Three weeks in and this AFL season is already starting to take shape. Essendon are the surprise packets in the top 8, and winless St Kilda have been the big disappointments. Round 4 promises to be an intriguing weekend on many levels, old rivals Carlton and Essendon do battle in a traditional Saturday afternoon fixture at the ‘G, and Geelong have another challenge to meet, this time their opponent is the experienced Sydney Swans outfit. The round concludes on Sunday with the Gold Coast hosting Melbourne in what shapes as their best chance of a competitive showing yet.
Season Tally (After Round 3)
Wagered = $240
Collected = $237.80
Profit/Loss = – $2.20
% Profit/Loss = – 0.9%
Tips = 15*
*Note: The draw is treated differently depending on your tipping competition. I have assumed it to be 0.5 tips.
RICHMOND v COLLINGWOOD – MCG (7.40pm AEST)
LAST TIME: Collingwood 19.13 (127) def Richmond 6.9 (45), Round 17, 2010
AT SELECTION: Collingwood’s number one ruckman Darren Jolly copped a slight knock to the knee during last Friday night’s win over Carlton. Cameron Wood replaces Jolly in ruck for this encounter and will be keen to impress. Richmond have recalled key defender Will Thursfield and key forward Brad Miller, a player recycled from Melbourne. Making way for the Tigers are Daniel Connors with a leg injury and the omitted Mitch Morton.
WHO IS MISSING? Collingwood are really only missing full back Nathan Brown and Jolly from their first choice 22. Even with Thursfield back, the Tigers are without three of their better defenders as McGuane and Alex Rance are both suspended, and Kelvin Moore is still battling a hip injury.
PREVIEW: The Collingwood machine is still rolling on, comfortably winning matches without ever extending past second gear. The Pies were tested by Carlton last Friday night, but had too much class across the park and ultimately cruised to a five goal victory. This is ominous for the Tigers, who, after being competitive in their opening two games, were destroyed by Hawthorn and the Lance Franklin show last weekend. Like the Hawks, Collingwood also have power forwards, and the twin towers of Travis Cloke and Chris Dawes are even more imposing than last year. Richmond are grossly undersized down back and will be praying for some rain to nullify the Magpies aerial threat. Collingwood also have the much stronger midfield, although Richmond will be hoping Angus Graham can dominate Collingwood in the ruck position with Jolly absent. If Graham can direct the ball down to his teammates, Richmond might be able to generate some inside 50s, but even then Collingwood look to have the answer to Richmond’s goalkicking hope, Jack Riewoldt. Riewoldt is the Tigers main man up forward and Chris Tarrant would appear to be a perfect defensive match up on him.
TIP: Collingwood to win by 50 points
ANDY’S BET: Collingwood to win by 49 points or more @ 2.00 (Readbet)
HAWTHORN v WEST COAST – YORK PARK (2.10pm AEST)
LAST TIME: West Coast 15.12 (102) def Hawthorn 14.10 (94)
AT SELECTION: The Hawks are boosted by the return of ball winning midfielder Sam Mitchell and sizzling playmaker Cyril Rioli. Unfortunately their win last week over Richmond came at a cost, promising defender Ben Stratton is out for the season with a serious knee injury, while Michael Osborne should only miss a week with a strained calf. West Coast have made a single tactical switch, dropping wingman Pat McGinnity for the ball getting Brad Dalziell.
WHO IS MISSING? The unlucky Stratton, and Osborne, are the only main men missing for Hawthorn, while Beau Waters, Mark LeCras and Chris Masten remain on the Eagles long term injury list.
PREVIEW: The Hawks will be very happy to have Sam Mitchell back for this fixture. The midfielder has gathered possessions with ease against the Eagles previously, racking up 40 touches in each of his previous two games against them. Hawthorn’s two areas of weakness are in the ruck, and now also down back after the season ending injury to Ben Stratton. In Dean Cox, the Eagles have a premier ruckman who can expose Hawthorn at the stoppages and around the ground. Despite this, I think the Hawks ball getters will look to rove Cox’s taps and simply overpower their inexperienced opponents. Fine, sunny weather has been forecast for Tasmania, so Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin will again be a difficult man to contain.
TIP: Hawthorn by 31 points
ANDY’S BET: Sam Mitchell most disposals in his group @ 2.25 (TAB Sportsbet)
CARLTON v ESSENDON – MCG (2.10pm AEST)
LAST TIME: Essendon 9.19 (73) def by Carlton 23.11 (149), R19, 2010
AT SELECTION: The navy blues make two like for like changes this week. Center half forward Lachie Henderson is recalled in favour of Bret Thornton and Simon White has been preferred to Matt Watson at full back. The Bombers have dropped out of form small forward Alwyn Davey for classy midfielder Brent Prismall.
WHO IS MISSING? Carlton are still without center half back Paul Bower and ruckman Matthew Kreuzer. A host of Essendon’s senior players remain unavailable including David Hille, David Myers and Tayte Pears.
PREVIEW: Both these teams are up and about, winning two games each and going close in the other. There are two reasons I am leaning towards the Blues in this one. The first is their big game MCG experience from last week’s showdown with Collingwood, noting the Bombers are yet to play at the home of football in 2011, and the second is their ability to match and beat Essendon in the clearances, thus negating the forward drives from the red and blacks. Essendon’s main area of advantage is their outrageously quick players and speedy ball movement. However, if, as I expect, Carlton can will the midfield battle, then they have nippy players of their own who can lock the ball in attack. Jeff Garlett is one Carlton player I have really enjoyed watching this season, if you catch a glimpse of this one, be sure to look out for his electric forward bursts and cunning goal sense.
TIP: Carlton by 11 points
ANDY’S BET: Carlton to win @ 2.02 (Betfair)
SYDNEY v GEELONG – SCG (7.10pm AEST)
LAST TIME: Sydney 9.18 (72) def by Geelong 20.5 (125), R18, 2010
AT SELECTION: The Swans make no change to their winning lineup and Geelong inch closer to full strength with recalls for defensive duo Andrew Mackie and Tom Lonergan, as well as explosive wingman David Wojcinski. The three players to make way are forward Tom Hawkins (back injury), flanker Mitch Duncan (general soreness) and Allen Christensen (omitted).
WHO IS MISSING? Sydney are still missing full forward Daniel Bradshaw as well as key defender Lewis Roberts-Thomson and running backs Nick Malceski and Tadgh Kennelly. With the return of Mackie and Wojcinski, Geelong are close to full strength as only forward flanker Shannon Byrnes, Hawkins and Duncan are on the injury list.
PREVIEW: It is third against second in this Saturday night ripper from the SCG. The more things change the more they stay the same is an apt cliche to describe both clubs who changed coaches in the off season. Sydney under John Longmire are playing like the Sydney under Paul Roos and Geelong under Chris Scott are playing in a similar style to the Geelong under Mark Thompson. It is as if both coaches have concluded their predecessors had things set up pretty well and have only tinkered slightly. Sydney are still fierce at the contest and play very tight matches. Last Saturday night’s win 11 point win followed a 5 point win in Round 2 and a draw in Round 1. Geelong have maintained the panache and swagger of the premiership winning teams of 2007 and 2009, but Chris Scott has instilled an extra bit of discipline and defensive aggression to go with it. This is a hard game to tip a winner, but the one thing I am certain of is a high tackle count. I also think it will be a close game and after the successful tri-bet in the Sydney game last weekend, I am hoping for a repeat.
TIP: Sydney by 10 points
ANDY’S BET: Either team by under 15.5 points @ 3.00 (Sportingbet)
PORT ADELAIDE v ADELAIDE – AAMI STADIUM (7.40pm AEST)
LAST TIME: Port Adelaide 13.10 (88) def Adelaide 9.15 (69), R17, 2010
AT SELECTION: Port coach Matthew Primus has certainly made a statement at the selection table. He has made an example of underperforming senior players Kane Cornes and Danyle Pearce by dropping them from the side. Jason Davenport and youngsters Daniel Stewart and Jarrad Irons have also been cut. Mid-sized forward Brett Ebert, Michael Pettigrew, Cameron Hitchcock and rugged on ballers Steven Salopek and Jacob Surjan all return. Adelaide will be without quality defensive options as Phil Davis (shoulder) and Scott Stevens (illness) sit this one out. They hand a recall to Myke Cook and have selected young key defender Luke Thompson to make his AFL debut.
WHO IS MISSING? Skipper Dom Cassisi and forward Jay Schulz are the key power men unavailable due to injury. Adelaide’s injury list is growing and they are now missing six regular starters through injury – Davis, Stevens, Rory Sloane, David Mackay, Jason Porplyzia and Michael Doughty.
PREVIEW: I watched Adelaide last weekend and was really disappointed. I had high hopes for them this year and felt like a fool watching them constantly turn over possession with simple skill errors against Fremantle. They have a number of key players missing through injury, but I am going to keep faith for an extra week. The reason I am keeping the faith in Adelaide is the selections made by their opponents this weekend, Port Adelaide. I can’t believe the Power are dropping Kane Cornes and Danyle Pearce as I believe both are in Port’s best 5 players. They are also both midfielders, and in a match with such a fierce rivalry, I think their coolness in the heat of battle would have been invaluable. Now I am thinking Adelaide will bust the game open in the second half.
TIP: Adelaide by 32 points
ANDY’S BET: Adelaide to win by 17 points or more @ 2.00
ANDY’S BET: Taylor Walker to kick the most goals @ 4.50
GOLD COAST v MELBOURNE – GABBA (2.10pm AEST)
LAST TIME: N/A
AT SELECTION: There are big changes at the Gold Coast. Defender and vice-captain Campbell Brown will serve the first of a four match suspension. Ex-Port Adelaide back flanker Nathan Krakouer has been left out of the team and high draft pick Harley Bennell has also been omitted. Ruckman Josh Fraser comes straight back in after a week off to get over his ankle problem. Josh Toy is also recalled and Matt Shaw has been named to start on the wing for his AFL debut. Luke Russell, Hayden Jolly and Jack Hutchins have all been included on an extended bench, and, if selected, would make their AFL debuts. Melbourne have drafted Ricky Petterd, Addam Maric and James Strauss into their extended squad.
WHO IS MISSING? Campbell Brown is probably the only first choice Gold Coast player missing through injury or suspension. Tom Scully is still out for Melbourne, and the talented teenager has endured a setback in his rehabilitation, meaning he is now 6 weeks from returning to the seniors.
PREVIEW: Melbourne were less than convincing despite beating Brisbane last Sunday. The demons fell in against their unfancied opponents for their first win this season. On paper, they should comfortably account for an outsized Gold Coast team. The main question will be the margin. I think the Suns were slightly better last weekend and will look to continue that gradual improvement here. There is one interesting side issue for this game and that is the weather. Heavy rain and showers are forecast for Brisbane from Saturday through until Monday, so this will be a wet one. Because of this I think Melbourne’s bigger bodies will be too strong and prevail in a low scoring contest.
TIP: Melbourne by 37 points
ANDY’S BET: Total match points 150 or less @ 3.75 (TAB Sportsbet)
ANDY’S BET: Round 4 Lowest Scoring Team – Gold Coast @ 5.00 (TAB Sportsbet)
FREMANTLE v NORTH MELBOURNE – PATERSONS STADIUM (4.40pm AEST)
LAST TIME: North Melbourne 19.9 (123) def Fremantle 10.9 (69), R19, 2010
AT SELECTION: At the time of writing, no players have yet been dropped from the lineups for the last game of the weekend. The key news is that Aaron Sandilands has overcome his eye injury from last weekend and been selected to take the field in this one. Garrick Ibbotson, Jay Van Berlo and Jesse Crichton could earn a call up for the Dockers, while North may yet include Daniel Pratt, Ben Warren or Cameron Pederson.
WHO IS MISSING? Fremantle still have a long injury list that is not getting any shorter. Michael Barlow, Roger Hayden, Byron Schammer, Garrick Ibbotson, Alex Silvagni and Anthony Morabito are all unavailable. North are without ruckman Hamish McIntosh, midfielder Rayn Bastinac and goalsneek Matt Campbell.
PREVIEW: Don’t bet against Freo in Perth. That is the first rule of AFL betting. The purple haze rarely lose at home, and they have already been defeated at home once this season, so there quota has been used up. Crucially, the big giant Aaron Sandilands has been selected after injuring his eye last weekend. That injury forced him to be subbed off early in the second half, and despite his absence, Fremantle went on to record a deserved interstate victory. The Kangaroos were horrible against Collingwood in Round 2 and have had plenty of time to think about making amends as they sat out last week with the bye. Brad Scott will urge for an improved effort this weekend, but ultimately, they don’t have the cattle to bring home the goods.
TIP: Fremantle by 39 points
ANDY’S BET: Fremantle to win by 32 points or more @ 2.00 (Readbet)