One full month of AFL action down and the punting landscape resembles a rollercoaster ride more than a level playing field.
It is usually around this time we start to get a clear indication of who will be the finals contenders and who will be down the bottom of the ladder, but with upsets happening almost week-to-week, it is still extremely hard to get a gauge on where certain teams are at.
Round five promises to be an interesting round of football though, with three huge rivalries headlining what will be a massive weekend of footy.
Friday, May 1st, 7:50pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Carlton – $1.92 (+8.5)
Collingwood- $1.92 (-8.5)
What better way to kick off round 5 of the AFL season than with the two biggest rivals in the league clashing at the home of football.
The Blues and the Pies is the fiercest rivalry in the sport, but this contest will have an added incentive for Carlton given their coach, former Collingwood premiership mentor Mick Malthouse is set to break the AFL’s all-time games coached record.
The Blues are set to welcome back dual Brownlow medallist Chris Judd back into the fold, as well as off-season signing Kristian Jaksch and debutant Mark Whiley, while the Pies have made just one change, bringing in Patrick Karnezis for the impressive utility Tim Broomhead, who will miss the game through illness.
The Pies have experienced an impressive record over their opponents, winning four of the last five encounters, and while the motivation to play well for their coach will help the Blues match Collingwood early in the contest, Collingwood should have too much class and will pull away with the victory.
Exotic: Most possessions group 2 – Tom Bell $10 via Sportsbet
Tigers vs. Cats
Saturday, May 2nd, 1:45pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Richmond – $1.91 (-7.5)
Geelong – $1.91 (+6.5)
Two teams in desperate need for a win, with the 2-2 Tigers facing the 1-3 Cats both sitting outside the top eight after lacklustre starts to the season.
The Tigers have been erratic to say the least this season, with two quality wins against Carlton and Brisbane contrasted by horrendous defeats at the hands of the Demons and the Bulldogs, two teams predicted to finish in the bottom rungs of the ladder.
The Cats comparatively have been average, although the injury curse has plagued the club, with several of their best 22 players unavailable through a variety of ailments.
The Tigers have made wholesale changes at the selection table, bringing in defender Troy Chaplin, out of favour bigman Ty Vickery, former captain Chris Newman as well as handing a debut to classy on-baller Corey Ellis.
The Cats made just three changes this week, welcoming back premiership defender Tom Lonergan, Shane Kersten and ruckman Dawson Simpson – but unfortunately lost off-season recruits Rhys Stanley and Mitch Clark to injury.
The Cats bring in terrific form against the Tigers, winning the last 10 games against their opponents with an average winning margin of 57 points. If Richmond has shown anything over the last decade of football it’s that these mental scars are hard to shake from the club and the fear of failure always hangs over their heads.
Expect Geelong to bounce back and continue their dominance over the Tigers.
Tip: Geelong to win $2.20 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most marks group A – Harry Taylor $4.75 via Wiliam Hill
Swans vs. Bulldogs
Saturday, May 2nd, 2:10pm, Sydney Cricket Ground
Sydney – $1.91 (-32.5)
Western Bulldogs- $1.91 (+32.5)
Who would have thought a game between the Swans and the Bulldogs would bring much fanfare in a round were two epic rivalries take place, but such is a wave of momentum that the Bulldogs are riding at the moment, you almost feel compelled to watch.
The Dogs were magnificent against the Crows, dismantling their opponents with a maniacal attack on the ball and doing the business in front of the sticks, while the Swans were gallant, but could not overturn a huge half time deficit and fell short against the Dockers in Perth.
Three big ins for the Swans this week, with club champion Adam Goodes returning to the fold, as well as ball-magnet Tom Mitchell and the impressive Dean Towers, while the Dogs have only made the one change, selecting Fletcher Roberts in favour of Jarrad Grant.
This one is a hard game to read, given the Dogs’ pressure can disrupt any team in the competition, but the Swans at the SCG is an entirely different beast. The smaller ground will suit the Western Bulldogs congested, contested ball game, but the Swans experience with the ground should be telling and they should get the points.
Swans to move to 4-1.
Tip: Swans to win 1-39 points $2.15 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Lance Frankin $6 via William Hill
Suns vs. Lions
Saturday, May 2nd, 4:35pm, Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast – $1.92 (-1.5)
Brisbane – $1.92 (+1.5)
How much more promising did this game look pre-season?
A winless Q clash is not something that the experts were predicting, and whilst the ‘battle of the bottom’ will garner a lot of interest, it will be more of a morbid curiosity rather than watching for the pure spectacle of AFL football.
The Suns have lost several key players with vice captains Nick Malecski and David Swallow both set to miss with knee injuries, while the Lions brought back versatile forward Brent Staker and left young gun James Aish out of the side.
This one is a toss of the coin with both teams in horrific form, but the advantage of playing on their home deck on the Gold Coast should play heavily in the Suns’ favour.
Gold Coast in a tight one.
Exotic: Most disposals group A – Dayne Beams $3.75 via William Hill
Marcus Ashcroft medal winner: Michael Rischitelli $9 via Sportsbet
Kangaroos vs. Hawks
Saturday, May 2nd, 7.20pm, Etihad Stadium
North Melbourne – $1.92 (+21.5)
Hawthorn – $1.92 (-21.5)
One of the games of the round sees last year’s preliminary finalists North Melbourne facing off against the reigning premiers Hawthorn in a match that promises so much on paper.
The Kangaroos are coming off a huge win down the highway against the Cats, while the Hawks fell just short of completing one of the best comebacks in AFL history, succumbing to the Power over in Adelaide.
The Hawks will have to contend with another string of injuries, with Brian Lake set to miss up to two months with a knee injury, and Paul Puopolo, who is named in the team will be given right up until the opening bounce to prove his fitness after being subbed out last week with a hamstring injury.
The Hawks regain premiership midfielder Liam Sheils and forgotten defender Ryan Schoenmakers. The Roos on the other hand have only made one change, bring in Jamie McMillan for Trent Dumount.
It looms as a pivotal contest for both teams, as both teams are sitting well below where they expected to be at this time of the season.
Should go down to the wire, but the Hawks should have too much class across the park and will get the job done.
Tip: Hawthorn to win 1-39 margin $2.15 via William Hill
Eagles vs. Giants
Saturday, May 2nd, 7:40pm, Domain Stadium
West Coast – $1.91 (-8.5)
Greater Western Sydney – $1.91 (+8.5)
The Eagles and the Giants round out the big Saturday of footy, with the GWS presented with their best opportunity yet to register their first win ever in Western Australia.
The Giants are coming off a huge win over new franchise counterparts the Gold Coast, while the Eagles travelled to the GABBA and embarrassed the Lions.
The Eagles have made three changes at the selection table, with Patrick McGinnity, Jamie Bennell and Callum Sinclair all forcing their way back into the side. The Giants lost born-again midfielder Rhys Palmer to a shoulder injury, but will be boosted by the return of the mercurial Will Hoskin-Elliot.
The pressure on the Eagles to win this one is enormous, given a loss here could prove pivotal come season’s end. Home games are the ones that they need to bank on and if finals are to remain in the frame they need to register the points at home.
Expect West Coast to pull away after three tightly contested quarters.
Exotic: Most disposals/most goals double – Matt Priddis/Josh Kennedy $14 via Sportsbet.
Demons vs. Dockers
Sunday, May 3rd, 1:10pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Melbourne – $1.91 (+30.5)
Fremantle – $1.91 (-30.5)
The first match of Sunday sees the unbeaten Dockers taking on the impressive Melbourne Demons in a match that has the potential to throw people’s tips into disarray.
The Dockers bring in sparkling form, after ending Sydney’s unbeaten run, whilst the Demons put together a fantastic four quarter performance to stun the Tigers last week at the MCG.
The question will be who the Demons’ new go-to tagger Bernie Vince stands opposed to on Sunday.
The immediate answer would be Nat Fyfe, Fyfe’s aerial ability and significant height advantage may make it hard for Vince to negate his impact. A more likely match up would be standing David Mundy, who has been just as damaging in the opening month of footy.
The Dockers have won the last five match ups between the two sides, and look set to continue their dominance, even if the MCG isn’t their favoured ground.
Dockers will be too hardened and classy across the ground and will keep their unblemished record intact.
Tip: Fremantle to win 1-39 $2.10 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer – Matthew Pavlich $7.50 via William Hill
Saints vs. Bombers
Sunday, May 3rd, 3:20pm, Etihad Stadium
St Kilda- $1.92 (+37.5)
Essendon – $1.92 (-37.5)
The last game of footy for the weekend in Melbourne sees the struggling Saints up against the erratic Essendon in a game that the Dons cannot afford to lose.
Both teams bring in disappointing form into the game, with the Saints blowing an early lead against the Blues in New Zealand, while the Dons were dismal on ANZAC day, getting thoroughly outclassed by Collingwood at the MCG.
Both teams will be without a host of stars, with the Saints still without Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna, while the Dons have lost Paul Chapman to a groin injury.
Last year’s victory over the Dons was one of the upsets of the season, but it is hard to see how the Saints could replicate that form given they had a full list of players to choose from.
The Dons should coast home and get their season back on track.
Tip: Essendon to win 40+ $1.94
Exotic: First goal scorer – Joe Daniher $7 via Sportsbet
Crows vs. Powers
Sunday, May 3rd, 7:40pm, Adelaide Oval
Adelaide – $1.91 (+7.5)
Port Adelaide – $1.92 (-7.5)
Round five finishes with two bitter cross-town rivals facing off in a battle that for the first time in many years, will give a lot more than bragging rights to the victor.
The Power, who had a shaky start to the season are finally hitting their straps, after accounting for reigning premiers Hawthorn last week, while the Crows were very ordinary against the Western Bulldogs, getting dismantled by a much younger side from start to finish.
Only the one confirmed change for either side, with Kyle Hartigan an omission for the Crows, however, the Power have listed Robbie Gray and Cam O’Shea on an extended squad for Sunday, and if both of those players are right to play, the game weighs heavily in favour of the Power.
This looms as the most important Showdown in five years, and whilst the Crows did start the season in sensational fashion, it is hard to tell whether their loss to the Dogs was an aberration or a true reflection of where they are really at.
Conversely, the Power are red-hot after two sensational wins, and it is hard to see them dropping the points here.
Power in a tight one.
Tip: Port Adelaide to win $1.62 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Jay Schultz $8 via Sportsbet
Showdown medal winner: Travis Boak $7 via Sportsbet