Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 11


Western Bulldogs v Sydney, Marvel Stadium, 5.30pm

Is there ever a good time to get a side that sits on top of the table with a 9-1 win/loss record? Many would say no. You’d like to think the Western Bulldogs, if asked, would offer a resounding yes.

The Bulldogs host the high-flying Sydney off the back of a clinical dismissal of GWS. It was a performance which made most in the competition sit up and take notice. Those that haven’t yet will if they can produce a repeat showing here.

The midfield battle will be intriguing, with Sydney’s runners Chad Warner, Errol Gulden and Isaac Heeney in excellent nick. What lever does John Longmire pull here to disarm the Bulldogs’ prime movers?

VERDICT: Sydney to win


Fremantle v Collingwood, Optus Stadium, 6.10pm

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Fremantle had excuses on and off field in their Friday night loss to Sydney earlier this month. They get a chance to atone in this blockbuster against Collingwood, who are starting to look more and more like the premiers of 2023.

However, the Magpies are depleted and will journey west without many of their preferred forward options, including last weekend’s matchwinner, Jordan De Goey (abdominal strain).

Fremantle are on record as saying they desperately want a “scalp”. The market says they are capable of achieving it. If their midfield breaks even and the forwards rediscover their radar, the Dockers are good enough to prevail.

VERDICT: Fremantle to win


North Melbourne v Port Adelaide, Blundstone Arena, 11.45am

Jason Horne-Francis has been showing football fans throughout the country his talents on a regular basis since arriving at Port Adelaide. Each game is surely more and more painful for North Melbourne, who were unable to convince the midfielder to remain at Arden Street for longer than one year.

No Horne-Francis and no Harley Reid after the last-round win over Gold Coast in 2023 has left the Kangaroos with no points 10 rounds in and their supporters no real reason to believe they can cause a monumental upset.

North were once a feared side in Hobart. Not any more. Port dodged a massive bullet against Hawthorn and even with Charlie Dixon being rested for the second time this season, boast sufficient weapons overall to emerge triumphant.

VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 24 points or more

Carlton v Gold Coast, Marvel Stadium, 11.45am

Just under 12 months ago, Carlton were floundering and questions being asked about whether Michael Voss was the right man for the job. They then blitzed Gold Coast and set the scene for a surge in the second half of the season that carried them to the preliminary final.

Voss would love history to repeat. His team is missing a swag of quality personnel through injury and they desperately need to stay in touch with the top eight until the cavalry arrives.

Gold Coast sit inside the aforementioned top eight after a favourable draw to date. Plenty of games at home and back-to-back matches in Darwin have worked  in their favour. But they are undeniably better placed now under Damien Hardwick than ever before.

VERDICT: Carlton to win 

Geelong v GWS, GMHBA Stadium, 2.35pm

The winner of this encounter will quite rightly be celebrated. A Geelong victory in Tom Hawkins’ record-breaking appearance would be a great news story. As would GWS ending an alarming funk to win on the road against a top-eight contender.

However, the losers will be confronted by fierce critiquing. The Cats have dropped three on the bounce and all of a sudden appear shaky. But the reinforcements are coming. The same doesn’t apply for the Giants, who are still missing key cogs in their machine, which is spluttering.

Geelong will enjoy being back in familiar surrounds after being exposed by the heat and a committed, healthier Gold Coast in the Top End. How Adam Kingsley structures up his GWS starting line-up to spark them will be fascinating.

VERDICT: Geelong by 1-39 points

Richmond v Essendon, MCG, 5.40pm

This annual clash remains one of the jewels in the crown for the AFL. It is indeed a special occasion that has thrown up highlight after highlight over the years, with Essendon winning a thriller last season.

Something well away from the ordinary would need to occur for this match to resemble anything like we saw last year when the Bombers scraped home by a solitary point. Essendon are airborne and occupy second spot on the table for good reason, while Richmond are banged up and at the mercy of their rivals.

Richmond have not only struggled to kick totals of late, they are extremely leaky in defence. The Bombers will be winning and winning well.

VERDICT: Essendon by 24 points or more


Hawthorn v Brisbane, Marvel Stadium, 11.10am

Hawthorn have lived in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this week. They were 60 seconds and two late goals away (thanks to Port Adelaide) from being spoken about in glowing terms.

Sam Mitchell was devastated post-match last Sunday and how he has approached the heartache of Darcy Byrne-Jones’ soccer goal internally all week will be revealed in the wake of this game. Aside from the shocker against Sydney, the past month of the Hawks has been good.

And what do we read into Brisbane’s smacking of Richmond last round? If you were to be harsh, not much.

VERDICT: Brisbane by 1-24 points

Melbourne v St Kilda, MCG, 1.20pm

For a side with designs on challenging for the premiership, Melbourne simply have to be better. They cannot afford their opposition (Carlton) to kick six unanswered goals to start proceedings and then have less than 40 inside-50 entries the following week (West Coast).

Unsurprisingly, both lacklustre efforts led to losses which have raised the stakes here. St Kilda aren’t exactly humming, but they are starting to regain some important players, with the availability of Jack Higgins following a three-game suspension sure to lift spirits of Ross Lyon’s faltering team.

It’s difficult to see how this becomes a shootout, therefore the side possessing more talent overall and an ability to take their chances, looms as the winner. That side, on a good enough same size, is Melbourne.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 1-39 points

Adelaide v West Coast, 2.40pm

You can count on one hand the number of close games Adelaide have won in the past season and a half. Conversely, it feels like you need to remove your gloves and socks in order to tally the single-figure margin matches they have dropped,

The alarming trend cost them dearly in 2023 and their inability to get past Collingwood late last Saturday will consign them to another idle September it seems.

The defeat was compounded by Izak Rankine’s hamstring injury ahead of a visit from a re-energised West Coast, who are being led superbly by Jake Waterman, Liam Duggan, Harley Reid and Jeremy McGoven.

VERDICT: Adelaide by 1-39 points

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