Friday, July 31, 2015, 7.50pm AEST, Melbourne Cricket Ground, watch on Fox Footy, Seven Network
Last five games
FINALLY, an AFL blockbuster that promises plenty on a Friday night.
Thank God the woeful Carlton are off our Friday night screens for a week.
Third placed Hawthorn ($1.17 with sportsbet.com.au) rides its eight game winning streak into an MCG date with a Richmond ($5) side that has been in red hot form itself, despite kicking itself out of the game against Fremantle on the weekend and snapping a four game hop without a loss.
The Hawks streak is its equal fifth best of all time and has many comparing them to the brilliant Brisbane teams of the early noughts that won three flags in a row.
Certainly that side’s young gun forward Jonathan Brown reckons the Hawks will be right up there if they can conjure up a third flag in as many years this season.
“Hawthorn is right up there with Brisbane,” he said.
“If they go and win the premiership this year, then I think you certainly put them equal with Brisbane and they nearly go past Brisbane, winning three in a row and four over the last few years (the Hawks also won in 2008).”
And they can continue to firm for the flag with a win over the Tigers that would make it nine in a row, after they destroyed Carlton last week, 27.11 (173) to 4.11 (35).
The Hawks put on a training clinic, booting eight goals in the second term and 14 after half time to wreck Marc Murphy’s 200th game.
Jack Gunston was the best up forward with six goals, while Luke Breust and Paul Puopolo kicked three each.
The possession count was ridiculous, with Jordan Lewis having 36, Sam Mitchell 35, Luke Hodge 32 and eight others notching 21 or more.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ kicking killed them against the Dockers, as they went down 12.10 (82) to 10.18 (78).
Leading by five points at three quarter time, the Tigers kicked 2.4 to the Dockers 4.1 to ruin their hopes of sneaking into the top four after Sydney’s loss to the West Coast.
Brandon Ellis was head and shoulders over any other Tiger, racking up 31 possessions and 10 marks, while captain Trent Cotchin had 24, but Brett Deledio and Dustin Martin were well down, the latter booting four behinds without a major.
They’ll need to kick dead straight if they’re going to be any hope against the Hawks.
They have tasted some success against the brown and gold in recent years, knocking them over in round 19 of the premiership season on the MCG by 41 points, 16.11 (107) to 9.12 (66), and smoking them in 2012 by 10 goals, 21.11 (137) to 10.15 (75).
The Tigers and Port Adelaide are the only two AFL teams to boast a winning record in their last three outings against the Hawks – both lead that series 2-1.
But the Hawks have booted 67 goals to their opponents’ 17 in the last three games, and have an average winning margin of 100 points.
The Hawks lost cult figure Matt Spangher to a hamstring injury that will see him spend at least three weeks on the sidelines but with one defender out, another is set to come back, with James Frawley pushing hard for selection after recovering from a shoulder injury.
Liam Shiels, Ben Stratton and Taylor Duryea are all in the mix for selection.
For the Tigers, oft injured midfielder Chris Knights could push for selection, while Matt Thomas and Shaun Hampson are a chance, but the three pronged forward line experiment is over for this season, with Ben Griffiths set to miss eight to 10 weeks with a finger injury. Shane Edwards is nearing a return from his broken leg, with the club’s website as listing him out for just one to two games, indicating he will be back before finals.
You feel like the Tigers top four hopes hinge on this game, just as the Hawks designs on a top two finish do.
The Hawks are better on paper, but which line up will be hungrier?
Let’s hope it’s a doozy on Friday night.
Tigers-Hawks match predictions
Match winner: Hawthorn wins ($1.17 with sportsbet.com.au)
Line: Hawthorn -34.5 ($1.92 with sportsbet.com.au)
Margin: Hawthorn over 39.5 ($2.05 with sportsbet.com.au)
We’ve been ignoring the Hawks’ ability to blow away sides for a month now. We’re not going to do it any more. A 72 point win over top of the table Fremantle, an 89 point hammering of last year’s beaten finalists Sydney and a ridiculous 138 point training run against Carlton show the Hawks are completely destroying sides, both good and bad. The Tigers are good. But they’re not that good. Some say the Hawks bubble has to burst. We don’t subscribe to that theory. And we reckon if that were to happen, it will more likely be on the vast expanses of Subiaco Oval in a little less than a fortnight.
Richmond, for all their pluck and endeavour, don’t have the spread of talent to beat the Hawks. While they are getting there, with the likes of Brandon Ellis increasing their skills in a bid to reach the class of the Cotchins, Deledios, Martins, Riewoldts and Rances, they’re not quite there yet. The Hawks have stars across all lines – and premiership players who simply can’t get a game because of it. Their wealth of riches, led by the usual suspects in Mitchell, Hodge and Burgoyne in the guts, kicking it to Roughead, Breust and Gunston, with Gibson, Lake and potentially James Frawley returning from injury to shore up the miserly back line, will be to strong.
We’re loath to tip another monster result for the Hawks, but we reckon a 10 goal hiding is brewing in the works. For our punters, we hope it’s a blow out because we’re hopping on the $2.05 over 39.5, but for the footy purists hoping for a the return of thrilling footy in that Friday night time slot, we’re rooting for a tight, competitive result, with the Hawks just squeaking over the line to give our followers at least something to celebrate.
First goal scorer tips
Jack Gunston ($8 with sportsbet.com.au)
Up until two weeks ago, Gunston had been nothing short of wasteful. Usually a dead eye dick, Gunston had booted 27.23 for the year, from 14 games. To put that into context, he only kicked 27 behinds in the entirety of last season, while slotting 58 goals. But the yips have finally desserted him and it’s a good thing for the Hawks. He backed up his 4.1 against the Swans with 6.1 last week in his best performance of the season and it seems like he’s turned the corner and ready to tear it apart heading into the latter stages of the season. Only has seven career goals in four games against the Tigers, so you’d expect him to be keen on improving that record. It’s contingent on who goes to him, as you can expect him to have a tough time of it if it is the impressive Rance, although the gun full back will probably have his hands full with Jarryd Roughead.
Bradley Hill ($26 with sportsbet.com.au)
A bit of a left field selection, but the pacy Hill hd a fine game against the Blues, although he has only kicked one goal in his last three outings, following a bag of three against the Magpies. Spends most of his time out on the wing and loves to find acres of space on the vast expanses of the MCG. In full flight, there are few players that can match it with the speedster, his raw pace a damaging weapon for the Hawks. Has a nose for goal and loves to get forward. Would need a lot to go right for him to kick the first goal, but, if he gets near it, you’d back him to put it straight through. He’s $26 for a reason, but worth a sneaky bet if you’re looking for a big return.
Jack Riewoldt ($8 with Crownbet.com.au)
Jack attack is the Tigers best forward by a long way and commands consideration when you’re looking at first goal scorer markets. He’s the guy those classy midfielders in Martin, Deledio and Cotchin kick it to most often when they get it out of the middle and he’s the most capable of all the Tigers front men of taking a grab – or roving off the packs – to split the big sticks. Has kicked at least one goal in each of his lat 12 outings, giving him 42 for the year, including four bags of four and one of six. Has been much quieter in the last few weeks, with the Tigers sharing the load, booting an inaccurate 3.6 in his past two. A precursor to any bet on a Tigers key forward is they will be lined up on either Lake, Gibson or Frawley, who are the best in the business, although the Hawks have been known to let key forwards play themselves back into form. Jump on Jack if you’re looking at lower odds for higher opportunity.
Brandon Ellis (<$29 with sportsbet.com.au) We’ve gone with a key forward and a rank outsider for the Hawks tips, so we’ll do the same thing with the Tigers. Ellis is certainly not the most likely player to kick the first goal of the game, but he is capable. The thing we love about this kid is he flat out takes on the game. The gun wingman loves to run and carry and is capable for finding so much space. King of the loose ball get, he obviously needs to find a paddock early to make up enough ground to get into a scoring position, but he’s more than capable of doing that and, at the juicy odds of $29, you could do worse than having a tiny drink on a guy who is probably the second most improved player in the competition behind Geelong’s athletic ruck man Mark Blicavs.
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