2020 AFL season: Round 18 preview

Jenna Harris September 16, 2020 7 No Comments

2020 AFL season: Round 18 preview

With just one spherical to be performed earlier than the AFL finals get underway, the minor premiership, the final two remaining berths within the prime eight, and the wood spoon are all to be determined.

The Brisbane Lions will begin gorgeous favourites to maneuver to the highest of the ladder once they host Carlton on the Gabba, however they’ll end second ought to Port Adelaide defeat Collingwood on the similar venue on Monday evening.

The battle for seventh and eighth has the Greater Western Sydney Giants needing not simply to beat St Kilda by a big margin on Friday evening, however hope that Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs are crushed later within the spherical to Bradbury their method again into the finals.

Down on the unsuitable finish of the ladder, North Melbourne can all however keep away from the wood spoon if they will trigger an upset in opposition to the West Coast Eagles, however a loss, coupled with an Adelaide win over Richmond, will see the Shinboners end final for the primary time since 1972.

That’s all to play out in what guarantees to be a large ultimate spherical of the 2020 common season.

North Melbourne vs West Coast Eagles
After successful their first two video games, the Roos have fallen into a large heap, successful solely as soon as extra (in opposition to the Adelaide Crows) to be sitting in 17th place on the ladder, all however guaranteeing their lowest ever end since getting into the AFL in 1925.

The solely factor they will do now could be to trigger some nuisance worth in opposition to the Eagles, who’re nonetheless in with an opportunity to complete within the prime 4, however that will imply no residence ultimate attributable to Western Australia’s quarantine protocols.

The AFL has introduced that Perth’s Optus Stadium will solely host a ultimate ought to the Eagles end both fifth or sixth; another place, even third or fourth, will render it unattainable.

Despite being with out their first-choice midfield from the 2018 premiership, the Eagles nonetheless managed to eke out a 15-point win over St Kilda on the Gabba, however their general kind in Queensland does tiny to recommend that they’ll be a risk for the flag.

After they face the Roos, they’ll then have to stay in Queensland till the top of Monday evening earlier than understanding what their finals destiny might be. Either method, a win is non-negotiable.

Prediction: West Coast Eagles by 30 factors.

St Kilda vs GWS Giants
Successive irritating losses to the Adelaide Crows and Melbourne have seen the Giants, crushed grand finalists final yr, sit in tenth place.

The solely group to have gained a minimum of one ultimate in every of the final 4 seasons, Leon Cameron’s aspect now threat lacking the finals for the primary time since 2015, which might be a catastrophic consequence given the excessive expectations that have been bestowed upon them in the beginning of the yr.

Seventh-year coach Cameron has implored his males to go all out as they try to reclaim their place within the eight, with Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs anticipated to start out favourites of their respective matches in opposition to Essendon and Fremantle later within the spherical.

The Giants overcame a gradual begin in opposition to the Dees however pulled degree at halftime earlier than taking place by 5 factors on the demise.

Meantime, St Kilda additionally took the battle proper as much as West Coast, who have been lacking their whole midfield from their 2018 premiership triumph, however nonetheless misplaced by 15 factors to threat lacking finals for a ninth consecutive season.

For Brett Ratten’s aspect, nonetheless, the equation is straightforward – win and so they’ll end in sixth place. Lose, nonetheless, and so they’ll need to hope that different outcomes go their method in the event that they’re to take part in October.

With an eye fixed on the finals, the Saints will take the factors.

Prediction: St Kilda by 18 factors.

Dylan Roberton (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

Essendon vs Melbourne
90 days after the Bombers and Dees have been initially drawn to face one another on the MCG, the 2 golf equipment will lastly play their rescheduled fixture on the Gold Coast.

The authentic Round Three match was postponed at 24 hours’ discover on Saturday June 20, after since-retired Bomber Conor McKenna examined constructive to COVID-19.

The Bombers had began the season 2-0, whereas the Dees have been 1-1, however quick ahead to now and this Saturday might be John Worsfold’s ultimate sport in control of Essendon, bringing an finish to a modest five-year stint throughout which he oversaw the membership’s rebuild after the drama of the dietary supplements scandal.

Meanwhile, for the Dees, it’s win by sufficient after which hope that the Bulldogs are crushed closely by Fremantle on Sunday – regardless of the consequence between St Kilda and GWS the day before today.

Last week, Simon Goodwin’s males stored their faint finals hopes alive by edging out the Giants by 5 factors on the Gabba, falling behind within the second half earlier than a aim from Trent Rivers within the ultimate quarter proved to be the winner.

But over the previous decade matches between Essendon and Melbourne have confirmed to be arduous to foretell, with the underdog aspect victorious on all however two events.

So, whereas everybody expects and thinks that Melbourne will win, I’m going the opposite method.

Prediction: Essendon by six factors.

Adelaide Crows vs Richmond
While the Tigers are broadly anticipated to win, the Crows have gained their final three video games to present themselves an opportunity to keep away from the wood spoon.

In current weeks, Matthew Nicks’ males have crushed Hawthorn, the Giants and Carlton to hitch North on three wins for the season, and will but end in 17th place ought to North Melbourne upset West Coast on Thursday evening.

Otherwise, the Crows must thrash Richmond by a big margin – and that too relies on how a lot the Roos lose to the Eagles by – to keep away from the embarrassment of ending final of their 30th AFL season.

Realistically although, the Tigers might be trying to wrap up third place, with the expectation that they’ll be fourth on sport day because the Eagles will begin favourites to beat the Roos.

A win would then see them both ‘stay home’ and face Brisbane in a qualifying ultimate, which might be a repeat of the corresponding ultimate final yr, or face one other journey to the Oval to face Port Adelaide, to whom they misplaced by 21 factors in Round 11.

Last week, the Tigers produced a robust defensive effort to limit Geelong to just one aim within the first three-quarters, ultimately successful by 26 factors to retain their place within the prime 4.

Meantime, the Crows produced their finest first-half of the season, thrashing Carlton into submission and ultimately successful by 16 factors to reignite curiosity within the battle for the wood spoon.

While the boys from West Lakes would love to complete their season on a excessive, and doubtlessly hand the wood spoon to the Kangaroos, it might be smart to not predict in opposition to the Tigers.

Prediction: Richmond by 14 factors.

Jason Castagna of the Tigers celebrates after scoring a goal

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Brisbane Lions vs Carlton
The Power and Lions sit in equal top-spot with information of 13-Three every, although the Power’s superior share sees them simply above.

Chris Fagan’s aspect locked up the highest two with a five-goal win over Sydney in Cairns final week. Having trailed at quarter-time, the Lions stored the Swans scoreless within the second quarter after which kicked six objectives to 3 within the final.

It ensured they’ll play their first two finals on the Gabba, and will doubtlessly play the grand ultimate at their true residence ought to they get that far.

While they’ll begin favourites in opposition to the Blues this Saturday evening, they’ll be very conscious of a aspect that got here from properly behind to beat them by 15 factors within the groups’ most up-to-date assembly at Marvel Stadium final yr.

On that event, the Blues have been armed with a brand new coach in David Teague, after his predecessor Brendon Bolton was sacked midway by the season after returning simply 16 wins in 77 matches in cost.

The Lions used that loss, after that they had led by as a lot as 37 factors within the second quarter, to spark them right into a ten-match successful run that will take them to second place on the ladder, however in the end a straight-sets exit from September.

But Teague’s aspect may have their very own motivation to win this Saturday evening, with one of many membership’s trendy greats in Kade Simpson to bow out of the sport after over 340 video games within the Navy Blue.

Simpson was drafted to the membership throughout the membership’s lowest ebb, whereby wage cap breaches noticed the membership stripped of prime draft picks, hampering their short-term and long-term rebuilding plans.

The 36-year-old delivered what he might for his beloved membership and can depart as one of the crucial revered and admired gamers within the sport, even when he by no means featured within the sport’s largest stage – the grand ultimate.

But, having already locked up a top-two end, and with the minor premiership at stake, count on the Lions to flash no mercy at residence.

Prediction: Brisbane Lions by 20 factors.

Hawthorn vs Gold Coast Suns
The first match on Sunday afternoon takes us to the Adelaide Oval for the second time this weekend, when Hawthorn, who’ve been hubbing within the Barossa Valley in South Australia, face the Gold Coast Suns in a lifeless rubber.

With simply 4 wins this season, and at the moment sitting in 16th place on the ladder, this would be the Hawks’ worst season since 2004, and within the Alastair Clarkson period, with the membership’s golden period now seemingly a distant reminiscence.

Two extra gamers from their triple-premiership successful courses of 2013-15 – captain Ben Stratton and Paul Puopolo – will play their ultimate video games this weekend, with the latter to fall wanting the double-ton by solely a few video games.

Another veteran – Shaun Burgoyne – will play on for one more season, after which he’ll retire after twenty seasons within the AFL.

Thus, the Hawks may have an incentive to complete their 2020 season on a excessive, however it won’t come straightforward in opposition to a Gold Coast Suns aspect that has improved in spades this yr.

After being thrashed by Port Adelaide within the opening spherical earlier than the season suspension, the Suns gained three matches in a row, which led many to recommend that this yr can be the yr they make their finals breakthrough.

But after final yr’s prime draft decide Matt Rowell suffered a season-ending shoulder harm in opposition to the Geelong Cats in Round 5, the Suns have dropped down the ladder, successful solely two matches and drawing in opposition to Essendon since.

This Sunday, they’ll fancy their possibilities of a sixth win once they face the Hawks, who they’ve crushed solely twice – each occasions in 2017.

Last Monday evening, Stuart Dew’s aspect pushed the Pies to the demise, main at quarter-time however ending up dropping by 22 factors.

Another robust efficiency in opposition to the Hawks will once more instill perception into Suns members and followers that the membership is heading in the right direction, and something lower than (say) eight-to-ten wins subsequent yr might be unacceptable.

Prediction: Gold Coast Suns by eight factors.

Sydney Swans vs Geelong Cats
After a chronic interval on the highway caused by a second wave of coronavirus circumstances in Sydney, the Swans’ 2020 season will lastly come to an finish this Sunday once they ‘host’ the Cats at Metricon Stadium.

John Longmire’s males have lined a whole lot of the nation this season, sans the Northern Territory and Tasmania, enjoying two matches every in Adelaide, Perth and Cairns, whereas remaining based mostly at their true residence within the first half of the season earlier than being pressured out of their state.

In addition they’ve been ravaged by accidents to key gamers all season, with Lance Franklin not that includes in any respect this season, Isaac Heeney struggling a horrific ankle harm that ended his season in Round 6 and Josh Kennedy additionally lacking a number of video games.

They additionally needed to cope with the Elijah Taylor quarantine scandal which noticed him suspended for the remainder of the season after Round 12, and subsequently stood down by the membership as he faces severe assault allegations that has been leveled in opposition to him.

Last Sunday evening, the Swans pushed the Brisbane Lions all the best way, main by 5 factors at quarter-time, after which attending to inside two factors earlier than capitulating within the ultimate ten minutes to lose by 32 factors.

Despite the defeat, coach Longmire mentioned he was completely satisfied together with his group’s efficiency, as they gained most key statistics together with inside-50s and clearances.

But they’ll want greater than a repeat efficiency if they’re to upset the Cats, who’re eyeing a double probability and a doable shot at Port Adelaide within the first week of the finals.

Chris Scott’s aspect have been something however abysmal in opposition to Richmond final Friday evening, kicking just one aim to 3 quarter-time and dropping by 26 factors to all however finish their possibilities of ending within the prime two.

But in a significant increase for the Cats, they’ll get soon-to-be-retiree Gary Ablett Jr again after he returned to Melbourne to look after his sick son, after which quarantined for a fortnight upon his return to Queensland.

His presence could possibly be precisely what they want as they shut in on fourth place on the ladder and a showdown in opposition to the Power within the City of Churches within the opening week of the finals.

Prediction: Geelong Cats by 22 factors.

Fremantle vs Western Bulldogs
The penultimate match of the common season will see the Western Bulldogs management their finals future once they face Fremantle at Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns.

Of the 4 groups nonetheless in rivalry to fill the ultimate two locations on the ladder, Luke Beveridge’s males are the very best positioned, needing solely to beat the Dockers to be assured of their place in October.

It would even be advantageous to them if the GWS Giants and Melbourne drop their respective ties in opposition to St Kilda and Essendon earlier within the spherical, as that will shut up store on the eight with over half a spherical to go by the point the ultimate siren goes within the Bombers-Dees match.

The Dogs would then play for seventh place on the ladder, which might imply an elimination ultimate in opposition to the Saints, more likely to be performed at Metricon Stadium.

First, they have to get previous a Freo aspect that has impressed this yr underneath rookie coach Justin Longmuir, successful seven matches, the newest of them by 64 factors in opposition to North Melbourne final Saturday afternoon.

Normally a defensive aspect, the Dockers registered their highest rating for the yr, falling only a level wanting the ton as they made it back-to-back victories, having additionally crushed Melbourne in Round 16.

But with all the pieces to play for, count on the Bulldogs to take the factors.

Prediction: Western Bulldogs by 18 factors.

Collingwood vs Port Adelaide
The ultimate match of the common season might see Port Adelaide enjoying to say the minor premiership once they face Collingwood on the Gabba on Monday evening.

With the Lions beginning favourites to defeat the Blues on Saturday evening, it is going to be left to Ken Hinkley’s aspect to make sure that they beat the Pies to complete the season having spent every spherical on the prime of the ladder.

The final group to do that was Essendon in 2000 – and the Bombers went on to say the flag that yr.

In one other good omen for Port Adelaide supporters, every group that has ended Round 1 on prime of the ladder in each leap yr since then have additionally gone all the best way, together with the Power themselves in 2004.

But standing in the best way of the membership doubtlessly ending the season as minor premiers are Collingwood – a group in opposition to whom the Power have struggled in opposition to in current occasions.

The Pies have gained their previous two in opposition to the Power by a complete of 90 factors, although each of these have been in Melbourne. Thus, Port ought to take into account themselves they gained’t need to face the Pies within the Victorian capital, which has been locked down since Round 5.

In their final common season residence sport earlier than the finals, the Power trailed Essendon at quarter-time however ran riot thereafter, successful by 50 factors to strengthen their grip on the minor premiership.

Collingwood, meantime, have been made to battle for its victory in opposition to the Gold Coast Suns, being held on a leash for 3 quarters earlier than pulling away within the ultimate quarter to win by 22 factors.

It confirmed that they’ll play finals for a 3rd consecutive season, and they’re going to have the motivation to beat the Power on Monday evening as captain Scott Pendlebury will carry up sport #314 in what has been a glittering profession.

But at the moment six factors adrift of the West Coast Eagles, who sit in fifth place, the very best the Pies can end is sixth with a win, which might imply a “home” elimination ultimate more likely to be on the Gabba, or at worst eighth place and one other journey to Perth to face the Eagles in a knockout ultimate.

In the top I feel Port will take the factors, and henceforth the minor premiership.

Prediction: Port Adelaide by 16 factors.

Should my predictions wind up being appropriate, the primary week of the finals collection might look love this:

First qualifying ultimate: Port Adelaide vs Geelong Cats, Adelaide Oval, Thursday 1 October at 7:20pm (ACST)
Second qualifying ultimate: Brisbane Lions vs Richmond, Gabba, Friday 2 October at 7:50pm

First elimination ultimate: West Coast Eagles vs Collingwood, Optus Stadium, Saturday 3 October at 6:10pm (AWST)
Second elimination ultimate: St Kilda vs Western Bulldogs, Metricon Stadium or the Gabba, Saturday 3 October at 4:40pm

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