A Friday night blockbuster between high-flying Geelong and reigning premiers Richmond highlights a captivating Round 17 of AFL action.
St Kilda open the round against a wounded West Coast on Thursday evening, while Greater Western Sydney face Melbourne on Saturday night in a clash that could prove season-defining for both sides.
Read on for our full Round 17 preview!
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AFL Tipping – Thursday, September 10
St Kilda Saints vs West Coast Eagles
Gabba | 7:10pm (AEST)
St Kilda Saints – The Saints will not get a better chance to beat the Eagles than this. West Coast is depleted by injury and has struggled in Queensland this season, the 2018 premiers having a 2-5 win-loss record in the Sunshine State. St Kilda has not been in great form themselves, winning just one of four matches before scraping past Hawthorn in Round 16. That win was very unconvincing but was achieved without Tim Membrey (finger) and Max King (rested), St Kilda’s best two forwards. Both players will return here, a boost for the Saints against an Eagles side blessed with good defenders. The stakes are huge for St Kilda, with victory essentially guaranteeing Brett Ratten’s men of a first finals berth since 2011.
West Coast Eagles – As if having Luke Shuey (hamstring) and Elliot Yeo (groin) on the sidelines was not bad enough, West Coast’s engine room took another hit with news that Dom Sheed (hamstring), Mark Hutchings (hamstring) and Jack Redden (thumb) are all sidelined. West Coast will welcome back Nic Naitanui and Shannon Hurn, at least. Despite all the absentees, the Eagles still have an array of big-game players, and West Coast has won 10 of its last 11 against St Kilda. Josh Kennedy averages 4.1 goals per game in his last seven against the Saints and another big haul could be the difference. The experience of the Eagles might prove enough in this … just.
AFL Tipping – Friday, September 11
Geelong Cats vs Richmond Tigers
Metricon Stadium | 7:50pm (AEST)
Geelong Cats – The Cats enter the match of the round in great form, with six straight wins filling Chris Scott’s men with confidence. There could be some huge news at the selection table, with Joel Selwood (knee), Zach Tuohy (chest) and Rhys Stanley (groin) all in the mix this week. Don’t forget a bloke called Gary Ablett, too, who should return in Round 18 from quarantine. Geelong kicked 17 goals against Essendon last week and did the damage in a one-sided first half, most notable for the way the Cats attacked relentlessly. Geelong has a point to prove after fading against the Tigers in last year’s preliminary final, too. The Cats – missing Tom Hawkins and Mitch Duncan – led by 21 points at the main break of that one but lost by 19 points.
Richmond Tigers – Like their opponents, the Tigers are on a winning run and will feel confident about their chances. The reigning premiers have a 7-0 record in Queensland this season and they have also won four of their past five against the Cats. Defender Dylan Grimes (hamstring) and Kane Lambert (hip) should return for this clash, but Richmond is still far from full strength. Shane Edwards will return from quarantine in Round 18, while midfielder Dion Prestia (ankle) is also missing. Josh Caddy (hamstring) is listed as a ‘test’ for this and is also in Richmond’s best 22. It feels like the Tigers are still working towards their best form and are primed to produce that in the finals. Geelong, on the other hand, seem to be playing its best football at the moment. That might result in a Cats win … for now.
AFL Tipping – Saturday, September 12
North Melbourne Kangaroos vs Fremantle Dockers
Metricon Stadium | 2:10pm (AEST)
North Melbourne Kangaroos – The Kangaroos can’t wait for the season to end and simply have not been competitive in recent weeks. Rhyce Shaw’s men have lost six in a row, with five of those defeats being by five goals or more. They are big margins in 2020, when scores are much lower and quarters are shorter. Luke Davies-Uniacke is showing some promising signs for North, at least, the young midfielder winning a game-high 16 contested disposals in a 23-possession effort against Port Adelaide last week. They are the sort of glimpses Kangaroos fans are after, but while they can be competitive against Fremantle here, anything other than a Dockers win would surprise.
Fremantle Dockers – Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir came in for deserved praise on Monday night after his side upset Melbourne to make it four wins in seven matches. One of those losses was after the siren against Carlton, and another was against the reigning premiers in Richmond. The signs are encouraging for the Dockers heading into 2021 and Michael Walters was excellent against the Demons, kicking three goals in the low-scoring match. Young midfielder Caleb Serong looks like the 2020 Rising Star winner, too, and fellow youngster Adam Cerra is in top form. The Dockers should continue their good run here. Nathan Fyfe loves it against the Kangaroos, averaging 28 disposals and 1.2 goals per game against North Melbourne.
Port Adelaide Power vs Essendon Bombers
Adelaide Oval | 5:05pm (AEST)
Port Adelaide Power – The Power are sitting pretty on top of the ladder and finish the home-and-away season with clashes against Essendon and Collingwood. This clash with the Bombers should be fairly routine for Port Adelaide, who has now won six of its last seven matches. Three of the club’s midfielders, Travis Boak, Tom Rockliff and Oliver Wines, all won 30 disposals or more in an easy win over North Melbourne in Round 16 that highlighted the club’s depth in midfield. Port has not enjoyed a great recent record against Essendon, though, beating the Bombers just once since 2016. That is not Robbie Gray’s fault, the Power veteran averaging 20 disposals and 2.4 goals per game against Essendon throughout his excellent career.
Essendon Bombers – Essendon was abysmal against Geelong on Sunday, conceding 12 goals – and the game – in a one-sided first half. There are major questions about the club’s future and coaching handover between John Worsfold and Ben Rutten. Essendon has won just one of its last eight matches, but could at least welcome back forward Joe Daniher (managed) for this clash. Irishman Conor McKenna has retired, while Irving Mosquito (knee) is set for a lengthy stint on the sidelines. Essendon has won its past four at the Adelaide Oval but will not be extending that impressive run here.
Greater Western Sydney Giants vs Melbourne Demons
Gabba | 7:40pm (AEST)
GWS Giants – Last season’s grand finalists are in big danger of missing the post-season in 2020, sitting just percentage ahead of the ninth-placed Western Bulldogs heading in to Round 17. The Giants simply can’t be trusted by punters this year and Tuesday’s loss to the Adelaide Crows was a perfect example. The good news for the Giants is they face a similarly flaky side in the Demons in this, who are also fighting for a spot in the finals. These two sides have met just once in the last two years. Harry Himmelberg kicked five goals on that occasion, in a 26-point Giants victory.
Melbourne Demons – The Demons enter this match on the back of successive defeats against Sydney and Fremantle, results that may have cost Simon Goodwin’s side a place in the finals. Like the Giants, Melbourne are very inconsistent, and you could not tip any side with confidence here. Melbourne has won three of their last five against the Giants. Interestingly, 11 of the 12 meetings between the Demons and the Giants have been decided by 25 points or more. That suggests a blowout – whichever way it goes. This game will be interesting to watch but others look far more appealing from a betting perspective.
AFL Tipping – Sunday, September 13
Carlton Blues vs Adelaide Crows
Metricon Stadium | 1:05pm (AEST)
Carlton Blues – David Teague’s men kept their slim finals hopes alive with a stunning come-from-behind victory against the Swans. The Blues conceded the first seven goals of the game and trailed by 39 points but stormed home, Matthew Cottrell the hero with a late, crucial goal. That result will lift the Blues ahead of this clash, which is harder than it looks on paper. The Crows have won two in a row, but the stakes are simply too high for Carlton. Eight of Carlton’s 16 matches this season have been decided by nine points or less and a repeat would not surprise. Look for Blues star Patrick Cripps to dominate. He averages 30.3 disposals per match against the Crows.
Adelaide Crows – Successive wins against Hawthorn and Greater Western Sydney have lifted the gloom at Adelaide, with fans and players now starting to believe new coach Matthew Nicks is taking the club in the right direction. A good start for the Crows is essential here, and Carlton is prone to lapses of concentration in games. The Crows have not won a game outside of South Australia since July 2019, a triumph also recorded at Metricon Stadium. Think the Crows will be competitive here but ultimately fall short against a side with too much to lose.
Hawthorn Hawks vs Western Bulldogs
Adelaide Oval | 3:35pm (AEST)
Hawthorn Hawks – The Hawks keep on swinging the axe at the selection table but it simply isn’t working for Alastair Clarkson, who has seen his side lose 10 of their last 11 matches. This is no easier, against a Bulldogs side fighting for a spot in the finals. Jaeger O’Meara (hand) is a chance of returning but young midfielder James Worpel (AC joint) will miss the rest of the 2020 season. The Hawks were gallant in a 14-point loss to St Kilda in Round 16 but lacked polish in the final stages and as a result, it is hard to see them winning this. That is despite Hawthorn’s great record against the Bulldogs, the brown and gold winning 10 of the last 12 clashes.
Western Bulldogs – The Dogs showed plenty of ticker in a tough win over West Coast on Sunday night, a result that gives fans hope of another finals campaign. Easton Wood (hamstring) could return for this, too. Hawthorn’s midfield has been poor all season and they will again be beaten by the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Bailey Smith and Tom Liberatore. Enjoying watch Caleb Daniel play each week, while Tim English is getting better with every match. The Bulldogs should win this comfortably.
Sydney Swans vs Brisbane Lions
Cazaly’s Stadium | 6:10pm (AEST)
Sydney Swans – The Swans have battled for consistency throughout 2020 and failed – again – to record back-to-back wins in a disappointing fadeout against Carlton. It is a frustrating trend for coach John Longmire, who last saw his side win two games in a row in 2019. Sydney gets the chance to atone for the Blues defeat here, but this looks much tougher against an in-form Lions outfit. Sydney has history on its side, at least, winning 11 of the past 12 clashes against Brisbane. Much of that domination is down to Josh Kennedy, who has had 30 disposals or more in seven of his last nine clashes against the Lions. Nick Blakey (shoulder) and Callum Mills (calf) are both in doubt.
Brisbane Lions – The Lions were comfortable winners in the Q-Clash on Wednesday night and have now won five matches in a row. Much has been made of the absence of key defender Harris Andrews (hamstring), but the Swans don’t have a fit key forward to really take advantage. The Lions could be without midfielder Jarrod Berry (shoulder) and defender Brandon Starcevich (concussion), who were both injured in the Gold Coast win, but Chris Fagan’s men should still be far too strong. Lachie Neale (33 disposals), Hugh McCluggage (28 disposals, 1 goal) and Dayne Zorko (25 disposals, two goals) were back to their best against the Suns.
AFL Tipping – Monday, September 14
Collingwood Magpies vs Gold Coast Suns
Gabba | 7:10pm (AEST)
Collingwood Magpies – The Pies are making positive noises about Jordan de Goey (finger) and Adam Treloar (hamstring), who are both set to return before finals. The return of those two stars would be a major boost for Collingwood, while Jeremy Howe (knee) could come straight back in during the post-season. None of that trio will be available here but it is the possibility of a close-to-full-strength Collingwood in finals that excites Magpies fans. Nathan Buckley’s side have been nowhere near their best in recent weeks, but still able to chalk up important wins, and another should follow here. Collingwood has won their last five clashes against the Suns and should repeat the dose – even if they will be made to work for it.
Gold Coast Suns – Still enjoying watching Noah Anderson and Jack Lukosius each week for the Suns, two of the club’s future stars. Ben King is also chipping in and the young forward has now kicked at least one goal in 13 of his 15 matches this season – an impressive feat for a second-year player. The Suns are on the slide, though, and have won just two games since Round 4. The condensed nature of the season appears to have caught up with the Suns, and for that reason, an upset here looks beyond them, unless more experienced campaigners like Brandon Ellis, Hugh Greenwood, Lachie Weller and David Swallow can all have big games.