Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 17


West Coast v Collingwood, Optus Stadium, 6.10pm

The storyline to this match was obvious to everyone from the moment the final siren sounded in last Friday night’s match between Collingwood and Hawthorn. With their loss, the Magpies had opened the door for West Coast.

We now know the Eagles walked through that door with their demolition of Fremantle 24 hours later and have the opportunity to slam it shut on Collingwood’s top-two tilt with a win in this match. On recent form, that should occur.

The Eagles’ midfield has been mighty of late and the return of Tom Barrass last weekend strengthened a defensive unit that is A-grade. Unless Nathan Buckley can find a solution to his side’s stilted ball movement, it’s hard to see an upset taking place.

VERDICT: West Coast by 23 points


Sydney v Carlton, SCG, 11.45am

Sydney’s finals aspirations effectively ended with their loss to Essendon last weekend, but how they finish the season could well have a bearing on what John Longmire decides to do in 2020.

The Swans’ rebuild under the 2012 premiership coach is taking place before our eyes, but whether he remains there to see it through is up for debate. Carlton have emerged from their shell under David Teague and fell desperately short against Melbourne despite being without Patrick Cripps, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay.

The Swans at the SCG is still a daunting assignment for interstate sides, especially those that are young and not able to call on all their proven performers.

VERDICT: Sydney by 19 points

Hawthorn v Fremantle, UTas Stadium, 12.10pm

Hawthorn resuscitated their disappointing season with the fighting win over Collingwood and get the perfect chance to build on it when they host the ailing Fremantle in Launceston.

The Dockers, flattened by a 91-point flogging from West Coast, head south to a State where they have won just once in 11 attempts and desperately needing to halt a three-game losing streak that has jeopardised their September plans.

Joel Hamling is a terrific key defender, but he is being asked to do a great deal without Alex Pearce. Griffin Logue was a high draft pick by the Dockers and needs to step up and fill the breach.

VERDICT: Hawthorn by 25 points 

Essendon v North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, 2.35pm

North Melbourne’s early season woes were laid bare for all to see in the Good Friday match between these two sides when Essendon did what they pleased to turn the spotlight on then coach Brad Scott.

Both clubs have had their challenges since, but are now in excellent form and pushing for finals berths. The Bombers stormed to the brink of the top eight with their gritty win over Sydney, while North are thereabouts also courtesy of a resurgence under Rhyce Shaw.

Todd Goldstein schooled young Rowan Marshall down in Tasmania last weekend and the veteran ruckman has an opportunity to service a midfield led by All-Australian contender Ben Cunnington at the expense of Tom Bellchambers.

VERDICT: North Melbourne by 11 points

Gold Coast v Adelaide, Metricon Stadium, 5.25pm

Stuart Dew was lauded earlier this season when Gold Coast were able to eke out three wins in their first four games. Reality has since struck.

The Suns have lost their last 11 matches and will host an Adelaide side stinging from its showdown embarrassment at the hands of Port Adelaide without quality WA pair Jack Martin (finger) and Wil Powell (knee).

The Crows were smashed around the contest by Port and their lack of leg speed exposed. But the Suns don’t have the attacking mindset because of Dew’s game plan to trouble the Crows.

VERDICT: Adelaide by 31 points

Geelong v St Kilda, GMBHA Stadium, 5.25pm

Alan Richardson’s hold on the St Kilda coaching position becomes more tenuous by the week. The Saints’ hierarchy desperately need to see improvement, chiefly a win against a team higher on the ladder.

They don’t get any higher than Geelong, who remain on top of the table despite losing two of their past three games to Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs. Sadly for Richardson, taking down the Cats at their Geelong fortress is a brutal proposition.

Much focus this week has been on the Cats’ forward-line woes. Look for Geelong to be bolder with their ball movement to enable Tom Hawkins and the fit-again Esava Ratugolea to get to work.

VERDICT: Geelong by 40 points


Richmond v GWS, MCG, 11.10am

While much of the focus in WA in the past fortnight has been on West Coast’s surge into premiership calculations, the east coast has been keeping a very close eye on Richmond … for very good reason.

The Tigers are starting to get healthy again and have quietly climbed the ladder to an extent where the top four — and the double chance in September — is now within reach. The Tigers demolished Gold Coast last weekend and will be strengthened here by the return of Jack Riewoldt.

Greater Western Sydney are wobbly and while Lachie Whitfield is a welcome inclusion from his broken collarbone, the loss of Josh Kelly (calf) hurts. The Giants need to roll up their sleeves and stop relying on pure talent.

VERDICT: Richmond by 18 points

Western Bulldogs v Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, 1.20pm

The Western Bulldogs should be encouraged by their form of late, but also wonder in those quiet moments just how they lost to Gold Coast and Carlton earlier in the season.

Those twin defeats could prove seriously costly when the home-and-away season is concluded. That said, the scalps of Port Adelaide and Geelong in the past fortnight highlight the obvious talent at Luke Beveridge’s disposal.

Aaron Naughton’s four-goal haul in a low-scoring match against the Cats were crucial. Factor in his presence against a Melbourne outfit missing its own six-goal hero Tom McDonald (knee) and the Bulldogs deserve to start favourites.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 21 points

Port Adelaide v Brisbane, Adelaide Oval, 2.40pm

You could a mount a very strong argument that the league has saved the best for last. Port Adelaide, chasing much-needed back-to-back victories against a high-flying Brisbane, who have stormed into fourth.

The Lions entered the top-four debate with their stirring effort against Greater Western Sydney at Giants Stadium last Sunday, the performance of Lachie Neale and Lincoln McCarthy outstanding. Their heroics came a day after Port turned the balance of power in SA football on its head.

Ken Hinkley’s side is capable. We know that. But it can also give the impression of being scatty. Another committed, relentless approach here against a side facing a second week on the road could be huge for its 2019 prospects.

VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 13 points

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