They may only be second on the premiership ladder, but the Hawks are by the far the best team in the competition. Both teams are coming off impressive wins in round 18; Hawthorn took care of Essendon by nearly 100-points and the Hawks handed a true contender in Adelaide a 27-point loss.
Geelong loses their lone ruckman, Trent West (he’s extremely average anyway), and replace him with someone worse in Orren Stephenson. Podsiadly, though he’s been poor this season, returns, as does Matthew Scarlett and those two will help the Cats cause.
Jobe Watson is usually Essendon’s most critical player, but Cyril Rioli could be the Hawks this week. Again without Buddy Franklin, the man who was getting bagged earlier in the season is a little magican and is playing some great football.
H In: Hale Out: Savage
G In: Podsiadly, Stephenson, Scarlett Out: Corey, West, Guthrie
Western Bulldogs-North Melbourne
This game doesn’t provide much other than the ability for North to get a one up on Fremantle for the league’s eighth spot. Divided by a couple of percentage points, North would be doing themselves a huge favour by smashing the Dogs on Saturday.
NM In: Garlett Out: Thomas
WB In: Sherman, Addison, Skinner, Campbell, Johannisen Out: Gilbee, Cross, Veszpremi, Jones, Dalhaus
Not exactly a Hercules versus Samson epic here and I feel as I should validate the amazing career of Kevin Sheedy somehow, but I have as much chance of writing that than I will of watching the game.
Jay Schulz’s return is fantastic news for Port at least, various unlucky injuries have kept him out for long stretches of the season, but when he has played he’s been great.
P In: Schulz, Hartlett Out: Chaplin, Pfeiffer
G In: Brogan, Kennedy, Buntine, Coniglio, Cornes Out: Palmer, Bruce, Edwards, Folau, Haynes
The Western Derby is normally a big occasion, especially for those on the west coast, but this game has higher stakes than normal. Fremantle need a win to keep up with North Melbourne for the eighth spot and they can’t afford to drop one with a couple of challenging tasks ahead (Adelaide away and Richmond at home).
Fremantle actually looked pretty good over the last month, but they played some of the worst teams the league has to offer and didn’t really convince for an entire game at a time in any of those contests.
The Eagles received a bounce back win last week, creaming the Lions at home after shaky losses to Sydney and Adelaide. They’ll be tested (absence of Glass and Rosa is an ouch) and I have a feeling Fremantle will get over the top, some of that has to do with Nathan Fyfe’s return.
Pick: Fremantle (at your own risk)
F In: Dawson Out: Sutcliffe
W In: Brown, Swift Out: Glass, Rosa
Both made the most of easy scheduling last week to nab a couple of wins coming off losses, but I just can’t pick the Saints. They have been as unpredictable as any team in 2012 and it’s frustrating to say the least. Collingwood looked vulnerable against Hawthorn in round 17, but they are likely to be around until the end of the final campaign and one would expect them to dispatch of the Saints with comfort.
C In: Jolly, O’Brien,Thomas, Wellingham, Sidebottom Out: Wood, Buckley,Brown, Clark, Mooney
S In: Ray Out: Schneider
I understand that many Richmond fans have begun looking ahead to 2013 after awful losses to Carlton, North and the Gold Coast. They’re now three games out of the eight and can’t afford to drop another or they’ll see the slim chance they have of making the ‘second season’ slide away.
Brisbane have their moments but they’re few and far between.
R In: White, Griffiths, Helbig Out: Moore, Maric, Dea
B In: Drummond, Lisle, Rich, Green, Karnezis Out: Hawksley, Harwood, Bewick, Lester, McKeever
Melbourne- Gold Coast
Both clubs have provided dismal years for their dwindling fan bases. One of them will have an opportunity to please them with their second win of the year.
M In: Magner, Morton, Tapscott, Gysberts, Fitzpatrick, Tynan Out: Magner, Morton, Tapscott, Gysberts, Fitzpatrick, Tynan
G In: Rischitelli, Day, A Hall Out: -
Carlton are a game behind North, but face Sydney who are back to being an elite squad.
Blues’ coach Brett Ratten will need two or three scalps of the Sydney calibre to save his job in the next five games. He should start now.
C In: Waite, Simpson, Ellard, White, Lucas Out: Duigan, Dale
S In: Morton, Armstrong, Gordon, Mumford Out: Reid
Third plays a very sorry looking seventh to finish off the round and by very sorry I mean Essendon. One win (Port) and four blowouts in their last four doesn’t have them looking great heading into the tail end of the season and travelling to Adelaide to take on the Crows is no easy ask.
A In: Tambling, Jacobs, Shaw Out: Mackay
E In: Dyson, Lonergan, Hooker, Hurley, Pears, Colyer Out: Stanton, Monfries, Dell’Olio