 2015 though, with too much at stake for Fremantle.
Expect Ross Lyon’s Dockers to pick up the four points.
Tip: Fremantle to win $1.48 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Matthew Pavlich $8 via Sportsbet