WITH a fifth of the season done and dusted you could be forgiven for expecting the AFL to settle down and begin to reveal a pecking order for the latter stages of the season.
Not in 2015!
The Pies and the Dogs are on-fire and sit firmly ensconced in the top-four, while five of last year’s top-eight are sitting outside of the finals picture with plenty of work to do to make up the ground.
There’s plenty of value around the market in round six, so let’s get straight into it.
Magpies vs. Cats
Friday, May 8th, 7:50pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Collingwood – $1.92 (-6.5)
Geelong- $1.92 (+6.5)
The 2011 Grand Finalists kick off the weekend’s action with the Pies absolutely on fire and the Cats starting to find something resembling rhythm.
Collingwood obliterated long-time rivals Carlton in a brutal display that moved Nathan Buckley’s men to 4-1 and into a legitimate finals conversation. Geelong did their work early against the Tigers and just scraped home in a tense and tight final quarter at the MCG.
The Pies lose ANZAC medallist Paul Seedsman and Jackson Ramsay to injury, but welcome back big man Jarrod Witts and young gun Tim Broomhead. The Cats have included Mitch Clark, Rhys Stanley and speedster Nakia Cockatoo to bolster their attack.
These two sides, both juggernaughts of the previous decade, typically play a fierce brand of football and will back themselves to win, but based on the current form trends it is hard to go past the Pies who should move to 5-1.
Tip: Collingwood line bet -6.5 $1.92 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer – margin double: Travis Cloke/1-39 point margin $18 via William Hill
Kangaroos vs. Tigers
Saturday, May 9th, 1:45pm, Blundstone Arena
North Melbourne – $1.91 (-12.5)
Richmond – $1.91 (+12.5)
Two teams that were earmarked for successful 2015 campaigns meet down at Tasmania on Saturday, with the loser set to be left languishing outside the top-eight.
Both teams are coming off the back of a loss. North Melbourne was belted both physically and on the scoreboard by the reigning premiers Hawthorn, while the Tigers played a non-cohesive and sometimes baffling brand of football until the game was all but lost, then stormed home to just fall short against the Cats.
Lachie Hansen returns for his first game of the season for the Kangaroos and injured forward Jarrad Waite has overcome a hamstring injury to reclaim his spot. Tigers’ star on-baller Brett Deledio has shaken off a calf injury that has kept him out of the side since round one, while key defender Dylan Grimes also makes his way back into the Richmond line up.
Team changes aside, North Melbourne simply have to win this game. What they have shown in the opening month of football is sporadic brilliance contrasted by meek aversion to the contest. If they can find some consistency in their football then finals beckon.
Expect the Kangaroos to revert back to their winning ways and condemn Richmond to another loss.
Tip: North Melbourne to win $1.50 via Sportbet
Bulldogs vs. Saints
Saturday, May 9th, 2:10pm, Etihad Stadium
Western Bulldogs – $1.91 (-20.5)
St Kilda- $1.91 (+20.5)
Etihad Stadium plays host to one of the more interesting games of the round, with the red-hot Bulldogs facing a St Kilda side more than capable of generating a contest.
The Dogs will be without former captain Matthew Boyd who misses with soreness and emerging midfielder Lin Jong to a broken hand, but welcome back promising on-baller Lachie Hunter and veteran rebounding defender Brett Goodes.
Conversely, the Saints welcome back captain and inspirational leader Nick Riewoldt and All-Australian midfielder Leigh Montagna.
Forget what the Dogs have done before them, the biggest test for up and coming teams comes when they face sides they should be beating.
It is far easier coming up against a side you are not expected to compete with than it is against a team that is below you on the ladder where the threat of complacency can set in.
One thing both teams have in abundance is willingness to work hard and a maniacal attack on the ball. The Dogs have simply outworked their opponents this year, while the Saints have lacked polish, but always give 100 per cent around the contest, which means you are never truly out of the game.
The Saints are more than capable of causing a big upset here, but expect the Dogs to continue their winning ways onto what could be an unlikely 2015 finals berth.
Tip: Western Bulldogs to win 1-39 point margin $2.15
Exotic: Jackson Macrae to have 30 or more disposals $3.70 via Sportsbet
Giants vs. Hawks
Saturday, May 9th, 4:35pm, Spotless Stadium
GWS – $1.92 (+25.5)
Hawthorn – $1.92 (-25.5)
Saturday afternoon in Sydney sees the Giants playing host to the reigning premiers in a contest that will be a lot closer than most think.
The Giants were dismal against the Eagles last week, but had their excuses after being on the road for the last month, while the Hawks swept aside the Kangaroos at Etihad.
There’s a few selection dilemmas for Hawthorn coach Alistair Clarkson with captain Luke Hodge and Jordan Lewis unavailable due to suspension, leaving their normally skilled and experienced on-ball brigade bereft of rotations. Fortunately for the Hawks Paul Puopolo has overcome his troublesome hamstring injury and young star in the making Jed Anderson gets his chance to impress.
No such worries for the Giants who have no forced changes this week, with dashing defender Zac Williams and Matt Buntine making their way back into the team.
Last year at the MCG the Giants pushed the Hawks all the way to the final siren and just fell short. Expect a similar style of outcome here with the Hawthorn exclusions taking a massive chunk of experience and quality out of the side, but the names that remain should be able to get the job done.
Hawks in a close one.
Tip: Hawthorn to win 1-24 points $3.60
Exotic: Most disposals/most goals double – Sam Mitchell/Jack Gunstan $16 via Sportsbet
Suns vs. Crows
Saturday, May 9th, 5.10pm, Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast – $1.92 (+38.5)
Adelaide – $1.92 (-38.5)
This match looked like a great contest prior to round one. It now looms as a nightmare day for the home team.
Forget their first win of the season against Queensland rivals the Brisbane Lions last week, the Suns have a raft of off-field issues to contend with, with several key players breaking team rules resulting in club-imposed suspension. Compound this by injuries to key players and the Suns barely have enough players to field a team, let alone make an impact.
The Crows on the other hand are coming off back-to-back losses against the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide, but will have no fear coming into this one, even with injures to Jenkins, Henderson and Douglas.
Ordinarily all you would want to see is effort and a tightly-contested match from the Suns, but there’s simply no way they can be competitive in this match, and will be lucky if the margin is under triple figures come the final siren.
Tip: Pick your own line – Adelaide -88.5 points $11 via William Hill
Exotic:Most disposals/most goals – Scott Thompson/Taylor Walker $8.50 via Sportsbet
Demons vs. Swans
Saturday, May 9th, 7:10pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Melbourne – $1.91 (-30.5)
Sydney – $1.91 (+30.5)
Saturday night at the MCG pits two teams expected to be on opposite ends of the spectrum come the end of the season.
The Dees were competitive, but ineffective scoreboard-wise against the Dockers last week, while the Swans were shock losers against the rampant Western Bulldogs at the SCG.
Melbourne welcome back Jimmy Toumpas, big forward Chris Dawes and newcomer Billy Stretch for Saturday’s match, while the Swans brought back Sam Reid, Ben McGlynn and rising star favourite Isaac Heeney from injury.
The cold and wet conditions expected on Saturday night should favour contested ball, where both teams will fancy themselves. The Dees have already proven they are more than capable in the wet, brushing aside Richmond a fortnight ago, while the Swans form has been indifferent in the rain, just clawing their way home against Essendon in round one and falling short against the Dogs last week in the slop.
Despite this, the mature bodies of the Swans should be able to find a way to get the job done against their much younger opponents, and reignite their top-four chances after back-to-back losses.
Exotic: Most disposals group 2 – Bernie Vince $10 via Sportsbet
Dockers vs. Bombers
Saturday, May 9th, 8:10pm, Domain Stadium
Fremantle – $1.91 (-25.5)
Essendon – $1.91 (+25.5)
The final game of a super-Saturday of football sees the Dockers playing host to the Bombers.
The Dockers are flying at the moment and are the only team in the AFL still undefeated after five rounds. The Dons’ form has been erratic to say the least, almost succumbing to an undermanned St Kilda outfit last week.
There was mixed news at the selection table for Fremantle with Matthew Pavlich and Michael Walters named after suffering concussions in last week’s victory over Melbourne, but Luke McPharlin’s soft tissue injury curse continues, falling to a calf complaint that is similar to the one that derailed his 2014 campaign.
The Dons have a few headaches of their own, with wily veteran Dustin Fletcher missing due to a groin injury, while impressive half forward Kyle Langford has been omitted. James Gwilt and Jackson Merrett come in to the side.
Interesting stat to come out of the previous encounters is that Ross Lyon has never coached a team to victory against James Hird, with the two coaches meeting three times and Hird taking home the four points on all three occasions.
Expect that to change on Saturday night however, where Fremantle’s strong bodied midfield should prove too much for an Essendon on-ball brigade that has struggled to match it with its opponents all season.
Tip: Fremantle to win 40+ $2.85 via William Hill
Exotic: Both disposals group 1 – Dyson Heppell $5 via Sportsbet
Blues vs. Lions
Sunday, May 10th, 3:20pm, Etihad Stadium
Carlton- $1.92 (-26.5)
Brisbane – $1.92 (+26.5)
For the second week in a row the Brisbane Lions play in a battle-for-the-bottom clash – this time against a hapless Carlton side that’s only win for the season to date came in another country.
The Lions were hopeless against the Suns, getting dismantled by a fellow winless team, while the Blues lack of intent in its loss to Collingwood was startling, considering what was at stake against a bitter rival and a milestone to their senior coach.
The Blues lose swingman Lachie Henderson, who is a huge loss, but Mick Malthouse has been able to recall Dale Thomas back into the side after a long layoff with a shoulder injury. Luckless forward Brent Staker misses for the Lions, but Justin Leppitsch has been able to hand Matthew Luenburger a reprieve.
Lions’ captain Tom Rockliff is named in the extended squad and will have right up until game time to overcome a concussion that saw him taken from the field in the first quarter last week.
This is a game that most impartial footy fans will be avoiding, but the morbid curiosity of two rudderless teams competing for the points will be compelling as no one knows for sure just what will happen.
The Blues should prevail though, given their home ground advantage and greater experience right across the park.
Tip: Carlton to win 1-24 margin $3.30
Exotic: First goal scorer – Liam Jones $11 via Sportsbet
Power vs. Eagles
Sunday, May 10th, 4:40pm, Adelaide Oval
Port Adelaide – $1.91 (-25.5)
West Coast – $1.92 (+25.5)
The round closes out with Port Adelaide playing host to West Coast with both teams level on points and looking to take that next step into the top-four.
The Power are coming off the back of a fantastic Showdown victory, easily accounting for their cross-town rivals the Crows.West Coast bludgeoned the Giants into submission on the back of a six-goal haul to spearhead Josh Kennedy.
All eyes will be on the selection sheet one hour before the match, with Kennedy’s elbow looming as the main talking point right up until the opening bounce. There was talk throughout the week that the Coleman Medal leader would require season-ending surgery to repair a ‘complex elbow injury’, but he will have up until the bounce to prove his fitness.
Conversely, the Power have confirmed they have lost run-and-gun midfielder Jared Polec to a foot injury, with Jarmen Impey likely to be his replacement.
Much rests on the shoulders – or elbow in this case – of Josh Kennedy, with a late withdrawal from the match almost instantaneously ruling out any Eagles chance at victory. If the spearhead does line up however, the margin will be much closer than many would expect.
The Power should still get the job done though regardless of whether Kennedy lines up, but expect a blow out if he is unable to take the field.
Tip: Power to win 40+ @2.25 via William Hill
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