Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 21


Melbourne v Collingwood, MCG, 5.50pm

You are doing a very good job if you can poke holes in the form of Collingwood. Ten straight wins is proof they are going along swimmingly. Yet all good things must come to an end.

And most believe Melbourne loom as the hurdle the Magpies cannot get over. The Demons monstered Fremantle seven days ago, with their hunt and defensive efficiency back to the levels we saw at the back end of their premiership tilt last year.

It was a display impossible to ignore. If Simon Goodwin’s men are able to replicate it against the Magpies, who did humble them on the Queen’s Birthday weekend, it’s fair to declare Melbourne well and truly back.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 1-39 points


Hawthorn v Gold Coast, UTAS, 11.45am

Hawthorn at their Launceston fortress isn’t the daunting assignment of yesteryear. However, it still asks many questions of opposition sides, particularly those from outside Victoria.

Gold Coast in August is considerably warmer than the Apple Isle and though the Suns have been solid for most of this year, finals are now out of reach. Will that have any bearing on their mindset?

The Hawks were poor for the first three terms against St Kilda and while they rallied late, their tardy beginning proved costly. Despite the defeat, it shapes as a better form reference than Gold Coast’s narrow home victory over West Coast.

VERDICT: Hawthorn by 1-24 points

GWS v Essendon, Giants Stadium, 12.10pm

From the moment interim GWS coach Mark McVeigh named names (of players he was happy with) after last weekend’s thumping by Sydney, the Giants’ line-up for round 21 was eagerly anticipated.

It proved a letdown, with McVeigh opting against making a statement at selection. How those players who he accused of failing the club respond to his barb will be intriguing.

Essendon are finishing the season with a flurry, salvaging something from the wreckage … namely Ben Rutten’s job. It’s important they don’t let the momentum they have established go to waste.

VERDICT: Essendon by 1-39 points

Western Bulldogs v Fremantle, Marvel Stadium, 2.25pm

The evolution of a young group takes time. It is also contains a few troughs to go with the peaks before you reach the summit. Fremantle are finding that out.

The Dockers started the year like a German band. Now their trumpet appears broken. And with their frailties being exposed more regularly in the back half of the season, they are facing an uphill battle to muzzle the Bulldogs.

Luke Beveridge’s charges were overrun by Geelong after half-time last Saturday, but their energy and effectiveness early had the premiership favourites on the back foot. Anything similar here will be sufficient to keep them in the top-eight race.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 1-39 points

Geelong v St Kilda, GMHBA Stadium, 5.25pm

We have been waiting, waiting, waiting for Geelong to put in a dodgy effort. One that brings an end to their winning streak and gives life to the argument they are still very much a “wait and see proposition”.

We thought we were witnessing it against the Western Bulldogs last round. They then went and produced a third quarter for the ages, a 30-minute burst that was arguably the most devastating quarter by a heavyweight all year.

It was a not-so subtle reminder of their credentials. St Kilda would love to be able to produce something similar. They can enter this match with a degree of confidence after steamrolling the Cats earlier this year. That was at Marvel Stadium, however. This is not.

VERDICT: Geelong by 1-39 points

Port Adelaide v Richmond, Adelaide Oval, 5.25pm

Having dug themselves out of a crater against Brisbane to stay in the finals conversation, Richmond journey to Adelaide Oval for a second crack at four premiership points this year.

The first — against Adelaide — in the autumn didn’t go the way they planned. They cannot afford this match to have any resemblance. The loss of Dylan Grimes with a potentially season-ending hamstring complaint is less than ideal, although Port Adelaide are without key forward Todd Marshall (health and safety protocols) and Mitch Georgiades (omitted).

The Power have run headlong into Geelong and Collingwood in the past fortnight and asked questions of both. This won’t be easy, but looks more suitable on paper.

VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 1-39 points


North Melbourne v Sydney, Marvel Stadium, 11.10am

From the fringes to the forefront of the discussion. That is one way to assess the efforts of Sydney, who have surged into the top four on the back of their best football for the year.

Whether they are able to sustain that level for the remainder of the home-and-away campaign to guarantee themselves a double chance in September is uncertain. What we do know though is they can come off a peg and still dispose of North Melbourne.

After an immediate sugar hit against Richmond, the Kangaroos have again proven incapable of stemming an opposition side’s ball movement. Sydney in full flight move it as well as anyone.

VERDICT: Sydney by 40+ points

Brisbane v Carlton, Gabba, 1.20pm

A withering 8-2 start to life under Michael Voss had all connected to Carlton daring to dream. Finals, top four and even flags were being spoken about. Now the Blues are in a fight for their lives just to be active in the post-season.

Their lack of intensity in the loss to Adelaide was stark and has raised the stakes for this trek to the Gabba where Brisbane will be desperate to enhance their own standing after choking against Richmond last Sunday.

The Lions welcome back Brandon Starcevich and should also be boosted by Daniel Rich, two inclusions that solidify a defensive unit that can be a bit susceptible.

VERDICT: Brisbane by 1-39 points

West Coast v Adelaide, Optus Stadium, 2.10pm

Tipping into a side with a 2-17 win-loss record is fraught with danger. You could also argue though that confidently predicting the Crows to get it done outside Adelaide is also a touch tricky.

Making Adelaide’s task all that bit harder in this contest is the fact West Coast will be hellbent on sending off retiring full-forward Josh Kennedy in a fitting manner.

If the Eagles, who have been better in the second half of the year, cannot raise an effort and help Kennedy remember his farewell match with fondness, they should be extremely disappointed.

VERDICT: West Coast by 1-39 points

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