With an intense lead-up to the finals, some teams are on their last chance for title shots.
Tigers v Bombers, Friday, MCG
After it looked like the season was over for Richmond in round 14 after four straight losses, the Tiger Army is up and about again following five consecutive wins. The team are now two games off eighth position and have a mathematical chance of playing finals. Although there isn’t much room for error with three other teams also vying to enter the eight. The Bombers have only lost once in the past month – against the Sydney Swans on Friday night – and are seventh on 10 wins, with percentage keeping them above Collingwood and Gold Coast.
Newsroom’s prediction: Tigers by 30
Giants v Roos, Saturday, StarTrack Oval
Despite losing its past five matches, Greater Western Sydney (GWS) is finishing the season stronger than in previous years. Competing against Geelong and Richmond over the past fortnight, GWS reduced a 113-point loss to the Tigers back in round 10 to just 27 points at the MCG last Saturday. The club is aiming to end its third season with at least one more victory but could find it tough against North Melbourne. The Kangaroos’ last-start loss to the Cats left them in a dogfight in the bottom half of the top eight and they can’t afford a slip-up.
Newsroom’s prediction: Roos by 30
Blues v Suns, Saturday, Etihad Stadium
With its finals chances on the line, Gold Coast scored its first win without skipper Gary Ablett Jr last Saturday, albeit against bottom team St Kilda at home. Carlton was gallant in defeat against fourth-placed Fremantle last round and should fancy its chances against the Suns. Carlton has a much better record at Etihad Stadium this season, having won five of seven games at the venue. The Blues have had nine days to get over the trip back from Perth and are finishing the season strongly.
Newsroom’s prediction: Blues by 40
Hawks v Demons, Saturday, MCG
This is the Hawks’ last opportunity to tweak some things ahead of three tough games – Fremantle, Geelong and Collingwood – heading into the finals. There will be little let-up on the hapless Demons because percentage is so vital for the Hawks given their top-two aspirations. Although, expect a better showing from Melbourne if the post-match disposition of coach Paul Roos after the loss to the Brisbane Lions is any guide. Melbourne’s defensive structures are vastly improved but Hawthorn still have the edge in firepower and class all over the ground.
Newsroom’s prediction: Hawks by 20
Power v Swans, Saturday, Adelaide Oval
Port needs a scalp and it needs one fast to return some confidence to the playing group. The club has lost its way in recent weeks, morphing from a premiership contender into a side that appears more likely to simply make up the numbers come September. A win against the Sydney Swans would certainly lift morale at the club, but the Swans are in premiership-winning form and it will take a spectacular effort to halt that juggernaut. The 2012 premiers will be out to reclaim top spot after being dethroned by Hawthorn last weekend.
Newsroom’s prediction: Swans by 40
Cats v Dockers, Saturday, Simonds Stadium
In the past five seasons, this pairing has developed into one of the great modern rivalries. Last time the Cats and the Dockers met at Simonds Stadium on the opening weekend of last year’s finals series, the boys from the west scored what was probably the greatest victory in their club’s history. This time around, there is again plenty to play for. Both sides need to win to remain on track for a top-four finish, so it should be another heated and intense clash.
Newsroom’s prediction: Dockers by 30
Lions v Crows, Sunday, Gabba
Almost every game at this stage of the season has finals implications, and this one is no different. After Adelaide’s shock loss against West Coast last week, the Crows are desperate to win to push back into the top eight. But what looked a relative gimme game a few weeks back is now anything but, with the Lions winning five of their past nine matches. Adelaide’s desperation and class should be enough, but they wouldn’t want to underestimate the rapidly improving Lions.
Newsroom’s prediction: Lions by 50
Saints v Bulldogs, Sunday, Etihad Stadium
St Kilda’s last home game of the season will give fans the chance to farewell a club great. They will need to overcome a young, hungry Bulldogs outfit that was competitive for periods against reigning premier Hawthorn last Sunday but faded in the second half. A win for the Saints could drag them off the bottom of the ladder and give members and supporters a perfect farewell to a club favourite.
Newsroom’s prediction: Bulldogs by 30
Eagles v Magpies, Sunday, 2:40, Patersons Stadium
West Coast and Collingwood have a storied rivalry and this promises to be another very entertaining chapter. The two sides played out one of the best matches of the season in round 10. The Magpies’ midfield that night arrested control when the game was there to be won. But the Eagles had their chances, which has been the story of their season. Their performance to out-gun Adelaide showed what they are capable of. There are two keys to this game; Collingwood needs to find goals while the Eagles need to break even at the very least in the midfield.
Newsroom’s prediction: Magpies by 20 – Jackson Miller
Top photo taken by Daniel Walker.