Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 5


Melbourne v Brisbane, MCG, 5.30pm

There is not a great deal of love between Melbourne and Brisbane. Perhaps more importantly though, not a great deal has separated these two teams in recent encounters, setting the stage for an intense battle to open round five.

Fresh off two critically important wins at Adelaide Oval, the Demons return home to the MCG heavily favoured to stretch their winning streak to five. As for the Lions, they visit the home of football for the first time since losing a heartbreaker to Collingwood last September.

They also arrive at the ground off a dominant victory against North Melbourne when many kinks were ironed out. But even with Kozzie Pickett (suspended) missing, the Demons are a different beast altogether.

VERDICT: Melbourne by 1-39 points


Western Bulldogs v Essendon, Marvel Stadium, 5.40pm

Memo to Luke Beveridge and Brad Scott. Regardless of how this match plays out, don’t go losing badly. The Western Bulldogs weren’t horrible against Geelong, yet are still befuddled by the Cats. Essendon …. well they were just flat out putrid against Port Adelaide.

There needs to be a response here. One will be forthcoming, but in what shape and how long it lasts for is anyone’s guess. The Bulldogs appear to hold an edge midfield through Marcus Bontempelli, Adam Treloar and Ryley Sanders at the feet of All-Australian Tim English.

If they’re finding enough of the football inside the sterile surrounds of Marvel Stadium, it spells trouble for an Essendon backline that wilted under an avalanche of possession against Port.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs to win


GWS v St Kilda, Manuka Oval, 11.45am

St Kilda give the impression they are hanging on until the reinforcements arrive. Considering how extensive their injury list is, coupled with the suspension of Jimmy Webster, they have done a good job to be 2-2.

That record faces an acid test in this clash with the unbeaten GWS, who ooze class on every line and are full of confidence. Their ability to hit the scoreboard and kick goals in clumps places their opposition under enormous pressure.

Conversion by the Saints hasn’t been at a high level in the past fortnight, a deficiency Ross Lyon is well aware of. If it continues for a third successive week, the Giants have the weaponry to get the job done once more.

VERDICT: GWS by 1-39 points  

Carlton v Adelaide, Marvel Stadium, 2.35pm

Carlton supporters all around the country had reason to rejoice last Saturday when their side dodged a bullet against Fremantle. Their mood only improved when it was revealed earlier this week that Sam Walsh would make his first appearance of the season after overcoming a back injury.

Walsh’s presence in a high-class midfield against an Adelaide on-ball division that is somewhat pedestrian and not really in sync with the forwards would no doubt have caused Crows coach Matthew Nicks a few sleepless nights.

The Blues continue to show poise under pressure to win close game after close game. This looks a far more straight-forward assignment for Michael Voss and his charges.

VERDICT: Carlton to win by 16 points or more

Gold Coast v Hawthorn, People First Stadium, 5.30pm

Damien Hardwick ran the gauntlet at selection last week when he made wholesale changes for the match against GWS. Such a move can often backfire. This one didn’t.

The youngsters selected held their own against GWS to reaffirm the belief that Gold Coast under Hardwick are on their way. They will have their slip-ups along the way, as do the elite teams. However, they are likely to become less common as the message from the three-time premiership coach resonates.

Hawthorn mentor Sam Mitchell nearly engineered a huge upset of Collingwood last Sunday, with the decision to swing Blake Hardwick into attack a masterstroke. He will need to delve deep into his bag of tricks here if the Hawks are to open their account.

VERDICT: Gold Coast by 1-39 points

Port Adelaide v Fremantle, Adelaide Oval, 5.30pm

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir and his players have got a chance to set the record straight. They have said all the right things and handled the disappointment and controversy surrounding the loss to Carlton with class.

But they are ultimately going to be judged on what they do for two hours each weekend and there would be no better response than to take down Port Adelaide on home soil. If you said that is easier said than done, you would be correct.

Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Jason Horne-Francis shredded Essendon and will ask many questions of the Dockers’ midfielders. Fremantle have had nearly every answer in 2024 and that is why they are inside the top eight.

VERDICT: Port Adelaide to win


Geelong v North Melbourne, GMHBA Stadium, 11am

It is impossible to see how North Melbourne can compete here. Geelong are 4-0 and looking more and more like the Cats outfit that won the 2022 premiership, not the one that became content after that success and missed finals altogether last season.

They have weapons in all three areas of the ground North can only dream about at this stage of their development. The Kangaroos are porous in defence, as evidenced by the loss to Brisbane, and Geelong are eerily slick when the ball enters their attacking half.

If the Cats are fair dinkum, this gets really ugly.

VERDICT: Geelong to win and Tom Hawkins to kick 3+ goals

West Coast v Richmond, Optus Stadium, 2pm

It took a little longer than West Coast fans would have liked, but there were signs of life by Adam Simpson’s players in the loss to Sydney.

A spirited first half threw up the spectre of an immense boilover before the Swans did what they needed to ahead of a bye. For the second straight week, the Eagles tallied more than 50 inside-50 entries, although the return from those forays was not at the required level.

Richmond’s standards, save for the first half against Gold Coast in opening round, have been great. Despite missing key personnel, they could easily have beaten St Kilda. Their intent is clear and it’s sustained. Can West Coast hold their ground early and get a toehold in the contest?

VERDICT: Richmond 1-39 points 

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