2020 rounds 14-18

Round 14 commences Thursday 27 August at 4.40pm eastern
I just need to emphasise: 4.40pm EASTERN! First time the Thursday night game has started so early. Maybe it is Orthodox Easter this week in South Australia?

Hawthorn v Essendon at Adelaide Oval Aug 27 (Thu 4:40pm)
Richmond v West Coast at Gold Coast Aug 27 (Thu 7:10pm)
Western Bulldogs v Geelong at Gold Coast Aug 28 (Fri 7:50pm)
Port Adelaide v Sydney at Adelaide Oval Aug 29 (Sat 1:45pm)
Fremantle v GWS Giants at Perth Stadium Aug 29 (Sat 4:35pm)
Melbourne v St Kilda at Traeger Park Alice Springs Aug 29 (Sat 7:40pm)
Carlton v Collingwood at Gabba Aug 30 (Sun 3:35pm)
Gold Coast v North Melbourne at Gold Coast Aug 30 (Sun 6:10pm)

Hawthorn v Essendon at Adelaide Oval Aug 27 (Thu 4:40pm)
Weather: light winds
The thing to note here is that the Bombers travel 2 weeks in a row for this match. They played round 12 in QLD, next round in NT and now in SA. And there is a possibility that the Dreamtime game in Darwin may have been their grand final. Of course, they really put a high price o beating the Hawks, but there is some doubt on how they will come up for this contest.
Possible changes of note:
In: James Frawley may return
In: Cale Hooker is close to returning; Connor McKenna could return
Out: Aaron Francis (hammie)

Wednesday night update: both teams had very honourable losses last week, but I was more impressed by Hawthorn – because they had a chance to win the game.

Biggest selection shock of the year: Joe Daniher is playing after last playing early 2019 and not having a practice match to prepare. The question is: what can we expect. Is is probable that he might struggle; another possibility is that he does well this week and then fails to come up next. There was talk of him doing some rucking – Tom Bellchambers and Sam Draper are both OUTS; Andrew Phillips comes in and I see him doing the Lions’ share of the rucking – with maybe Daniher rucking a bit inside forward 50. Cale Hooker is back as well.

Jonathon Ceglar comes back in for the Hawks – along with Jack Gunston and Darren Minchington. They lose Ben Stratton, Shaun Burgoyne and Jarman Impey – all injured or managed. Frawley didn’t make it back and Jaeger O’Meara will be another week or two away.

I like the INS for the Hawks. Ceglar is the key and he may be able to give his team drive from the centre. Two other factors cause me to slightly lean to the Hawks:
A: the Bombers played round 12 in QLD, round 13 in NT and now travel to SA; the Hawks are more settled – being in the middle of a 3 game SA stint; and
B: sometimes the return of a star can be a big minus for a team for his first game back after a long time; they either relax mentally because they expect him to lift them; or they are so used to playing without him that bit is hard to adjust; I’m not sure if this applies to Daniher, however, because he has been out for sooo long, there is talk of him leaving in 2021 AND they may not expect to much from him.

Finally, the Hawks may be ever so slightly fresher – coming off 6, 6 and 5 day breaks compared to 4, 6 and 5 for Essendon;
Expected result: Essendon by 4
My tip: Hawks by 11 points

Richmond v West Coast at Gold Coast Aug 27 (Thu 7:10pm)
Weather: light winds
The Eagles have played 6 matches in a row in Perth and now travel back to QLD. After losing 3 in a row there, they knocked over the Swans and Crows in QLD before returning to win all 6 in WA. Their QLD form improved once they knew a date of return to WA. They sort of know it this time. They will be there for rounds 14-17 and round 18 is 99% locked in as well. And then finals????? So it might be ever so slightly easier than last time. But their challenges are harder this time. Last time in the hub, they played Gold Coast, Brisbane, Port, Sydney and Adelaide (ladder: 14, 2, 1, 16 & 18). This time it is Richmond, Essendon, Dogs, Saints and Roos (5, 12, 7, 6 and 17). Given that they couldn’t beat the Suns there last time (who admittedly were at their peak then), they would pencil in any game as a cert except maybe the last one against the Roos.
Possible changes of note:
In: Toby Nankervis should be close to right now
In: Jack Redden is a chance to return
Out: Oscar Allen and Jackson Nelson face tests

Wednesday night update: Nankervis is in for the Tigers, along with debutante Thomson Dow. Sydney Stack is out injured and Mabior Chol omitted. The Eagles have ruckman Bailey Williams making his debut and replacing the injured Oscar Allen; Mark Hutchings comes in for the injured Jackson Nelson. Still no sign of Jack redden

A lot depends on how the Eagles settle in to their second lot of hub life off a 4 day break. The Cats were able to do quite nicely out of Perth on a 4 day break this year, but they were happier to leave than the Eagles were, of course. The Eagles looked (perhaps) to save their energy a little bit in Q4 against the Giants last round. and we could say the same for the Tigers up in Darwin.

I will give the nod to the Tigers on the basis that they may be hapier in QLD than West Coast; ans also that their injury list is shrinking; Bachar Houli will be better for the run last week.

Expected result: Richmond by 3
My tip: Richmond by 13 points

Western Bulldogs v Geelong at Gold Coast Aug 28 (Fri 7:50pm)
Weather: breezy
Possible changes of note:
In: Matt Suckling is a chance to return – as is Zaine Cordy
In: Zach Tuohy and Harry Taylor may return; lack of news on Joel Selwood suggests he won’t return
Out: Jack Steven may be in doubt

Expected result: Cats by 9 points
My early tip: Cats by 1 point

Thursday night update: no sign of Suckling and Cordy for the Dogs, not Selwood for Geelong.

I’ll tip the Cats by 3 points in a danger game for them. I’m thinking that the Dogs may lead early in this game and then it will be a question of the Cats being able to peg them back; just a faint thought; nothing really to back it up.

Port Adelaide v Sydney at Adelaide Oval Aug 29 (Sat 1:45pm)
Weather: breezy
Oh boy! Have a look at Port’s run home! They just beat the Hawks; now they have Sydney, bye, North, Essendon and an injury ravaged Collingwood to round out the season. they should win all 4 and retain top spot!
Possible changes of note:
In: Ryan Burton, Connor Rozee and Todd Marshall are all chances to return
Out: Scott Lycett faces a fitness test
Expected result: port by 29 points
My early tip: Port by 36 points and the sole cert of the round (hope you Gauntlet tippers still have Port as an option!)

Friday night update: Ken Hinkley says Lycett is good to go (but not 100% – and, reading between the lines – probably hasn’t been a lot this year); I stick with my early tip.

Fremantle v GWS Giants at Perth Stadium Aug 29 (Sat 4:35pm)
Weather: light winds
This is the last home game for the Dockers before they head off to QLD.
Possible changes of note:
In: Sam Reid may return
Out: Callan Ward (finger) looks a certain out
Expected result: Giants by 7 points
My early tip: Giants by 3 points

Friday night update
The big news is that Matt de Boer comes back in; it would seem logical that he would tag Nat Fyfe, but he tagged Brad Hill one time; so we will see what transpires; Fyfe might regret Brad Hill’s departure form the club tomorrow.
The de Boer news makes me more confident and Giants by 9 points (without getting too carried away). The Dockers form may have been flattered last week because thew Swans were flat after their big “grand final” win the week before against GWS.

Melbourne v St Kilda at Traeger Park Alice Springs Aug 29 (Sat 7:40pm)
Weather: light winds
Possible changes of note:
In: the coach has said Max Gawn is a cert to come back for this game; Nathan Jones was a late withdrawal last week and should be available
In: Hunter Clark is likely to return
Expected result: Saints by 2 points
My early tip: Dees by 6 points

Friday night update: the Dees made 6 changes with only Tom Sparrow out injured; it’s bordering on being too many, but Nthan Jones comes back in and he was meant to play last weekend; Gawn is in as expected and Brayden Preuss goes straight out. I’ll stick with my early tip (Dees by 6 points), but I’m making this EXTREME variance now due to the number of team changes by the Dees; I also have concerns about the Saints after tonight’s game. This week the Adelaide Crows and Brisbane Lions have byes (the AFL doing it alphabetically); the Cats played the Crows last week and Adelaide dropped away in Q4; the Cats were down 39-3 at QT this week. The Saints played the Lions last week and the Lions dropped off in Q4 and just managed to hang on. I am wondering if the Saints could, like Geelong, have a very poor start.

Carlton v Collingwood at Gabba Aug 30 (Sun 3:35pm)
Weather: light winds
The Blues come off a 9 day break after a 6 day previously. It’s the reverse for the Pies – 6 now and 9 between rounds 12 to 13
Possible changes of note:
In: Matthew Kennedy may return
In: Brody Mihocek should return; Jaidyn Stephenson was supposed to be back in for the Roos game; surely a chance to come back in.
Out: Steele Sidebottom is leaving the hub after the Roos match as his wife is giving birth soon; he will miss the rest of the regular season, it appears.
Expected result: Pies by 3 points
My early tip: Pies by 13 points

Saturday night update: I’m sticking with the Pies, but just. Pies by 3 points. the Blues are celebrating their 50th anniversary of the 1970 grand final (unfortunately for the, not in Vic) and it may provide a boost, but the venue detracts from the buzz). Both team are also scrapping for a finals spot. I have no confidence in the tip, not any feel for the way the game might play out

Gold Coast v North Melbourne at Gold Coast Aug 30 (Sun 6:10pm)
Weather: light winds
Possible changes of note:
Out: Jack Mahony and Tristan Xerri face tests
Expected result: Suns by 8 points
My early tip: Roos by 4 points

Saturday night update; Mahont and Xerri are both omitted, but maybe neither is 100%; the Roos only had 28 to pick from and they are just too banged up to do much good here; Suns by 18 points, now that the injury news is out; there was talk about Jack Ziebell and Ben Brown coming back; neither made it.

In summary after the Thursday games:
This is the toughest round of the season to tip – as far as winners are concerned; there are 7/8 close call games.

I’ll tip Port as the one cert for the week (Crows not playing) and to win by 5 goals plus leading at every change. More news on Friday

Added Saturday: and I’ll add Suns by over 12 points (after seeing the health of the North list)

Round 14 Review
My win / loss record was pretty good and picked the trends here and there, but missed on a few EXTREME variance games which I did not pick as such

Bombers 87 Hawks 71
Expected result: Bombers by 3
I tipped: Hawks by 11
Oh boy! what a turnaround! The Hawks were 36 points up at HT and I had the pencil out about to tick my selection as a winner. This was my sole straight out loser for the round. And I failed to tip EXTREME variance (which it was in a BIG way!). I’m still a bit mystified as to what happened here. In retrospect, I should have considered labeling this game EXTREME due to Essendon’s travel agenda. Perhaps they were travel weary off a short-ish break early and then settled at HT. They had both Joe Daniher and Cale Hooker back after no practice games and both fired at stages of the contest. Good to see Joe back and maybe Bomber fans want him to stay now?? Alistair Clarkson mentioned that his team lacked the experience to stem the flow when the Bombers got a run on. They lost Jonathon Patton early and a reporter asked Clarko about being 2 down at HT; maybe the 2nd one was Liam Shiels who had a very quiet night. Similar to the Dogs listed below, a bit of composure under pressure may have got them over the line.

Tigers 88 Eagles 61
Expected result: Tigers by 3
I tipped: Tigers by 13
I’m quite chuffed with my tip here. This was almost a flip of the coin game but I had doubts about the Eagles 8 game winning streak continuing as they headed away from home. Sure enough, they fell at this hurdle. Coach Adam Simpson denied it had anything to do with QLD; maybe so, but it might have something to do with losing the home state advantage. Still, it was fun watching Nicnat’s tapwork, snap goal and Dusty’s banana kick goal. the injuries were “even” – Josh Kennedy concussed and out early and the Dylan Grimes off for the Tigers with a hammie. The big question out of this game is how the Eagles will handle the next few weeks and what if the AFL says they are stuck in QLD for the finals?

Cats 72 Dogs 61
Expected result: Cats by 9
I tipped: Cats by 3
This was a huge EXTREME variance game, which I did NOT tip. I mentioned that the Dogs might lead and the Cats have a go at reeling them in; but I was thinking along the lines of the Dogs being 1 – 2 goals ahead maybe at QT and HT. The 36 point lead at QT was a shock; they almost went up 42 points in Q2, but Jason Johannisen missed a simple shot. The game almost looked like an exhibition game – with the Dogs showing how they like to play and then the Cats dong the same later. Loved the work of Luke Dahlhaus against his old side (assume more than Dog fans) – a beautiful shot at goal which curved in and then a brave knock-out of the ball into space which ended in a goal.

But I question whether the Cats were the correct tip and I consider this line ball. The Dogs were 2 down at HT which Laitham Vandermeer and Easton Wood both done. The “Dogs should have won” theory suggests that they would have held their lead with a full 22 to rotate. The flip side is that they lacked composure under pressure late and could still have iced the game. A wonderful game to watch.

Power 73 Swans 47
Expected result: Power by 29
I tipped: Power by 36 and certs.
I also tipped them to win by over 5 goals and lead at every change. They gave me 1 of 2 and maybe they slackened off slightly when the game was won as they came up to the bye. Port looked like they were pacing themselves in this game – with Robbie Gray and Charlie Dixon excelling and the INS, as a whole, just battling. Brad Ebert got another head knock and didn’t play out the game.

Josh Kennedy came back to form for the Swans and Ryan Clarke – used previously as a tagger – returned to the side and played as an outside mid and acquitted himself well.

Giants 91 Dockers 53
Expected result: Giants by 9
I tipped: Giants by 3
The AFL website reported on this game with “Jezza fires”. I thought he retired decades ago! Matt de Boer returning to the side convinced me to tip them and he made life hard for ex team mate Nat Fyfe. Luke Ryan injured a hip for the Dockers.

Giant Josh Kelly was concussed, while Jeremy Cameron and Jake Riccardi each booted 4. This result shows the folly of “taking lines through teams”. These teams played the Swans in the previous 2 rounds – with the Swans thrashing the Giants and then losing soundly to the Dockers. Based on that alone – all at the same venue, the Dockers would’ve appeared to have been certs. We need as analysts to pick the false results (fake news, if you like) and the Swans / Giants game was definitely a false lead.

Dees 52 Saints 49
Expected result: Saints by 3
I tipped: Dees by 6
This one went down to the wire and we had a doubtful goal line decision with a Christian Petracca goal deemed to have just barely crossed the line for a goal and no ARC to review it; Saints fans may be upset about it, but the goal ump was in the perfect position. that aside, the game could’ve gone either way. Max Gawn did pretty well, but didn’t look completely fit, so watch for news about whether he plays next round off a 4 day break and travel (Alice to Cairns and maybe via the QLD hub); I suspect he will rest and Brayden Preuss will come off a rest to play. I consider that my tip was a flip of the coin and so was the result; so happy to tip a winner.

Pies 72 Blues 48
Expected result: Pies by 3
I tipped: Pies by 3
I was tempted to pick the Blues on the basis on the 50 year celebration and the Collingwood injury list; but the Blues have quite a few out as well and the party is hard when the faithful followers are mainly down in Melbourne and the game is (for the first time ever between these clubs) out of Victoria. The ledger now stands at 127 each and the Pies have now got revenge for the 1970 grand final loss (in which the ‘blues came from behind at HT to win & this time it was the reverse).

Patrick Cripps collided with Chris Mane who went off with concussion; then Cripps had a knee issue of his own, but played out the game under apparent duress.

Suns 91 Roos 28
Expected result: Suns by 8
I tipped: Suns by 18
My re-adjustment after seeing the teams and hearing of the Roos’ injury woes was a good thing; I did miss out on tipping EXTREME variance – which this game fell into after the Suns ran away with the game late. Given the injury woes of the Roos, I was not that surprised – maybe I should have labelled it EXTREME; but there was only 1 way the extremeness was going (if it were to occur) in my mind and that was a big Suns win. It seemed that the long stay away form home is really getting to the Roos (the Crows are lower, but they are home a lot as well); for fantasy players, Luke McDonald got heaps of points by kicking in and playing on; the skills were awful in this game – especially by North but this game snapped a long non-winning streak for one team at least. The Suns drew with Essendon recently, so they have only lost 2 in a row, but haven’t won since round 7, so they had gone 6 games without a win.

Round 15 commences Tuesday 01 September at 5.40pm eastern
Hawthorn v Adelaide at Adelaide Oval Sep 1 (Tue 5:40pm)
West Coast v Essendon at Gabba Sep 1 (Tue 8:10pm)
Richmond v Fremantle at Gold Coast Sep 2 (Wed 7:10pm)
Sydney v Melbourne at Cazaly’s Stadium Cairns Sep 3 (Thu 4:40pm)
GWS Giants v Carlton at Gold Coast Sep 3 (Thu 7:10pm)
Brisbane Lions v Collingwood at Gabba Sep 4 (Fri 7:50pm)

Hawthorn v Adelaide at Adelaide Oval Sep 1 (Tue 5:40pm)
Weather: breezy
Very early tip: Hawks by 10 points in a danger game
I had a look at the biggest leads at Ht and teams losing since 1990. The results for the losing team the following week are mixed. But they tend to perform slightly below expectations (about 10 points below); against bottom teams, it’s the same, but they tend to do well in Q1 and then underperform in Q3 and Q4; it’s a small sample size of 4; the team coming off the big lead and loss afgainst a bottom team the following week was favourite in each case and won 2; had 1 draw and lost 1; underperformed in 3 of 4.

Now over to the Crows; the good news for them is that they didn’t lose last round (they had a bye); it’s a circuit breaker for them; it worked wonders for the Lions in 2017; they won in round 1 and then lost 9 in a row and then had the bye. Following the bye, they hosted the Dockers and were expected to lose by 18 points; but they jumped out of the blocks and won by 57 points.

These two technical leads conflict – one predicts the hawks to star well and the other the Crows to start well. I see this as an EXTREME variance game and a danger game for Hawthorn. The Crows only have Hawthorn and the Giants as home games and would be desperate to win one of them. The vulnerable Hawks looks like the best chance.

The INS for both teams look promising and both teams are stronger than when they last played.

West Coast v Essendon at Gabba Sep 1 (Tue 8:10pm)
Weather: slight chance of early showers should be gone by game time
Very early tip: Eagles by 18 points
Using the same data as for the above Hawthorn game (but in reverse here – looking at teams which come back from a huge HT deficit to win), the results don’t look pretty for the Bombers. The 10 teams to have done this perform 17 points worse than expected on average the following week and often have (yet another) awful first half; a slightly poor Q3 and a good Q4. The ten teams I looked at overachieved twice, were about as expected twice and underperformed 6 times (including 4 efforts of 30 points under or worse) and didn’t do well against top teams.

This makes me bullish about the Eagles and the only doubt I have is that they may be flat after their grand final preview type game last week; But I reckon that it is more likely that they will be up for the challenge. Their INS make the team look stronger.

The Bombers bring back captain Dyson Heppell; Joe Faniher stays in the team but I don’t like his chances of starring this time on a 5 day break second up for over a year (and against better opposition).

I’ll make this an EXTREME variance game (mainly for the chance of the Bombers bombing, but also a tiny chances of the Eagles crash-landing).
Eagles by 29 points, but only pick them as certs if you are not risking a long winning streak.

Richmond v Fremantle at Gold Coast Sep 2 (Wed 7:10pm)
Weather: slight chance of a shower and a bit breezy
Very early tip: Richmond by 17 points

Update after team announcement: Jesse Hogan is back for the Dockers; this is a tricky assignment for the Tigers; they have just put away the big WA team and now the lower placed Dockers come to QLD a week later than the Eagles; the Tigers have a bye after this game and I can see them halfway to the bye in their minds already; perhaps they might establish a good lead and then coast to the line later on – with percentage not hugely important for them in all likelihood (they will be “happy with the four points”); the experts are tipping a five goal plus win for Richmond; I see it as a slight danger game; it depends on how the Dockers settle in to QLD. Finals are out of reach for Freo and they play Richmond at the Gold Coast, then Melbourne in Cairns and back for the Roos at the Gold Coast. I’ll stick with the Tigers by 17 points and I wouldn’t label them as certs.

Sydney v Melbourne at Cazaly’s Stadium Cairns Sep 3 (Thu 4:40pm)
Weather: slight chance of a showers and warm
Very early tip: Dees by 21 points
The more I look at this game, the more I am keen on the Dees; both teams have moved twice in the past 2 weeks, but Melbourne’s moves have been easier, I reckon: QLD to NT to Northern QLD; compare this to the Swans who went from WA to SA to Northern QLD. Both teams played teams going to the bye last weekend. The Dees played the Saints in a cliff-hanger, while the Swans weren’t ever likely to win against Port. Given that Port had an easier time of it last week and the game wasn’t in the balance, they were probably easing off a bit later in the game. This makes the Swans effort worse than it looked. As such, I would expect the Dees to cover them easily and lead at every change (because the intensity of opposition that the Swans will face in Q1 will be markedly different to Q4 the previous week). The Dees are higher rated and have fewer injuries.

Dees by 28 points and certs

GWS Giants v Carlton at Gold Coast Sep 3 (Thu 7:10pm)
Weather: light winds
Very early tip: Giants by 12 points
Update after team selection: Patrick Cripps and Jacob Weitering were both under injury clouds, but selected. I’m tipping both to play, but watch for late changes. In my opinion, Cripps is playing like someone who needs an op or a good spell after the season is over.

This is a must win for the Blues if they are to play finals (even though they are likely to be favourites in their following two games against Sydney and Adelaide. they will need to win 2 more games than the Giants in the run home to displace them and the Giants are only 9th. It could be the type of game where it all falls into a heap for the Blues (after losing what was a 50 / 50 type game last round against the Pies).

Josh Kelly won’t play after a heavy knock last round, but the Giants should have enough bullets to down the Blues, so long as they settle in well after their trip back from WA.

I’m tipping the Giants by 16 points

Brisbane Lions v Collingwood at Gabba Sep 4 (Fri 7:50pm)
Weather: light winds
Very early tip: Lions by 6 points

Thursday night update: The Lions come off a bye and a 12 day break; the Pies are going to the bye and are off a 5 day break. One break is a bit long and the other a bit short. The Gabba has been announced as the grand final venue and this should be a boost for the morale of the Lions. The other thing is that they were humiliated by the Pies last time they played – an Easter Thursday game in 2019. The Lions were 3-0 and then lost badly to the Bombers; they followed it up by being flogged by the Pies; this could be a somewhat hidden revenge game for Brisbane. If it is, and the Pies don’t fully realise it, then the Lions could fly our of the blocks early and lead by heaps; I am not overly confident about this, but it may happen. with games against the Suns and Swans to come after that, they will be up BIG TIME for this one. But, there is the danger of that 12 day break!

The Pies are desperate for the bye and the accompanying 10 day break, but they would also love to go into it with a win; results went their way with the Dees losing the day before and so a finals berth looks likely. There is a chance that the Pies ma\y drop off late in the contest if the game is decided one way or the other. (but note Richmond – also going to the round 16 bye – dropping off in Q3 and the finishing well!)

Lions by 15 points and I will make it an EXTREME variance game – because of the disparity in the breaks, the chance that the Lions might blow the Pies out of the water and concerns about a tired Pies team going to the last of all the byes.

Note that the Crows did well coming off the bye, but was that the bye (ie the rest) or the fact that they went a round without a loss?

Summary on Wednesday night: The Dees certs, to win by over 4 goals and lead at every change

Round 15 Review
Sorry for the late entry here, but it is hard to keep up at present

Crows 83 Hawks 48
Expected result: Hawks by 11 points
I tipped: Hawks by 10 points and EXTREME variance
The good bit of my tip here was not picking a loser, but making it an EXTREME variance game. The result was 46 points away from expected – in EXTREME variance category; the Hawks made several changes but none of their INS excelled; 3 of them (Jarman Impey, Ben Stratton and Shaun Burgoyne) went straight our again injured or managed.
Aside form tipping, it was great for Matthew Nicks, the players and fans to see the Crows have a win; a winless season looked on the cards and they were really up for this game

Eagles 60 Bombers 45
Expected result: Eagles by 12 points
I tipped: Eagles by 29 points and almost certs (certs unless you are on a long winning streak) & EXTREME variance
Well I tipped a winner but that was about it; the EXTREME variance call didn’t eventuate; this was a test of the Eagles settling in well to HUB2. They passed with a D in my opinion. The Bombers were all over them later in the game but couldn’t finish. Joe Daniher struggled in his second up effort and missed some gettable shots. The Bombers had the same number of scoring shots and won the SC scores by a narrow margin of 12. Helping out the Eagles was the injury to Bomber Andrew McGrath; almost evening it out was a hammie to Luek Shuey, but Shuey was able to contribute for longer than McGrath.

Tigers 56 Dockers 29
Expected result: Tigers by 31 points
I tipped: Tigers by 17 points
Glad to tip a winner, but that wasn’t hard; good going if you had Blake Acres in your fantasy side: 129 SC and 108 DT after not playing for many weeks. The Tigers never looked like losing and the Dockers struggled to score at all early. Reece Conca successfully tagged his old team mate Dustin Martin (probably did it in intraclub matches in the old days, too). Jesse Hogan returned for the Dockers and looked okay, but kicked 2 points. Not much else to report

Swans 67 Dees 46
Expected result: Dees by 17 points
I tipped: Dees by 28 points and certs
I came unstuck BIG time here; the Dees won Q1 (as I tipped) but that was only because they had the wind in Q1; the Swans booted 5:2 to a point in Q2 with the wind and the game was as good as done. Were the Dees flat because of the Saints game the previous round? Not sure; Nathan Jones came off injured for the Dees and some others had knocks on the day, but that was mainly after the damage was done. Sam Weideman had a shocker after being good for many weeks.

Hayden McLean came for the Swans as Callum Mills was a late withdrawal. I often think about making a case AGAINST my own tips and did this for this game. Teams that have a must win game as they try to make finals against a lowly team often lose them. It has happened many times in the past, but I didn’t take account of that this time.

Giants 49 Blues 39
Expected result: Giants by 11 points
I tipped: Giants by 15 points
I tipped the winner as most others did here; the Blues looked the good and led at each change, but got overrun as GWS kicked 4:1 to a point in Q4; not much to say here; Patrick Cripps was tagged by Matt de Boer and was fair; I reckon he’s not completely fit. The Blues also weren’t helped by their INS (SPS, Matthew Cottrell and Mitch McGovern); 48 SC was the best of those 3

Lions 42 Pies 34
Expected result: Lions by 13 points
I tipped: Lions by 16 points and EXTREME variance
I got the win but that was about it. there was no EXTREME variance and my possible big Lions win was skittled when they lost Harris Andres and Tom Fullarton by about halfway. From then on, they controlled the clock and shut the game down. Maybe the Lions did this well, but the Pies seemed to shoot themselves in the foot when trying to attack in Q4 – Bucks later agreed with me in the presser (but was unaware of my thoughts, of course). It was a painful Q4 to watch as a general spectacle – typified by Brodie Mihocek missing a sitter of a mark in the GS early in Q4. Pies had thei chances, didn’t take them and the Lions were deserved winners.

Round 16 commences Saturday 05 September at 7.40pm eastern
North Melbourne v Port Adelaide at Gold Coast Sep 5 (Sat 7:40pm)
St Kilda v Hawthorn at Gold Coast Sep 6 (Sun 1:05pm)
Geelong v Essendon at Gabba Sep 6 (Sun 3:35pm)
Western Bulldogs v West Coast at Gold Coast Sep 6 (Sun 6:10pm)
Melbourne v Fremantle at Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns Sep 7 (Mon 7:10pm)
Adelaide v GWS Giants at Adelaide Oval Sep 8 (Tue 5:40pm)
Carlton v Sydney at Gold Coast Sep 8 (Tue 8:10pm)
Brisbane Lions v Gold Coast at Gabba Sep 9 (Wed 7:10pm)

This round has 8 games with Richmond and Collingwood the final teams to have a bye. Early tips are listed below; I want to have a look at teams coming off the bye, day breaks between games and other techincals if I get the time

North Melbourne v Port Adelaide at Gold Coast Sep 5 (Sat 7:40pm)
Weather: light winds & no rain
Early tip: teams are in for this one
Port brings back Dan Houston from suspension; plus in comes Kane Farrell and Steven Motlop; all dropped: Justin Westhoff, Brad Ebert and Riley Bonner.
Jack Ziebell, Jared Polec and debutant Flynn Perez come in for the Roos.
Majak Daw, Paul Ahern and Tom Murphy are omitted.

The Roos belted Port last year, so I don’t expect Port to be too over-confident in this one; both teams are coming off the bye, but Port’s break is 7 days and it is 6 for North; so it will feel like a normal week to week break for them. Port look to have too many guns, but I like the INS for the Roos; so most people are tipping a 5 goal Port win; Port by 21 points for me; I’m tipping them as certs because I just tipped the Dees as certs – wiping out my streak; but if you are on a long streak, you may want to think carefully about whether to go Port or not.

St Kilda v Hawthorn at Gold Coast Sep 6 (Sun 1:05pm)
Weather: 3-8mm of rain and a bit breezy, but rain MAY perhaps hold off until after the match; check on the day
Early tip: Saints by 11 points and a danger game

The Hawks have made 7 changes: IN: Greaves, Morrison, Shiels, Morris, Moore, Day, Frost
OUT: Stratton (ankle), Impey (corked hip), Glass (omitted), Minchington (omitted), Hanrahan (managed), McEvoy (managed), Burgoyne (managed)

It’s a lot! the highlighted INS & OUTS are in the best 22; it’s a lot of changes and this should suit the Saints; but what about the Hawks rebounding from losing to the previously winless Crows? Teams in the position of the Hawks have a slight tendency to underperform, but nothing significant. The Peter Crimmins (highly esteemed late player at Hawthorn) book just came out and that may be a focus for the players.

The Saints lost a close one to the Dees and the Dees capitulated to the Swans the next round; could the Saints also have a downer? Maybe! Not sure. I am marking this an EXTREME variance game.

Saints by 14 points, but anything might happen

Geelong v Essendon at Gabba Sep 6 (Sun 3:35pm)
Weather: 1-4mm of rain and a bit breezy
Early tip: Cats by 12 points and a danger game
I had a look at team winning from huge QT deficits from the afltables website.
These teams – next round – tend to underperform. On average 7 points worse than expected; the Cats are expected to win by 18 points and in 3 of the 12 cases in history the teams underperformed by 39, 48 and 60 points; based on that, the Bombers are a 3 in 12 chance of winning and that sound about right to me. Teams in Geelong’s spot had a BAD Q2 the week after the huge comeback win.

Then there is the bye; the Cats haven’t won after the bye for a long time; so is this a normal bye? It’s 9 days for Geelong; they won off a 9 day break beating the Crows in Adelaide (not impressively, it might be added, and underperformed by about 10 points).

The Bombers – will Joe Daniher come up okay? Will he play? The Bombers day breaks are 5, 5 and 5; the Cats 9, 5 and 9. One looks too short; one too long.

This game is a bit murky to me – I’m not getting clear enough technical patterns to predict with much certainty.

But let me say this: Cats not certs; dons a sneaky chance; Cats by 11 points and stay away from this game if you’re alive in the Gauntlet

Western Bulldogs v West Coast at Gold Coast Sep 6 (Sun 6:10pm)
Weather: 3-8mm of rain and a bit breezy
Early tip: Eagles by 2 points

Following on from the above work, the Dogs lost after having a huge QT lead last week; teams like the Dogs tend to slightly outperform expectations the following week – by 7 points on average (reverse to the winners); they tend to have a good Q1 and Q4 with a poor Q2. The poor Q2 makes sense in a way, because they want to ensure a good start – so the focus is again on Q1; then they want to have a good Q4 (where they lost it the previous week); so they can often drop away in the middle and Q2 just happened to be it.

From a fundamental viewpoint, I am sure that Tim English is injured in some way; that could spell disaster if Josh Dunkley is up against Nicnat (maybe someone else gives Dunkley a chop-out?). It’s tough to see the Dogs winning if they get slaughtered in clearances. Helping them out somewhat is the absence of injured Eagle Luke Shuey.

I’m tipping the Eagles narrowly right now, but will re-visit late Saturday after the Port game is over.

Late breaking news (5.27pm Sunday): Nicnat is out; I tipping the Dogs by 3 points now; the ruck was my 1 huge concern for the Dogs.

Melbourne v Fremantle at Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns Sep 7 (Mon 7:10pm)
Weather: 0-3mm rain, winds abating late and a warm evening; possibly humid
Early tip: Dees by 14 points

Monday day time update: the team changes are chalk and cheese; the Dockers are unchanged, while the Dees have made 7 changes. Freo cannot make the finals, but would like to win at least 1 game over east this time in. This is a good chance – and maybe the following week against the Roos looks even more promising. With the Roos game coming up, I don’t see the Dockers treating this as an “all or nothing” game. As an example, the Crows had an “all or nothing” game when they played the Hawks. They picked it as their one and only chance to win a game for 2020. The Dockers – in their planning – may be more focused on round 17 than this game. Nonetheless, they are a chance here. So I’ll pick the Dees but not as certs.

The 7 changes concerns me a bit. Three are forced and one is Nathan Jones going out; not too worried there as he is near the end and they have others of his type in the team. I am keen on the Dees IFF the 7 changes doesn’t unsettle them too much. Just looking at teams who are battling to make finals late in the season and dropped the REAL EASY game (as the Dees did last week): they tend to do well the week AFTER the shock loss. The one exception I found in the history walk was Melbourne! They had a shock loss in 2016 in round 22 and then went to the Cattery for the final round and lost by 111 points if you don’t mins umpire! I think it prudent to ignore this because I can see how a trip to Geelong after losing the easy one would be some sort of nightmare. Anyway, it we eliminate follow-up games against top teams, teams in Melbourne’s spot do quite well – over-achieving by 16 points and generally doing well in Q2, 3 and 4 after a poor Q1.

As such, I will tip the Dees by 22 points, but won’t make them certs because of the concern for the many changes. Don’t be concerned if they trail narrowly at QT!

Adelaide v GWS Giants at Adelaide Oval Sep 8 (Tue 5:40pm)
Weather: fine and a bit breezy
Early tip: Giants by 18 points
Note that this is a twilight game!!
The Crows broke their duck last week and it almost felt like a flag win to fans and players. They get maybe just this one last game at home now, but their opposition will be a lot tougher than the Hawks were last week. Teams which break a long run of loses in a season generally struggle next up – especially if they have a good (ie not narrow) win. The Giants haven’t exactly inspired me this year, but I can see them getting the job dome this time and probably over-achieving a bit. it’s a bit disconcerting to GWS fans to see Mummy and Sauce kept getting swapped in and out; it’s happened again as Sauce comes in. They also have a couple of other injuries, but I cannot see the Crows achieving back to back wins.
Giants by 32 points

Carlton v Sydney at Gold Coast Sep 8 (Tue 8:10pm)
Weather: light winds & no rain
Early tip:
Blues by 11 points
I sort of feel that the Swans / Dees game was a false lead and that the Swans won’t be able to replicate that form this round; last time they pulled off a big upset win was against the Giants in WA and then they struggled the following week versus the Dockers. I am expecting a similar outcome in this instance. Blues aren’t world-beaters but seem very honest (like their coach) and should get the job done; Blues by 21 points; thrill-seekers may want to tip them as certs, but leave me out.

Brisbane Lions v Gold Coast at Gabba Sep 9 (Wed 7:10pm)
Weather: light winds & no rain
Early tip: Lions by 23 points
I’ve been watching teams coming out of a bye and how they go; the Lions and Crows had the round 14 bye; the Crows are undefeated since; the Lions had a struggling win (but maybe a brave one – due to injuries) after the bye and now they are second up (as the Crows were on their Tuesday round 16 game) and with a 5 day break

The Suns are coming off the bye with a 10 day break; this is their grand final. It would be a huge boost to the club to knock over big brother Brisbane. The Suns won’t make the 8 and cannot knock the Lions out, but it is still huge for them.

Looking at other teams coming off the round 15 bye: Cats came off the bye and walloped the Bombers, but I am ignoring this game due to the fact that the Bomber players were stuck on a bus for 2 extra hours leading up to the game. Port and North both came off the bye and played each other. The Saints came off the bye and performed about as expected against Hawthorn. The Dogs, like St Kilda, came off the bye and did as expected.

I expect the Lions to win, but they do lose Harris Andrews and rest Grant Birchall. Similar to the Carlton game, only tip them as certs if you are a thrill-seeker or if you just got your streak wiped out.

Lions by 18 points.

Round 16 review

Port 78 Roos 42
Expected result: Port by 32 points
I tipped: Port by 21 points and certs ONLY if you’re not blowing a long run of certs

Saints 80 Hawks 66
Expected result: Saints by points
I tipped: Saints by 14 points and EXTREME variance

Cats 108 Bombers 42
Expected result: Cats by 18 points
I tipped: Cats by 11 points
I would normally be annoyed in a result like this for NOT tipping EXTREME variance. In this instance, the biggest influence on the game was the Bombers getting stuck in traffic on the way to the ground (starting from Maroochydore; their 90 minute bus trip took 3 1/2 hours (maybe a Victorian driver?) and they arrived less than an hour before the first bounce. The problem was not so much the time of arrival prior to the game, but being stuck on a bus for all that time. Had I known this before the bonce, I would’ve changed it to Cats huge certs and to win easily. sadly, nobody from the bus texted me!

Dogs 49 Eagles 47
Expected result: Dogs by 4 by points (came into favouritism late after the withdrawal of Nicnat)
I tipped: Dogs by 3 points (I changed my tip late; sorry for anyone who could not follow suit)
There was a controversial goal line call late in this game which gave the Dogs a goal; while Eagles fans may cry foul, their team also received a dubious free to Jack Darling late in the contest (Darling missed the shot); when it’s a close as this game you could find dozens of umpiring calls, bounces of balls of things players did which may have changed the result. It rarely changes the result.

Dockers 47 Dees 33
Expected result: Dees by 7 points
I tipped: Dees by 22 points
Just following up on my review of teams bundled out of the finals race and then how they go next week; I ignored the 2016 case of Melbourne (maybe to my peril) when they were deplorable against Geelong in the final round. Was I right to ignore this? I have mixed feelings; the 2016 case was the final round and the scores would clearly indicate that the Dees were down and out on the day. This effort was a competitive one and I probably came away from the game feeling more positive about the Dockers than negative about the Dees (many may disagree). Then there was the 7 changes for the Dees; probably too many and may have reflected frustration by the selectors more so than good planning for a win over Freo.

Of course, I was disappointed to tip a loser because it ruined my tipping clean record for the round; pleased I didn’t tip the Dees as certs; surprised that the Dees played both Max Gawn and Brayden Preuss in the conditions! the selections mystified a few Dee fans on the talkback after as well, I must say.

Crows 59 Giants 47
Expected result: Giants by 19 points
I tipped: Giants by 32 points
Oops; I was way off here; the Crows have found some pep in their step since their bye; good for them after a horror season before that; the one thing I will say that I might have underestimated is that the Giants went from WA to QLD and then to SA in successive weeks; looks like they haven’t coped with the moves and the season generally; the Crows have been better since Daniel Talia and Brad Crouch came back in

Blues 57 Swans 52
Expected result: Blues by 9 points
I tipped: Blues by 21 points
This was an EXTREME variance scoring trend – as the Blues came from 39 points down to win. Carlton has had some big momentum swings in their games in 2020 – down 32 to 0 against the Dees in round 2 and losing by a point; up 35 points at the Cattery in round 3 and hanging on by 2 points; leading the Hawks 5 goals to nil in the west and then going down by 31 points; this was another; maybe I should call ALL their games EXTREME variance chances. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the effort of the the Swans; I’d assumed that their win against the Dees was a one hit wonder; positives for the Blues is that they came from behind to win despite losing Jack Martin in the game and debutante Matthew Owies struggling

Lions 88 Suns 43
Expected result: Lions by 22 points
I tipped: Lions by 18 points
I was a little surprised at how much the Lions controlled this game; they put the foot to the floor from the start and still won easily despite losing Jarrod Berry and Brandon Starcevich in the first half.

I thought that the Suns’ big win over the Roos may have given them a boost, but it was probably a false lead

Round 17 commences Thursday 10 September at 7.10pm eastern
St Kilda v West Coast at Gabba Sep 10 (Thu 7:10pm)      
Geelong v Richmond at Gold Coast Sep 11 (Fri 7:50pm) 
North Melbourne v Fremantle at Gold Coast Sep 12 (Sat 2:10pm)
Port Adelaide v Essendon at Adelaide Oval Sep 12 (Sat 4:35pm)
GWS Giants v Melbourne at Gabba Sep 12 (Sat 7:40pm)              
Carlton v Adelaide at Gold Coast Sep 13 (Sun 1:05pm)   
Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval Sep 13 (Sun 3:35pm)     
Sydney v Brisbane Lions at Cazaly’s Stadium Cairns Sep 13 (Sun 6:10pm)             
Collingwood v Gold Coast at Gabba Sep 14 (Mon 7:10pm)

St Kilda v West Coast at Gabba Sep 10 (Thu 7:10pm)    
Forecast: chance of showers and a bit breezy  
Apologies for late entry here. It’s worth checking the WCE outs:
Brendon Ah Chee (Injured), Dom Sheed (Injured), Jack Redden (Injured), Lewis Jetta (Injured), Mark Hutchings (Injured), Tom Hickey (Omitted & replaced by Nicnat).

Apart form the Nicnat for Hickey & Shannon Hurn returning, all the rest are a step down; it’s a bit too much for my liking; one for fantasy players to watch is the “cheap” Hamish Brayshaw debuting for the Eagles.

Still not back are Jamie Cripps, Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey.

The Saints get Max King and Tim Membrey back and their outs are all omissions. It’s all set up for a Saints victory PROVIDING they can handle the weight & pressure of favouritism. I think they can, but a doubt remains. I suspect that the Eagles might be desperate for a fast start; it’s hard to see them coming from 4 goals down to overrun the Saints; they probably need to do it from the front, apply pressure and hope the superior (in terms of players available) Saints crack under the pressure.

It’s also worth noting that the Saints had a recent bye and their breaks are 7, 6 and 8 days compared to 4, 5 and 5 for the Eagles
Saints by 19 points

Geelong v Richmond at  Gold Coast Sep 11 (Fri 7:50pm) 
Early tip: Cats by 4 points
Thursday night update:
Team news is that none of Joel Selwood, Jack Steven and Rhys Stanley made it back for the Cats (all were given some chance); Zac Tuohy returns, however.

The Tigers welcome back Dylan Grimes and Kane Lambert; it almost makes this a 50/50 game – but the Tigers are also a few short of their best 22. The Cats looked like world-beaters last week at half time; but I am dismissing this game from an Essendon viewpoint and ignoring it from a Cats point of view – due to the Essendon “stuck on a bus” saga.

But Geelong’s previous form entitles them to slight favouritism – they have won 6 straight since a narrow loss to the Eagles; Richmond is close behind with 4 wins in a row.

It’s not a game I want to sway you on if you have an opinion; Cats by 2 points

North Melbourne v Fremantle at Gold Coast Sep 12 (Sat 2:10pm)     
Early tip: Dockers by 12 by points      
Possible significant team changes:
In: Taylor Garner and Aiden Bonar have both been announced as INS before the deadline
Out: Jy Simpkin is in doubt
Out: Taylin Duman is in doubt

Jy Simpkin has passed a concussion protocol test and looks set to play (not an IN because he played last week)

The Roos have been a bit more settled in terms of injuries lately (ie no fresh ones) and have some chance of an upset. They finish with the 2 WA teams and this is their better chance for a win. I still expect the Dockers to get the job done, however; I’ll stick with Dockers by 12 points

Port Adelaide v Essendon at Adelaide Oval Sep 12 (Sat 4:35pm)
Forecast: possible showers and a bit breezy
Early tip: Port by 16 points
Possible significant team changes:
In: Peter Ladhams is available after suspension
Out: Ryan Burton is out injured and Zak Butters suspended
In: Joe Daniher was rested last round and may return
Out: Irving Mosquito is set to miss with a knee injury; Conor McKenna has retired and heads back to Ireland, but didn’t play last match

The Bombers looked terrible last round against Geelong who just got cleaned up by the Tigers. But the bus fiasco played a big part in it. Expect them to be much better this week and have a small chance of pulling off an upset. Port by 12 points and NOT certs.

GWS Giants v Melbourne at Gabba Sep 12 (Sat 7:40pm)    
Forecast: moderate winds easing    
Early tip: Giants by 12 points     
Possible significant team changes:
In: Josh Kelly is a chance to come back
Out: Stephen Coniglio is an omission

I’m now tipping the Dees; they have 3 changes and the Giants 8 – including Stephen Coniglio dropped (word is they were gong to say “managed” – he is probably sore at this time of year, but he wanted “omitted” to be put there). Captain Phil Davis has gone home and it looks like the team has also gone home. I don’t like the continual swapping of Mummy and Sauce in the ruck. I reckon it’s unsettling.

Dees by 15 ponts, but I don’t trust either team too much and so I will make it an EXTREME variance game

Carlton v Adelaide at Gold Coast Sep 13 (Sun 1:05pm)   
Forecast: small chance of a shower and light winds
Early tip: Blues by 11 points
Possible significant team changes:
Out: Jack Martin and Sam Docherty are in some doubt
Matthew Kreuzer has retired, but hasn’t played for many weeks.

Out: David Mackay is out suspended

Crow Bryce Gibbs has announced his retirement, but will play a last game against his old team; the Crows had back to back wins at home but now travel to the Gold Coast; adding to their troubles is the loss of David Mackay, Taylor Walker and Daniel Talia (suspended, injured and managed); their INS are not as good!

a curio is that Beets is in for the Blues and Butts in for the Crows!

Maybe the Blues were a bit lucky to beat the Swans last week as we now see four players out injured or managed for the Swans. That win keeps their snowball’s chance of finals alive; but, realistically, they are just gong for momentum into 2021.

I can see the possibility of the Crows collapsing away from their home ground and with a weakened team this week; but I rather suspect it wil amount to an honest loss rather than a thrashing; Blues by 16 points

Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval Sep 13 (Sun 3:35pm)   
Forecast: moderate winds becoming light  
Early tip: Dogs by 18 points
Possible significant team changes:
In: Jaeger O’Meara is a chance to return, as is both Jarman Impey and Jonathon Patton
Out: James Worpel is gone for the season
In: Easton Wood is trying to recover from a hammie in time to play

O’Meara is back for the Hawks as well as Big Boy McEvoy and Shaun Burgoyne; ironically, the Dogs bring back in 2 ex Hawk players in Matt Suckling and Taylor Duryea.

All form lines point to a Bulldogs win; but my concern is that they have just had a great win over the Eagles in a cliff-hanger and might be flat; the other query is: do the Hawks have a kick left in 2020? Or are they just waiting for the end? Their round 18 game vs the Suns in Adelaide is far more winnable; so I expect that if they are going to go for 1 last big effort for a win, the round 18 game. The Hawks were UP for the game against the Saints after copping it in the media (when beaten by the Crows the week earlier) and it just seems to fit that they might not come up as well this week.

With the Hawks more injured than the Dogs, I am going for the Dogs to win.

Dogs by 22 points

Sydney v Brisbane Lions at Cazaly’s Stadium Cairns Sep 13 (Sun 6:10pm)       
Forecast: Showers and breezy      
Early tip: Lions by 21 points
Possible significant team changes:
Out: Brandon Starcevich and Jarrod Berry may both miss

The Lions lose Starcevich, Berry (Jarrod) and Lincoln McCarthy to injury this week. That may worry fans wanting to tip them, but WAIT! The Swans lose 2 ruckmen (Callum Sinclair and Hayden McLean) plus also James Rowbottom (managed) and Jordan Dawson injured. This is significant because they already have a long injury list; ruckman Joel Amartey makes his debut and Callum Mills comes back (Mills a positive; Amartey has impressed his coach in the scrimmage matches ad not such a bad match-up for his debut – better than coming up against Max Gawn or Brodie Grundy, but still I don’t expect too much from him).

I can see the Lions really winning well and the Swans being flat after throwing away a big lead last round; Lions by 25 points and CERTS

Collingwood v Gold Coast at Gabba Sep 14 (Mon 7:10pm)
Forecast: Fine and light winds
Early tip: Pies by 9 points
Possible significant team changes:
In: Adam Treloar and Jordan de Goey are considered chances to return
Out: Tom Phillips is out injured

Treloar and de Goey have both been named to play; I’m keen on the pies because they have had the bye; the Tigers had a bye the same time and dispensed with the Cats with ease (and the Suns had the bye the same time as Geelong). The Suns, if anything, would’ve been UP for the Lions game last week (but didn’t show a lot)… and maybe UP for round 18 versus Hawthorn in Adelaide. This is their last game in QLD for the year, but it is at the Gabba.

Pies by 23 points and I’ll call them certs – just!

Round 17 review

Eagles 65 Saints 50
Expected result: Saints by 5 points
I tipped: Saints by 19 points
This was a great win by the Eagles – with injuries mounting and including a Jeremy McGovern hammie in Q2, but I left the game feeling like it was more about the Saints who couldn’t grab their opportunity. Maybe the pressure of success is getting to them a bit. Saints coach Brett Ratten thought they lost it in Q2 with contested ball – and that Nicnat + Tim Kelly were great.

The Eagles coach Adam Simpson noted that the team was their youngest team on the park for some time and that Brayden Ainsworth did a good job on Zak Jones.

Tigers 57 Cats 31
Expected result: Cats by 4 points
I tipped: Cats by 2 points
The Tigers won this as if they are heading to the premiership (but they have technical charts against them on this front – will cover in the next week or so, along with technicals on other flag hopefuls). I am wondering if the Cats are really struggling in terms of a flag tilt or if this was just a one-off. They lost Gary Rohan before the game – replaced by first gamer Ben Jarvis – who struggled. The Cats played the Bombers last week – who got stuck on a bus for hours before the game and struggled mightily early. Maybe this lulled the Cats into a false sense of security. I’m putting the Cats’ effort down to an odd bad game. Had they been like the Lions last year (coming from nowhere to make top 4) then I would have been more negative on them.

The Tigers lost Ivan Soldo in the first half and Tom Lynch in Q3, but still won easily. It clinches a top 4 spot for them PROVIDED they beat the Crows in round 18 (and Tiger coach Dimma was quite concerned about the Crows recent good form in the post match presser!).

I’m not happy I picked a loser, but overall not too upset – as I called it an almost 50/50 game and could’ve easily tipped the Tigers.

Dockers 99 Roos 35
Expected result: Dockers by 9 points
I tipped: Dockers by 12 points
Like Essendon below, I expected much more of a fight out of the Roos. Looks like they cannot wait for the season to end. Meanwhile, the Dockers are finishing the year off very nicely. The commentators were talking about the lack of effort by North players. That is very poor – even in these unusual times and with lots of injuries. Rhyce Shaw is by far the most inexperienced coach and Brad Scott (before him) told the board that a rebuild was necessary. The club disagreed but now have one forced on them courtesy of ladder position.

Despite how poor the Roos were, it was a positive game for Freo. Jesse Hogan only got 6 kicks for the Dockers but booted 4 goals. Things looking promising for Freo in 2021! Coach Justin Longmuir heaped praise on Michael Walters and Blake Acres. Acres’ numbers have been terrific in the late season, while Walters has been extremely dangerous.

Port 79 Bombers 29
Expected result: Port by 29 points
I tipped: Port by 12 points
My reluctance to tip Port by more stemmed from the fact that the Bombers were totally embarrassed last week and would surely lift. Sadly for Bomber fans, their lifting lasted a quarter and then they got blown away. Maybe the John Worsfold handover to Ben Rutten is ending in a whimper (we’ll see next week when they have a winnable game). Meanwhile, Port goes from strength to strength. While I underestimated them this round, I feel like they aren’t getting enough credit this year; that will change if they take out the flag.

Dees 79 Giants 74
Expected result: Giants by 5 points
I tipped: Dees by 15 points
Happy to change the tip to the Dees after team announcements and always good to tip an outsider (even if only a slight outsider). The EXTREME variance call was incorrect in this instance. While the game could’ve gone either way, the Dees seemed just that little bit sharper on the night. The game sums up very well where these teams are – thereabouts and struggling to make finals. The Dees have some hope and the Giants need a whole lot to go right for them to make it now. What a return by Tom Green for GWS (119 SC) and debutante Jack Buckley scored 90. Despite this, the Dees were a little too good with Christian Petracca a stand-out.

Crows 72 Blues 56
Expected result: Blues by 14 points
I tipped: Blues by 16 points

There was news about Sam Docherty being in doubt (see my preview above) and he didn’t even last until QT. Zac Fisher had a shoulder problem as well in Q1 and while this was happening, the Crows jumped out to a 31 point QT lead. So by then the game was EXTREME variance; last round I mentioned that I should make the Blues EXTREME variance every week. They did it again, but I didn’t tip it. The Blues keep going from awful to very good within most games.

Hey, the Crows are September specialists! Fans hope it continues next year (when September wins will be in the finals, we assume). Bryce Gibbs played his last game for the Crows against his old team, got 106 SC points and then got carried off by former team mates Marc Murphy and Kade Simpson. Must be because he missed a sitter late in the contest!

Dogs 76 Hawks 40
Expected result: Dogs by 19 points
I tipped: Dogs by 22 points

This game was over very early; then the Dogs looked like they were coasting to the line. With the Dogs cruising and the Hawks putting up a good fight in 2H but never looking like it, it was a tough game to get through as a viewer. Toby McLean had an eventful day – kicking the first goal of the match and then suffering what appears to be a serious knee injury in Q1. Maybe being one down very early caused the Dogs to be just so-so after HT; and the Dogs don’t need percentage; they just need a win in round 18 and they are in the finals.

The Hawks had 2 late changes: Paul Puopolo and Daniel Howe coming in for Tom Scully and James Frawley.

Lions 73 Swans 41
Expected result: Lions by 16 points
I tipped: Lions by 25 points and certs

This was a hard slog for 3Q with the scores 34 to 21 at 3QT (total 55) and then the Q4 gave us 59 points as goals became easier to kick. Part of the reason was the Swans rolling the dice to try to win.
Just looking at the Q by Q scores, one would have expected that they got close, but they were within 2 points early in Q4. They lost Lewis Taylor before HT and had minor issues to deal with as well.

The Lions finished the game well – not surprising for a top team with much more experience than Sydney. Lachie Neale was well held by Ryan Clarke, but other Lions mids stepped up; inclusions Campbell Ellis-Yolmen and Mitch Hinge both scored over 100 SC points; I feel sorry for the fantasy players who got eliminated off the back of Neale being tagged.

In the end, I was glad to have been more bullish than most on the Lions and to tip them as certs.

Magpies 68 Suns 46
Expected result: Pies by 18 points
I tipped: Pies by 23 points and certs
I’m happy that the pies pulled away in the last quarter and a bit to get within 1 point of my tip and I reckon my tip as certs was okay. Jordan de Goey made a big impression in his first game back with 4:2 – as did Adam Treloar with 26 kicks and 106 SC. De Goey seemed to get into space a few times – said by Suns coach Stuart Dew to be caused further up the field.

Dew’s commented about how disappointed they were with the previous week against the Lions and that they were up for the fight against the Pies – and were in it as late as early in Q4 (under a goal down).

Sean Lemmens for the Suns finished with -3 SC and a bad corkie which had him retired form the game early.

Round 18 begins Thursday, September 17 at 7.10pm
North Melbourne v West Coast at Gold Coast, 7.10pm AEST

Friday, September 18
St Kilda v Greater Western Sydney at the Gabba, 7.50pm
Saturday, September 19
Essendon v Melbourne at Gold Coast, 2.10pm
Adelaide v Richmond at Adelaide Oval, 5.10pm
Brisbane v Carlton at the Gabba, 7.40pm
Sunday, September 20
Hawthorn v Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval, 1.05pm
Sydney v Geelong at Gold Coast, 3.35pm
Fremantle v Western Bulldogs, Cazalys Stadium Cairns, 6.10pm
Monday, September 21
Collingwood v Port Adelaide at the Gabba, 7.15pm AEST

Before we analyse round 18, it’s important to know what and when. Here is both, and a bit of how:

Port: win and retain top spot; lose and Lions win, drop to 2nd

Lions: win and Port lose – top; otherwise second

Richmond – if they win, 3rd; if they lose, Geelong and the Eagles will both overtake them if they win

Geelong – win and Tigers lose, 3rd; win and Tigers win, 4th; lose and Eagles win, 5th

Eagles – if they win they will overtake either of both Tigers and Cats, provided that those teams lose

Pies – win and 6th; if they lose, will drop behind that Saints and Dogs if those teams win

Saints – win and Pies lose, 6th;  Saints win and Pies win, 7th; if St Kilda loses and the Dogs win, Dogs move ahead of the Saints. If St Kilda loses and the Dees win and the combined total of the Saints’ loss and Melbourne’s win >= 48 approx (varies depending on team totals on the day and not just margins), Dees move ahead of Saints. If St Kilda loses and the Giants win and the combined total of the Saints’ loss and the GWS win >= 101 approx – IE Giants win by 52 points of more as the Giants play the Saints this round (varies depending on team totals on the day and not just margins), Giants move ahead of Saints.

So if the Dogs win and either the Dees or Giants move ahead of the Saints, the Saints will drop out of the eight.

Melbourne need to win to play finals AND for at least one of the Saints or Dogs to lose.  Dees will move ahead of the Saints on the ladder as described above.  If the Dees win and the Dogs lose, the Dees will move ahead of the Dogs as their percentage is already higher.

The Giants have the most difficult assignment of all.  Their simplest path to the finals is to beat the Saints by 52 or more points and have the Dogs or Dees lose; then they’ll be in. If they beat the Saints by 51 points or less, then they’ll be lower on the ladder than the Saints.  In that case, they’ll need BOTH the Dees and Dogs to lose and for them to make up the percentage gap on the Dogs.  This is the easy part.  They will overtake the Dogs if their winning margin plus the Dogs’ losing margin is >= 33.

Then there is the order of games. The order is (for the teams listed above):
Thursday: Roos versus Eagles (Eagles hot favourites)
Friday: Saints versus Giants (Saints narrow favourites)
Saturday: Dons versus Dees (Dees warm favourites)
Crows versus Tigers (Tigers hot favourites)
Lions versus Blues (Lions hot favourites)
Swans versus Cats (Cats hot favourites)
Dockers versus Dogs (Dogs warm favourites
Pies versus Port (Port narrow favourites)
The order of games throws up some interesting twists for the clubs.  If the Eagles win, they will have to sit back and barrack for either the Tigers or Cats to lose so they can finish in the top 4.

If the Giants win, they will have to watch and wait to see if the other results fall their way and they make the 8; they are despised outsiders in the race for the last 2 spots in the 8 at present.

If the Saints win, the Dees will have to win and barrack for the Dockers to upset the Dogs.

Thursday, September 17
North Melbourne v West Coast at Gold Coast, 7.10pm AEST
Forecast: fine and light winds
Early tip: West Coast by 24 points
Apart from Jeremy McGovern going out injured, no team changes to report of note here. Of more interest was the Adam Simpson presser after last round. There was a mathematical chance that the Eagles could fall out of the 8 had they lost (with other games later in the round going certain ways – which they didn’t anyway). He had a “phew, we’ve made it” type moment which tended to suggest to me that they can relax in round 18. If they lose, they will still be 5th and get to host an elimination final. If they win, they will probably still be 5th but will move up if either Richmond or Geelong lose later in the round. Then they would play Port in Adelaide (most likely) or maybe Brisbane at the Gabba (but in a qualifying final – not an elimination final). Fifth almost appeals by comparison.

Given the “phew” and the scenario, I would be tempted to tip the Roos…but, have they checked out for the year already or are they too beaten up to respond? Answer: maybe and maybe! Remember that they pushed the Lions to 7 points in round 12 at Gold Coast.

If you’re alive in the Gauntlet, hopefully the Eagles aren’t your last team. I just have a slight concern and won’t tip them as certs. Logic says they will win and win well. Maybe a scratchy start for them.

I’ll stick with the Eagles by 24 points and not certs; most are tipping them by a bit more!

Friday, September 18
St Kilda v Greater Western Sydney at the Gabba, 7.50pm
Weather: chance of a shower and light winds
Early tip: Saints by 11 points
Possible significant team changes:
In: Daniel Hannebery is a big chance to return
Out: Zak Jones has been ruled out with a hammie
In: Stephen Coniglio, Callan Ward and Jake Riccardi may return

The actual team changes of note are that Daniel Hannebery and Jake Carlisle are back for the Saints, while Stephen Coniglio and Jake Riccardi return for the Giants. This is a hard one to pick; I am trying to work out if the Saints are out of petrol tickets or if they have a kick left; a similar question hangs over the Giants. Undoubtedly, GWS has been the more disappointing team this year; I picked them for the flag before round 1 (I often question why I bother at that time of the year doing such predictions). I had the Saints 11th – which was about the same or higher than other tipsters. My comment on them was: to make the 8, I reckon that they would need to get better mileage out of Dan Hannebery and Jake Carlisle this year. And they both come back at the right time.

I’m sort of expecting the GWS season to end with a whimper. One thing I will rule out is them winning by 9 goals or over the Saints and going ahead of them on the ladder. That’s the sort of thing you can do when you are playing a team 18 that is full of injuries and has already checked out. If the Giants win, I expect it to be narrowly.

There is a chance the Saints could win big – if the Giants get behind and “pack their bags early”.

I’ll stick with the Saints by 11 points, but not keen on the game (Dees will be cheering for the Giants in this game). I am marking this game as an EXTREME variance game because I a unsure about the GWS psyche (in a grand final last year, so how hard are they going to try for an unlikely elimination final berth) and the Saints being able to stand the strain of holding their spot in the 8.

Saturday, September 19
Essendon v Melbourne at Gold Coast, 2.10pm
Forecast: fine and slightly breezy
Early tip: Dees by 21 points
Bomber Tom Bellchambers (didn’t play last week) has retired

Melbourne will be watching the Friday night game because if the Giants win then the Dees can make the top 8 with a win. Their winning margin plus the Giants’ winning margin needs to exceed 48 points – quite likely if the Bombers are already thinking about the end.

If will be John Worsfold’s last game as coach – with Ben Rutten to take over next year. Some think it was a very messy transition (unlike the Swans when John Longmire took over from Paul Roos), but maybe that opinion is due to their poor recent form (or did the messy changeover CAUSE the poor recent form? Or injuries? Or was their frequent travel to blame?). In any case, I can see the likelihood of the Bombers bowing out with an under par effort here.

Both teams had a “bye” in round 2 and have been going flat out ever since. It’s a concern; It makes this another EXTREME variance game.

Friday night update: with the Saints winning, Melbourne now has to win and barrack for the Dockers in order to make the finals. The poor performance by the Giants may have taken the wind out of Melbourne’s sails – perhaps. From this standpoint, Q1 will be vital; I can see the Bombers enjoying life if they can get the jump on the Dees. However, if the Dees can begin well, I can envisage Essendon doing something similar to GWS – thinking about home (or a holiday in QLD) and tuning out from the footy.

At this stage, I am leaning more towards a big Melbourne win, but still not totally convinced. Dees by 24 points and still EXTREME variance.

Adelaide v Richmond at Adelaide Oval, 5.10pm
Forecast: possible showers and a bit breezy
Early tip: Tigers by 12 points
Possible significant team changes:
In: Daniel Talia and Taylor Walker may return – the latter for possibly his finale
In: Shane Edwards looks certain to come back in and David Astbury is a test; Josh Caddy looks ready to return
Outs: Tom Lynch and Ivan Soldo are out injured

The Tigers also lose Shai Bolton to injury, the Crows get back David Mackay from suspension (apologies for not mentioning this in the early preview) and look pretty good. I am still leaning towards Richmond, but not totally convinced. PS: The Crows can win and avoid the spoon, but they would need to win by about 50 points. They would be rapt with a 1 point win against the Tigers.

Tigers by 12 points

Brisbane v Carlton at the Gabba, 7.40pm
Forecast: fine and light winds
Early tip: Lions by 26 points
Possible significant team changes:
Ins: Jack Martin looks a good chance to return
Outs: Sam Docherty and Zac Fisher have been rules out already

The selection news of note is that Will Setterfield is also out injured for the Blues; and that Stefan Martin comes back for Brisbane (a la Daniel Hannebery this week – after not being seen for many weeks).

These changes are all pluses for the Lions – who would love top spot (even if only for 2 days). The Blues = EXTREME variance, so that’s what I’m tipping. I have no clue what to expect, but the Swans team of 1980 springs to mind. They narrowly missed finals when losing in the penultimate round, then weren’t given much hope in the final round against eventual premier Richmond. But they led from go to whoa to win by 54 points (admittedly at their home ground). Watch and see a wild ride, Blues fans.

I’ll stick with Lions by 26 points and EXTREME variance

Sunday, September 20
Hawthorn v Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval, 1.05pm
Forecast: possible shower and breezy
Early tip: gold Coast by 2 points
Possible significant team changes:
Ins: Tom Scully and James Frawley were late withdrawals last week and might come back
Ins: Jarrod Harbrow may come back in
Outs: Sean Lemmens might be in doubt

Team news: no Harbrow for the Suns; Lemmens is out injured along with Nick Holman. For the Hawks, no Scully but Frawley returns as well as Ben Stratton for his final game.

The toughest thing here is to work out the motivation levels for each team. I don’t like the game on this basis; I can make a case for the Suns to be more UP for the game than the Hawks but not sure that will be the case.

This is the ONE game not to have a bearing on the finals; fantasy players will watch with interest, however.

I’ll stick with my early tip of Suns by 2 points.

Late morning Sunday comment: I’ve been looking at last round games where teams have no hope of finals. The results suggest that such games may have an EXTREME variance label. The results are 50/50
Recent examples:
Swans were warm favourites over the Saints and won by 35 points at Sydney (non EXTREME variance)
Roos beat the Dees by 5 points in Tassie (non EXTREME variance)

Adelaide had a 1 in 10 million chance of playing finals and played the Blues at the Docklands; Crows won by 104 points. EXTREME!
Roos (in a similar spot to the Crows) had a regulation and NON EXTREME variance win over the Saints by 23 points

Roos and Lions played a wooden spoon decided at the Gabba. Lions were warm favourites but the Roos won by 51 points after being 16 points down at QT (1:8 to 5:0 so even in Q1 they were getting plenty of the ball) EXTREME!

With 2 teams of such different backgrounds throughout the history of the Suns (in which time the Hawks have won 3 flags), I am inclined to call this EXTREME variance, but it’s a borderline call.

Sydney v Geelong at Gold Coast, 3.35pm
Forecast: chance of a shower and a moderate breeze
Early tip: Cats by 31 points
Possible significant team changes:
Ins: Gazza and Joel Selwood are likely INS
Outs: Lewis Taylor is a likely out due to injury
It’s likely that the Cats will have to win to get a double chance, but that will all be known by the time the game begins. the Cats have often gone full bore in meaningless last round games in any case, so I expect this to be the case. However, will their INS be somewhat rusty? This will be discussed once teams are in.

Gazza, Selwood, Jack Steven and Gary Rohan come back in for the Cats; I like the experience and think that they can probably manage the first two (so long as they don’t get an early injury). Tom Atkins is out injured.

The Swans lose Taylor as predicted as well as Joel Amartey to injury; they bring back Callum Sinclair, James Rowbottom and Jordan Dawson.

So both teams look better on paper, but I reckon the Cats can get the job done; they’ll need to to get the double chance. I expect the Swans to be honest, but Cats by 25 points and certs (just)

Fremantle v Western Bulldogs, Cazalys Stadium Cairns, 6.10pm
Forecast: warm; light winds, chance of a shower
Early tip: Dogs by 5 points
Possible significant team changes:
Griffin Logue, Reece Conca and Brett Bewley are possible INS
Ins: Easton Wood is a test
Outs: Toby McLean is out injured

The Dogs lose Matt Suckling as well as McLean to injury, but bring back captain Wood and also Patrick Lipinski. Lipinski might be a good in; he was a regular until dropped this year and may be keen to fight for a spot in the team in the finals (if they make it).

The Dockers get back Conca, but lose Michael Walters to injury. This is a crucial OUT as Walters has been in scintillating form.

Because of this, I am leaning more to the Dogs now. OF course, other results have meant that the Dogs HAVE TO win to make finals. If they lose, the Dees will displace them.

I still give the Dockers a chance, but am leaning to the Dogs (as most tipsters are).

Dogs by 12 points.

Monday, September 21
Collingwood v Port Adelaide at the Gabba, 7.15pm AEST
Forecast: a bit breezy
Early tip: Port by 19 points
Possible significant team changes:
Outs: Tom Clurey is out injured
By the time this game starts, the Pies will know their fate based on the results of St Kilda and the Dogs. If both win and then the Pies lose, the Pies will drop to 8th and a trip to Perth for an elimination final. If one of the Saints or Dogs lose, there will be little motivation for the Pies to win. I will review on Sunday night and write up the story then.

Sunday night update: no significant extra changes, although Jaidyn Stephenson comes in for the Pies to replace the omitted Callum Brown.

The maths: Port “goes top” or stays top with a win and will host the Cats in Adelaide for week 1 of the finals. If they lose, the venue stays the same but they will play the Tigers.

If the Pies lose, they have a trip to Perth to play the Eagles; a win will promote them to 6th and a QLD final against the Saints.

It’s Port’s 150th year and they seem to have really set themselves for it (which sounds strange – as if a team picks years to go harder than others) and I expect the top spot will be important for them. Most would think that Richmond would be a tougher opponent than Geelong – so another motive to win. However, they beat the Tigers this year and their worst loss for the year was versus Geelong. I don’t think they’ll be spending any emotional energy trying to work out which is the better opponent to face; they’ll just be going for the top spot.

While Collingwood’s motivation looks even stronger (Saints in QLD appeals much more than the Eagles in Perth), they do actually travel well and I’d give them a chance to win in the west if that scenario occurred.

I like Port – a shorter injury list and it’s top versus 6th (ladder after round 17); Port by 8 points; a Collingwood win is not out of the question, however.

Round 18 review
Eagles 49 Roos 34
Expected result: Eagles by 32 points
I tipped: Eagles by 24 points
I was really chuffed with my analysis here; I mentioned “maybe a scratchy start” (Roos led 16 to 0 at QT) and noted that the “phew” was a negative for the Eagles. In fact, the Roos butchered some chances to be further ahead early in the contest. Towards the end, the commentators were talking about a 4 – 5 goal win (and it looked like that) but the Roos stood firm and the Eagles butchered a chance or two themselves. Of note is that 11 Roos were culled the day after – Majak Daw, Jasper Pittard, Jamie Macmillan, Ben Jacobs (who hasn’t played for ages due to injury), Paul Ahern, Mason Wood, Sam Durdin, Marley Williams, Joel Crocker, Lachie Hosie and Tom Murphy. No huge surprises there really; only Durdin and Murphy played in round 18; it could be argued that Jacobs and Daw may have survived the cut had they been healthier in recent years.

Saints 82 Giants 30
Expected result: Saints by 4 points
I tipped: Saints by 11 points and EXTREME variance
Once again, I was very happy with the analysis; I talked abut the chance that the Giants might chuck it in totally if they got behind and that’s exactly what happened. The club song after in the Saints’ room was something to behold – it ended an 8 year finals drought for the club. Conversely, it was a dreadful 2H to watch for Giants fans – many would’ve turned off.

Things got easier for the Dees when Matt de Boer was a late withdrawal for the Giants – replaced by Isaac Cumming. Nick Haynes has regressed late in the season and maybe he’s been carrying an injury.

The other INs were interesting; Stephen Coniglio returned after being omitted and scored 115 SC points (not his fault that the team lost). Daniel Hannebery and Jake Carlisle came back in without starring. But the run under the belt AND the win was a huge plus for the Saints.

Dees 68 Bombers 49
Expected result: Dees by 12 points
I tipped: Dees by 24 points and EXTREME variance
I was happy to pick the winner and to be slightly more bullish than most. I got the EXTREME variance tip wrong. At 3QT, I expected the Dees to run right away in Q4, but the Bombers found something and were 7 points down when they maybe could’ve got a free for Christian Petracca dropped the ball. The free wasn’t paid and the Dees kicked away again.
Sadly for Dees fans, the Dockers lost the next day and left Melbourne in 9th place.

There are lots of questions about the Bomber coaching change-over and what they should do about Joe Daniher and the list. I will leave this to others, but was glad that the Bombers didn’t follow the lead of the Giants the night before

Tigers 77 Crows 33
Expected result: Tigers by 29 points
I tipped: Tigers by 12 points
The Tigers won this a bit easier than most expected – and especially me. The Crows jumped out of the blocks and looked a chance for the upset. But the Tigers led by QT and never looked back. The Crows only lost the SC score by 31, so it tends to show that they wasted opportunities (as does 4:9 to the Tigers 12:5).

The INS for Richmond worked well; Shane Edwards scored 111 SC points, while David Astbury and Josh Caddy both contributed well. Caddy had a knee problem so check the injury reports leading into the finals.

Taylor Walker came back for his final game for the Crows; he managed a goal, but injuries got the better of him this year.

Lions 78 Blues 61
Expected result: Lions by 26 points
I tipped: Lions by 26 points and EXTREME variance
The Blues came good with a 4 point lead at QT and were 28 points down at HT – managing to just barely push the variance into the EXTREME range. It was during Q2 that Patrick Cripps exited the game with a shoulder injury; that shoulder has been an issue for some weeks now.

It was a good win for the Lions – who got Stefan Martin back after injury. Brandon Starcevich came back in and excelled. 110 SC points suggests he has booked his ticket to the first final.

Blue Kade Simpson played his final game and the injured and retired Matthew Kreuzer walked off the ground with him at the end.

Hawks 108 Suns 57
Expected result: Suns by 5 points
I tipped: Suns by 2 points and EXTREME variance
This was my one miss in terms of tipping winners through the first 8 games of the round. That was disappointing, but glad to do some late work on Sunday morning and label this an EXTREME variance game.

This proved correct by QT – with the Hawks leading 43 to 7; the query on this game was motivation – something the Hawks (looking from outside) appear to have lacked for much of the Covid period. The found some energy to farewell Poppy (3 goals) and Ben Stratton (who went forward and kicked a late and VERY RARE goal – glad he put it straight through and didn’t choke).

There wasn’t much to get excited for Suns fans, but Jy Farrar debuted and kicked a goal with his first kick. My apologies about an error re Jarrod Harbrow – he was already in last week.

Cats 69 Swans 63
Expected result: Cats by 26 points
I tipped: Cats by 25 points and certs
This was a nervous watch for Cats fans and also for those who took my lead and labelled the Cats as certs. It went down to the wire. The Swan looked like winners early, but Patrick Dangerfield got the Cats over the line. After hardly getting a sniff early, he finished up with 3 goals and 170 SC points. A late Gryan Miers shot at goal (with the Cats 6 points up and a minute to go) was going to make it a 13 point lead. but the normally reliable Miers hit the point post; then the Swans rolled the dice through the middle, kicked a goal to make it 6 points; and then attacked again; a shot at goal was blocked and the Cats got into 4th by the skin of their teeth.

I have been mightily impressed by the Swans in the latter part of the season – winning games in upset results and almost causing a couple of other upsets as well. All this despite a lengthy injury list. And they lost James Bell to a head knock in Q1

A plus for the Cats was that they won AND got back Gazza (103 SC points and looked in good touch) and Joel Selwood (who probably needed the run)

Dogs 74 Dockers 44
Expected result: Dogs by 13 points
I tipped: Dogs by 12 points
It took until midway through Q4, but the Dogs earned the last spot in the top 8 and sunk the hopes of Dees fans in the process.

The Dogs won despite losing Aaron Naughton in Q2 with a fractured cheekbone and has been booked in for surgery. Mitch Wallis came off late with a sore shoulder, but is expected to be fine for the first final. Naughton must be in some doubt.

Docker Matt Taberner was a late withdrawal and replaced by Travis Colyer.

Port 61 Pies 45
Expected result: Port by 7 points
I tipped: Port by 8 points
All went about as expected in this game; the Pies were brave, but just fell short. They seemed to often hit Port players standing on their own when they went inside forward 50. And also it meant a lot to Port to retain the #1 ranking for the entire year. I heard today that it had never been done before by a team that missed the 8 the previous year.

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