Well, it has been three high-intensity rounds of football, and this season has so far been one of the best that I have witnessed in my 15 years. What I have enjoyed about this year is the much more even spread of quality amongst the teams. We have seen Fremantle, Carlton, Gold Coast and Brisbane win games in which the punters would have given them no chance against quality opposition.
So, it has come to Round 4, and the competition is already heating up. Three of last year’s top 8 are sitting at the bottom of the ladder. The Cats and Eagles were expected to slide this year, but are now sitting third and sixth. And who would have thought that Port Adelaide and Richmond would rise back up into contention for the holy grail? The round kicks off tonight, and it is set up to be a cracker, with some games that could go either way. Making these predictions was never going to be as easy as Brandon Matera found it last week, but here they are:
Thursday, April 13: West Coast Eagles v Sydney Swans
If you look at these two teams on paper, this seems like a very one-sided contest. The Eagles, at their home ground, having lost just 4 of their last 32 games there, seem the better team. Compare them to the Swans, who are a runaway train at the moment. Lose this game and the next, and their brake van falls off. Any more key injuries or losses in the near future will derail their season, and will be all but out of contention come September, if they even make it that far. But West Coast were almost beaten by St Kilda at home, and are coming off a loss to Richmond in the wet. However, the Swans are still missing their injured stars, and their stars are unable to string some decent form together. Therefore, I believe West Coast should get over the line, but not by as many as people think.
Prediction: West Coast by 17 points.
Friday, April 14: North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs
Although North Melbourne is 0-3 and sitting second-last on the ladder, they haven’t been playing the worst brand of footy. They will be kicking themselves after being unable to beat the Cats, but they fought really hard against the Giants, but reaped no rewards. The Bulldogs have been okay, having beaten the Pies and the Swans in hard-fought contests. However, they were upset in a poor loss to Fremantle at Perth, and would be upset not to pull away with the win after going 15 points up at three-quarter time. However, I cannot see the Bulldogs losing again this week in the inaugural Good Friday match. They look the better outfit overall, and should bank the four points against the toiling Kangaroos.
Prediction: Bulldogs by 34 points.
Saturday, April 15: Melbourne v Fremantle
Melbourne will be filthy with themselves after their dismal display of kicking against the Cats. Rule out all those ridiculous missed set shots, and they win by at least 3 goals. To add insult to injury, they have lost Max Gawn for three solid months. On the other hand, Fremantle are coming off a stirring win against the reigning premiers, after an electric first and last quarter. Their brand of footy that night looked like it was a new Fremantle, and Ross Lyon made the right call when he put six veteran Dockers on the chopping block. However, I believe Melbourne will be too strong for the Dockers, despite the loss of Max Gawn. You could say that Melbourne have one of the best midfields in the competition, boasting the likes of Jack Viney, Dom Tyson, Nathan Jones and Angus Brayshaw, who has started to come of age. I believe this will see them over the line at the MCG.
Prediction: Melbourne by 27 points.
Saturday, April 15: GWS Giants v Port Adelaide
This is one of those games that could swing either side’s way. Both teams are 2-1 and looking in great touch. The Giants did face a wake-up call in Round 1, but have not looked back since then, having demolished Gold Coast by 102 points, and then travelling to Hobart for just the second time to beat North Melbourne. Port Adelaide, on the other hand, managed to beat last year’s runners-up, and destroyed a Fremantle side who failed to turn up for the occasion. They lost no supporters last week in their honourable loss to Adelaide, and may have just snuck home if not for Tex Walker. Despite many people saying that the Giants should win this one comfortably, I have a feeling that Port Adelaide can steal it from them, since they have come across harder teams than the Giants have, and they lost by just 17 points to the Crows, whereas the Giants capitulated against the same team. Therefore, I believe Port Adelaide have shown more this season, and can cause an upset to boil over in the capital city.
Prediction: Port Adelaide by 8 points.
Saturday, April 15: Carlton v Gold Coast Suns
Both these teams are coming off great victories last weekend. Both started their respective games as underdogs,, having not won a game, but they both bounced right back, Carlton in an arm-wrestle, and Gold Coast in a massive 86 point win, which nobody; not even their own supporters, saw coming. Carlton have the likes of Marc Murphy playing stellar football, and Gold Coast have Brandon Matera, who treated the Hawks like witches’ hats on Sunday night. It was really hard to pick a winner for this one, but based on form, I think Carlton, who didn’t perform too badly against Melbourne either, will scramble over the line against Gold Coast, who are still going through “Ablettgate”.
Prediction: Carlton by 18 points.
Saturday, April 15: Adelaide Crows v Essendon
Adelaide will come into this game beaming with confidence, after their emphatic and enthralling win in the Showdown last weekend. Taylor Walker and Rory Sloane have come back from injury and are playing as well as they have ever been playing in their careers. Eddie Betts is finding new ways to kick goals every week, while Charlie Cameron and Rory Atkins are looking at home in the centre of the ground. However, the injuries to Josh Jenkins and Mitch McGovern, on top of the already injured Scott Thompson, are going to be huge losses for the Crows. Essendon have been playing okay football, but will probably still have wanted to beat Carlton, having gone into that game as overwhelming favourites. Despite this loss, Essendon has not done too much wrong, but it is not stopping me from tipping the unbeaten Crows, and backing them to go 0-4 to start the season.
Prediction: Crows by 27 points.
Sunday, April 16: Collingwood v St Kilda
Both these teams are in a similar position; 1-2, both coming off stirring wins last week, and could easily be in higher positions on the ladder to what they are now. Collingwood is coming off a trip to Sydney and a massive win against the Swans. Adam Treloar is in the form of his life, and is probably leading the pack in the Brownlow count. Will Hoskin-Elliot has been inspirational, and Jeremy Howe is still pulling out the speccy every week. St Kilda on the other hand, looked solid after their win against the Lions last week. Nick Riewoldt played a stellar game, coming off an injury that looked like it was going to end his career at first sight. You can never keep a good man down, as they say! They really should have pulled out the four points two weeks ago against the Eagles though, after dominating them until the last 15 minutes of the game. Jack Steven’s absence is going to be felt this week, though, and I believe Collingwood will sneak home in another game that is hard to pick a winner for.
Prediction: Collingwood by 14 points.
Sunday, April 16: Brisbane Lions v Richmond
Who would have thought, after three rounds, that Richmond would be 3-0? Personally, I thought they would have suffered the fate of going 0-3 and sinking to the bottom of the pack. But they showed great character last week against West Coast, on the day that Daniel Rioli officially came of age. He showed us shades of his cousin Cyril, and looks a future star of the game. Brisbane, on the other hand, have not done too much wrong, but they have come against tough opposition, and snuck over the line against Gold Coast in the opening round. However, I think Richmond should be too strong for the Lions, considering the form that they have shown for the past 3 weeks.
Prediction: Richmond by 44 points.
Monday, April 17: Hawthorn v Geelong
Three weeks ago, you would have thought this match would be a close one. However, looking at it now, we have the unbeaten Cats taking on the winless Hawks. As quoted on Access All Areas on the AFL website by Damien Barrett and Matthew Lloyd, there is not a single Hawthorn player that has improved over the off-season. Tom Mitchell has been solid at his new club, while Ryan Burton has looked great since he came in. But the way the Hawks threw up that game against Gold Coast last week was uncharacteristic, and unlike the Hawthorn side that we have come to know as “the best side in the modern era.” They now sit in 18th, but the Cats have not come without their stroke of luck. They could just as easily be 1-2 going into this game, as they only just crawled over the line against the Roos, and should have lost to the Demons, but didn’t because of their atrocious and lacklustre kicking. However, after Hawthorn’s dismal first 3 weeks, expect them to be going 0-4 after 4 rounds, and expect them to be in the running for wooden spoon this year.
Prediction: Cats by 58 points.