WITH just two weeks remaining in the home and away season, the makeup of the final eight is still to be settled.
There are a number of vital games this weekend which are set to dictate home ground advantage come September and crucial placings inside the finals picture.
The Crows can lock down the final position in the eight this week with a win, but a loss opens the door for the Cats, who sit just two points adrift.
North and the Dogs clash in a match that will determine who hosts a home final, while the Swans have a tricky away match at Etihad against the Saints, needing a win needed to maintain their position inside the top-four.
Official wagering partner of the AFL – Crownbet – has a boosted multi offer for this weekend that should not be passed on.
Cats vs. Magpies
Friday, August 28th, 7:50pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Geelong – $1.92 (-17.5)
Collingwood – $1.92 (+17.5)
Geelong and Collingwood clash at the MCG to kick off round 22 with the Cats in dire need of a win to keep their finals prospects alive.
The Cats were disappointing last week, only managing to salvage a draw against the lowly St Kilda, dealing their finals chances a huge blow in the process.
Only a win here and a victory over the Crows at home in the final round of the home and away season gives Geelong a chance of forcing their way back into the eight.
Forgotten Geelong forward Daniel Menzel has made his way back into the team for Geelong after several years out of the game, with veteran midfielder James Kelly also named.
The Pies welcome back fullback Nathan Brown and young flanker Matthew Scharenberg, with veteran defensive pair Alan Toovey and Jack Frost making way.
The Pies will be keen to atone after getting blown away last week by Richmond, but with Geelong playing for their finals lives, the Cats should be far more desperate to get the job done.
Expect the Cats to prevail in a tight contest.
Tip: Geelong to win $1.40 via Crownbet
Exotic: Player to get 30 or more disposals – Joel Selwood $3.30 via Sportsbet
Hawks vs. Lions
Saturday, August 29th, 2:10pm, Aurora Stadium
Hawthorn – $1.91 (-69.5)
Brisbane – $1.91 (+69.5)
Tasmania plays host to a match between the premiership favourite and potential wooden spooner of 2015. This could be a blood bath.
The Hawks were shocked last week at Etihad Stadium by Port Adelaide, but still have a faint hope of securing a top-two finish if they can win their last two games.
The Lions’ season was summed up nicely in the last fortnight with a crushing win over Carlton two weeks ago negated by a poor performance against the Crows in Adelaide last Saturday.
The Hawks welcome back bigman David Hale and Will Langford. Captain Luke Hodge is out suspended and will return for the first week of finals.
The Lions have lost quality midfielder Jack Redden, but regain Daniel Rich.
The Hawks are paying $1.01 to notch up a win here and, to be honest, these odds are still not good enough – any Hawthorn win under triple figures would be a surprise.
Tip: Hawthorn to win – 100 plus $4.40 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Jordan Lewis $5.50 via Sportsbet
Giants vs. Blues
Saturday, August 22nd, 2:10pm, Spotless Stadium
GWS – $1.91 (-30.5)
Carlton – $1.91 (+30.5)
The single Sydney game of the round sees the Giants hosting the Blues at Spotless Stadium with not much to play for.
The Giants blew their chance to play in the finals this year with an average performance against cross-town rivals the Swans in the battle of the bridge last week.
The Blues climbed off the bottom of the ladder with a terrific performance against the Demons last Sunday at the MCG.
Carlton has welcomed back exiled defender Chris Yarran and ruckman Cameron Wood, but has lost captain Marc Murphy to a shoulder injury.
Amongst a host of players to return for the Giants is Devon Smith and James Stewart, both of whom have greatly impressed throughout the year for GWS.
Despite contrasting fortunes last week, GWS should be far too strong for the Blues and will come away with a comfortable win.
Tip: GWS to win $1.21 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Adam Treloar $3.00 via Sportsbet
Kangaroos vs. Bulldogs
Saturday, August 29th, 4:35pm, Etihad Stadium
North Melbourne – $1.92 (-6.5)
Western Bulldogs – $1.92 (+6.5)
The match of the round this week is at Etihad Stadium where the white-hot North Melbourne hosts the Western Bulldogs in a match that could determine which of the two teams plays a home final.
The Roos were sensational last week, overcoming a half time deficit to surge home against the top-of-the-table Dockers.
The Dogs got blown away against the Eagles late last week, but had many positives out of the match, including the continued good form of gun forward Jake Stringer.
Jack Ziebell returns for North after serving a week long suspension, with Lindsay Thomas the man to make way with a foot injury.
The Dogs have bolstered their side with important midfielders Liam Picken and Matthew Boyd, and will need their senior players to stand up after an energy sapping away game.
Expect the Roos to continue their march to September with a home final well and truly within their grasp against a Bulldogs side that will feel the effects of a tough road trip.
Tip: North Melbourne to win $1.47 via Crownbet
Exotic: To get 30 or more disposals – Nick Dal Santo $6.40 via Sportsbet
Bombers vs. Tigers
Saturday, August 29th, 7:20pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Essendon – $1.91 (+39.5)
Richmond – $1.91 (-39.5)
Saturday night at the G sees two of Victoria’s biggest clubs locking horns with the Dons hosting the Tigers.
The Tigers are roaring off the back of a huge win over the Magpies, and still have an outside chance to make the top-four if they win the last two matches of the home and away season.
The Bombers have been average in the past month but were much better last week, falling just short of a fantastic win over the Suns at Metricon Stadium.
The Tigers have lost captain Trent Cotchin to injury, but have regained emerging defender Dylan Grimes.
Essendon has handed a debut to impressive Irishman Connor McKenna and a final senior game to retiring Paul Chapman, with Patrick Ambrose and Shaun Edwards making way.
The Dons are playing for pride while Richmond is still in the hunt for a double-chance, the Tigers should be able to crush Essendon on the march towards the finals.
Tip: Richmond to win 40+ margin $1.86 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most disposals group 1 – Dyson Heppell $8.00 via Sportsbet
Suns vs. Power
Saturday, August 29th, 7.50pm, Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast – $1.92 (+19.5)
Port Adelaide – $1.92 (-19.5)
Saturday night on the Gold Coast sees the Suns hosting the Power at Metricon in a dead rubber match that has no finals implications.
The Suns notched up a gritty win over Essendon last week after Jake Carlisle’s ill-directed snap failed to register a major on the final siren.
The Power stunned the Hawks away at Etihad last week in a stark reminder just what could have been for the under-performing Port Adelaide.
Charlie Dixon returns for the Suns to bolster an attack that has been a one-man show in the last month, with Tom Lynch stepping up to fill the void.
The Power have welcomed back ruckman Matthew Lobbe to boost their ruck division and their forward line with Jay Schulz missing out due to a back injury.
The Suns were terrific last week, and the twin-tower set up of Lynch and Dixon should prove a handful for the weakened Power defence.
The suggested bet is the Suns at the line, with the Gold Coast certain to be within three goals at the final siren.
Tip: Gold Coast line bet (+19.5) $1.92 via Sportsbet
Exotic: Most possessions group 1 – Harley Bennell $9.00 via Sportsbet
Crows vs. Eagles
Sunday, August 30th, 1:10pm, Adelaide Oval
Adelaide – $1.91 (+4.5)
West Coast – $1.91 (-4.5)
The first Sunday game of the round sees the Crows hosting the Eagles in a match with massive finals implications.
The Crows can secure a finals berth with a win over the second placed Eagles, with West Coast still in the hunt for the minor premiership if they knock off Adelaide at home.
The Eagles welcome back Jeremy McGovern, who will be desperate to get some game time into his legs after a stop-start second half to the season through injury.
The Crows are set to welcome back emerging young defender Jake Lever with Sam Shaw omitted.
It should be a match that goes down to the wire, but with their firepower through the middle and Coleman medallist in waiting up forward, the Eagles should have too much in the bank for the home side.
Tip: West Coast to win $1.72 via William Hill
Exotic: First goal scorer –Mark Le Cras $11 via Sportsbet
Saints vs. Swans
Sunday, August 30th, 3:20pm, Etihad Stadium
St Kilda – $1.91 (+30.5)
Sydney – $1.92 (-30.5)
The sole Melbourne game in on Sunday sees the Saints hosting the Swans at Etihad Stadium with the visitors needing to win to maintain their position in the top-four.
The Saints have been one of the surprise packets this season, having some great wins that have exceeded expectations for the year.
The Swans have been up and down this year, with their best superb but their worst lamentable.
This was highlighted perfectly by their epic grand final rematch win at the MCG earlier in the year, only to get smashed on the return game only two months later against the same opposition.
After nearly a month on the sidelines the Swans have welcomed back superstar forward Lance Franklin.
The Saints have handed a game to retiring Adam Schnieder against his former side while superstar midfielder David Armitage returns after a week off through injury.
With everything to play for the Swans should come out and win the match, but the Saints will not be easy beats and should be able to play well enough to stay within the five goal margin.
Tip: St Kilda line bet (-30.5) $1.92 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer –Lance Franklin $8.00 via Sportsbet
Dockers vs. Demons
Sunday, August 30th, 4:40pm, Domain Stadium
Fremantle – $1.92 (-42.5)
Melbourne – $1.92 (+42.5)
The last match of round 22 sees the Dockers hosting the Demons at Domain Stadium.
Fremantle are coming off back-to-back losses and will be keen to atone after blowing a half time lead over North Melbourne last week at Etihad Stadium.
Paul Roos’ Melbourne were horrible last week against Carlton and will be keen to see the end of the season.
The big story out of Thursday’s selection news is that Brownlow medal favourite Nat Fyfe will miss the remainder of the home and away season with inflammation of the fibula (leg).
With top spot potentially wrapped up with a win here the Dockers will be out for blood, and unfortunately the travelling Demons will be on the receiving end.
It is not out of the realms of possibility for this to blow out to a triple figure margin, so expect the Dockers to at least cover the line bet in this one.
Tip: Dockers to win – line bet (-42.5) $1.92 via Sportsbet
Exotic: First goal scorer – Chris Mayne $11.00 via Sportsbet
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