A four-way battle for the top spot and an exciting fight for places seven and eight on the AFL ladder headline the many talking points ahead of Round 22’s action. The penultimate round of the season delivers a host of important clashes, headlined by a battle between ladder leaders Geelong and the second-placed Brisbane Lions at the ‘Gabba on Saturday afternoon.
Richmond (fourth) host reigning premiers West Coast (third) on Sunday afternoon, too, with all top four sides in contention of a top-two finish that produces not only a double chance but also a home final to start with. The battle at the other end of the eight is just as exciting, too, with just four points separating Essendon in seventh and the 10th-placed Western Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs embarrassed the Bombers last week in a 104-point thrashing in a result that could be season-defining both clubs. A significant response will be expected from Essendon this week, while North Melbourne will also be keen to move on after kicking just one goal against Geelong last week. And the weekend will end on a high, as four-time premiership star Jarryd Roughead plays what is expected to be his final Hawthorn match in Melbourne against Gold Coast, after announcing his retirement earlier this week.
Read on for our full Round 22 preview!
Melbourne v Sydney
This is no Friday night blockbuster, with the 17th-placed Demons hosting a Sydney side in 15th. Both teams are in poor form, too, Melbourne having dropped five on the trot and the Swans without a win in six. Central to the struggles of both sides is an ineffective forward line. Sydney has not kicked more than 12 goals in that winless run, while Melbourne has the second-worst forward line in the competition. It is hard to see this game being a high scoring one.
Tip: Total Game Points Under (150.5)
Carlton v St Kilda
An intriguing clash between the two sides in the competition with caretaker coaches in David Teague and Brett Ratten. Teague’s Carlton was competitive against Richmond last week but will need to reverse a five-game losing streak to the Saints if they are to emerge victorious. Both sides appear evenly matched, and a close encounter seems on the cards, with Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh potentially to give the Blues the edge.
Tip: Carlton WIN
Brisbane Lions v Geelong Cats
Geelong returned to winning ways against North Melbourne last week, and they certainly have the star power to down the Lions. But Brisbane is a side in form and have won eight matches in a row. Chris Fagan’s men have dropped just one of their last ten at the ‘Gabba, too, a run that has seen them surge inside the top four. Are they due a defeat? The Cats might be able to spring a surprise here.
Tip: Geelong WIN
Adelaide Crows v Collingwood
Another toss-of-the-coin game here complicated by the fact three of the last four meetings between the Crows and the Magpies have been won by the away side. Adelaide is sitting outside the eight on percentage and defeat could end their season. For that reason, and Collingwood’s huge injury list, the Crows, should be good enough. Just.
Tip: Adelaide WIN
North Melbourne v Port Adelaide
Like city rivals Adelaide, Port Adelaide have to win for their finals chances. The Power are eighth, percentage ahead of the Crows, and this looms a tricky task on the road at a venue they have played at just three times since 2016. One of those games was two weeks ago, though, and they beat Essendon by 59 points. North’s bubble seems to have burst in recent weeks, and they have won just one of their last five. Port Adelaide have broken the 100-point barrier in their previous two weeks, and a high-scoring game under the roof is a good chance.
Tip: Total Game Points (Over +166.5)
Fremantle v Essendon
Essendon may have won three of their past four against Fremantle, but you could not back them with any confidence after the insipid effort they dished up last week. The Bulldogs kicked 21 consecutive goals against the Bombers and a trip to Perth to face the Dockers looks beyond them, even if Fremantle sit 12th.
Tip: Fremantle WIN
Richmond v West Coast Eagles
The home ground advantage might tip this one in Richmond’s favour in a battle between two sides who could meet in September’s Grand Final. The Tigers have won seven in a row and have hit their straps after the first half of their season was blighted by injuries. The smallest winning margin in that winning run has been 27 points, and the Tigers look good value to cover the line, even if the Eagles are a top side and have won four in a row themselves.
Tip: Richmond -10.5
Greater Western Sydney v Western Bulldogs
Only Essendon outdid the Giants on the ‘insipid scale’ in Round 21, GWS turning their feet up in a Friday night shellacking at the hands of Hawthorn. You would expect a much-improved performance in this clash, but an extensive injury list is not doing the Giants any favours. The Bulldogs are in good nick, too, and travel north with Josh Dunkley, Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae all in excellent form. An upset win would not surprise but a safer bet could be to take the Dogs at the line.
Tip: Western Bulldogs +8.5
Hawthorn v Gold Coast Suns
Motivation will be high for the Hawks in Roughead’s farewell and as usual, there is little to no value in taking Gold Coast’s opponents in the head-to-head market. The Suns have dropped 16 matches in a row and last week’s 91-point defeat to Brisbane in the Q-Clash was the club’s third loss by 90 points or more in their previous six matches. Despite that, in this clash, they face a Hawthorn side who has not broken the 100-point barrier in 2019. The line is the only way to find value, and if Gold Coast can kick ten goals, they should cover it.
Tip: Gold Coast +48.5