Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 4


Port Adelaide v Melbourne, Adelaide Oval, 5.40pm

If Ken Hinkley thought last weekend was tough to negotiate following the after-the-siren loss to Adelaide, he doesn’t need any advice to understand the heat will be well and truly turned up should Port Adelaide open 2022 with a 0-4 start.

The Power fluffed their lines late against the Crows and cannot afford to make the similar mistakes here opposed to a Melbourne side that has yet to operate anywhere near its full capacity, yet is 3-0 and clearly well placed to mount the most sturdy of premiership defences.

The absence of Robbie Gray (knee) remains a concern for Port, as is their lack of preferred options behind the ball. How Hinkley and his coaching staff approach the Demons’ high-octane midfield will be intriguing.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 1-39 points


Geelong v Brisbane, GMHBA Stadium, 5.50pm

Hands up if you remember how the corresponding match last season played out. Supporters from both sides need no reminding, albeit those with a leaning towards Brisbane are entitled to look back with a combination of disappointment and angst.

And so they should. The Lions were robbed 12 months ago because of a terrible non-decision late in the match. They would love nothing more than to get the points here and improve to 4-0, further strengthening their top-four aspirations. However, they have been dealt a blow in a bid to achieve that with the suspension of ruckman Oscar McInerney.

In saying that, the Cats have rested record-breaking skipper Joel Selwood and will again be without Sam Menegola as he battles concussion issues. The potency forward of centre should again prove telling for the hosts.

VERDICT: Geelong by 1-24 points


Sydney v North Melbourne, SCG, 12.40pm

Sadly for most of those residing in NSW, the autumn rain continues to fall at record levels. The only ones likely to appreciate the downpour that intensified this week are North Melbourne’s players and coaches.

And we are not saying that because we think it assists the Kangaroos’ efforts of causing an upset. Rather because if the SCG is under water, it should enable them to avoid to a thrashing in the vicinity of 100 points.

North were annihilated last weekend up at the Gabba and it would take a remarkable transformation from David Noble and his players to avoid another shellacking. Sydney weren’t at their best against the Western Bulldogs and still nearly won. They are considerably superior to their opponents in this clash.

VERDICT: Sydney by 40+ points

Collingwood v West Coast, Marvel Stadium, 2.35pm

There were some good signs this week at West Coast training, with a heap of players out on the track. It’s fair to say the good news was long overdue for Adam Simpson and his besieged group.

The pasting from Fremantle in last Sunday’s western derby raised questions about whether the game plan the coaching staff had implemented over the summer was in fact evident. Simpson is of the view his side cannot be judged until they get some consistency at the selection table.

If they are able to be somewhere near their best (injuries aside), this presents as an interesting audit because Collingwood have been really impressive under Craig McRae, only last round stretching the neck of Geelong. Their dare and organised defence will likely prove problematic for the Eagles.

VERDICT: Collingwood by 1-39 points

Richmond v Western Bulldogs, MCG, 5.25pm

It’s hard to confidently predict the starting line-up of a side with the health and safety protocols that are being utilised frequently by the AFL, but if the chatter is correct, Richmond will welcome back important personnel sooner rather than later.

Dion Prestia, Jack Riewoldt and Dustin Martin could be running out alongside their long-time teammates in the not too distant, although the loss of Dylan Grimes (hamstring) is a real worry for a Tigers outfit exposed by St Kilda late and now face up to the Western Bulldogs and Aaron Naughton.

The Bulldogs are also well rested ahead of this encounter, while Richmond’s fade-outs against Carlton in round one and last weekend are cause for concern. This is an assignment the Bulldogs cannot squander.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 1-39 points

Fremantle v GWS, Optus Stadium, 5.25pm

A fine April night at Optus Stadium between two sides with obvious upside provided they are willing to back themselves in and show some courage with football in hand. That is what awaits us here for this contest between Fremantle and GWS.

Knowing though which side is capable of performing at its peak for the bulk of the 120 minutes is the hard part. Fremantle were really strong, especially after half-time against West Coast, while the Giants might have only beaten Gold Coast, but their method was solid.

The expected return from injury of Sean Darcy and COVID complications of David Mundy is significant for Fremantle, whereas the Giants are facing the prospect of having no Nick Haynes in a backline already missing Phil Davis.

VERDICT: Fremantle by 1-24 points


Essendon v Adelaide, Marvel Stadium, 11.10am

There were glimpses last Friday night that Essendon were not far off their best, even taking into account the unavailability of prolific midfielder Zach Merrett (ankle). That said, they still remain winless and desperately needing to open their account to remain relevant in the finals conversation.

Despite the absence of senior coach Ben Rutten (health and safety protocols), they would be disappointed if unable to chalk up win No.1 for 2022. The Crows climbed from the canvas to grab Port Adelaide after the siren and will welcome back Taylor Walker but still have glaring holes in their side.

Essendon aren’t exactly faultless either, but their best is better than Adelaide’s.

VERDICT: Essendon by 1-39 points

Hawthorn v St Kilda, MCG, 1.20pm

As harsh as it sounds given they are 2-1 and have shown wonderful grit in the past fortnight, there is still something that nags many about the legitimacy of St Kilda. And the Saints faithful have every right to be aggrieved at that considering we’re only too happy to laud Hawthorn under Sam Mitchell.

The outlook for both clubs will become a little clearer following this game where the Saints will be hoping to transfer their undoubted Marvel Stadium form to the MCG, a venue where the Hawks play their best football.

Will Mitchell’s men be able to thwart the Saints key forwards, in particular Max King who has taken over the past two games to lift his team to victory? If the answer is yes, Hawthorn can most definitely win. But the Saints have been mighty impressive and are deserving favourites.

VERDICT: Either side by 15 points or less

Gold Coast v Carlton, Metricon Stadium, 2.10pm

We are working off the smallest of sample sizes, but Gold Coast are going to trouble a lot of sides at Metricon Stadium in 2022. The round-two effort against Melbourne was full of merit.

The same applies to Carlton regarding their round-one, round-two and round-three efforts. Are they the real deal? The jury is still deliberating, but those believing they are should not be criticised.

The weapons the Blues possess midfield and in attack have helped Michael Voss’ second coaching stint enormously, as has this match being starting in the afternoon as opposed to at night where the Queensland dew can prove problematic.

VERDICT: Carlton by 1-24 points

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