2021 Preview & Rounds 1-8

Penny here and finally got a bit of time off from the fruit trees.

Here’s my quick and dirty ladder preview (which I hate doing, because it’s so difficult this time of year):

PositionTeamOne Liner
1Western BulldogsThey got the ruck help they need
2Port AdelaideLook stronger and are mostly fit
3RichmondFour flags in five years is tough, but possible
4GeelongHave recruited for NOW
5BrisbaneWill play away more in 2021, but still a threat
6West Coast EaglesThereabouts again
7MelbourneFinals and will save Goodie’s job
8CollingwoodToo many problems and have lost players
9St KildaStarting off the year too injured
10GWS GiantsA finals chance before Preuss went down
11CarltonNot convinced yet
12FremantleStill building and heading in the right direction
13EssendonSee comment for Blues
14Sydney SwansYoungsters look good
15HawthornSide too unsettled for 2021
16Gold CoastOn a slow build
17AdelaideAnother tough year
18North MelbourneA big rebuild and patience required

It as noted on the ABC that each year a team rises from outside the 8 into the top 4 the next year (EG Port in 2020 & Richmond in 2017). I haven’t tipped a team to do this in 2021, but if I had to take a stab, it’s the Dees with the best chance

Now for a quick preview of round 1 (added Mon 15 March before any teams selections announced: all times Eastern:

RichmondvCarltonMCGMar 18 (Thu 7:25pm)
CollingwoodvWestern BulldogsMCGMar 19 (Fri 7:50pm)
MelbournevFremantleMCGMar 20 (Sat 1:45pm)
AdelaidevGeelongAdel OvalMar 20 (Sat 4:35pm)
EssendonvHawthornDocklandsMar 20 (Sat 7:25pm)
Brisbane LionsvSydneyGabbaMar 20 (Sat 7:45pm)
North MelbvPort AdelaideDocklandsMar 21 (Sun 1:10pm)
GWS GiantsvSt KildaSyd ShowgroundsMar 21 (Sun 3:20pm)
West CoastvGold CoastPerth StadiumMar 21 (Sun 6:10pm)

Quick tips and comments: the percentages of fans the games at the MCG and Docklands with Victorian teams competing will be different in round 1 compared to 2019 (before COVID). As an example, Richmond are the home team against Carlton first up. I would’ve originally expected a 60/40 split in crowd support in favour of the Tigers. But this week, tickets will go on sale as follows:
Monday: MCC members
Tuesday morning: AFL members
Tuesday afternoon: Richmond members
Wednesday morning: Carlton members
Wednesday afternoon: general public
In 2019, 85,000 fans attended this game and the limit currently is 50,000. So, I reckon there will be 45,000 for the Tigers and 5,000 supporting the Blues! Significant! Big benefit for Richmond. Think Kardinia Park re crowd noise of affirmation.
Also, the Pies and Bombers will benefit from this seating allocation rule. Not sure what will happen for round 2 yet.

So, the quick tips and a few comments (check for weather and team announcements – I won’t update any comments after team selections):

Richmond by 33 points (I’m more bullish than most and see above crowd comments)

Dogs by 4 points over Pies (despite the Collingwood crowd assistance and the Pies being slight favourites – Dogs have bolstered their rucks stocks and the Pies have had off-season woes and also lost Adam Treloar – who will probably debut this week for the Dogs if they think his match conditioning is sufficient)

Dees by 28 points over Dockers (I’m more bullish than most – the Dockers have more injury concerns than the Dees at present)

Cats by 21 points over the Crows

Bombers by 5 points over the Hawks (the Hawks are slight favourites, but see above crowd comments); Hawks have more players injured / underdone and they have already lost Tom Scully for good and Jon Patton indefinitely.

Lions by 28 points over the Swans

Port by 40 points over the Roos (Roos have lots of troubles – injuries and a big rebuild)

Giants by 25 points over the Saints (the last round loss last year by GWS to the Saints was a horrible fade-out and lost 7:5 to 0:4 in 2H!!). I don’t buy into revenge matches too much – except for when the losing team hurts FAR MORE than the winning team realises. This is true here – with the Saints happy to win, but then had finals to contend with. Both teams are missing ruck stocks, but the Saints come into the year more injured than GWS.

Eagles by 40 points over the Suns (this game is a warm-up for the Suns as they face the Roos in round 2 at home; they’d love to win in the west, of course, but I can see them dropping off late if the game looks cooked)

Round 1 review:

Collingwood7.11-53lost toWestern Bulldogs10.9-69
Essendon13.13-91lost toHawthorn14.8-92
Brisbane Lions14.1-94lost toSydney19.11-125
North Melbourne9.11-65lost toPort Adelaide17.15-117
GWS Giants11.12-78lost toSt Kilda13.8-86
West Coast12.11-83dftdGold Coast8.1-58

I tipped 5/9 and this is just so-so; I felt slightly unlucky as Essendon and GWS could’ve won. I especially feel peeved about the Bombers – maybe coaching inexperience cost them the game. It was good to hear Dermott Brereton on SEN say that the Bombers probably should have won. The Giants won time of possession, but couldn’t finish it off. They were extremely disappointing.

Now, the critical review: Cats and Lions. What happened? I did see that they play each other in round 2 on a Friday night and that this was a BIG game for both (a prelim replay). So there was a chance that they could be “looking ahead” to it and not fully focused on easy kills in round 1. If you google walterfootball, Walter talks about this often in his NFL game previews. This is precisely what happened for Geelong and Brisbane. Credit to the Crows and Swans, however, because they were good enough to take advantage of being in the right place at the right time. Usually, I would be expecting teams like the Swans and Crows to underperform the following week. Well, they play each other (as it turns out), so no point dwelling on that.

As a result of round 1 results, I have totally written off the Giants for the finals. I will write off the loser of Geelong / Brisbane for the top four as well; and I am warming to Port, Tigers and Dogs all finishing in the top four.

Now to look at teams that played in the 2020 finals coming up against those who did not in round 1, 2021.

The following 2021 finals teams underperformed (in order of worst under-performance to best):
Lions (underperformed by 54 points)
Cats (46 points)
Pies (13 points – Dogs also made the 2020 finals, but went out earlier, so I add this example for interest)
Eagles (2 points)
Tigers outperformed expectations by 2 points and Port did so by 19 points.

Port and the Eagles had a “wake up call” in that two hot favourites had been rolled the day prion. Even so, Port trailed at QT and the Eagles were a point down at 3QT. There were 4 players for the Roos who were “tests” who didn’t get up – Jed Anderson, Ben Cunnington, Robbie Tarrant and Luke McDonald. McDonald was a late withdrawal.

Richmond had the bonus of a biased crowd, unfurling 2 flags (AFL and VFL) as well as a long Carlton injury list.

Overall, the teams that missed finals in 2020 did well in round 1. The question now is – will it continue and, if so, for how long.

In round 2, we have the following relevant games re above:
Blues play Pies; Essendon play Port in Adelaide; Saints play the Dees & Hawks versus Tigers.

This leads us to the round 2 fixture: (all times eastern)

Round 2
CarltonvCollingwoodMCG (Thu 7:20pm)
GeelongvBrisbane Kardinia Park (Fri 7:20pm)
SydneyvAdelaideSCG (Sat 1:45pm)
Port vEssendonAdel Oval (Sat 4:35pm)
St KildavMelbourneDocklands (Sat 7:25pm)
Gold CoastvNorth MelbGold Coast Stad (Sat 8:10pm)
HawthornvRichmondMCG (Sun 1:10pm)
W. BulldogsvWest CoastDocklands(Sun 3:20pm)
FremantlevGWS GiantsPerth Stadium(Sun 6:10pm)

Early thoughts:
Maybe a slight leaning to Pies and Cats
Saints and Dees is a toss-up; same for Suns / Roos
Slight leaning to Dockers

Preview round 2 (written Wednesday day time 24 March 2021)
Pies by 7 points over the Blues
I expect players to be very sore after round 1 with less rotations and back to normal length of quarters (20 minutes in 2019 to 16 for 2020 to 20 again now), so the extra break may be useful. the Blues get an extra day’s break on Collingwood, but have a longer injury list. The Pies get back Steele Sidebottom, while the Blues lose SOSOS (Son Of Son Of Serge) Jack Silvagni
and maybe Harry McKay (Meghan will be disappointed if Harry cannot play!); recruit Zac Williams wil come into the side for Carlton

Cats by 4 points over the Lions & EXTREME variance
I don’t like this game. I would usually expect the home team to rebound better after both teams had horrible losses in round 1, but Geelong lose Danger to suspension and maybe also Sam Menegola.

There is also the risk that the Cats may flop after being beaten by a team with significant injuries on the day; this would be more likely had the Cats been a lowly rated team, but it’s still a concern

Swans by 36 points over the Crows and CERTS
The Crows had a great, heroic win with injuries on the day last week and teams in this space often underperform the following week. The Crows will lose Jake Kelly and probably Mitch Hinge and Luke Brown as well.

There is talk of Buddy coming back in for the Swans. If he does, I expect more of a cameo from him than a BOG performance.

The only risk on the Sans is that the star debutantes might not come up in week 2, but I will note this risk and dismiss it

Port by 27 points over Essendon & EXTREME variance
All form, home ground and team ratings suggest an easy win for Port. I tend to agree but there is one little issue here. Port avoided the upset loss to a lowly tam last week (unlike the Lions and Cats), but now face a similar risk of over-confidence. This looks like an easy kill and there is a huge game away versus the Eagles coming up in week 3. that’s the one reason I’m not labelling them as certs.

The worry for the Bombers is how they will respond to throwing away a big half time lead last week (with a coach in his second game – although he has had a long apprenticeship). If there is a negative resulting from the round 1 loss, I would expect the Bombers to (again) have an absolute shocker quarter (maybe 3rd??)

Saints by 3 points over Melbourne & EXTREME variance
I rate the Saints (at full fitness) a bit higher than the Dees. I also rate their round 1 win better than Melbourne. The Dees played an injury-depleted Dockers team and struggled to put them away.

The Saints, themselves, had injury troubles but managed to overrun the Giants away last week. To me, this all hinges on the ruck. Big Max should dominate the ruck duels, but then it will be up to the team to turn this into scores.

Maybe the win will come from the coach’s box – an interesting game of tactics!

Suns by a point over the Roos & EXTREME variance
Over the years, lowly teams have led or got close to a higher ranked opponent in round 1 and then been blown away late.
EG Port in their first game – they got to within 15 points of the pies in Q3 (after looking totally out of it early) and then got blown away thereafter to lose by 79 points. Essendon in 2010 led reigning premiers Geelong at 3QT and then lost by 31 points.

The Suns led by a point at 3QT last week and by 7 points early in Q4. They were overrun late by the Eagles and lost by 25 points.

They are firm favourites to beat the Roos this week and I would normally tip the upset. But the injury concerns for the Roos prevent me from being too bold. Even so, I reckon the Suns are overrated here.

Tigers by 27 points over the Hawks
Apart from the concern that the 10 day break is almost too long, this seems like an easy game to tip. The Tigers are higher rated and looking good again for another premiership tilt.

Dogs by 21 points over the Eagles
I like the 9 day break versus the 7 day break for the Dogs here. With the home ground advantage and the slightly shorter injury list, I’ more bullish about the Dogs than most.

Dockers by 6 points over the Giants
The Giants blew their chances for a win last week. Matthew Flynn starred in his debut for GWS but had an ankle injury in the game. For the Giants to win, he will need to come up.

Speaking of rucks, the Dockers are almost certain to regain Sean Darcy to replace Lloyd Meek (who struggled last week).

The only concern is the long injury list of the Dockers.

In summary, the round is book-ended with 50/50 type games, the Cats, Saints and Dogs are slight favourites and the other games feature strong favourites.

I expect at least 2 of the following 3 to occur:
Swans win by over 4 goals
Dogs to win by over 3 goals
Saints to win Q3

Round 2 review:

Carlton13.7-85lost toCollingwood16.1-106
Geelong12.9-81dftdBrisbane Lions11.14-80
Port Adelaide18.11-119dftdEssendon9.11-65
St Kilda11.7-73lost toMelbourne12.19-91
Gold Coast14.14-98dftdNorth Melbourne5.9-39
Hawthorn7.7-49lost toRichmond11.12-78
Western Bulldogs14.16-100dftdWest Coast14.9-93
Fremantle11.21-87dftdGWS Giants7.14-56

I tipped 8/9 and really annoyed that I was too woosie to go for the Dees (with the Saints lacking rucks currently); I was maybe a bit lucky to get away with a win with the Cats; but I generally consider wins by under 2 goals to be iffy anyway. Only 1 of my EXTREME variance calls was correct – with the Suns outperforming expectations by 39 points.

Round 3 tips (added 4pm Thursday)

Round 3 (times eastern)
Brisbane LionsvCollingwoodwas Gabba now DocklandsApr 1 (Thu 7:40pm)
North MelbournevWestern BulldogsDocklandsApr 2 (Fri 4:20pm)
AdelaidevGold CoastAdel OvalApr 2 (Fri 7:50pm)
RichmondvSydneyMCGApr 3 (Sat 1:45pm)
EssendonvSt KildaDocklandsApr 3 (Sat 4:35pm)
West CoastvPort AdelaidePerth StadiumApr 3 (Sat 8:10pm)
CarltonvFremantleDocklandsApr 4 (Sun 3:20pm)
GWS GiantsvMelbourneManuka OvalApr 4 (Sun 6:10pm)
GeelongvHawthornMCGApr 5 (Mon 3:20pm)

I am intrigued to see how the Lions and Suns go with their likely temporary hub situation. QLD has lifted its lockdown today (Thurs) but the Suns had to travel to Crowland early and the Lions stayed in Vic after their round 2 match. I’m expecting them both to underperform – due to less than ideal preparations.

Collingwood to defeat Brisbane Lions by 19 points.
It’s generally tough to play back to back road trips, but this was unplanned. It was originally a Gabba game, but now the late season game between these two teams is to be moved from Melbourne to the Gabba. Added to the Lions’ woes is that their ruckman Oscar McInerney is out injured. And they had an energy-sapping loss to the Cats last week

Western Bulldogs to defeat North Melbourne by 32 points and certs (just).
I’m not as bullish as most on the Dogs , but they should win. The Roos will debut Will Phillips and Ben Cunnington returns. The Dogs also had a tough game last Sunday vs the Eagles and it may flatten them a tad. If the Roos get within 5 goals of the Dogs or win, it will make me think the Eagles should not be tipped.

Adelaide to defeat Gold Coast by 14 points.
The Suns are in a slightly different situation to Brisbane, but I’ll be guide a bit by the Friday night result.

Both the Suns and Crows have begun the season well ad I rate them similarly, but with the early travel for the Suns (who had to flyout of Qld on Tuesday) and the home ground advantage, it’s the Crows for me

Richmond to defeat Sydney by 31 points.
The Swans are playing in “lanes” and are more attacking, after Don Pyke joined as an assistant coach. If you imagine the ground looking like a swimming pool with 5 lanes, the Swans (like the Crows 4-5 years ago) are moving the ball along a lane until they are blocked – than transfer the ball to a lane adjacent or 2 away ad continue down the field. The Swans are undefeated this year so far with that method, but this is their biggest test. I wat to see how it looks against the reigning champs. I have resisted labelling the Tigers certs, but it was a close call.
Bachar Houli and Nick Vlastuin are likely ins for the Tigers, while Buddy has been confirmed as an out for Sydey.

St Kilda to defeat Essendon by 21 points & EXTREME variance.
I was considering the Bombers to be an upset chance prior to their injuries. But they have lost Sam Draper, Dylan Shiel and Jye Caldwell now. Brad Crouch has served his suspension and is available to debut for the Saints.

With both sides having long injury lists, I am making this an EXTREME variance game

West Coast to defeat Port Adelaide by 2 points.
See above comment re Dogs game. I will switch my tip to Port if the Dogs underperform expectations (most tipping them by 7 goals).
Luke Shuey (Eagles), Connor Rozee and Todd Marshall (Port) are all chances to return from injury this week.

Port has toweled up lower rated and more injured squads in the first 2 rounds, but this is their big test. It’s a 50/50 game for me (ad the experts). I don’t have a strong leaning either way, bar for the lead from the Dogs.

Carlton to defeat Fremantle by 22 points.
The Blues lose Jack Martin and Zac Fisher to injury and may get back Jack Silvagni. Luke Parks will debut. The Dockers lose Nat Fyfe, but expect Michael Walters to return.
This will feel like make or break for the 0-2 Blues ad the media (plus fans) has got stuck into them tis week. Coach David Teague says Patrick Cripps has bee playing through an injury, but it’s getting better and the long break between rounds 2 and 3 will help.

I’m keen on Carlton here.

Melbourne to defeat GWS Giants by 11 points & EXTREME variance.
The Dees are 2-0 and nobody is talking about them. Conversely, the Giants are 0-2, struggling and are copping lots of criticism. They are similar to the Blues in that they will be desperate to win to stay in touch.

But the Dees are looking good and I will tip them. But the the 0-2 for the Giants and the thought that Max Gawn could possibly dominate Matthew Flynn makes this an EXTREME variance game.

Geelong to defeat Hawthorn by 9 points.
The Cats are almost 4 goal favourites and I cannot see why they would be that highly fancied. They may get back Sam Menegola and Mitch Duncan, but lose Gary Rohan. Young talent Will Day is out for the Hawks, while Chad Wingard may return.

The Cats have looked shaky in pre-season and also in the opening 2 rounds. New Cat Isaac Smith faces his old team and this will be interesting. The Hawk fans won’t be happy – unless he misses a shot after the siren to win.

In summary, Dogs are the only certs, but I would consider the Tigers and Blues if you want to pick more.
Best outsiders are the Hawks.

I expect 2 of the following 3 to occur:
Pies to win by over 15 points (incorrect)
Crows to win by over 2 goals (incorrect)
Hawks to win or to lose by less than 15 points (correct)

Round 3 Review

Collingwood11.6-72lost toBrisbane Lions11.7-73
North Melbourne5.9-39lost toWestern Bulldogs25.17-167
Adelaide14.11-95dftdGold Coast12.13-85
Richmond10.12-72lost toSydney17.15-117
Essendon22.11-143dftdSt Kilda9.14-68
West Coast16.12-108dftdPort Adelaide11.5-71
GWS Giants11.2-68lost toMelbourne15.12-102

I tipped 6 out of 9 (so-so) and was mightily annoyed (but not as much as Bucks) that the pies lost with a kick after the siren.

My 2 games tipped as EXTREME variance (Saints / Bombers and Dees / Giants) were indeed EXTREME variance games; however, the variance in the Dees / Giants game may have bee aided by injuries to GWS. Furthermore, there were other games which played out as EXTREME variance, but I missed them (Roos / Dogs, Tigers / Swans and Eagles / Port).

A positive is that I narrowly resisted labelling the Tigers as certs, so I kept my streak of certs intact while most would’ve bombed out on the Tigers.

My analysis on the Cats and Hawks was very good – tipping the winner, but also tipping the Hawks to get close. However, the game was a shocker to watch – bar for the close finish.

Round 4 games:

SydneyvEssendonSCGApr 8 (Thu 7:20pm)
Port AdelaidevRichmondAdel OvalApr 9 (Fri 7:50pm)
Western BulldogsvBrisbane LionsBallaratApr 10 (Sat 1:45pm)
St KildavWest CoastDocklandsApr 10 (Sat 4:35pm)
Gold CoastvCarltonGold Coast StadiumApr 10 (Sat 7:25pm)
CollingwoodvGWS GiantsMCGApr 10 (Sat 7:25pm)
North MelbournevAdelaideDocklandsApr 11 (Sun 1:10pm)
MelbournevGeelongMCGApr 11 (Sun 3:20pm)
FremantlevHawthornPerth StadiumApr 11 (Sun 4:40pm)

Early thoughts: Swans, Port, Dogs, Eagles, Blues, Pies, Crows, Dees and Dockers.

Tips (added with only the Swans / Bombers team anounced)
Swans to defeat Bombers by 24 points
Both teams had huge upset wins last weekend, so whose form do you believe more? I’ll stay out of that argument, but I believe the home ground advantage and the injuries. The Bombers were terrific after losing multiple players to injury after the round 2 loss to Port – beating the Saints by 75 points (if you don’t mind, ampere). But the Saints were also injured and seriously under-stocked in the ruck.

I toyed with making this an EXREME variance game, but decided not to. The reason to make it such is the erratic form of the Bombers, but I’ll give it a miss this time – meaning that the result should fall within Essendon willing by 2 goals and the Swans winning by 10 goals – with no huge momentum swings along the way.

Port to defeat Richmond by 15 points
See above game; I’m tipping Port on the basis of home ground and less injuries. The Tigers are being affected by injuries at present. Port just had a shocker (for no particular reason) last weekend in Perth.

Dogs to defeat Lions by 16 points
I expect this week might be tougher for the Lions than last as it is their 3rd game on the road and they will fly back to Qld after that. Also, the Dogs are a hot team. If the Lions get back Jarrod Berry (likely) and Oscar McInerney (test), it will help but I’d still tip the Dogs anyway. The Lions won with a kick after the siren last week (had he been paid a free the previous week at the Cattery, he might’ve been the only player to achieve this feat 2 weeks running)

Saints to defeat Eagles by 2 points and EXTREME variance
The Saints hit rock bottom last week and there have been meetings to address this at the club during the week. I am sure the effort will be better, but will it be enough to turn into a win? Maybe! I’d feel more confident if I knew that Rowan Marshall was going to play and play well (Nic Nat could run rampant otherwise). And Brad Crouch will be better for the run as well. Mind you, if both teams play at last week’s level, this will be a blow-out victory for West Coast. Hence the EXTREME variance call. A good game to avoid.

Carlton to defeat Gold Coast by 19 points
All the Suns’ ruckmen are injured or gone. the most important one of all – Jarrod Witts – is out for the season after doing his ACL last week. The Suns had hoped it was only a medial, but no such luck. This would be close to a 50/50 game had the Suns had a viable ruck option. The scribes have postulated various ruck options. We will see, but it will be a challenge for the Gold Coast midfield for a while.

Collingwood to defeat GWS Giants by 32 points and certs just
The Pies looked to have the game in control last week against the Lions, but lost it with a kick after the siren. Teams in this situation generally do okay the following week. If you look back at the exceptions (to disprove my point) remember this: 16 teams led at 3QT and then lost via a kick after the siren since 2000. 7 of them underperformed the next week and, on average, outperformed expectations by 2.7 points (so that sounds like a 50/50 scenario), but if we remove late season games (where teams could drop their bundle after such a loss) and bottom rated teams losing like this, then the results are okay – from this sample, the only team to stink it up the following week was Brisbane in 2005 after losing in round 3; they then lost at home as 33 point favourites to the Swans by 6 points the following week. Given that the Swans won the flag in 2005, it appears that the Lions were too highly favoured.

Because the Pies are about 4 goal favourites here, I feel pretty comfortable that they’ll win – and the Giants have lots of injuries!

Adelaide to defeat North Melbourne by 9 points
I had a look at teams losing in rounds 1-9 his millennium by 100 points plus (such as the Roos did last week) and excluded losses where teams traveled interstate. There were 15 such cases ad now 16. The 15 games – the big loser won next week 6 times, drew once and lost 8 times. Amazing! But the drill down needs to happen. Shock, horror – the team that lost big was actually favoured the following week on 5 occasions. they overachieved 8 times out of the 15 and overachieved by an average of 3.4 points. The Roos are 20 point underdogs here; 5 of the 15 teams exceeded expectations by more than 20 points; looking at teams who played home after the thrashing against an interstate opponent, those 6 teams overachieved 5 out of 6 times and overachieved by an average of 12.3 points.

Looking at this data, this is a danger game for the Crows but I am still tipping them. I would be more tempted to go for the Roos if their side was more settled; they have had injury troubles and players have come in and out of the team.

Melbourne to defeat Geelong by 12 points
The Cats are ever so slight favourites, but I’m pretty keen on the Dees. Even though they have got the breaks in their wins so far, Melbourne (3-0) is travelling better than Geelong (2-1 but maybe lucky not to be 1-2 or 0-3) at the minute. With the Cats missing Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Rohan to suspension as well as recruits Shaun Higgins and Jeremy Cameron to hammies, it looks an obvious choice to me.

The doubt I have in this tip is whether the Dees can handle the pressure of winning against a top side (or one that was in 2020 at least) which is down o form a bit. I think they can do it, but won’t label them certs.

Fremantle to defeat Hawthorn by 21 points
The Hawks looked gallant in defeat last Monday – coming from 30 points down to just fail. But they were doing this against an injured and “Just going” Geelong team. It shows that they are a fair way off the top 4 in my book.

The Dockers are a way off as well, but slightly ahead of the Hawks and, of course, are playing at home this weekend. With a extra day’s break. Nathan Fyfe likely to return and Michael Walters better for last week’s run, I am keen on them – more bullish than most with the Dockers only 10 point favourites.

In summary: last year’s top 4 (Tigers, Cats, Lions and Port) have all struggled at times this year. Each team has already put in 1 shocker of a performance.

Teams to overachieve in 2021 are the Swans, Melbourne, Fremantle (all of whom missed the finals last year) and the Dogs (out in week 1 of finals in 2020). It’s an interesting thought after a year where the season finished in late October.

The Pies are the only certs; thrill seekers might consider Fremantle as well, but I wouldn’t risk a decent winning streak on them

I expect at least 3 of the following 5 to occur:
St Kilda to win
Blues to win by over 18 points
Pies to win by over 36 points
Dees to win by over 6 points
Dockers to win by over 18 points

Look out; it’s a tricky round and well done if you can tip the card!

Round 4 Review

Port Adelaide11.13-79dftdRichmond11.11-77
Western Bulldogs10.13-73dftdBrisbane Lions8.6-54
St Kilda15.12-102dftdWest Coast13.4-82
Gold Coast8.11-59lost toCarlton9.16-70
Collingwood9.6-60lost toGWS Giants14.6-90
North Melbourne10.8-68lost toAdelaide16.13-109

Kieran Butler has a line: Collingwood ruined my life; well, they ruined my tips this week. I tipped them as certs and they were my only loser!

I got 2 of my 5 things right only, but a generally positive round. The big plus was the Saints.

I’m still trying to assess the Bombers – not sure if they are really improving or just catching teams at the right time (eg Saints injured and Swans just after the Swans played the reigning premiers).

Most of the games went according to script, but the wins by the Giants and Saints need further study.

I have noticed a trend this year that teams prior to a BIG Friday game (ie NOT like the Dogs vs Roos o Good Friday) tend to perform poorly the week prior. Geelong and Brisbane both lost when favoured in round 1 before their round 2 Friday game.

Port and Richmond both underperformed in round three before their prelim final rematch on Friday in round 4.

West Coast and Collingwood play this Friday and they both had shockers in round 4.

Firstly – the Saints and Eagles: apart from the above, here’s what happened: the Saints were awful vs Bombers the week prior and played what I would call wimpy footy – low tackle numbers. So they were determined to give their all for all of the game no matter what against WCE. conversely, the Eagles knew what to expect. Their modus operandum was to put this game to bed early and then focus on Collingwood. That’s exactly what they did. The game was won at 33 points up 2/3 of the way through Q3, so they just eased up a little bit (a la Essendon in the prelim 1999). Trouble was that the lead was not quite big enough and they were unable to stem the bleeding once the Saints applied the pressure and kicked a few. A beautiful preview and I correctly tipped the EXTREME variance as well.

Collingwood suffered from the pre-Friday night syndrome as well, but there were other factors in play. The Giants rested Matthew Flynn and Mummy came back; he was a physical presence and may have been a one-off shock factor. The Pies lost Taylor Adams and Brayden Sier in Q3 (62 and 30 Sc points respectively). then there are all the peripheral (from a playing viewpoint) issues at Collingwood – letting go of good players after 2020, Eddie departing; the coach’s marriage and the racial news. Maybe it’s affecting the on-field stuff. The Giants at 0-3 seemed to life for this game; and they were doing okay in round 3 before injuries put them out of the contest vs the Dees in Canberra. SORRY for tipping the Pies as certs!

Finally, the Roos were highly competitive until Q4, but they lost Josh Walker before the game (replaced by Tom Campbell) and then lost Luke McDonald + Cameron Zurhaar early. So their late fade-out was expected.

Round 5 preview (times eastern)

St KildavRichmondDocklandsApr 15 (Thu 7:20pm)
West CoastvCollingwoodPerth StadiumApr 16 (Fri 8:10pm)
Western BulldogsvGold CoastDocklandsApr 17 (Sat 1:45pm)
SydneyvGWS GiantsSCGApr 17 (Sat 4:35pm)
CarltonvPort AdelaideMCGApr 17 (Sat 7:25pm)
Brisbane LionsvEssendonGabbaApr 17 (Sat 7:25pm)
AdelaidevFremantleAdel OvalApr 18 (Sun 1:10pm)
HawthornvMelbourneMCGApr 18 (Sun 3:20pm)
GeelongvNorth MelbourneKardinia ParkApr 18 (Sun 4:40pm)

Richmond to defeat St Kilda by 26 points (tipped Wed evening after teams announced)
There might be some doubt about Rowan Marshall (Paul Hunter has been named as an emergency) playing and I also have doubts about the Saints carrying on from their big last third of last week’s game.

I expect the Tigers to come good some time soon and this looks to be the right setting for it (maybe not back to premiership form, but good enough to beat a St Kilda team who have more injuries). I’m a bit more bullish than most tipsters here. I’m not calling them certs, but I will tip them as certs in my comp because the Pies wiped me out to zero, so not much to lose in tipping the Tigers as certs; you can do the same, but it’s risky if you are sitting on a big streak

West Coast Eagles to defeat Collingwood by 20 points & NOT CERTS.
These teams have strong finals memories – the Eagles seemed to have ticked off their elimination final against Collingwood as a formality, but came unstuck. The Pies were terrific in that game, but had nothing left for week 2. The elimination final loss will be a bigger hurt to West Coast than it was a joy to Collingwood (because Collingwood’s joy was short-lived).
On that basis, I would expect the Eagles to excel in Q1. But because the Pies were so humiliated last week and also put through the wringer by the media and fans, I expect them to be determined a la St Kilda last week. But not enough to win, probably – as the Eagles definitely won’t be focused on their round 6 game at Kardinia Park (in fact, if they had a choice of winning only 1 of round 5 and 6, they would pick beating the Pies!). So long as they are uninjured, I would expect Collingwood to do well in Q4, though I am keener on the Eagles outperforming expectations in Q1.

Western Bulldog to defeat Gold Coast Suns by 40 points and certs
The Dogs are travelling nicely and the injury toll at the Suns is rising. As such, the win looks a formality

Sydney Swans to defeat GWS Giants by 4 points, but danger game and EXTREME variance
I don’t like this game, because there are too many unknowns (especially now – before teams announced). Can the Swans keep going? Was the narrow win over the Bombers good (because the Bombers are better than people think – or because the Swans were able to win despite being flat following beating the reigning premiers) – or was it a sign that they are about to hit a hurdle. They are losing Dane Rampe and Isaac Heeney to injury this week.

Were the Giants good last week because they have turned the corner? Or just caught the Pies at a good time. Avoid this game if you can. If you are in 2 tipping comps, go 1 each way.

Port Adelaide to defeat Carlton by 3 points, but danger game and EXTREME variance
It’s a carbon copy of the previous game. I am not sure how Port will come up after a gutsy win with injuries against the reigning premiers. This, and the venue of the game, offsets the clear higher rating of Port and makes it almost a 50/50 game. But I don’t trust the Blues enough to pick them outright. they still have too many injuries for my liking.

Port loses Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters to injury, while Connor Rozee and Orazio Fantasia copped knocks last week but are expected to play. Watch for late news on them.

Brisbane Lions to defeat Essendon Bombers by 32 points and certs
This is the Bomber’s second week on the road and this is enough (along with the other factors favouring the Lions) to pick them as certs

Adelaide crows to defeat Fremantle by 3 points
The Crows are slight favourites here and this is a tricky game; I might even change picks when I see the teams; don’t especially like the game, but the home ground advantage just gets them over the line as the tip here. Shane McAdam and Brodie Smith are tests but both expected to play this week after copping minor injuries last week.

Melbourne to defeat Hawthorn by 19 points
The Dees are flying and the Hawks are so-so; I expect the Dees to win – without labelling them as certs. Melbourne was UP for the Cats game and controlled it; their challenge now will be to tick off the games that look like
relatively easy wins. I’m not completely convinced that they are at this stage yet, but cannot tip against them.

Geelong to defeat North Melbourne by 51 points and certs.
They are the GAUNTLET TIP and are the certs of the week. For those tipping in points i type comps, the Cats are favoured by 57 points at present; with the Roos down and out in terms of injuries, the Cats could easily surpass this mark. but the Cats are just going and would be content with any win.
Ben Cunnington is free to play are having his charge downgraded and Jeremy Cameron is almost ready to play now.

In summary: go for the Cats as the best certs, then the Lions.
Best outsiders are the Giants, Blues and Dockers and Dockers

I expect 3 of the following 4 at least to occur
Richmond to win by over 3 goals
Eagles to win Q1 by more than a goal
Brisbane to win by over 5 goals
One of Giants, Blues or Dockers to cause an upset

Don’t forget the AFL Gauntlet starts this week; need to tip prior to game 1. Google AFL Gauntlet for details.

My Gauntlet tip is the Cats this week and then Freo the following week. After that it gets harder and I will explain more in the following weeks