Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 5


Brisbane v Collingwood, Gabba, 5.35pm

Brisbane were a long way removed from their best against Geelong last Friday night and still nearly won. The same applies to Collingwood last weekend in their tussle with West Coast which they lost.

Unfortunately for the Magpies in round five however, they venture to the Gabba to meet Brisbane without important forward trio Jamie Elliott (injury), Jack Ginnivan (soreness) and Brodie Mihocek (health and safety protocols), while the Lions are bolstered by the availability of No.1 ruckman Oscar McInerney.

Brisbane won the corresponding match last year by one point, but then dined out on the Magpies in the second encounter for 2021, winning by 85 points. It’s not unreasonable to think somewhere in between might be the landing spot for this match.

VERDICT: Brisbane by 1-39 points


North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs, Marvel Stadium, 2.20pm

There was nothing good about this Friday afternoon encounter from a North Melbourne perspective in 2021. And that is putting it mildly. The Kangaroos were savaged by the Western Bulldogs, succumbing by 128 points in a match where Josh Bruce bagged 10 majors.

Bruce is rehabbing a torn ACL currently, his absence in attack leaving the Bulldogs not only short changed but missing a reliable kick on goal for the most part. And that inaccuracy proved costly last Saturday night, a first-term return of 2.7 giving Richmond a chance to stabilise and then prevail in style.

These two teams share 1-3 records, but even with all of their faults, the Bulldogs are far superior and the scoreboard should reflect that at the final siren.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs -31.5 points (Line)

West Coast v Sydney, Optus Stadium, 5.40pm

There is a pulse. It’s hard to view West Coast’s seismic win over Collingwood as anything but a kiss of life to their top-eight aspirations. Thinking a finals berth was attainable before the trademark efficient display was fanciful. Not so now.

In saying that, beating a Magpies side which had 19 more forward-50 entries and seemed content playing to kick to kick with Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass is different gravy than taking on a Sydney side which can slice apart its opposition by foot.

The Swans are going to be without Lance Franklin, Tom Papley and Tom Hickey, but have a lovely blend of structure and discipline to prove a real handful for the Eagles, who will miss Nic Naitanui (knee) badly.

VERDICT: Sydney by 1-39 points


St Kilda v Gold Coast, Marvel Stadium, 11.45am

We have seen how much of a difference Paddy Ryder makes to St Kilda in the past two weeks. Now the Saints are going to have to make do without the veteran ruckman for the next fortnight after his two-match suspension was upheld by the AFL Tribunal on Tuesday.

The Saints overcame the Dockers in round two minus Ryder and that formline has held up. Even without Ryder, they still apply the right amount of pressure and have the weapons in attack to cause enormous headaches for their opponents. Max King is rapidly emerging as one of the most dangerous key forwards in the league.

As for the Suns, they are trending in the right direction. Their home win over Carlton was full of merit and based on a dominant midfield display. No Jack Lukosius (knee) is a blow as Stuart Dew’s men look to make a statement down south.

VERDICT: St Kilda to win

Adelaide v Richmond, Adelaide Oval, 2.35pm

Cast your mind back to early June last year. Round 11 to be exact … the glorious occasion of the Dreamtime match at Optus Stadium when Richmond overcame the pluck of Essendon to prevail.

It just so happens to be the last time the Tigers won back-to-back matches. For a team that won a flag in 2020 and were expected to roar back into the cut and thrust of finals this year, it is a streak that is hard to get your head around. Surely this is the round where they set the record straight.

With a glass half-full approach, Adelaide could be 3-1. If you look at it from a glass half-empty perspective, they could easily be winless. What is not in dispute is they’re still a fair way off the better teams and the Tigers have shown glimpses that they can be well above average.

VERDICT: Richmond -5.5 points (Line)

Melbourne v GWS, MCG, 5.25pm

There is an air of inevitability about the plight of GWS coach Leon Cameron. Out of contract at the end of the season and with any talk of an extension parked until the Giants’ commitments are concluded, you couldn’t blame him for wondering what 2023 looks like.

More immediately though, he needs to find the key that unlocks the secret to Melbourne’s dominance, especially in the back half of the field. With no Toby Greene until next round, it is difficult to see how GWS manufacture enough supply with their stilted ball movement to trouble the Demons.

Max Gawn was sublime against Port Adelaide last Thursday night and if prime movers Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver rebound from rare quiet performances, this could get ugly.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 40+ points


Carlton v Port Adelaide, MCG, 11.40am

Football lovers salivating at the prospect of two of the game’s best midfield bulls Patrick Cripps and Ollie Wines going head-to-head have been forced to deal with considerable disappointment all week.

Injury and a health scare have ruled out Cripps and Wines respectively, with the absence of the Brownlow medallist leaving the Power short-changed in the most important area of the ground when you factor in how much depth the Blues have there.

If Marc Pittonet returns from a week off through injury and feeds those hungry mouths at centre bounces and stoppages around the ground, then the twin towers of Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow should fill their boots against an undersized Port backline.

VERDICT: Carlton -10.5 points (Line)

Essendon v Fremantle, Marvel Stadium, 2.40pm

How legitimate are Fremantle’s finals claims opposed to Essendon’s? It is a question which sparks debate for those with allegiances to both clubs. And understandably so.

The Dockers are 3-1. It is a sound start, no doubt. Those who aren’t convinced point to the fact they have beaten Adelaide, West Coast and GWS. Essendon are 1-3, with their only victory coming narrowly against the Crows last weekend.

This shapes as your “venue game”, although perhaps tilting the scales slightly in the favour of the Dockers is they welcome back Caleb Serong, Darcy Tucker and Alex Pearce, while Essendon will again be forced to make do minus Jake Stringer.

VERDICT: Fremantle by 1-24 points


Hawthorn v Geelong, MCG, 1.20pm

Hawthorn weren’t the first — and won’t be the last — team to have their clocks cleaned by St Kilda. Whether Sam Mitchell can engineer a rapid response is the question.

These Easter Monday encounters are invariably rippers, with the Cats getting the cream (aka the points) narrowly after holding off a late Hawthorn surge most recently. They were unable to halt the surge of Saints goals last weekend and if the weather holds up here, face the prospect of history repeating.

Geelong have weapons on most lines and should be boosted by the return from injury and illness of Joel Selwood and Tom Stewart respectively. He is no spring chicken, but Ben McEvoy’s ongoing absence with his neck injury is hurting the Hawks.

VERDICT: Geelong by 1-39 points

Market Market