The following are previews with betting tips for Round 22 of the 2019 AFL season.
Friday, August 16
Melbourne vs Sydney
7:50pm AEST, MCG
There really does need to be a floating fixture for the last month of the season and not just round 23, because no one in their right mind would choose to watch fifteenth play seventeenth on Friday night, particularly not when there are so many other more deserving games being played this weekend. This is a huge round of footy that will have significant ramifications for the 2019 season, but this game doesn’t fall into that category. These two teams are simply playing for pride now, and while a win would be important for both of them — particularly Melbourne — their eyes are firmly fixed on 2020 by now. Nick Smith has joined Jarrad McVeigh in announcing his retirement, and you’d suspect there might be further announcements in the coming weeks. The Demons are in a different situation, with a younger list simply underperforming in 2019. That’s what they’ll be hoping it was anyway; obviously there are holes to fill, but the Dees will be confident they can rise quickly in 2020 if they recruit wisely in the off-season.
It’s hard to pick a winner in this game, because neither team is good at winning. They’ve both lost their previous five matches and in that time period have been the two worst teams in the competition other than the Suns. I’m leaning towards the Demons winning, but I’m not all that confident. My thinking is that Melbourne have slightly more to play for, and should be advantaged by playing at the MCG. Other than that it’s anyone’s game, but either way it should be close. After all, neither team knows how to win right now.
Betting tip: Melbourne to win @ $1.82 (BetEasy)
Saturday, August 17
Carlton vs St Kilda
1:45pm AEST, MCG
Carlton have followed North Melbourne’s lead by this week appointing their caretaker coach to the role full-time. David Teague has led the Blues to a remarkable resurgence since he took over, and while the trend to appoint caretakers is remarkably different to the old approach, his record this year means he thoroughly deserves the opportunity. He wasn’t able to lead his team to victory over the Tigers last weekend, but the Blues were able to stay competitive and that’s probably good enough for where they’re at right now.
This week they take on the Saints, who are in a very similar position to Carlton: they’re under the temporary tutelage of ex-Blues coach Brett Ratten, who is a strong chance of being appointed permanent coach himself if he steers the Saints to another few wins. It should be an interesting game of footy; both teams are in decent form and will consider this a great opportunity for another win. The Saints were last week buoyed by the return of Dan Hannebery and Jack Steven, with both players having a significant influence on the game. That would have been incredibly pleasing for the St Kilda hierarchy; it was a step in the right direction, despite the game still not going exactly to plan. They were the better team for the first quarter, but Freo got on top of them for the rest of the game. It was only a late surge that saw them get the four points, and while they’ll be more than happy with that, there’s still plenty of work to be done. I expect they’ll beat the Blues this week, but it should be a similarly close game of footy from start to end.
Betting tip: St Kilda to win @ $1.95 (BetFair)
Brisbane vs Geelong
2:10pm AEST, The Gabba
One of the prime candidates for replacing the Demons and Swans on Friday night would be this clash between the second-placed Lions and the first-placed Cats. The result will not only shape the top four, it’ll also tell us so much about each team’s premiership credentials: whether the Lions can continue to match it with the very best, if the Cats are out of their form slump, etc. It pits two of the competitions best midfield’s head to head, and the result of that battle will be telling. But it’s not just about what each team is capable of, the win is massive for both of them: a top two finish is on the line. While that might not mean much for Geelong if they end up playing Richmond in the opening week of finals, it at least removes the possibility of having to travel to the Gabba, or worse still, to Perth.
Not only will this game be worth watching for the weight it carries, I’m expecting it to be a must-watch game for aesthetic reasons as well. Both teams are brilliant to watch when they’re up and running, and if the weather holds off and it’s a nice day in Brisbane the ball should be pinging from end-to-end. I expect both teams to have their periods of dominance, but with Brisbane still absolutely flying and Geelong yet to prove they’re back to their best, there’s no way I can back against the Lions to win, though I don’t expect it be by all that much.
Betting tip: Brisbane to win @ $1.81 (BetFair)
Adelaide vs Collingwood
4:35pm AEST, Adelaide Oval
The quality of footy might not be as high, but the potential impact on the season is just as high here as it is for the Brisbane and Geelong game. The Crows are looking to force their way back into the top eight after being dislodged last week by their fellow South Australians Port Adelaide, while the Pies are still holding out hope for a top four finish. They’ll need to win both of their remaining games for that to happen, because you’d suspect the Tigers will beat at least one of Brisbane or West Coast at the MCG. The Crows have a tough final two games of their own, with the Pies followed by the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat. So much hinges on this result for Adelaide; they need to make finals this year to be able to call their season anything close to a success; failing to do so would be disastrous and intense pressure would mount on coach Don Pyke.
The Pies are also under pressure, but they’ve got plenty of injury-related excuses as to why they’ve dropped off. While they’re obviously still hoping to peak over the next month or two and throw everything they can at a finals surge, it’s going to be too hard for them to go far with the number of players they’re missing. I have a feeling they might beat the Crows this weekend, but that’s just because I’m not particularly impressed with Adelaide. When they face sterner opposition in September I think the Pies will struggle and exit the premiership race fairly quickly.
Betting tip: Collingwood to win @ $2.35 (BetFair)
North Melbourne vs Port Adelaide
7:25pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
North Melbourne didn’t have their best game last Saturday night, kicking just the one goal against the Cats. They were probably saved from more intense scrutiny by the Bombers being even worse down the road in Melbourne, but they’ve still copped a bit of flak this week. How does new coach Rhyce Shaw handle that sort of pressure? Is he able to help his team rebound and come out fresh the following week? This week they’ve got a chance to notch another win, but they’ll need to be at their absolute best to do so. Port are playing for their season, with finals a real possibility after a strong fortnight sees them up into eighth position. All they need to do now is win their last two games and they’re locked in. Neither will be easy, but they’ll start favourites in both games. They’ll head to Marvel Stadium full of confidence after two weeks ago dismantling the Bombers at the same venue, although that form doesn’t look quite as good after seeing what the Dogs did to Essendon on Saturday.
Nevertheless, if Port are on their game they’ll beat North, as simple as that. Are they mentally strong enough? Can they cope with the pressure of a must-win game? I haven’t had the utmost faith in Port in those areas in the past, but I feel as if they need to win this so much that they’ll ensure it happens; losing is just not an option for this footy club right now. I think it’ll be a close game, with North sure to lift their pressure after the disappointment of last week, but I’m backing Port to knuckle down and earn a hard-fought victory.
Betting tip: Port Adelaide to win @ $1.76 (BetFair)
Fremantle vs Essendon
8:10pm AEST, Optus Stadium
Wow. There’s not much else you can say after watching what Essendon produced on the weekend. They conceded 21 consecutive goals, the second most on record. They lost to a team outside the top eight by over 100 points, the only time on record that that’s happened to a top eight team. Yes, they had injuries, but that doesn’t excuse the magnitude of the loss. It’s the sort of thing that can derail a season, particularly this close to finals. Not only is it a huge blow to their confidence, it cut their percentage down so significantly that they’re now a chance to miss the finals entirely, despite that seeming almost impossible just two weeks ago.
It means they must win one of their final two games, and neither will be particularly easy: the Dockers in Perth this week, followed by the Pies at the MCG. They won’t want to leave it until next week, but if they can’t find a way to turn their form around rapidly they’re going to struggle against Freo. Despite not getting the win against St Kilda last week, the Dockers showed some decent signs, with Nat Fyfe leading his team superbly, and really, they probably should have won that game. A late fade out cost them dearly, and they’ll be keen to make amends this week when they return to Perth. It goes without saying they’re much stronger over there, as witnessed in their big win over Geelong a fortnight ago, and it’s almost hard to see the Bombers being competitive this week, let alone winning. There’s plenty on the line for Essendon so they’ll need to show something, but after seeing them against the Dogs I’ve got no confidence tipping them to get the win, even when you take into account the return of Hurley, Parish, Saad and Francis. I’m going with the Dockers to get up by five or six goals.
Betting tip: Fremantle (-9.5) @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Sunday, August 18
Richmond vs West Coast
1:10pm AEST, MCG
In a round full of big games, I’m confident in calling this one the biggest. It’s potentially even the grand final preview, but that might be looking a bit too far into the future. The stage is perfectly set for an epic encounter: a top two spot is on the line for West Coast, and a top four, or potentially even top two, spot for the Tigers. Both teams are playing really good footy at the moment, and while the Eagles have to travel down to the MCG to take on Richmond at their fortress, they’ll be perfectly confident in their ability to get the job done. Nothing holds any fear for this Eagles team, and they match up on well on teams of all shapes and sizes. That’s important against Richmond, because they’re definitely unique in how they structure up and play the game, though the addition of Tom Lynch has added some predictability, or normality, to their style. He’ll have his work cut out against the strong West Coast defence this week, but as long as he works hard and brings the ball to ground, not letting the Eagles intercept, then he’ll have done his job even if he doesn’t kick a big score.
That battle will be intriguing, as will the midfield battle between Dustin Martin and Elliot Yeo. Yeo is a player capable of hurting the opposition offensively while also clamping down on his direct opponent and limiting his influence. There aren’t too many players in the league who can do that, so Martin will need to be on his game and ready for a tough outing. I can’t wait to sit down and watch this one, and while I think the Tigers are deserved favourites, I have a feeling the Eagles might just get the better of them in a really close game.
Betting tip: West Coast to win @ $2.62 (BetFair)
GWS Giants vs Western Bulldogs
3:20pm AEST, Sydney Showground Stadium
Here’s another significant game in the context of the season: the Giants are looking to book a home elimination final, while the Dogs are coming hard for a finals berth. GWS would have been bitterly disappointed by their failure to perform against the Hawks on Friday night, but they’re usually pretty good at quickly bouncing back from a poor loss. They’ll need to contend with a Dogs team in strong form, having just belted the Bombers senseless. The Dogs will be desperate for another win, knowing that this weekend is the biggest hurdle between themselves and playing finals. If they win both this one and next week against the Crows, they’re very likely to make the eight for the first time since their premiership in 2016. The Giants are also in need of a win, as they won’t want to have to travel in week one of the finals. It’s also important for them to arrest the poor form of last week before it turns into a nasty downward trend. They’ve still got injury troubles, with veteran Brett Deledio and star forward Jeremy Cameron the latest victims, but they’re set to welcome back important players Josh Kelly and Harry Himmelberg, which should give them a significant boost. Kelly is a star in the middle, and he’ll be much needed against a rampant Dogs midfield, while Himmelberg could cause trouble for a relatively short Bulldogs defence.
As always, the Dogs will need to dominate the midfield if they’re a chance to win. They’ll also need to be clean with the ball moving forward, as they were last week against the Bombers. That has been hit and miss for them this year, and if they have an off week and turn the ball over instead of hitting leading targets, then the Giants will whisk the ball down the either end and make them pay. I think that might be what happens in the end; the Dogs will battle hard, but the skill of the Giants should prove too much for them at home.
Betting tip: GWS to win @ $1.74 (BetEasy)
Hawthorn vs Gold Coast
4:40pm AEST, Marvel Stadium
The Hawks stunned everyone on Friday night by completely outplaying the Giants in strange, wintry conditions. They’re now only one game out of the eight, and while they look set for a big percentage boost this week, it’s probably too late for them to make the finals after some of the weekend’s other results didn’t quite fall their way. It means there won’t be much to play for in this game, and as such, the Hawks have decided to give big Jarryd Roughead the home send-off he deserves. He’s back in the team for the last time, and while it’s probably not the occasion he or Hawthorn fans would’ve liked, it’ll do. The Hawks will win pretty comfortably against a Gold Coast team ready for the season’s end, and everyone at Marvel Stadium will get the chance to celebrate the long and illustrious career of one of the all-time greats.
Betting tip: Hawthorn (-47.5) @ $1.90 (UniBet)
Best Bets of the Round
Hawthorn (-47.5) @ $1.90 (UniBet)