Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 21


GWS v Hawthorn, UNSW Oval, Canberra, 5.50pm

Greater Western Sydney remain poised to strike should one of the sides in the top four stumble in the run home. Though they haven’t been convincing in wins over Port Adelaide and Sydney, they have managed to get the job done.

Hawthorn have exited the finals conversation on the back of successive losses to Brisbane and North Melbourne, with Alastair Clarkson made to pay a high price for his defensive mindset against the Kangaroos. He is likely to adopt the same approach here given the Hawks restricted GWS to five goals in their earlier meeting this year.

Toby Greene has been outstanding through the midfield for the Giants in recent weeks and with reinforcements looming, his influence could become even more profound.

VERDICT: GWS by 23 points


Melbourne v Collingwood, MCG, 11.45am

Collingwood feasted on Gold Coast last weekend to keep alive their faint top-four aspirations and get the opportunity to further tune up for September against a Melbourne side that can be best described as horrid.

The Magpies’ midfield was typically prolific against the Suns and even though injury continues to bite hard for Nathan Buckley’s side, the overall class the Magpies coach has at his disposal far outweighs many teams.

Melbourne have lacked the offensive firepower to trouble sides for the most part of 2019 and it’s hard to see how that issue can be rectified so late in the year.

VERDICT: Collingwood by 34 points

Port Adelaide v Sydney, Adelaide Oval, 12.10pm

Port Adelaide kept the pressure on Adelaide with their upset win over Essendon and have a golden opportunity to strengthen their claims on a finals berth against Sydney.

The Swans could have pinched last weekend’s derby against Greater Western Sydney, even though they were injury-hit and didn’t get as much from Sam Reid in the absence of Lance Franklin as they would have liked.

The return of Dane Rampe from an eye injury is a bonus this weekend, but the overall depth of talent at the Power, coupled with their home-ground advantage, should be sufficient for a Port victory.

VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 19 points

Brisbane v Gold Coast, Gabba, 2.35pm

Brisbane didn’t budge from third despite their win over the Western Bulldogs, but they are now equal with both Geelong and West Coast with a 14-5 win-loss record. Barring something remarkable occurring, that mark will improve to 15-5 after this match.

Gold Coast had a crack against Essendon, but were exposed by Collingwood last weekend and just don’t have the experience or quality to stretch the necks of the Lions, even in the absence of prime mover Dayne Zorko (hamstring).

VERDICT: Brisbane by 40 points

Essendon v Western Bulldogs, Marvel Stadium, 5.25pm

In the wake of their loss to Brisbane last Sunday, all appeared lost for the Western Bulldogs. A closer inspection of their final three games suggests otherwise.

The Bulldogs just need to take care of business at their end and they will be well placed … starting here opposed to Essendon, who had their five-game winning streak snapped in sensational fashion by Port Adelaide.

The Bulldogs will relish being back inside Marvel Stadium, but still have issues finishing their work further afield, while the Bombers will be boosted by the return of Shaun McKernan, who helps their structure enormously.

VERDICT: Essendon by 12 points

Geelong v North Melbourne, GMHBA Stadium, 5.25pm

Geelong coach Chris Scott is preaching patience despite his side’s worrying form slump since the mid-season bye. The inability to capitalise on a good opening term against Fremantle last weekend was perhaps the most alarming of the Cats’ displays in 2019.

The return to familiar surrounds couldn’t have come at a better time, but Geelong will undergo a genuine football audit from North Melbourne. The Kangaroos won’t play finals, but their form since Rhyce Shaw took over has been impressive.

They play a physical brand, are defensively sound and eager to tackle. It represents an ideal match-up for Geelong given what is in store for them during September.

VERDICT: Geelong by 20 points 


St Kilda v Fremantle, Marvel Stadium, 11.10am

Fremantle somehow did the unthinkable against Geelong to stay in the top-eight conversation. Another win against St Kilda would give Ross Lyon and his players serious momentum ahead of a critical last fortnight of the regular season.

The loss of Rory Lobb (shoulder) for the year though is a huge blow for Fremantle, who will no doubt be better prepared to cover the slick confines of Marvel Stadium in this match than they were a fortnight ago when exposed by the Western Bulldogs’ leg speed.

Skipper Nat Fyfe and Michael Walters continue to operate at a high level. That said, the Saints are an improved unit under Brett Ratten. Even in Jade Gresham’s injury-enforced absence, their past three weeks ensure they deserve favouritism.

VERDICT: St Kilda by 11 points

Richmond v Carlton, MCG, 1.20pm

Everyone is of the same view when it comes to Richmond. They are building nicely and will be awfully tough to topple in September given their experience and brand of football which stacks up.

But they are not yet at full throttle, as evidenced when they needed more than a half to dispose of a mediocre Melbourne last Saturday night. Carlton were no match for the efficiency of West Coast last round, but they hung tough in a sign they are fully invested in interim coach David Teague.

Patrick Cripps will be looking to bounce back after he lowered his colours to Elliot Yeo, but he is going to need a great deal of support to blunt the Richmond midfield, whose work is being capitalised upon by Tom Lynch.

VERDICT: Richmond by 25 points

West Coast v Adelaide, Optus Stadium, 3.20pm

The one-point loss to Collingwood aside, West Coast’s past two months have been superb. Some would say befitting a premiership favourite. Failing that, a sustained formline worthy of a team hellbent on defending its flag.

The Eagles are secure across all lines. The Jack Darling-led attack is multi-pronged, the midfield continues to perform at a high standard and a defence with Shannon Hurn, Jeremy McGovern, Tom Barrass and Brad Sheppard in it, awfully difficult to navigate.

Conversely, the Crows have question marks on all of their lines, not to mention some doubt on the harmony of the group. Unless Don Pyke can extract a special effort from his players, the Eagles could well have a Sunday afternoon feast.

VERDICT: West Coast by 43 points

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