The following are previews and betting tips for round 22 of the 2012 AFL season.
Season tally so far
Bets = 203.5 units
Won = 214.54 units
Profit/Loss = +11.04 units (5.4% profit)
CHEEKY WEEK 22 AFL MULTI
Andy’s bet: 1 unit on Richmond at the line (-9.5), North Melbourne to win by 39 points or less and Jay Schulz to kick the most goals in the Port Adelaide v Brisbane game @ 16.90 (Sportsbet)
Richmond v Essendon
Only the most optimistic Essendon supporters will be holding out hope that their team can still make the finals. The Bombers campaign had started so promisingly and the red and blacks actually topped the ladder after their Round 9 victory over GWS. However, their charge has fizzled out and they have now lost five straight matches to slip down to 10th place on the ladder, a game and a significant percentage gap behind 8th placed Fremantle. Two rounds of the home and away season remain, and with Fremantle almost certain to beat Melbourne in the final round, Essendon’s season is effectively over.
Richmond’s finals hopes were dashed a few weeks ago and the Tigers responded nicely by thrashing Brisbane and then the Western Bulldogs, before being beaten by Fremantle in Perth last weekend.
Both clubs find themselves out of finals contention because they have been too inconsistent during the season. At their best, both teams can beat anyone, but unfortunately we get to see their worst just as much as we see their best.
The venue for this match is the pivotal factor which has swayed me to tip the Tigers. Richmond have played the MCG more than twice as many times as Essendon this season, and generally play the ground pretty well, so I’ll be on the yellow and blacks to give my weekend punting some early momentum!
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Richmond to win @ 1.65 (TAB Sporsbet)
St Kilda v GWS Giants
For St Kilda, see Essendon; a miracle is required for a finals appearance. In the absence of skipper Nick Riewoldt, the Saints bravely battled to within a point of Geelong during the final quarter of last Friday night’s important match, but the Cats steadied and kicked away to secure the victory and effectively sentence St Kilda to a football-free September for only the second time since 2003.
GWS has been more competitive than I was expecting this season, with victories over Gold Coast and Port Adelaide accompanied by many encouraging showings, including pushing Carlton for three quarters and matching Geelong for a half at Simonds Stadium.
Having been so close to Premiership success in both 2009 and 2010, it will be difficult for St Kilda’s core group of experienced stars to find motivation for the pair of meaningless end of season games that are coming up. Because of this, I reckon the young and enthusiastic GWS upstarts will catch the Saints off guard and make this game closer than the bookies think.
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on GWS at the line (+79.5) @ 1.92 (Sportsbet)
Port Adelaide v Brisbane Lions
After a few weeks packed with critical fixtures, the gentle start to this weekend continues with a third successive match involving teams that are no longer in finals contention. Brisbane is in the better form of these teams, beating high flying Adelaide last weekend, while Port Adelaide has lost 9 of its last 10 matches.
Brisbane is only slight favourites in the head to head market, which means the bookies are putting a heavy weighting on the home ground advantage because the Lions have been much better than the Power during the past couple of months. Further to this, Brisbane re-signed vice-captain Jed Adcock and talented youngsters Claye Beams and Josh Green during the week, meaning the Lions playing group will be in a positive mood, in direct contrast to a Port Adelaide team lacking a senior coach and whose best player – Travis Boak – has yet to recommit to the club and is expected to head home to a Victorian team next season.
Port Adelaide full forward Jay Schulz has now played three games since returning from a serious mid-season injury that resulted in him spending a few days in hospital with internal bleeding. Schulz has kicked six goals during the past two weeks, and it would have been more but for some inaccuracy in front of goal last weekend. The big man has kicked at least one goal in each of his 13 matches this season and averages 2.8 goals a game this campaign, easily the most of anybody who will take to the field in the clash, so I’ll be on Schulz for the most goals.
Despite my predicted bag of goals for Schulz, I’m still tipping Brisbane for the win as the Lions have a greater depth of talent.
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Brisbane to win @ 1.70 (TAB Sporsbet)
Andy’s Bet: 1 unit on Jay Schulz for most goals @ 4.00 (Sportsbet)
Sydney Swans v Hawthorn
The match of the round will be played between Sydney and Hawthorn in the unglamorous Saturday twilight timeslot. In most states this game won’t be telecast on a free-to-air station, so if you don’t have pay-tv, get yourself to your nearest pub and enjoy a few cleansing ales as you watch what is likely to be one of the best home and away games played all season.
Both teams are in supreme form and have won 10 of their past 11 matches to occupy the top two rungs on the ladder. While being proficient in all areas of the game, these teams have contrasting specialties that make this matchup even more interesting. Statistically, the Swans are clearly the best defensive team, restricting their opposition to an average of 70 points per game this season, while the Hawks are the league’s heaviest scorers, averaging 124 points per game.
Even with Hawthorn power forward Lance Franklin finally returning after a much publicised 6 week absence, I favour Sydney for the win. This is because they are the better defensive team, and my football theory is that a good defensive team will beat a good offensive team. Yep, I subscribe to the glass-half-empty philosophy.
Andy’s Bet: 0.5 units on Sydney to win by 39 points or less @ 2.60 (Sportsbet)
West Coast Eagles v Collingwood
The winner of this match will head into the final round of the season in fourth spot, and in pole position to claim the all-important finals double chance. The Magpies thought they’d sewn up a top 4 spot after defeating the Swans in Sydney a fortnight ago, however an upset defeat to North Melbourne meant the Pies have to conjure up another interstate win to secure that top 4 position.
West Coast took care of business against Port Adelaide last weekend, however the Eagles haven’t been particularly impressive during the past month and a bit, with a lucky 5 point win over Geelong their only notable win during the past 6 weeks, a period in which John Worsfold’s team has suffered three thrashings by Sydney, Adelaide and Fremantle.
Collingwood’s full-time superstar and part-time bad bay Dane Swan returns after a two week club suspension and his see ball, get ball approach will be suited to the expansive playing surface at Patersons Stadium. In bad news for the Magpies, skipper Nick Maxwell and ruckman Darren Jolly have been sidelined due to injuries sustained last weekend. Meanwhile, West Coast’s sharp shooting forward Josh Kennedy has been selected to play his first game since suffering a serious ankle injury in Round 5.
Collingwood has won its past 11 interstate matches, happily banding together in hostile environments. With the Eagles in indifferent form, I think the Magpies are the better option in this clash.
Andy’s Bet: 0.5 units on Collingwood to win by 39 points or less @ 2.65 (Sportsbet)
Gold Coast Suns v Carlton
For Carlton this doubles as a match that is both a should-win and a must-win. The Blues have reinvigorated their season by winning four of their past five games, including last weekend’s barnstorming 96 point victory over Essendon. Gold Coast has been pretty poor this season, as you’d expect from a fledging second year club, however the Suns have been competitive in many matches, and it was only five weeks ago that Richmond lost to Gold Coast, setting the Tigers finals push irreversibly off-course. Carlton needs to treat Gold Coast with respect or risk suffering the same fate.
Carlton’s missing men have slowly been returning and the big guns are now all firing as the Blues miraculous push for a finals berth gathers serious momentum. Perhaps the most important comeback has been made by rangy marking forward Jarrad Waite. A hard worker with a strong pair of hands, Waite provides a conspicuous target for the midfielders to kick towards, an area Carlton was struggling in during his absence as hopeful and haphazard forward entries became the norm. Even if he doesn’t mark the ball, Waite brings other teammates into the game and it is no coincidence that small forward Jeff Garlett has regained some form with his big forward line helper back in the team.
Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett was sensational again last weekend, but he is only one man and even the supremely skilled ball magnet can’t keep his young team from regular defeats, with the Suns beaten by 64 points last weekend despite Ablett amassing 43 possessions and booting a couple of goals. Last weekend was the 7th time this season that Ablett has gathered more than 40 disposals, and his team has lost all 7 matches, 5 of them by more than 50 points.
Expect Ablett to dominate, but the Blues to still win by plenty.
Geelong Cats v Western Bulldogs
The Sunday action kicks off with this low-key clash between finals bound Geelong and the hopelessly out of form Western Bulldogs. Barring an incredibly unlikely chain of events, Geelong will finish the season somewhere between fifth and seventh on the ladder, so this match is all about the Cats tuning up for an Elimination Final to be played in a fortnight’s time.
Geelong’s big forward line beast Tom Hawkins seems to have finally learnt how to impose himself on the contest consistently and has also found plenty of confidence to improve his previously inaccurate goalkicking ratio. Hawkins has booted at least five goals in a game three times during the past five weeks, and I now consider him to be his team’s most important player.
The Western Bulldogs are a club in decline, and after battling manfully during the first few months of the season, the Bulldogs lack of depth has been more apparent as the season has worn on, with the club entering this match on a 9 game losing streak. Alarmingly, 7 of those 9 losses have been by 50 points or more.
These clubs are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and with finals to look forward to, Geelong should comfortably account for a demoralised Western Bulldogs outfit that just wants the season to end.
North Melbourne v Fremantle Dockers
Even though Sydney versus Hawthorn is likely to be the match of the round in terms of quality, this fixture should have it covered in terms of drama and, perhaps, significance. 8th placed Fremantle can virtually assure itself of a finals finish if it wins this match, as a victory would keep the Dockers a game clear of 9th placed Carlton heading into the final round of matches, a round which involves an almost certain Fremantle victory given the Dockers will be hosting lowly Melbourne.
North Melbourne’s stellar form – winning 9 of their past 10 matches – has already seen the Kangaroos cement a spot in the top 8, and Brad Scott’s men will be hoping to end the season strongly to finish in either 5th or 6th position and earn a home Elimination Final.
Fremantle skipper and main goalkicking threat Matthew Pavlich suffered a hamstring strain last weekend and is unlikely to be at full fitness for this match, so I’m thinking the Dockers won’t be able to win if Pavlich can’t manage more than 3 goals.
Melbourne v Adelaide Crows
The Sunday twilight game is another fixture where the outcome is almost assured – Adelaide should win comfortably – and the match is unlikely to be that exciting, but the result is extremely important for how it will change the ladder.
Adelaide suffered an untimely slip-up against Brisbane last week to fall to 3rd on the ladder, however the Crows are still favourites to finish top 2 and earn a home Qualifying Final. For that to occur, Adelaide would need to win their final two games against lowly Melbourne and Gold Coast, while hoping either Sydney or Hawthorn slip up, and conveniently for the Crows, the Swans and the Hawks play each other this weekend.
Even though the motivation is huge for Adelaide, I’m going to take them at the reduced winning margin because Melbourne has really improved during the past two months and has only lost by more than 40 points once during the past seven weeks.
Andy’s Bet: 0.5 units on Adelaide to win by 39 points or less @ 2.40 (Multiple Sites)