The AFL’s home-and-away season comes to a close in Round 23 as the fight for the eighth finals position goes to the wire. Seven clubs are guaranteed of a finals berth with the Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn, Adelaide and Port Adelaide all still in contention of joining them in September.
All of the spots in the top four could change, too, with the clash between fourth-placed Richmond and table-toppers Brisbane Lions sure to be must-watch viewing on Sunday afternoon.
That is undoubtedly the game of the round but Collingwood’s battle with Essendon on Friday should be interesting, while Hawthorn travel west on Saturday evening to face the reigning premiers in a bid to keep their season alive.
The Western Bulldogs are one of the most exciting sides in the competition to watch at the moment and host the Crows on Sunday, while for sides like Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney and St Kilda, a frustrating 2019 finally comes to an end this weekend.
This week’s football will be followed by a week off before the finals, giving the eight sides involved in the post-season a chance to freshen up.
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Friday, August 23, 2019
Collingwood vs Essendon
Venue: MCG | Start: 7:50pm AEST
After last week’s Friday night shocker, fans should see a much better match between two finals-bound sides in the Magpies and Bombers. Collingwood have won three in a row and can still finish in the top four, which comes with a double chance, if they win and either West Coast or Richmond lose. Essendon are guaranteed of a top-eight finish but have plenty to play for after being thrashed in their last two Victorian matches. An impressive win in Perth has eased the pressure on Essendon coach John Worsfold but it is hard to see the Bombers making it two in a row against a Collingwood side who appear to have found their mojo again.
Saturday, August 24, 2019
Sydney vs St Kilda
Venue: SCG | Start: 1:45pm AEST
The possible return of Lance Franklin for his 300th game would be a major boost for Sydney as they look to end a frustrating season on a high. Franklin, one of the most exciting players the game has ever seen, has been battling a hamstring injury. St Kilda might have won two more games than Sydney in 2019 but the Swans did beat Melbourne by 53 points last week. And Sydney have won their past nine against St Kilda, with seven of those being by 42 points or more. So even if they are without Franklin, Sydney look a good bet to win well here.
North Melbourne vs Melbourne
Venue: Blundstone Arena | Start: 2:10pm AEST
From preliminary finalists to 17th on the AFL ladder in the space of one year, Melbourne are desperate for the 2019 season to come to an end. The Demons have been simply abysmal this year and finish a disastrous campaign with a trip to Tasmania. North Melbourne have a good record in Hobart, winning 14 of their past 18 matches at the venue, and returned to form with an 86-point thrashing of Port Adelaide in Round 22. Ben Brown kicked 10 goals in that triumph and appears set to win the Coleman Medal. Another bag for the forward and a big Kangaroos win seems on the cards.
Geelong Cats vs Carlton
Venue: GMHBA Stadium | Start: 4:35pm AEST
Geelong’s one-point loss to ladder leaders Brisbane in Round 22 made it five losses in nine matches for the Cats. The club’s noticeable drop off following the bye has reduced expectations surrounding Geelong but Chris Scott’s men can still book a ‘home’ final – which would be played at the MCG, not Geelong – with victory here against an improving Blues outfit. Carlton are in good touch but the Cats need a good win to enter the finals with some confidence. And at their GMHBA Stadium fortress, Geelong should win well.
Gold Coast Suns vs Greater Western Sydney
Venue: Metricon Stadium | Start: 7:25pm AEST
The Giants are in shocking form, suffering heavy home losses to Hawthorn (56 points) and the Western Bulldogs (61 points) in successive weeks. Defeat here – and an Essendon win – would see Greater Western Sydney lose their home final but that seems extremely unlikely given GWS’ next opponent. The rock-bottom Suns have now lost 17 matches in a row, with five of their last seven losses being by 69 points or more. That all means that even an out-of-form Giants should cruise through this assignment as the sorry Suns end another terrible season.
West Coast Eagles vs Hawthorn
Venue: Optus Stadium | Start: 8:10pm AEST
Hawthorn’s mathematical chances of reaching the finals are still alive but the Hawks would need to win this very difficult encounter and then hope the out-of-sorts Adelaide defeat the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat. Like they did in 2018, Hawthorn are ending the year in good touch, but the Eagles on their home deck is another challenge altogether. West Coast will be smarting after giving up a five-goal lead to Richmond last week and with 20 wins from their last 24 at Optus Stadium, they should triumph here.
Sunday, August 25, 2019
Western Bulldogs vs Adelaide Crows
Venue: Mars Stadium | Start: 1:10pm AEST
With six wins in their last eight, the Bulldogs have stormed to eighth position and are full of momentum. A midfield containing the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Josh Dunkley is to thank and their late charge is reminiscent of the club’s 2016 premiership year. A repeat seems too farfetched but the Dogs should win here against an Adelaide side who were thumped by Collingwood last week. Adelaide can still make the finals, but need to win and hope Hawthorn and Port Adelaide lose. It won’t happen.
Richmond vs Brisbane Lions
Venue: MCG | Start: 3:20pm AEST
Another Sunday afternoon cracker at the MCG sees the Tigers – fresh off a one-goal win over reigning premiers West Coast – meet the table-topping Lions. Both sides are in great form, Richmond with eight wins in a row, Brisbane with nine. But the Tigers have lost just three matches at the MCG in the past two years and with Dustin Martin back in form, now appear to be the team to beat in 2019. Brisbane’s inexperience might just rule them out in this clash against a battle-hardened Tigers outfit.
Port Adelaide vs Fremantle Dockers
Venue: Adelaide Oval | Start: 4:40pm AEST
Port Adelaide have been a model of inconsistency throughout 2019, never winning more than two games in a row. And just when it seemed like the Power might sneak into the finals, they turned their toes up and were thumped by 86 points against North Melbourne last week. It is hard to tip them with any confidence in 2019 but given they are at home and the Dockers have nothing to play for, Port Adelaide should win this.