WITH just over a month of home and away action left, the finals race is far from over.
In Round 18, the Hawks and the Tigers will clash in a pivotal match which could shape the top four, the Giants travel West to tackle the Dockers in hopes of re-entering the top eight, while the Dogs will need to end a six-game losing streak against the Bombers to confirm their finals position.
Let’s take a look at the action which kicks off on Friday night.
Hawks vs. Tigers
Friday, July 31st, 7:50pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Hawthorn – $1.92 (-35.5)
Richmond – $1.92 (+35.5)
Round 18 begins at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with the third placed Hawthorn hosting the fifth placed Richmond.
The Hawks are on a roll and look destined to finish in the top two after dismantling Fremantle, Sydney and Carlton, each by over 10 goals, in the last three weeks.
The Tigers were unlucky losers last week against Fremantle, with a Bachar Houli mistake in the last two minutes handing the Dockers an unlikely victory.
Richmond has had great success over Hawthorn in recent times, with the Tigers winning two of the last three matches against the reigning premiers.
Hawthorn’s spectacular July run should continue as the reigning premiers strengthen their home final chances.
Tip: Hawthorn to win – line bet -35.5 $1.92 via William Hill
Exotic: Most disposals/Most goals Jordan Lewis/Jarryd Roughead – $16 via Sportsbet
Cats vs. Lions
Saturday, August 1st, 1:45pm, Simmonds Stadium
Geelong – $1.91 (-40.5)
Brisbane – $1.91 (+40.5)
The first game of the new month sees the Cats hosting the Lions at Geelong in a match that could dictate two markets – the finals picture and the wooden spoon battle.
It is last chance saloon for the Cats, who sit a game and percentage outside the top eight. A big win here is imperative if Geelong is to find its way into the finals.
Brisbane currently sit in last position, locked on points with the Gold Coast Suns, with only 9 percentage points separating the two teams from the indignity of a wooden spoon.
The Lions get superstars Dayne Beams and Pearce Hanley back into their line up and will be bolstered up front by the inclusion of impressive younger Jonathan Freeman.
Geelong’s home form has not been as dominant in 2015 as it has been in recent years, but the Cats should still prove too strong for the Lions – keeping their September dream alive.
Tip: Geelong to win 1-39 points $2.45 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most disposals group 1 – Tom Rockliff – $7 via Sportsbet
Magpies vs. Demons
Saturday, August 1st, 2:10pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Collingwood – $1.91 (-22.5)
Melbourne – $1.91 (+22.5)
Collingwood and Melbourne clash at the MCG on Saturday afternoon in a match that both teams will fancy their chances in.
The Pies are in free fall, losing the last five matches in a row.
In the blink of an eye Collingwood went from an outside top-four chance to a team that will struggle to finish inside the top eight.
The Demons have been poor in the last three weeks, with losses to few strugglers Essendon and St Kilda and a scrappy win against Brisbane which was dubbed ‘the worst game of the year’.
The Pies have taken the unusual step of playing without a tall key forward, dropping Jesse White while welcoming back livewire forward Jamie Elliot.
The makeshift forward line could pay dividends for the Magpies or it could explode in Nathan Buckley’s face.
Irrespective of players selected, their midfield should be far too strong for Melbourne’s.
Expect the Pies to keep their September dream alive.
Tip: Collingwood to win $1.30 via William Hill
Exotic: Bernie Vince to get 30 or more disposals $2.60 via Sportsbet
Swans vs. Crows
Saturday, August 1st, 4:35pm, Sydney Cricket Ground
Sydney – $1.92 (-16.5)
Adelaide – $1.92 (+16.5)
The game of the round is in Sydney this weekend with the Swans hosting the Crows at the SCG on Saturday afternoon.
The Swans are in strife after being on the receiving end of back-to-back 10 goal losses and will need to improve significantly if they are to retain their place in the top-four.
The Crows are in quality form after just holding out a fast finishing Port Adelaide in the showdown a fortnight ago, then dispatching Gold Coast at home a week later.
The Swans welcome back key forwards Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett, while Ted Richards returns after serving his one game suspension.
Daniel Talia makes his way back into the side for the Crows and will surely get the job on dangerous Swan Lance Franklin.
It should be an enthralling contest, but the Swans have too much firepower up forward for the Crows and should snap their two game losing streak.
Tip: Sydney to win – $1.40 via Crownbet
Exotic: Rory Sloane to get 30 or more disposals –$5.40 via Sportsbet
Suns vs. Eagles
Saturday, August 1st, 7:20pm, Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast – $1.91 (+46.5)
West Coast – $1.91 (-46.5)
Saturday night on the Gold Coast sees the Suns hosting the Eagles in a game that the visitors need to win to maintain their position in the top-two.
The Eagles are the form team of the competition and are coming off the back of a crushing 10 goal win over last year’s runners-up, Sydney.
The Gold Coast are limping their way towards the end of the season, with the prospect of another wooden spoon in their infantile tenure in the AFL a very real possibility.
The Eagles will go into Saturday’s match with an unchanged line up.
The Suns enter the match without captain Gary Ablett and Michael Rischitelli, but welcome back Adam Saad and emerging on-baller Jack Martin.
Hard to see the Suns staying with the Eagles, with the visitors poised for a big victory.
Tip: West Coast to win $1.09 via Crownbet
Exotic: West Coast winning margin – 100 point plus $15 via Sportsbet
Blues vs. Kangaroos
Saturday, August 1st, 7.20pm, Etihad Stadium
Carlton – $1.92 (+36.5)
North Melbourne – $1.92 (-36.5)
Saturday night at Etihad Stadium sees the Blues hosting the Kangaroos, with North Melbourne looking to ensure their finals position.
North Melbourne have hit a strong vein of form, and have a great run of matches coming up that will give them plenty of momentum heading into what looks like an upcoming finals campaign.
The Blues were humiliated last week by Hawthorn in what was a club record losing margin on a night where the club was celebrating their 20th anniversary of the 1995 premiership win.
This will be the first time North Melbourne’s off-season recruit Jarrad Waite plays against his old club and in a strange twist of fate, Waite will also play his 200th AFL game on the same night.
The Blues have to salvage something out of last Friday night’s wreckage, but with North rolling towards the finals and Carlton sitting towards the tail of the ladder it is hard to see this being a genuine contest.
North Melbourne should win easily and keep the finals dream alive.
Tip: North Melbourne to win by 40+ $1.99 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Marc Murphy to get 30 or more disposals – $4.20 via Sportsbet
Power vs. Saints
Sunday, August 2nd, 1:10pm, Adelaide Oval
Port Adelaide – $1.91 (-30.5)
St Kilda – $1.91 (+30.5)
The first Sunday game of the weekend kicks off at Adelaide Oval with the Power hosting the Saints in a must-win match for Port.
The Power were unconvincing in their win last week against Essendon, but the victory keeps the flickering flame of finals football alight for at least one more week.
Port simply cannot afford to lose.
The Saints were brilliant last week in their match against Melbourne, keeping the Demons at arm’s length for the entirety of the match in a performance that belied their inexperienced line up.
The Saints will be without spearhead Nick Riewoldt who finally has succumbed to a calf injury he has been carrying for weeks. Tim Membrey is his likely replacement.
Port Adelaide’s season is on a knife’s edge, one more loss and the finals are out of the equation.
The Power’s 2015 campaign ends with a loss here, but Ken Hinkley’s men should have too much experience for the Saints and will register their second win in a row.
Tip: Port Adelaide to win $1.19 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer –Jay Schultz $9 via Sportsbet
Bombers vs. Bulldogs
Sunday, August 2nd, 3:20pm, Etihad Stadium
Essendon – $1.92 (+14.5)
Western Bulldogs – $1.92 (-14.5)
Etihad Stadium plays host to the Bombers and the Bulldogs match on Sunday afternoon with plenty on the line for the plucky Dogs.
The Western Bulldogs look finals bound after a solid win over fellow finals aspirants Collingwood, with their midfield depth amongst the best in the competition.
The Bombers were gallant but ultimately fell short against the Power last week, with wastefulness in front of goal Essendon’s downfall.
The Bombers welcome back a wealth of experience, with Adam Cooney, Jake Carlisle, Jonathan Giles and Jake Melksham all named in the extended squad.
Shaun McKernan is the only omission for the Dons.
The Bulldogs have included Lin Jong and Tom Boyd with no outs named at this stage.
The Bombers have dominated against their opponents in the last few years, with Essendon possessing a six game win streak over the Bulldogs.
Expect the Dogs to snap that streak on Sunday, though, with the prospect of finals now a realistic and tangible option for Luke Beveridge’s boys.
Tip: Western Bulldogs to win $1.46 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer – Joe Daniher $8 via Sportsbet
Dockers vs. Giants
Sunday, August 2nd, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
Fremantle – $1.91 (-26.5)
GWS – $1.92 (+26.5)
The final game of the round sees the top of the table Dockers hosting the Giants in a match the visitors need to win to stay alive in season 2015.
The Dockers were brilliant last week in their win over the Tigers, maintaining their one game advantage at the top of the AFL ladder with a last gasp win.
The Giants blew their chance to maintain their spot in the top eight after conceding defeat to the Cats in Canberra last Saturday.
Big news out of the clash is that superstar midfielder and favourite for the Brownlow medal Nat Fyfe will miss Sunday’s match with a groin injury.
Emerging on-baller Devon Smith will miss Sunday’s match with a knee injury.
The travel factor along with key players missing could spell trouble for GWS with a big losing margin a very strong possibility.
Despite losing Fyfe, the Dockers should be too powerful for the Giants.
Tip: Fremantle to win 40+ $2.60 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer – Matthew Pavlich $9 via Sportsbet
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