Round 23 – Collingwood vs Hawthorn Match Preview

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It’s finally here, the end of the road for the Collingwood football club in season 2016. It has of course come a lot earlier than what the aim was at the start of the year. The Magpies have underachieved yet again, and will finish the season with either 9 or 10 wins, well short of a finals place. Of course there are excuses, there always are, but season 2016 has been yet another failure for the biggest club in the land. They can however end it on somewhat of a high note, with recent form showing just what this team is capable of on it’s day.

This Sunday the Pies will run into the modern day Goliath of the AFL world, Hawthorn. The Hawks are pushing for something that hasn’t been achieved since 1930, four premierships in succession. But only one team has won the premiership from outside the top 4 (Adelaide in 1998) so for the Hawks to make history they first have to win this game and secure a top 4 finish. That alone should be motivation for both teams and maybe we will get a classic to end the home and away season. This strangely enough will also be the one and only meeting between the two this season.

COLLINGWOOD PREVIEW

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With four quarters left in the year there’s not much to achieve for the Pies in so little time. What they can do is put an exclamation point on the end of a rather forgettable season. There haven’t been many memorable moments in 2016 for the Pies in fact the only ones are painful. Dane Swan, Brent Macaffer and Alan Toovey announced their retirements earlier this week and all 3 are unlikely to play on Sunday (Swan definitely won’t of course). Then there’s the injury list which once again seems to be getting longer after every week. There are 12 players unavailable for selection this weekend and that’s nothing new either. Injuries have played a huge part in ruining this year for the Pies but there are other reasons as well. The Pies ball use, especially out of the backline is of a low quality nature and leads to a lot of turnovers. The delivery insider forward 50 isn’t much better and that makes it hard when you have a make shift forward line for most of the year.

There have been positives though, and a lot of those are playing this week. Grundy, De Goey, Phillips, Crocker, Marsh, Aish, Maynard, Crisp, Smith and Wills have all taken steps forward and all should be in the side against the Hawks. Mason Cox though may well be the story of season 2016 for Collingwood. The American came into the season as a novelty act really, but made a stunning debut in the big win on ANZAC day and has made a big influence since. If Cox is selected for this game he will have played 12 senior games which is a remarkable return. Of course there’s also the experienced players at the club who have kept this side competitive for most of the season. Adam Treloar and Scott Pendlebury will fight it out for the Copeland Trophy in a few weeks, with Treloar almost into favoritism now after some excellent recent form. Ben Reid and Nathan Brown down back have had solid and largely uninterrupted seasons for the first time in years too.

For this game the Pies will be forced into at least one change with Darcy Moore once again injuring his hamstring. Travis Cloke has already been confirmed as his replacement after a solid performance in the VFL on Saturday. Tyson Goldsack, Jack Frost, Matthew Goodyear, Mason Cox, Brent Macaffer and Jarrod Witts will all consider themselves some chance of being named to play the Hawks also. The last two games have been impressive from the Pies and if they bring that effort and intensity they may be able to end the season with a history changing win.

HAWTHORN PREVIEW

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The Hawthorn football club has been able to maintain a position at the top end of the AFL table for the better of the last decade, which is extraordinary really. Now they sit on the precipice of becoming immortal in the AFL world, of equaling the great Collingwood team of the late 1920’s in winning four premierships in a row. Many have tried since the team nicknamed “the machine” completed the foursome in 1930, but all have failed. The Hawks though looked likely to complete what the Lions of 2004 couldn’t, until the last few weeks that was. Losses to Melbourne and the West Coast Eagles have left the Hawks teetering on the edge of the top 4, in need of a win this weekend to enter the finals with that vital double chance.

The Hawthorn midfield has been so consistently strong over the years that’s it’s somewhat of a shock to see it falling away in 2016. Mitchell, Hodge and Lewis may be getting older but still carry the burden of a central grouping that is beaten for contested possessions and clearances most weeks. Whether that’s a deliberate attempt from coach Alastair Clarkson to nurse his aging team to September or whether they are actually gradually reducing in ability, time will tell. Last week against the Eagles they had 12 fewer clearances and 45 less contested possessions, which is a massive disparity in modern day footy. The Hawks have managed to still win games despite those figures but of late it has cost them in games they have lost. The face off against a Pies midfield that just destroyed the Gold Coast Suns last week. Pendlebury, Treloar, Sidebottom, Crisp and the best young ruckman in the game, Brodie Grundy, will test this struggling Hawks midfield.

The Hawks forward line is still their greatest asset. Even with the absence of Jarryd Roughead this season they are still as efficient as just about any team when they do get a forward 50 entry. With Gunston, Breust, Rioli and Puopolo the main stays of this attack it is still something to be feared. The surprise addition of 2016 has been James Sicily who will go into this game having kicked 28 goals for the year, more than any Collingwood player. With that 5 pronged approach and with a resting ruckman also added to it the Pies may struggle to contain the Hawks if they get it inside 50 enough. The Magpies do have a competent defense although the absence of several key players to injury means they aren’t running at full effectiveness down back.

The Hawthorn backline may well be their biggest concern going into the finals. Against the Eagles last week it simply folded under constant pressure and allowed the home team to dominant. With James Frawley and Josh Gibson now the only recognisable key defenders, this is an area of the ground teams look to exploit. The Hawks have relied on a team defense throughout their successful period but with Ryan Schoenmakers getting through a few VFL games he may be recalled to help their defensive depth. The Hawks backline is also struggling to rebound the ball out of defensive 50 as they rank 16th in that statistical category. They face off against a decimated Collingwood forward line this weekend which should help them get some confidence going into the finals.

This is a massive game for the Hawthorn football club. With losses in 2 of their last 3 games a defeat here places them in an elimination final in week one of the finals. A win though secures them a top 4 spot for the sixth season in a row, and that vital double chance in the finals. They know this won’t be easy though and the Hawks will have to play better than they have in recent weeks. They have lost Jon Ceglar to a knee injury and with very few other options Jack Fitzpatrick may be called upon as his replacement. Ryan Schoenmakers got through another VFL game and looks fit enough to return also. You would expect a fired up Hawthorn team on Sunday, but this 2016 version of the Hawks hasn’t been that reliable.

 

TIP

A few weeks ago this would have been a walkover. The Magpies were struggling and looked like meandering towards the end of yet another wasted season. But the past few weeks have seen a spark of life from the Pies and they will take this game up to the once might Hawks. The importance of the game won’t be lost on the Hawthorn players and they usually respond so well after a loss. Talking of losses and the absence of Jon Ceglar may make a huge difference in this game. Brodie Grundy is the best young ruckman in the AFL and is dominating for the Pies on a weekly basis now. If Grundy can get on top and give first ball use to the Pies midfielders they can come away with a win in their final game of 2016.

MAGPIES BY 4 POINTS

 

DANE SWAN RETIRES

The great Dane Swan this week announced his retirement from the AFL after 258 games for the Collingwood football club. Swan has done it all, a Brownlow medal, multiple All Australians and Best and Fairests’ and of course a vital role in the 2010 premiership triumph. He will go down as one of the greatest players ever to pull on the black and white jumper. Thank you Dane Swan.

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AFL Round 22 – Collingwood vs Gold Coast Match Preview

 

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It’s been yet another disappointing year for Collingwood and the Gold Coast. Both came into season 2016 with high hopes with many tipping the Magpies to push for a top 4 spot and the Suns to push for a spot in the finals. Early on it was obvious neither were achieving their goals as they took loss after loss, both on field and in terms of personnel. That may be the biggest story of 2016 for these two promising young lists, injuries. The Magpies have been hit hard with talented players like Swan, Elliott, Reid, Fasolo, Ramsay and Scharenberg all missing plenty of games. The Suns once again have also had an injury curse befall them with names like Ablett, Rischitelli, Swallow, O’Meara and McKenzie missing large chunks of the season. But while injuries have definitely effected both teams ability to perform, to come into a round 22 matchup with a combined record of 14-26 simply isn’t good enough given the talent of their respective lists.

One team will get some redemption on Saturday night though when the two face off at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. It’s the second last game of the season with both the Pies and Suns coming off close losses last week. The difference in those losses is extreme though. While the Magpies were commendable for their fight and effort against a finals side, the Suns were condemned and ridiculed for their loss to Essendon, who had previously only won one game. Prior to last weekend though the Suns had shown some good signs with wins over Fremantle and Brisbane and close losses to GWS and Melbourne. That loss to the Bombers is unforgivable though, and the only way to redeem themselves is to put up a better effort against another non finalist on Saturday night.

 

COLLINGWOOD PREVIEW

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As the Magpies come close to the end of another wasted year it’s hard not to look at the negatives that have occurred and the reasons for the failure. But there are positives and two of those are Brodie Grundy and Darcy Moore. Grundy, entrusted with the number one ruck role has matured into an AFL class ruckman in just his fourth season. At just 22 years old the big South Australian looks at home already where most ruckman don’t hit their strides until at least their mid 20’s. With a career high 47 hitouts last week (to improve upon the 45 against the Eagles a few weeks back) Grundy is now the ruckman that the Pies can trust going forward. Talking about forward, and young forwards, and you have Darcy Moore, who in just his second season needs just 2 more goals to win Collingwood’s goal kicking award for the season. Moore also has put up big numbers against the Dogs and Eagles with 11 scoring shots in those two games. In these two players the Pies may well have the best young ruckman and best young tall forward in the game.

The biggest positive at the club at the moment though may not be at senior level at all, it’s in the reserves. The Magpies VFL team has now won 11 games in a row and with 2 games remaining only needs one win to secure a top 2 spot and a home final. In the 11th win in a row last weekend, over Port Melbourne at Victoria Park, there were several standouts. Travis Cloke, the most talked about reserves play in Australian sport at the moment kicked 5 goals and if the Pies are picking a side on form he should play seniors this week. The defense held up magnificently though and this was mainly due to three senior listed players, Frost, Williams and Toovey. Williams was the standout and was especially brilliant in the final term when the opposition were attacking with a wind advantage. At least Magpies fans will see finals this year, even if it is only at VFL level.

As for the game against the Suns, all Pies fans will want to see is a repeat of the effort that was put forward against the Dogs. That effort along with the talent on the field should see the Pies notch their 9th and probably final win of season 2016.

 

GOLD COAST PREVIEW

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The Gold Coast Suns were supposed to make a dramatic move up the ladder this year. After finishing in 16th spot with only 4 wins in 2015 many were predicting the Suns would even play finals this season. They started the season well too with 3 straight wins and all of a sudden it seemed these young Suns would mature into a competitive team. Since then though they’ve only won 3 more games and are once again sitting in the bottom third of the AFL ladder. Of course there’s been extreme injury problems on the Gold Coast but a probable finish of 6-16 for the year isn’t the return the club, or the AFL world were expecting.

The problems have really all stemmed from the injuries to the midfield this season for the Suns. If you look at their best possible lineup, this week they will be missing Ablett, Rischitelli, Swallow, Prestia, Nicholls and O’Meara from their central core. That’s a massive list of outs and shows why they rank last for clearances this season. In their absence it’s been left up to a rag tag group of kids and experienced depth players to fill the gap. Hall, Hallahan, Shaw, Martin and Miller will likely make up the midfield against the Pies and that makes it an almost impossible task to match the star studded lineup that Collingwood will field. It is hard to see the Suns beating a Collingwood midfield that includes Pendlebury, Treloar, Sidebottom, Greenwood, Grundy, Aish and Crisp.

If this Gold Coast team has a strength it’s their forward line. Despite having one of the lowest inside forward 50 entry rates in the AFL the Suns have still managed to out score five teams for total points this season. Add to that the lack of production from their midfield and this forward line has the promise to carry this team for years to come. The star of course is Tom Lynch, who in a struggling side is amazingly still a chance of winning the Coleman medal. With 63 goals from 20 games Lynch is a bona fide star of the AFL. He has some support too with Day, Wright, Matera, Grant and Martin all able to impact the scoreboard. The Suns forwards may be able to stretch a Magpie defense that is now missing Reid, Ramsay, Scharenberg and Langdon from it’s first choice lineup, if they can get the ball inside forward 50 enough of course.

The Suns backline has held up pretty well most weeks considering the beating out of the middle the team has been getting. Stephen May and Rory Thompson lead the way down back although they would love the experienced Nick Malceski to return this week. Malceski will have to pass a fitness test to take on the Pies so it won’t be known for a few days if he’s available. The Suns back line hasn’t been as injury hit as the rest of the ground but the absence of Trent McKenzie is hurting their rebound ability. The positive for the Suns defense is they run into a dysfunctional Magpies forward line that itself has been hit by injuries. With no Fasolo, Elliott, Swan and probably Cloke (not injured obviously) the Suns will only have to restrict the output of young star Darcy Moore to have an impact here.

The Suns will want to bounce back from one of their worst performances in club history last weekend. The loss to Essendon will leave a bitter taste in the mouth and with the team staying in Melbourne for the entire week they will prepare for this game like a mini final. It is important to finish this season on a high and this may be the best chance the Suns have of doing that.

 

TIP

Even with the expected increase in effort from the Suns after last week’s embarrassing loss Collingwood should simply win this game. The midfield is where the problem is for Gold Coast and it’s hard to see how they can match it with the Pies stars in the middle. It’s a small advantage to the Suns that this game is at Etihad Stadium and not the MCG but in the end that should count for little and the Pies should win quite easily.

MAGPIES BY 24 POINTS.

AFL Round 21 – Collingwood vs Western Bulldogs Match Preview.

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As the Collingwood Football Club meanders towards the end of yet another disappointing season it should be no shock that their form is still fluctuating. Last week against Richmond, a club that has become a modern day target of parody and ridicule, the Magpies themselves became the joke when they gave up a win in very easy fashion. It looked as if the Pies would redeem themselves late in the final term as they hit the front but they then rolled over and let the struggling Tigers record a much needed win. It was just the most recent forgettable chapter in what is becoming a familiar pattern year on year. Collingwood hasn’t been a good team for 4 seasons now, and while there is hope for the future this season is a write off, once again.

There’s still 3 games to be played though, and on Friday night the Pies will travel a few kilometers down the road to be hosted by the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium. The Dogs are the buzz team of the AFL right now, the media love them, and so apparently do all the neutral fans. I say apparently because it seems as if there’s a fallacy that Dogs are everyone’s second team. I’m not going to speak for anyone else but they are far from that for me. These two have met once already this season and in that game the Magpies took the game right up to the favoured Dogs at the MCG before a stack of in game injuries cost the Pies any chance of winning. The Bulldogs recorded a 21 point win in a low scoring game as they continued to push for a top 4 spot. They are still an outside chance of getting one of those key double chance finals positions, but with a rather ironic (at least in Pies fans eyes) rash of injuries of late these Dogs may have to settle for a home elimination final.

COLLINGWOOD PREVIEW

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Is it over yet? That’s the question most Magpie fans are asking, and unfortunately it’s not. There’s still these 3 now meaningless games to play and the Pies players will have to find a way to self motivate themselves for this game. The Dogs are a defensive beast and with the current formation and production of an injury plagued Pies forward line this could get ugly. There is hope however, the Bulldogs do have a long injury list, maybe even longer and more talented than the Pies. Collingwood does have some players to call upon though with the VFL side yet again winning, this time their 10th win in a row. It’s remarkable that with all the injuries and problems that the senior side is having that the VFL Magpies are still winning. Tyson Goldsack was the standout in the latest win, and if he isn’t included in the seniors this week something more sinister is going on there. Youngsters Tom Phillips and Jordan De Goey were also great in the reserves win and will come under heavy consideration to return to the seniors. There may be good news on the injury front too with Darcy Moore pushing to return after missing one week and captain Scott Pendlebury adamant that he won’t be left out despite an ankle injury sustained late against Richmond.

So the Pies will field a side of sorts against the Dogs, but as we’ve come to expect with this Magpies team it’s all about what level of effort they will bring to game day. If they bring their best, like they did against the Dogs the first time, they may well pull of an upset win. Anything less of an effort though and this could get ugly, well uglier for the men in black and white.

WESTERN BULLDOGS PREVIEW

The Western Bulldogs celebrate their win during the round 7 AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Saturday, May 7, 2016. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

The Western Bulldogs were one of the most talked about teams coming into season 2016 and they haven’t disappointed. Even with a recent run of extreme injuries they still sit in 7th spot with a 13-6 win/loss record. The Dogs injury problems did seem like they were going to derail their season, with back to back losses against Geelong and St Kilda, but a fighting 14 point win over North Melbourne last week has them back on track. With three very winnable games left (Pies, Bombers, Dockers) these Bulldogs still think they can finish top 4.

The Western Bulldogs team defense is remarkable really. Coming into this season they were thought of as a primarily attacking team who basically outscored sides into submission. But this season it’s been completely different, with the Dogs conceding the third least amount of total points, with only the Cats and Swans better than them. It starts with the backline too, and Dale Morris is still leading this group after all these years. He acts as not only a leader of the defense but also as an on field coach, and allows the likes of Hamling, Roberts, Biggs, Johannisen and Wood to provide adequate rebounding. This week the Dogs backline will face off against one of the more listless forward lines going around, and that’s if Darcy Moore gets up. If he doesn’t it’s almost certainly the worst forward line in the AFL at the moment. Obviously the Pies forward line has been hit hard by injuries but the replacements aren’t standing up at all and the Bulldogs should dominate in this area.

The Bulldogs midfield has some star names in it, yet it doesn’t exactly dominate teams on a weekly basis. The Dogs are in the middle of the pack for contested possessions and clearances but if they can get that ball to the outside they do remarkable damage to the opposition. They do have a high rate of inside forward 50 entries showing just how effective they are if you give them any time at all outside the packs. The loss of Mitch Wallis obviously hurts their midfield brigade but with Bontempelli and Liberatore leading the clearance count, they can match it with a Pies midfield that is struggling. The one area the Dogs may struggle is in the ruck this week, with Brodie Grundy starting to show his potential and dominating games like a player beyond his limited age and experience. This is where Collingwood need to dominate if they stand any chance at all.

The Dogs forward line has been the topic that is usually brought up when speaking about this team’s future. The obvious target of debate is Tom Boyd, who the Bulldogs pulled away from GWS in a mega trade (and a mega contract). Boyd is only know starting to show what he is capable of but it will still be a few years before a definitive result of this trade will be known. They do struggle to put the score on the board though, with the worst inside 50 conversion rate of the top 8 sides by a long way. In fact they are the only top 8 side not ranked in the top half of the league for total points scored this season. They rely on a spread of goals to score with 4 scoring options standing out, Bontempelli, Redpath, Dickson and Stringer. The good news of the Bulldogs however is the Pies backline is as inconsistent as other areas of their game, and at Etihad allowed North Melbourne to score 124 points only a few weeks back.

After a strong win last week the Western Bulldogs will go into this game knowing nothing but a win will keep them in top 4 contention. Realistically they have to win out from here on and hope the sides above them lose a few games. For this game against the Pies they are unlikely to make too many changes with Matt Suckling the most likely inclusion if he overcomes his most recent injury setback. That is a positive though, as for the previous few weeks they’ve lost players due to injuries in decent numbers, and quality. The Dogs should win this game if they have any ambitions of doing damage in the finals.

TIP

Collingwood will go into this game as clear underdogs, and that’s not a shock given their recent form. The one advantage Collingwood may have this week is they run into a team that has been hit bu injuries just as hard as them. A lot may depend on final selection, with Pendlebury, Moore, Smith and Suckling all needing to pass fitness tests to play. If the Pies can get their captain and star young forward on the park they just may be able to outscore this defensively minded Dogs outfit.

MAGPIES BY 1 POINT

AFL Round 20 – Collingwood vs Richmond Match Preview.

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When the fixture for the 2016 AFL premiership season came out last October the round 20 matchup between Collingwood and Richmond seemed like a possible early elimination final. Of course as we now know, nothing has gone to plan for either club. They will meet on Friday night at the M.C.G. in what is now an irrelevant game as far as finals connotations are concerned. Collingwood sit in 12th with 8 wins from 18 games, while the Tigers sit right behind them in 13th with one less win. It isn’t what was expected of two sides who had grand ambitions for season 2016.

There’s still four games to be played though, and on Friday night at the MCG the two will meet for the second time this season. The first game, way back in round 2, produced one of the finishes of the season when the Pies came from 3 goals down late on to win. Brodie Grundy snapped a goal out of the pack to send the Magpies fans into raptures, and provide Richmond the first of many losses in 2016. Since they both teams have meandered their way through the season with only a handful of impressive performances between them. The Pies are coming off one of those such outings, after an upset win over the finals bound West Coast Eagles last week. Richmond on the same Saturday put in one of the worst efforts of any team this season when they managed only 3 goals in an 88 point drubbing against the Giants. The Tigers come into this game in the midst of a crisis, while the Pies look to be ending their season strongly.

 

COLLINGWOOD PREVIEW

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While it’s been yet another disappointing season for Collingwood there are signs that the future is bright for the black and white. Since the bye, when the Pies were sitting in the bottom 6 with a 4-8 record, they’ve won 4 out of 6 games and are starting to show those signs of promise. While the likes of Pendlebury, Adams, Reid, Brown, Treloar and Sidebottom have found a consistent level of performance, it’s been the next level of players that seems to have made the Pies better lately. There’s been improvement by so many of late, with Smith, Marsh, Grundy, Aish, Moore, Crisp, Maynard and Wills all having large impacts on games. The win over the Eagles was a team performance, with first gamer Wills breaking the AFL record for tackles on debut, and Josh Smith continuing his really impressive first year as a mature aged recruit. It was Darcy Moore though who stole the show, as the second year future superstar kicked 3 first half goals before unfortunately going off with another hamstring injury. Moore is likely to miss this week against the Tigers but he gave the whole football world a glimpse of his huge potential, and was rewarded with a rising star nomination for his work.

Leading into this game against Richmond there may be a few changes with Moore an almost definite out. The Pies VFL side won an amazing 9th game in a row last week, and there’s plenty pushing for selection from that team. Also a hope to return from injury are Alex Fasolo and Jarryd Blair who missed the win over the Eagles. What has becoming very obvious though with this Collingwood team is that the effort is now consistent from week to week. There are many theories about why it’s taken so long to find that consistency of effort, but it’s there for all to see now and should see them take care of a struggling Tigers outfit.

 

RICHMOND PREVIEW

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Being a Richmond supporter must be tough work. After their team made the finals the last three seasons there was hope that a sustained period of finals action was on the horizon. But no, it was evident early on this year that the Tigers weren’t returning to the top 8. They started the season with a 1-6 win/loss record, no one plays finals after that. There may have been reasons for the slow start, and the Tigers then had a mid season revival, winning 5 out of 6 games, however Richmond will go backwards this season with a list that is mature enough to be playing finals. The concern is they really are getting worse too, with a lackluster win over Essendon followed by two big losses to the Hawks and Giants, it’s almost crisis time at Richmond. They have to play the season out though, and they have a few winnable games left, starting with the Pies on Friday night.

It’s hard to find an area of strength at the moment for the Tigers but their midfield is still performing okay under the circumstances. In the ruck Shaun Hampson is having a career best year and has relegated Ivan Maric to the VFL for most of this season. In fact the Tigers rank 3rd for average hitouts this season, which is at least one positive. It hasn’t helped Richmond in the clearances though, with the Tigers currently ranked 12th, although that is a few spots higher than the Pies midfield (16th). The problem seems to be depth for Richmond with a massive reliance on 5 players. Cotchin, Martin, Miles, Grigg and Edwards all average over 4 clearances a game but there’s a massive drop off after that to the next player. The Pies are coming off a smashing of the Eagles in the middle, with massive advantages in clearances and contested possessions. The Tigers will need to lift to match the Pies this week based on recent form.

The Richmond forward line should be an advantage for the Tigers but they simply don’t get it in there enough. The Tigers rank 17th for inside 50’s meaning that Jack Riewoldt’s return of 41 goals is impressive given he’s had so few opportunities. Sam Llyod has had a good season up forward also, supporting Jack but after that it drops off. Tyrone Vickery is always a source of frustration and criticism and there’s very few reliable options from then on. Richmond also get very little goal support from their midfield with Shane Edwards leading the way from the middle with 13 goals. They run into a Pies defense that is gaining in confidence with every passing week. With Ben Reid and Nathan Brown back fit, the youngsters in the Magpies defense are feeding off their experience and it’s working well. Richmond will have to find a way to increase it’s inside 50 entries or they simply can’t win this game.

One man comes to mind whenever you talk about Richmond’s defense and that is Alex Rance. The Tigers full back is likely to be named in the All Australian side yet again despite his team conceding the fourth most points in the AFL. Even last week in the huge loss to GWS Rance was given as many coaches votes as any other player on the ground (8 votes). The problem is once again depth. He has so little support down back that is reliable at senior level. Grimes, Astbury, Ellis, Short, Hunt, Deledio, Lambert and Conca all spend time down back but it hasn’t been helping Rance too much. The positive for Richmond is they are likely to face a very undermanned Pies forward line this week. With no Moore, Elliott and Swan the Magpies forward line isn’t functioning that well itself. Rance is likely to take Travis Cloke out of the game almost entirely which will leave the goal scoring to the likes of Blair, White, Cox and the supporting cast from the midfield. This is the area Richmond can dominate in to give them a chance of the win.

It’s a big week for the Tigers. Home game at the MCG versus another big Melbourne club coming off the back of two unacceptable results. The pressure has been on all week at Tigerland and teams usually respond in two ways after such a bashing from the press. They either fire up and perform above expectations, or continue on with their slump as the real problems simply can’t be overcome. We should know early on during Friday night’s game which is going to occur, and if it’s the latter it really might get ugly in the stands. At selection they will be hoping Shane Edwards and Ben Griffiths are fit to return while Andrew Moore should get a promotion after playing really well in the VFL of late. It will be interesting to see how this Richmond group respond.

 

TIP

With the state of the two teams going into Friday night this may not be the most attractive game of football played this year. In fact the first matchup between the two was pretty ordinary and was only saved by a stunning finish. The outcome of this game depends more on which version of the Richmond football club turns up then anything else. If it’s the Richmond that won 5 out of 6 games in the middle of the season then it should win. But if it’s the Richmond who has failed to fight games out in recent weeks it will lose. The Magpies are definitely in the better form of the two but it could be argued that they are missing more quality players through injury than what the Tigers are.

There’s massive question marks over whether Fasolo or Moore get up for this game also, but even without them Collingwood has the superior midfield and should be able to dominate through there. If the Pies can take control of the middle they should be able to record their 9th win of 2016 and continue Richmond’s misery.

MAGPIES BY 19 POINTS

 

VFL

The Collingwood VFL team is a thing of beauty at the moment. They just recorded their 9th win in a row and are now one of a handful of genuine premiership contenders. This Saturday they welcome Coburg to the Holden Centre, game time is 1pm.

AFL Round 19 – Collingwood vs West Coast Match Preview.

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With five games left in the 2016 AFL premiership season the Collingwood football clubs’ hopes of playing finals are gone. If you’re being honest the Pies never really looked like a finals contender this season anyway, as a 4-8 win/loss record after 12 games showed. They did give their fans some hope though with wins over Carlton and GWS but losses to Adelaide and North Melbourne have ended their chances. No matter what excuses the club and it’s staff try and make, it’s simply been another failure of a season for the biggest sporting club in Australia. To miss the finals for a third consecutive season provides little hope for the future also. But there are still five games to be played, and this week the Pies go back home, to the M.C.G. to face a team that will play finals, the West Coast Eagles.

The Eagles have had a pretty good season so far backing up from a grand final appearance last year. They find themselves with a 12-5 record after 17 games and sit just a few percentage points away from second spot. There have been questions raised about West Coast’s away form in 2016 but they are positioned about where they would have wanted to be with 5 rounds remaining. Recent history between these two is split at 3-3 at piece, although the Eagles have won the final three games, including a 62 point win in round 6 earlier this year. It’s a game that West Coast have to win if they want to finish top 4 and be seen as a genuine premiership contender.

 

COLLINGWOOD PREVIEW

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Most articles written about Collingwood at the moment are of a negative nature. That’s understandable too given that the Magpies will miss the finals for the third season in a row. But there are positives out of the mess that is the Pies at the moment. They actually have some of the best young talent in the AFL and some of them are developing at a really good rate. The likes of Moore, De Goey, Aish, Marsh, Maynard, Grundy, Phillips, Crocker and Smith have all shown they have a big future in the senior side. Marsh and Moore may well be the most important of those two in the near future, with key position players so scarce that if they can hold down spots at either end, it will fast track this Magpies rebuild on the run. Apart from the youngsters the Pies have shown that even now this team is capable of beating anyone on it’s day, with dominating wins over top 4 sides Geelong and GWS. That just adds to the frustration for a lot of Pies fans though, with such inconsistency in effort and performance throughout the season. The final 5 games will be important for this team going forward though, and that starts this week of course against the Eagles.

Collingwood got relatively lucky at the Match Review Panel for once with no players suspended or even fined despite some very heated moments in the loss to North Melbourne. Ben Sinclair will miss though, after suffering another concussion in the loss to the Roos. There is still likely to be other changes too, and with the Pies once again losing the centre clearances, the coaching staff may seek to remedy that area. The VFL Magpies had a bye last weekend but still there’s plenty at the next level who could be called upon to take on the Eagles. One that may be considered is Rupert Wills. Wills has been in the best players just about every week in for the VFL team, and is a clearance machine. Others that may be considered include Phillips, Goldsack, Frost,Witts, Oxley, Cox and De Goey. The Pies do have players to choose from so they can select a side based on the opposition as much as their own strengths. One of those main strengths is of course the Eagles forward line, so Goldsack and Frost may be called upon to provide defensive backup if the coaching staff deem it necessary. Last week that Pies backline didn’t perform so well, but a lot of North’s goals did come from turnovers, which are damn hard to defend against.

It’s difficult to tell which Collingwood will turn up this weekend. If it’s the version that took care of the Cats and Giants with relative ease then they’ll win this game. If it’s the bad version though, the one that all but gave up in big losses to Port Adelaide and Melbourne, then the Eagles will win easily. My guess is it will be somewhere in between, which will at least give them a chance of notching their 8th win of season 2016.

 

WEST COAST PREVIEW

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After making the Grand Final last season many were tipping the Eagles to be Hawthorn’s greatest challenger for the premiership in 2016. They didn’t start like a premiership threat, and after 12 games at with a rather average 7-5 win/loss record. Fast forward though and West Coast haven’t lost a game since and will go into this game at the MCG on the back of a 5 game winning streak. There are still critics of this Eagles team though, especially when it comes to their form away from Subiaco. That alone might give them the motivation for this game, where they can prove that they can win away from home against a competitive team. West Coast are hoping to welcome back two big names in Natanui and Sheed so they will run out on Saturday with a very strong lineup indeed.

The Eagles forward line is their obvious area of strength. Despite having an up and down year the Eagles sit third for total points scored in 2016, even though they’ve only had the 10th most inside forward 50 entries. Their forward line efficiency per entry is a huge advantage in any game. Of course it helps when you have two elite key forwards in Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling to build an attack around. Kennedy, the reigning Coleman medalist and current leader of that competition, is having yet another stellar year and just seems to get better every season. His battle with Brown and Marsh will be worth watching for sure. He has some help though, with 5 other regular first team Eagles averaging a goal a game or better. The Pies backline struggled last week at times against North Melbourne’s forward line, and they don’t get it any easier this week.

The West Coast defense is slightly under rated it seems. They sit fourth for least total points conceded through 17 games which shows the defensive side of the Eagles game is strong too. The backline is pretty stable for them too, with Mackenzie, McGovern, Butler, Hurn and Sheppard making up the core group of this defense. This weekend they matchup against a Pies forward line that basically cost it’s team the game last week. Or at least combined with poor forward delivery they did. The Magpies forward line was disjointed and ugly against North, and when Blair and White are your two most dangerous forwards, something is wrong. The Eagles will feel confident of restricting the Pies to a low score no matter how many forward entries they get.

The Eagles midfield is average, being that they rank in the middle of the ladder for contested possessions and clearances. It’s still higher than the Pies but it’s an area that coach Adam Simpson would want to see some improvement in. Led by the indomitable Matt Priddis this is the one area of the ground the Eagles may have to clean up if they are to return to the grand final this season. After Priddis and Luke Shuey the clearance average for their midfielders drops significantly and there lies the problem. Only those two can be relied upon to win the ball, although the probable return of star ruckman Nic Natanui may help this week. Natanui has been in career best form this season when fit, as shown by him being ranked third for clearances for the Eagles. If he does play, it will be a battle between him and maybe the best young ruckman in the AFL, Brodie Grundy, that will be worth the price of admission alone.

This is a must win game for the Eagles. If they can’t win on the MCG against a team who will not play finals, what hope do they have of winning a final or grand final on this ground in the coming months.

TIP

Most will be expecting the Eagles to come to Melbourne and win this game, especially given the respective positions on the ladder of the two teams. But the Eagles form isn’t as good away from home and in past years their record at the MCG is poor. Of course the Eagles will know that so they may set themselves for this game seeing it as a chance to prove a point. The West Coast forward line is the real worry for the Pies. The Eagles don’t even have to get more inside 50’s than the Pies to be likely winners of this game.

But the Pies have improved, even if it isn’t fully showing on the scoreboard. They are more stable now, have a capable ruckman in Grundy and that forward line surely will play better than last week. Where I think this game will be won is in the middle, and with the Pies usually being beaten in there by highly rated teams, they may be able to at least match it with the Eagles in the middle and come out with a small win.

MAGPIES BY 12 POINTS

AFL Round 18 – Collingwood vs North Melbourne Match Preview.

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The 8th and 12th placed teams on the AFL ladder clash on Friday night in Melbourne and it’s one of the more important games of the season. North Melbourne, currently in 8th position, started the season with a 9-0 record but have only managed one win in their past seven games. Collingwood (12th), a team that at no point has looked like a finals contender, is making a late run at it with three wins in their last four games. But this game means even more to two teams who aren’t playing, St Kilda and Port Adelaide. If the Magpies can defeat the Kangaroos on Friday it will go a long way to giving one of those teams a chance of playing finals in 2016.

Collingwood will go into the game with more confidence that North Melbourne too, simply based on form over the past month or so. The Pies went to Adelaide last week and took it right up to one of the premiership favourites, the Adelaide Crows. After a slow start the Pies closed to within 8 points in the second term but eventually poor ball use under pressure led to a 28 point loss. It was the first defeat that Collingwood had suffered in a month. The Kangaroos on the other hand would take any win, any how, at the moment. They’ve only won one game since starting the season 9-0, and that was against lowly Richmond. Last Saturday at Etihad Stadium, the Roos had a chance to all but kill off Port Adelaide as a finals challenger, but they let that opportunity slip with a woeful start. Although they tried to fight back North eventually went down by 28 points. Recent history between these two favours Collingwood with the Magpies winning the past 2 games and 7 of the last 9 clashes between the two.

 

COLLINGWOOD PREVIEW

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The loss to Adelaide ended the Pies longest winning streak of the season, but there was still plenty to be positive about. Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams, Brodie Grundy and Scott Pendlebury excelled in the middle, although once again the lack of depth after that saw the Crows win more centre clearances. Grundy in particular is in career best form, taking on and defeating some of the best ruckman in the AFL over the past month. The 22 year old could already be classified as one of the best all around ruckman in the game, at least on form, with the only weakness being the hitouts, an area he still has to improve in. The Pies ball use was bad in Adelaide though, it was the difference in the game really. The Crows hit their targets going insider 50 while time and time again the Magpies simply didn’t. It made it a tough night for the forwards and it showed with very little return from any of them. Travis Cloke was the best of the key forwards though, as he continues his comeback from a form slump earlier in the season.

The Pies will be hoping to get Alex Fasolo back this week after the enigmatic forward missed the trip to South Australia with shoulder soreness. Fasolo is close to the most important player in this Pies side now, he can be relied upon to get his 2-3 goals a game but he also sets up just as many. Fasolo also takes one of the opposition’s best defenders out of the game. With the continued absence of Jamie Elliott and Dane Swan from the forward line Fasolo may well be the key to this game, and the Pies chances in remaining games. In the VFL there were once again plenty who put their hands up for promotion. The VFL Magpies won a remarkable 8th game in a row at Frankston, with an 11goal final term. The standout listed players were Adam Oxley, Tyson Goldsack, Marley Williams and Tom Phillips. If there’s more than one change made a few of those may find themselves at Etihad on Friday night.

Collingwood have to go into this game with some confidence. The performance against Adelaide, while flawed, showed that the consistent effort has returned for the Pies and when that’s there only the best teams feel safe against them. At the moment North Melbourne aren’t a top side, in fact they are one of the most out of form in the AFL, so the Pies will see this as a chance to get back on the winning track.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE PREVIEW

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Plenty has been spoken about North Melbourne’s last 5 games, which of course have been all losses. Blame is being placed on the older players by most in the media, yet the problem is deeper and more serious than that. Not too much is working for the Kangaroos at the moment, with the early capitulation against the Power showing just how far they have fallen. They’ve had a tough draw throughout those losses, but should have been closer to Port last week. Brent Harvey will equal the AFL/VFL games record on Friday night, and that might just be the spark that this struggling team needs to turn their season around.

In those first 9 games North’s forward line looked as good, if not better, than any other in the AFL. The last 5 weeks in particular though it’s struggled to put the score on the board, with an average total of only 70 per game. That won’t win you many games at all in this league. The three main tall options, Ben Brown, Jarrad Waite and Drew Petrie have been inconsistent to say the least of late, and that then makes it hard for the smaller players up forward to have an impact too. Petrie has copped a lot of criticism in the past few weeks with many calling for him to be dropped, but it’s likely the Roos stalwart will play against the Pies. The Pies backline has improved while the North forward line has digressed. What Collingwood has now down back is reliable tall defenders in Reid, Howe, Marsh and Brown. This may not be where the game is won but it’s an area North have to improve upon if they are to win.

The North Melbourne forward line was on fire early in the season, but unlike the rest of the Roos team it’s still performing at a decent level. The Kangaroos won the clearances versus the Eagles two weeks back, and won more than Port after the terrible start last weekend. North still rank in the top 8 for average clearances and contested possessions so they are still able to win the ball. Where they have been lacking though is outside of those contested situations. North have looked slow in the middle over the past month, and Port in particular made fools of them with their pace and fast ball movement. Losing Shaun Higgins and Mason Wood to injury won’t help things either, with those two players being two of the better runners and ball users at the club. The good news for the Roos is that they run into a Pies side that has been struggling all year at the clearances. North really should dominate at the ball ups and throw ins, which should give them a big advantage.

The North Melbourne backline, similar to the rest of the team doesn’t lack for experience. Thompson, Firrito and Tarrant hold down the three key defensive posts and do an adequate job most weeks. They aren’t flashy but they get the job done. North aren’t one of the better rebounding teams though, ranks 12th for total rebounds from defensive 50. McKenzie, Atley and McMillan do give them some run but when your key defenders are well ahead of the rest in this area, it is a concern. This week however they run into a forward line that has struggled to keep the ball inside it’s forward zone this season. While the Magpies have improved in that area in recent weeks, opposition teams still seem to be able to score on transition far too easily. Structure wise the Roos have enough cover to restrict the currently injury hit Pies forward line. The X factor here is obviously Alex Fasolo. He’s now an elite forward and if he plays, it makes life so much harder for the North Melbourne defense.

There has to surely become a time when North Melbourne draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough. Their effort last week, especially early on, was woeful really, and a repeat of that could see their finals hopes slipping away in remarkable fashion. When you start a season with 9 straight wins the draw isn’t the reason, you have talent, but something has gone awry for this Roos team. There probably won’t be too many changes at selection even if several players from Werribee’s VFL team will consider themselves a chance of promotion. So the improvement must come from within, and it will be intriguing to say the least to see if North can improve enough to defeat an in form Magpies lineup.

TIP

North Melbourne go into this game as betting favourites, but that is surely more based off early season than recent. If you look at just the last month of each team, it’s Collingwood that has the better form. The advantage for the Roos though is the location of this game, Etihad Stadium. The Pies simply don’t play as well there, their fans don’t go there in huge numbers and it’s an unfamiliar place for the players. This will be the Pies first visit to Etihad this year also (in a home and away game).

What the Magpies do have in their favour though is form, an extra days rest and a shorter injury list. This may well be the first time this season that Collingwood has faced off against a team with a longer and more talented injury list. Of course a lot depends on the fitness of star forward Alex Fasolo, and if he passes a fitness test on Thursday the Magpies should keep their faint finals hopes alive with a win.

MAGPIES BY 15 POINTS.

AFL Round 17 – Collingwood vs Adelaide Match Preview.

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Collingwood fans have hope, although that may not be the best thing. For a long time in season 2016 there was no hope for Collingwood as they meandered through loss after embarrassing loss with the odd win thrown in. Something has changed though, and with three wins in a row this Magpies team is starting to dangle the carrot in front of their fans, hope of finals action this season. Last weekend the Pies went north to Sydney to take on the rampaging GWS Giants and at quarter time everything was going as expected as the Giants led by 24 points. What happened next shocked the football world as Collingwood put on 9 goals to 2 in the second term to take an 18 point lead into the main break. The Pies continued the onslaught in the second half and eventually ran out 32 point winners in their most impressive performance of 2016 to date. The problem is, even after 3 wins in a row they still find themselves 2 wins and plenty of percentage points out of 8th place. It’s false hope really.

After their disastrous start to the season the Pies with a 4-8 win/loss record and next to no chance of playing finals, but Collingwood is suddenly a team no one wants to play. The team that has to play them this week is Adelaide, as the Pies head west to face the Crows at home on Saturday night. Similar to the Giants before they met the Magpies, it could be argued that the Crows are the in form team of the competition at the moment. That is backed up by a current seven game winning streak that sees Adelaide positioned in third spot at threatening to be a real premiership contender. The Crows are an attacking force like no other and simply pound their opposition into the ground with high scores. History between these two seems to show that winning streaks in this matchup are the norm. With Collingwood winning 6 games in a row between the pair from 2009 to 2013. The Crows changed the momentum recently though with wins in the most recent 3 meetings. Collingwood an Adelaide have only played once at Adelaide Oval too with the Crows coming away with a 21 point win in 2014.

 

COLLINGWOOD PREVIEW

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So what’s changed? Why all of a sudden is this Collingwood team capable of winning games in succession and defeat one of the best sides in the competition? The answer probably lies in a mixture of personnel and attitude. The Pies hit a low point this season with consecutive heavy losses to Port Adelaide and Melbourne, two teams they would have expected to defeat. That final loss to Port Adelaide woke the entire club up it seemed and sitting with a 4-8 record in the bottom six was enough to embarrass them into action. The return to form and fitness of several star players has also hoped, with Reid, Adams, Fasolo, Moore, Brown, Cloke, Sidebottom and Sinclair all missing games earlier in the year for different reasons. Last week against the Giants was as good of a performance and effort than we may have seen in Nathan Buckley’s entire coaching career. Bucks and his support had a good day indeed, with plenty of the coaching moves coming on the day.

But overall it was the effort, intensity and willingness to work together than lifted the Pies after quarter time to that great win. There were plenty of stars on the day but the two who stood out the most were Brodie Grundy and Travis Cloke. Both have been criticised by media and fans alike this year for their performances but on Saturday they showed just how good they can be. In Grundy Collingwood arguably have the best young ruckman in the AFL and the sky is the limit indeed for big Brodie.

The Magpies have to back it up though, and at the moment there’s no tougher task in football than a trip to the Adelaide Oval to play the Crows. Adelaide are on fire, and are in the best form their fans have seen them in years now. For Collingwod to go interstate and beat them, a lot will have to go right. The Pies will have to win first use of the ball more than the Crows, and just like last week against the Giants, will have to move the ball quickly and accurately to give their forwards a chance at dominating. The biggest worry when facing the Crows is their super talented forward line, but the Pies defense did so well against the Giants last week that they’ll go into this game with a lot of confidence. There may be defensive reinforcements called in though with the likes of Toovey, Frost, Williams and Goldsack performing very well in the VFL Magpies 7th win in a row on Sunday. Along with the two players who were effectively rested last weekend, Mason Cox and Levi Greenwood, that group will push for senior selection. I can’t envisage many changes though after such a dominant win.

 

ADELAIDE PREVIEW

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The Adelaide Crows really do need to be admired. After a tumultuous season in 2015 and the loss of a superstar player in Patrick Dangerfield in the off season, they could have been forgiven for dropping out of finals contention in 2016. But no, after 15 games the Crows find themselves in the top 4 and in the midst of a 7 game winning streak. They’ve done it through brutal force, brutal scoring force that is. After 15 games the Adelaide Crows have scored more points than anyone else in the AFL and their forward line is arguably the deadliest. Their midfield has somehow got better even with Dangerfield’s departure. The Crows are a genuine premiership contender with 7 games left in the home and away season.

The Adelaide forward line is a thing of beauty really. The Crows have four dangerous forwards who each on their day can boot a bag of goals. Eddie Betts is perhaps the best small forward in the AFL at the moment, especially at Adelaide Oval. There’s no surprise that Betts is in career best form when he gets to feed off three talented talls in Jenkins, Walker and Lynch. There’s also a few bit players in this attack with McGovern, Cameron and the midfield players chipping in to add up to the most dangerous forward line in the AFL. The Magpies backline will have their hands full on Saturday night indeed but if the last 3 weeks are any indication this Pies defense has got it’s mojo back. With Reid, Howe, Brown, Maynard and Sinclair all fit and firing, the Magpies will believe they can take on and restrict this stunning Crows attack.

The story of the Crows year though is their midfield. Most teams, after losing a top 10 ranked AFL player in Dangerfield would collapse and go backwards in the middle. Not Adelaide though. They have actually improved, and rank third for clearances and second for contested possessions. Those stats are stunning, and it’s a total group effort that everyone has bought into. Led by the ever reliable Scott Thompson, who this week plays his 300th game, the Crows give their forwards every chance to succeed with the third most inside forward 50 entries in the league. Thompson is ably assisted by a plethora of talent, with Crouch (x2), Mckay, Sloane, Adkins, Douglas and Lyons all rotating through the middle. They also possess a quality ruckman in Sam Jacobs, who has the Crows positioned well above the Pies in average hitouts. Collingwood does possess a talented midfield of it’s own, although up to last week it was getting smashed in the clearances. The Pies turned that around after quarter time against the Giants and with Taylor Adams back and firing this battle of two high quality midfields’ may decide the game.

If you had to pick out a weak area for the Crows it would be their defense. Although even with the high scoring nature of Adelaide games they have still only conceded the 8th least points. It is interesting to note though that the 7 defenses ranked better are the other 7 likely finalists. The Crows do have some talented defenders but they rely on the team as a whole to defend space when the opposition get the ball. Daniel Talia is the reliable one down back, and is likely to take Travis Cloke although he will need assistance from the likes of Lever, Cheney, Hartigan and Smith. The Crows rank high for rebounds from defensive 50 too though and this is mainly due to two players, Rory Laird and Brodie Smith. Laird is another one in career best form and would have to be in All Australian contention at the moment. The Crows backline will match up on a Collingwood forward line that up to quarter time last week were dysfunctional to say the least. Then something clicked, as the Pies kicked 16 goals in three quarters to destroy the Giants. The fitness of Alex Fasolo will go a long way to deciding just how hard a job the Crows backline has on Saturday night.

The Crows will look to maintain Adelaide Oval as a stronghold on Saturday night. They’ve only lost the one game there this season and won’t want to lose any more in the run in, especially to a side like Collingwood. This is a huge game for Adelaide, a chance to consolidate it’s spot in the top 4 and really launch it’s claims as a premiership contender. If the Magpies outfit that turned up last week comes to play though, this won’t be the walkover most Crows fans thought it would be just a few days back. The Crows aren’t likely to make many changes at selection, with ex Magpie Paul Seedsman the most likely inclusion if he’s fully recovered from injury. Adelaide will head into this game with the healthier list for sure.

TIP

It’s third versus eleventh on the ladder but this game’s importance has gone through the roof in just a few days. For one it’s a chance to stay in the top four, while for the other it’s a chance to keep their slim finals hopes alive. The Crows will be favourites at home, and rightfully so based on recent form and their great record at home. This Collingwood team though is extremely unpredictable, with no one seeing the performance they put in last week coming. If they can repeat that, and Alex Fasolo takes his spot in the side, the Pies may just be able to cause a second upset inside 7 days.

MAGPIES BY 5 POINTS

 

VFL

Collingwood’s VFL team is flying. With a massive win up at North Ballarat last week the VFL Magpies are entrenched in the top 4 after 7 wins in a row. This Sunday they travel out to Frankston to take on the Dolphins. Start time is 2pm at Frankston Oval.