Round 4 – Sal’s Preview: The return of the spearhead and local footy

Greetings All,


Plenty of interesting results in Round 3 and just about confirmation that the power forward is back!  Bags of 10 to Bruce, 6 to Tex and 7 to Harry show that the ball is moving in faster and defenders don’t have time to plonk in the hole.  Could we see the magical ton reached?  Reckon we could get close but suspect the defences will adjust with key defenders being more proactive rather than expecting team defence to help them out.  We might see more ruckmen pushing back to fill the hole also.  So far though the changes have been for the better, the one concern being more blowouts.  The average winning margin has increased by three points compared to the opening three rounds of 2019.


The other concern, although not related to rules, has been the number of season-ending injuries with another couple announced this week.  Not sure about the Hardwick lending scheme, certainly worth consideration and discussion though.


Great to have all the local leagues back this week, a few country games over Easter where large crowds enjoyed getting back to the game.


What will Round Four deliver?  Are the form lines to be trusted yet, or do we need a bit more evidence?


Super Cygnets ($1.24) vs Unshielded ($5.00)


Longmire’s Swans passed every test against the champs with his young tyros looking a real threat in 2021.  They get Buddy back to face the Bombers who turned their miserable start to the season around thumping the Saints.  They have confirmed to loss of Shiel for a while but do get the skipper Dyson Heppell back.  Jake Stringer returned with immediate impact, he always consumes a good defender giving Essendon more potency.  At the other end though they will have their hands full up against Franklin, Heeney, Reid and Papley, not to mention the youngsters.  Reckon on the SCG the Sydney will get enough supply up forward to go 4-0.


The Question Remains ($1.70) vs Speed Bump? ($2.36)


What a time for Port and Richmond to face off, both coming off poor performances.  We asked whether Port were just Flat Track Bully Boys after a couple of easy wins, not sure last week gave the answer but reckon this week will.  They will need to put in a fearsome display against the reigning premiers who will be looking to bury their own demons after last week.  These two played the match of season in this fixture last year and we might just see it again.  At least for Port they should have arguably their best 22 available, while the Tigers have McIntosh and Prestia joining Vlastuin on the sidelines.  Nic Nat toyed with his old teammate Scott Lycett, if Richmond can have that control in the ruck then they could control the match.  I expect though a vigorous response from Port across the board and have them on top at home.


Just call me Bruce ($1.51) vs Zac Time ($2.88)


The Dogs feasted on Good Friday with Josh Bruce taking full advantage of the midfield dominance to bag double figures.  The Lions won’t be as easy, this time Zac Bailey did get the kick after the siren and sunk the Pies.  Did they play well enough to beat the Dogs?  I reckon they did given their constraints in the ruck without McInerney – will be tough again if he can’t get back in.  The Ballarat weather may also become a factor although poor conditions do not suit the high possession rate of the Bulldogs either.  Reckon that was a galvanizing win for the Lions, while I don’t think the Dogs learnt much from the practice run.  Just going with Brisbane.


Over the Hill ($3.05) vs Strung Up ($1.47)


Plenty made of Bradley Hill and his form with the Saints, not sure all of the criticism is directed correctly.  Brad has always been the dessert and not your meat and potatoes, get him the ball and he will run and create.  If the recruiters wanted meat and potatoes they got the wrong man.  Can also cut them some slack without either of their key ruckmen.  It doesn’t help coming up against Natanui this week although his sidekick Luke Shuey is back on the sidelines with another hamstring injury.  The loss of Gresham for the Saints really hurts their creativity in the middle and will need someone to step up.  Expect St Kilda to respond with a bold effort but suspect the Eagles will just pack too many guns.


At Their Witts End ($2.16) vs The Other Harry ($1.79)


Terrible luck for the Suns who with Jarrod Witts and have now lost their fourth player to a long term injury in three weeks.  It was one area they could have expected dominance against the Blues, it is now one where Carlton should be able to control the midfield.  Their endeavour last week met requirements to set up the win over Freo – the Blues big challenge is to back it up.  The Blues’ Harry was too much for his opponent last week, up against Sam Collins this week will be interesting after Tex dominated him last week.  Gold Coast will be competitive, but the Blues should be able to control the midfield and supply enough forward to win.  They will need to look after Touk Miller.


Bucks Fizzed ($1.24) vs Kermit ($4.90)


The Pies played well early against the Lions but then could not score late in the game, the same occurred against Carlton a week earlier but it didn’t cost them.  Buckley’s issues up forward remain.  They face the Giants where it can’t be easy being Greene who now has the burden to carry them without Coniglio, De Boer and Davis.  Some of the other experienced players like Hopper, Taranto and Kelly need to step up – Callan Ward is now so important.  They are probably more trustworthy now, but severely undermanned so Collingwood win.


From the Bottom Up ($3.90) vs Charddy Sippers ($1.33)


One thing North can look at from where they are is that the Crows were in a similar predicament last year.  They can look forward to progressive improvement.  Adelaide will be pretty happy with their fortunes, although not completely sold on them yet.  No matter what they will beat North this week.


Another Good-win ($2.02) vs Hooray for Henry ($1.94)


The Dees are in unchartered territory going 3-0, assisted by a handy fixture but you can only beat who you are up against.  Up against Geelong who will provide a genuine test.  Some have raised concerns about the Cats lack of speed, a couple can certainly go with Jack Henry providing the spoil and the dash to ride shotgun with Jordan Clark to seal the deal last week.  Gawn should rule the rucks, however aside from that Geelong will provide a great test for how Melbourne match up.  Hawkins will challenge the Melbourne defence which has been able to play zone against the opposition so far.  At the other end Cats are well organised, will the likes of Fritsch and Pickett find the space they have of recent weeks.  If the Dees are genuine they beat Geelong this week, reckon they are close enough.


Sonny Shine ($1.53) vs Howe’s That ($2.78)


Daniel Howe may have erred with his kick, the guy on the other end also waited for it – he has over 400 games experience and he called for it.  Too much is made of the final error.  His Hawks will try an redeem themselves in the West against Freo who will be pleased that they have Sonny Walters back.  He could not be handled by the Blues when he went to the middle last week and likely to also have Nat Fyfe.  Think that might be enough to get the home team the points.


Friar Time


After the year from hell VAFA is finally back this week with the Friars getting to play up a grade after the undefeated 2019 season.  A bunch of new opponents and this week it is Kew at Victoria Park, Kew.  It should be a great contest as the jungle drums have all the clubs believing they are well placed for the season.  The girls head to Bundoora to take on RMIT while the Thirds open the season at home to Old Camberwell.


Turf Time


We are at The Heath again in Melbourne with a tricky card.  In the opener reckon Cheerful Legend (R1, #2) can kick it off, like the booking of Zahra and a stable that like to have punt.  Wait till the 5th where I reckon we can get the same quinella as Bendigo with Annavisto (R5, #1) and Mozzie Monster (R5, #6), reckon the weight swing might be in Mozzie’s favour but she is overdue.  Great to have a couple of staying races Lord Belvedere (R7, #1) was winning this type of race last year.  The roughie for the day is in the Get Out with El Galayel (R9, #1) the favourite will be hard to beat but this bloke has ability and is handy first up.




The Championships begin in Sydney with a huge 10-race program, 9 at Group level and four of those at the highest level.  Some rain around now but a cracking weekend predicted should see the track be in perfect condition.  Some very competitive fields as you would expect.


Race 6 – Sires Produce Stakes (G1, 1400m, 2YO SW)


Do we go with the Slipper form or is there something else?  At the price reckon the winner of the Melbourne version is a fair bet in Lightsaber (3) won that event well over this distance.  Will have to be good to beat Anamoe (1) a deserved favourite off the performance in the Slipper.  Four Moves Ahead (8) and Captivant (2) also ran well and are a chance if they maintain that form.  Will be watching Daily Bugle (5) closely with The Champagne in a couple of weeks the likely target.


Selections – 3-1-8-2


Race 7 – Australian Derby (G1, 2400m, 3YO SW)


Time to be parochial and go for the Vics.  Young Werther (7) should be ready 3rd up, all happened too quickly for the VRC Derby reckon Danny O’Brien will have him primed. Khoekhoe (8) also 3rd up, didn’t go quite right in the Tulloch better barrier here.  Great respect for Montefilia (16) having a crack against the boys she has class and can win.  Yaletown (6) fought them all off in the Rosehill Guineas has an extra 400m to hold on but we know Gai makes them tough.


Selections – 7-8-16-6


Race 8 – TJ Smith Stakes (G1, 1200m, WFA)


What a line up!  The Newmarket winner at $40+.  While others can win I have it down to Eduardo (3) and Nature Strip (2).  How does JMac ride to turn the tables?  Reckon somehow he will.  Haven’t seen the best of Bivouac (1) this preparation comes in 3rd up and could blow them away.  Of the girls Libertini (9) has won four from six over this journey.


Selections – 2-3-1-9


Race 6 – The Doncaster (G1, 1600m, HCP)


Not much would shock here, so going with the formula for the big handicaps and looking for a lightweight.  With some reservation about the barrier am picking Mo’unga (19) on the minimum expect it will be busy up front so should get cover and finish strongly.  If they can’t run on the Yao Dash (18) has a great chance of repeating last week’s heroics.  Ignore the toppie at your peril so Mugatoo (1) goes in as does Rock (16).  Plenty more in the quaddie!


Selections – 19-18-1-16



Good luck it’s a monster!


Leg 1 – 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 16

Leg 2 – 1, 2, 3, 9

Leg 3 – 1, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19

Leg 4 – 2, 3


504 Combinations, $30 – 5.9%


Go Blues

And Finally GO FRIARS,


Cheers, Sal


To read more of Sal’s work click here.


The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE



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