Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 16


Brisbane v Melbourne, Gabba, 5.30pm

Life for Melbourne minus Christian Petracca started with a win against North Melbourne. It was hardly convincing, however. Indeed, unless the Demons improve out of sight, the post-Petracca edger is going to be 1-1 after this contest.

Brisbane have cleared their throat and last Saturday showcased their undeniable finals claims with a mauling of Port Adelaide. It was a powerhouse performance, one we have seen regularly from them in recent seasons, more so at the Gabba.

And that is where Melbourne venture to here. The return of Jake Lever is significant for the backline, but how Simon Goodwin’s men conjure a winning total remains the biggest query.

VERDICT: Brisbane by 1-39 points


North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs, Marvel Stadium, 11,45am

The evidence continues to mount in relation to North Melbourne turning the corner. Six days after narrowly going under to Collingwood, the Kangaroos stretched the necks of Melbourne, courtesy of a brave last-quarter push.

The uptick in form will no doubt have the Western Bulldogs on red alert. The Bulldogs themselves have rediscovered their mojo of late and welcome back prodigious young key-position talent Sam Darcy from a two-week suspension. His inclusion makes the Bulldogs decidedly stronger.

Skipper Marcus Bontempelli sent a scare through the camp during the week when he suffered back spasms. Sadly, there is no chance of a Bontempelli-George Wardlaw match-up after the young Kangaroo was concussed at training this week.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 1-39 points

Sydney v Fremantle, SCG, 11,45am

If the task of toppling Sydney at the SCG wasn’t hard enough, Fremantle were dealt a bitter blow when it was revealed captain Alex Pearce had broken an arm in the win over Gold Coast and would miss a month.

His absence is huge. The Dockers’ defence is still missing Brennan Cox and with no Pearce, the likes of Hugh Davies and Josh Draper are now going to have to play out of their skin and hope the supply is stilted somewhat in order to curb Joel Amartey, Logan McDonald and Hayden McLean.

Fremantle’s midfield has the capability of standing its ground at stoppages against any opposition. But there can be no switching off against the Swans, who can go from zero to 60 quicker than any side in the competition.

VERDICT: Sydney by 16 points or more

Gold Coast v Collingwood, Heritage Bank Stadium, 2.35pm

Gold Coast’s unbeaten run at home is about to receive its acid test. The Suns were poor in Perth last Sunday, losing to Fremantle before hopping on a plane back to Brisbane, catching a bus down to Gold Coast and most of the team crawling into the bed in the wee hours of Monday morning.

They now find themselves fronting up on a shortened week against a rested Collingwood outfit with designs on winning another premiership. They welcome back Jordan De Goey, Scott Pendlebury and Brody Mihocek, but lose Lachie Schultz (illness).

One side you don’t want to play if you are a little suspect over the concluding stages is Collingwood. Just ask North Melbourne, who became the latest team to fall victim to the Magpies’ surge and stunning success rate in close games.

VERDICT: Collingwood to win

Adelaide v GWS, Adelaide Oval, 5.30pm

This time last year, GWS were starting to stir. Fast forward 12 months and it is time GWS started to stir once more.

The Giants have mixed their form as personnel issues have proved problematic and as such, find themselves part of the logjam in and around the bottom part of the top eight. Stephen Coniglio’s return from a shoulder injury is timely, bolstering a midfield that can be electric when on song.

Adelaide are out of the finals mix, but like GWS, are a stronger version than we have seen in recent weeks due to the addition of Taylor Walker.


Geelong v Essendon, MCG, 5.30pm

Geelong breathed out when Patrick Dangerfield successfully challenged his one-match suspension at the AFL Tribunal on Tuesday night. His presence will be needed badly if the Cats are to navigate some turbulent waters.

From 7-0 to clinging to a spot in the top eight, this season is threatening to be extremely underwhelming for Chris Scott’s men. They are going to have to make the finals without Tom Hawkins, whose career hangs by a thread thanks to his foot injury.

Whereas the Cats have issues, Essendon have confidence … and plenty of it. Todd Goldstein and Jade Gresham are key inclusions and their overall formlines are stronger.

VERDICT: Essendon to win


St Kilda v Port Adelaide, Marvel Stadium, 11.10am

Ross Lyon and Kin Hinkley don’t need any reminding about what’s at stake here. The Saints have added respectability to their win-loss record in recent weeks, but remain so far from contention it isn’t funny. And a desire to be a destination club appears a pipe dream.

The Power are at the crossroads Sorry, Hinkley is at the crossroads. In a business where success determines your tenure, Hinkley is failing to deliver the club’s fans the ultimate. And if they feel the right to boo him, well that is their choice. Unlike others, I don’t share the outrage at Power supporters’ behaviour. Win games and the vitriol will stop.

VERDICT: St Kilda to win

Richmond v Carlton, MCG, 1.20pm

If Richmond were unable to lift in Dustin Martin’s 300th game against Hawthorn, one wonders how on earth they are going to match motors with Carlton.

Simply, they can’t. This is a margin job if the Blues show a level of desire anywhere near what we witnessed against Geelong last Friday night. It was perhaps the most complete display from any side in 2024, highlighted by captain and Brownlow medallist Patrick Cripps amassing more than 40 disposals.

Jacob Hopper is Richmond’s big midfield bull and he returns from injury here. But Dylan Grimes won’t be running out alongside him and a lack of key defensive options opposed to Carlton is a recipe for disaster.

VERDICT: Carlton by 40 points or more

West Coast v Hawthorn, Optus Stadium, 2.40pm

There is sufficient evidence to say West Coast at home with Harley Reid and Tim Kelly in the midfield are a chance, regardless of the opposition.

Fortunately for the Eagles, the pair are back in the line-up following suspension and injury respectively. But the hosts are going to need a complete performance to upset a very much in-form Hawthorn.

The Hawks are one of the form sides in the competition and off a bye, head west thinking a finals berth is well within reach. Will Day is a bona fide A-grader and has fuelled the Hawks’ midfield.

VERDICT: Hawthorn to win

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