Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 17


Collingwood v Essendon, MCG, 5.40pm

Collingwood’s top-four aspirations received a jolt at the hands of Gold Coast last Saturday, just hours before Geelong lowered the boom on Essendon, casting doubt on their finals legitimacy.

One bounces back here and the other will no doubt face scrutiny as to why things aren’t going as smoothly as they would like at a critical time of the year. History, of the recent kind, suggests the Magpies will find a way. It’s what they do.

Importantly, they welcome back Lachie Schultz in a match-up where Essendon shouldn’t be overawed. They would have stolen the points had a Kyle Langford shot on goal on Anzac Day been accurate.

VERDICT: Collingwood to win


North Melbourne v Gold Coast, Marvel Stadium, 11.45am

Even taking into account their failings away from the Glitter Strip, Gold Coast remain in the finals mix. Their bid to create history and be a part of the post-season for the first time will only be enhanced with a win against North Melbourne.

There can be no excuses. Yes, the Kangaroos are far more competitive now, but they still have some personnel issues to work through, with the absence of midfield bull George Wardlaw (concussion) less than ideal.

Tristan Xerri has been quality all year and with no Jarrod Witts, Ned Moyle gets an opportunity to showcase his skillset. The Suns look to have sufficient class on all lines and can snare a vital victory.

VERDICT: Gold Coast by 1-39 points

Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs, Adelaide Oval, 11.45am

Nothing comes easy for Western Bulldogs fans. Every year they are subjected to a smattering of highs, but some extremely frustrating lows … and 2024 is no different.

But it seems the good times are on the verge of being sustained. The Bulldogs are getting healthy again and while Cody Weightman will miss here through injury, they are nice and settled for the most part.

That said, Port Adelaide enjoy a good recent record against Luke Beveridge’s men and will feel the need to redeem themselves from a shocking display before their home fans a fortnight ago when mauled by Brisbane.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs to win

Geelong v Hawthorn, GMHBA Stadium, 2.35pm

The AFL has not missed Hawthorn. Having been made to venture west for a Sunday afternoon clash with West Coast, they are back in action six days later down the highway against Geelong.

The Hawks at GMHBA Stadium is not something we see a lot of and unfortunately for Sam Mitchell, he won’t be able to call on skipper James Sicily (shoulder), while doubts surround the fitness of Jack Ginnivan (leg). Luke Breust and Mitch Lewis’ returns help though.

The Cats made a statement in the second half opposed to Essendon, with the long-overdue shift of Tom Stewart from defence proving effective.

VERDICT: Geelong to win

GWS v Carlton, Engie Stadium, 5.30pm

If the greatest ability is availability, GWS are in trouble. Already having to suit up in the past few weeks without Sam Taylor, the Giants take on the might of the Carlton midfield without Josh Kelly, who has another calf tear to deal with.

Carlton have emerged as Sydney’s biggest threat to this year’s premiership, possessing weapons all over the ground. The back-to-back performances of captain Patrick Cripps are arguably two of the best in his glittering career.

No Taylor here also leaves the GWS backline exposed against twin towers Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay, the pair each booting three in a win over the Giants earlier in the season.

VERDICT: Carlton by 1-39 points

Fremantle v Richmond, Optus Stadium, 6.10pm

Fresh from their stirring takedown of Sydney at the SCG last weekend, Fremantle got stronger at selection when they recalled fan favourites Brennan Cox and Michael Walters from their respective hamstring setbacks.

It is an enviable position for Justin Longmuir to be in and should enable the Dockers comfortably account for Richmond for the second time this year. The Tigers have been riddled by injuries and hit town minus Dustin Martin (back).

Fremantle have one hand on a September berth. Their grip should become even firmer after this contest.

VERDICT: Fremantle by 40 points or more


Melbourne v West Coast, MCG, 11.10am

West Coast co-captain Oscar Allen was adamant midweek the Eagles players needed to own their horrific performance against Hawthorn.

There is no better place to do that than on the MCG against a finals hopeful in Melbourne. Adam Simpson’s job could well depend on it. If the Eagles fail to give a yelp opposed to the Demons, who have dropped three of their past four games, the temperature at Mineral Resources Park could soar exponentially.

The Demons did a lot of things right against Brisbane at the Gabba, yet left empty-handed. A showing anywhere near that level, which was aided enormously by Clayton Oliver’s return to form, will be sufficient to consign West Coast to another defeat.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 1-39 points

St Kilda v Sydney, Marvel Stadium, 1.20pm

St Kilda’s underwhelming season received another body blow this week when it was revealed besieged key forward Max King had suffered a knee injury and would miss the remainder of 2024.

It is a cruel blow for the Saints, who have to front up to a Sydney side stinging from only loss No.2 for the year. Sydney’s lacklustre starts have been camouflaged by their ability to play a peerless brand of burst football but their tardiness early against Fremantle cost them dearly.

The Swans’ midfield trio Errol Gulden, Isaac Heeney and Chad Warner had rare quiet games. When was the last time they were so quiet as a collective? St Kilda should be alarmed.

VERDICT: Sydney by 1-39 points 

Brisbane v Adelaide, Gabba, 2.40pm

To the broader football community, it seems all is in order at Brisbane. Almost. If the Lions are able to tidy up a few things defensively, they won’t be far removed from the version we saw narrowly fall at the final hurdle at the MCG last year.

Importantly though, it shouldn’t matter this week. Brisbane host Adelaide, who have shown defensive frailties for far too long. The Crows, thanks to a sublime Izak Rankine display, breathed life into the faintest of finals aspirations against GWS last round.

They now need to find a way to slow down the Brisbane juggernaut at their Gabba fortress. It is easier said than done. From speculation that all wasn’t well internally earlier in the year, the Lions seem happy, with the recent contract extensions of Hugh McCluggage, Charlie Cameron and Jarrod Berry telling.

VERDICT: Brisbane to win/game total over 170.5 points

Market Market