Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 4


Adelaide v Collingwood, Adelaide Oval, 5.50pm

Much has been made of the advancements of Collingwood’s game plan and a more selfless approach from certain individuals in the wake of their win over Carlton last Friday night. But the true test will come here against a high-calibre opponent in a hostile environment.

Adelaide obliterated St Kilda last Saturday night and will relish returning home to host the Magpies, a fortnight after they dismantled Richmond in the grand final rematch. Vital in the Crows’ past two wins have been solid contributions on all lines, with Rory Laird worthy of a special mention for how much football he is finding off half-back.

The Magpies’ bid to match Adelaide at the stoppages was dealt a blow on Wednesday when Taylor Adams was ruled out with a hamstring strain, but Jordan De Goey looms as his logical replacement. The battle between in-form big men Sam Jacobs and Brodie Grundy will not only be critically important, but highly entertaining.

VERDICT: Adelaide by 23 points


GWS v Fremantle, UNSW, 11.45am

Are Fremantle able to transfer their spirited displays of the past fortnight against Essendon and Gold Coast to the nation’s capital for this clash with Greater Western Sydney? If the answer is yes, then the Giants better brace themselves for a true test.

The Dockers’ two wins have been achieved in contrasting fashion and the arm-wrestle last weekend against the Suns is significant, because it is unlikely coach Ross Lyon will want to get involved in a shoot-out with the ridiculously talented GWS midfield. Aaron Sandilands dodged a bullet against Gold Coast with his high bump and can be expected to give his midfielders first look.

That is just as well because the Giants are poised to recall Toby Greene to play in attack at the feet of Jeremy Cameron and Jonathon Patton. The Dockers have a bone fide key-defensive star in Alex Pearce, but he is going to need to be at his miserly best and get sufficient support if Fremantle are to pull off an upset.

VERDICT: GWS by 29 points

Richmond v Brisbane, MCG, 12.10pm

Brisbane haven’t done a great deal wrong in 2018, yet find themselves languishing in 17th position with a 0-3 record. Unfortunately for Chris Fagan and his young troops, their win-loss record will read 0-4 after this encounter.

Richmond held off Hawthorn at the MCG last Sunday and should be strengthened for this match by the return of Josh Caddy from suspension. His presence further bolsters Damien Hardwick’s firepower forward of centre against a Lions defence which has been under siege at stages in the first three weeks.

Brisbane will be aided in their bid for victory by Dayne Beams being available after he missed the narrow loss to Port Adelaide with illness. Beams will look to link up regularly with Stefan Martin, who had a mighty game in the ruck against the Power. With rain forecast, it might not be a pretty affair, but Richmond can beat you in a variety of manners.

VERDICT: Richmond by 35 points

Western Bulldogs v Sydney, Etihad Stadium, 2.35pm

Was last Sunday’s performance against Essendon the match we look back on as the moment the Western Bulldogs revived their fortunes or just a one-week response to a torrent of criticism? Nobody knows for certain, but what is not up for debate is the Bulldogs will have every question asked of them by Sydney.

The Swans got over the top of Greater Western Sydney in a high-quality derby last Saturday night, but lost Sam Reid (quad) and Lewis Melican (hamstring) in the process. The injury to Reid is significant given he played deep, allowing Lance Franklin to push up the ground.

Had the Bulldogs taken their chances against Essendon, they would have recorded a sizeable victory. Luke Beveridge will know his charges cannot be as wasteful here and will look to his senior players to hold firm and support the swag of youngsters against a Swans outfit that is a daunting proposition when dialled in.

VERDICT: Sydney by 20 points

North Melbourne v Carlton, Blundstone Arena, 5.25pm

This is a match all associated with North Melbourne would have pencilled in as a must-win when the fixtures were released late last year. Three rounds into the 2018 campaign and nothing has changed.

The Kangaroos relish playing down in Hobart and have claimed far bigger scalps at their home away from home than that of the Blues. Add to the fact Brendon Bolton’s men are winless this season and making their first trip to Blundstone Arena and it is easy to see why bookmakers have installed the “hosts” as favourites.

North still lack the polish of the better sides, but have a presence at the stoppages, which is important as they prepare to confront Carlton midfield bull Patrick Cripps, who will be eager to influence the outcome after being shadowed by Scott Pendlebury last week. The expected return of Robbie Tarrant to help combat Levi Greenwood and Charlie Curnow is a boost for the Kangaroos also.

VERDICT: North Melbourne by 19 points

West Coast v Gold Coast, Optus Stadium, 6.10pm

If you offered a 3-1 record to West Coast after the first month of the year, they would have snaffled it. And nobody could blame them given the opening month contained matches against Sydney, the Western Bulldogs and Geelong. Having come up short against the Swans, they are now only 120 minutes away from achieving that.

And it could be argued they are getting the Suns at a good time given Stuart Dew’s men have broken routine by spending the week in WA after playing Fremantle at Optus Stadium last weekend. The Suns weren’t disgraced against the Dockers, but need greater input from their senior players, in particular Tom Lynch, who was well held.

The Eagles’ forward structure will have a different look given the injury-enforced absence of Liam Ryan, but their ball movement and desire to extract goals from the midfield will remain the same. Nic Naitanui has been an irresistible force in his return from a knee injury and there is nothing to suggest he won’t be a factor again in the air and at ground level.

VERDICT: West Coast by 30 points


Essendon v Port Adelaide, Etihad Stadium, 11.10am

Port Adelaide should know exactly what is coming. Indeed, the entire football world knows what is coming … a ferocious Essendon response. The sort of response the Western Bulldogs produced last weekend against the Bombers after a fortnight of intense criticism.

The Bombers were terrible against the Bulldogs and John Worsfold is under pressure to turn them around — and quickly. If history is any guide, he is capable of doing just that. Some of his best wins at West Coast came when the club had its back to the wall. It wouldn’t shock if adjustments are made to personnel and the game plan in order to achieve something similar.

Port have had their own issues to deal with this week in regards to Sam Powell-Pepper breaching team rules as a result of a drunken night out. The Power only fell over the line against Brisbane at home last Saturday and head to Etihad Stadium knowing they were flogged by the Bombers in the corresponding match last season.

VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 10 points

Hawthorn v Melbourne, MCG, 1.20pm

Melbourne haven’t done a lot wrong this season, but the sceptics remain. And they will continue to linger for some time yet, or at least until the Demons chalk up a string of wins over sides who have had their measure for a sustained period … like Hawthorn.

The Hawks dropped their first game of the year against Richmond last weekend, but will be strengthened for this assignment by the return from suspension of James Sicily. The firebrand is a key inclusion given the presence and form displayed by Jesse Hogan to start the year.

As is so often the case, Max Gawn will have a large bearing on the outcome. The 2016 All-Australian dominated Todd Goldstein last weekend and though Ben McEvoy is expected to be a far more demanding opponent, the Demons midfielders are entitled to think they will be given first use more often than not. And if that is the case, Melbourne will have ample opportunities to kick a winning score.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 25 points

Geelong v St Kilda, GMHBA, 2.40pm

Geelong would have preferred their first game at home this season to be played under vastly different circumstances. Back-to-back losses are less than ideal, as is the serious hamstring injury sustained by veteran Gary Ablett in the defeat to West Coast last Sunday, along with fresh blows to Nakia Cockatoo (knee) and Cam Guthrie (ankle).

But if the Cats’ season hasn’t gone to plan, St Kilda’s is borderline disastrous. The Saints have been woeful in the past fortnight, with their inability to have an impact forward of centre staggeringly bad. No Tim Membrey (knee) again hurts their hopes of booting a winning total, but the entries inside attacking 50m are at the root of the problem.

The expected return of Mitch Duncan to Geelong’s midfield will be greatly appreciated by Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield, who have caused the Saints plenty of problems previously. Add that to the fact Geelong rarely lose before their home fans and the Cats should be able to get their season back on track.

VERDICT: Geelong by 30 points

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