The end of the 2020 season is approaching fast, with multiple teams still in the top eight hunt and the finals seeding still to be determined.
A St Kilda win would all but clinch a first finals berth since 2011, while West Coast’s top four hopes hinge on this match.
With Collingwood, GWS and the Western Bulldogs breathing down their necks, a 10th victory for the Saints would lock away a top eight spot and ease the pressure going into the final round.
Key forwards Tim Membrey and Max King return for the season-defining game, but they will have their work cut out against an Eagles defence marshalled by four-time All-Australian Jeremy McGovern.
West Coast’s midfield has been decimated with captain Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo, Jack Redden, Dom Sheed and Mark Hutchings all missing leaving Tim Kelly and Andrew Gaff to pick up the slack.
Sitting two points behind fourth-placed Richmond, Adam Simpson’s side will be eyeing off consecutive wins to finish the regular season if they’re any chance of securing an all-important double chance come October.
Given how depleted West Coast is this is a huge opportunity for the Saints to end a near decade-long finals drought.
Geelong enters this clash with reigning premier Richmond as the form side of the competition. The Cats have won their last six matches at an average of 42.8 points with a 66-point drubbing of Essendon the most recent.
The Tigers have been impressive themselves, but at a lesser level, winning four on the trot including a grinding victory over Fremantle by 27 points last time out.
Damien Hardwick’s side has been fortunate enough to gain a little freshen up with their last game taking place on September 2 while Chris Scott’s Cats played last Sunday.
From a head-to-head viewpoint, Richmond has wrestled back control by winning four of the last five following decades of Geelong dominance. The last time they met, the Tigers got up by 19 points in last year’s Preliminary Final after trailing by 21 at the main break.
The Tigers get back Dylan Grimes and Kane Lambert – two enormous ins – while Jack Ross also comes into the side with Nathan Broad, Jack Higgins and youngster Thomson Dow all omitted.
The Cats have recalled Zach Tuohy after he missed the win over the Bombers with rib and knee soreness while Esava Ratugolea replaces Josh Jenkins in the ruck/forward role.
While Richmond certainly has the ability, it is hard to overlook Geelong’s form of late which has been irresistible.
There is plenty of rain forecast on the Gold Coast for Friday which could suit the Tigers but the Cats are playing well enough to salute. But it will be tight.
Expected rain on Saturday afternoon on the Gold Coast will make this one an absolute scrap. North Melbourne and Fremantle are ranked 15th and 17th respectively for points for and in an already low scoring year, goals could be few and far between.
The Kangaroos were competitive against Port Adelaide last Saturday and showed they haven’t dropped their heads, but inefficiency going forward this year continues to haunt them.
Fremantle meanwhile cut the heart out of Melbourne’s season up in Cairns on Monday. The question for them will be how they bounce back after a five-day break after playing in torrential and tough conditions. The Roos will be the fresher team and have a team of players fighting for list spots in 2021.
Anticipating a contest where the first team to 35 points might win it, this could really go either way. It will come down to whether the Dockers’ stars have the run in their legs for another tough slog.
Port Adelaide will be welcoming the opportunity to put in a dominant performance and re-assert themselves as one of the sides to beat as they host Essendon to the Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
A seven-day break is a luxury during this season but that is exactly what the Power benefit from following their 36-point win over North Melbourne last Saturday night.
It’s largely been a season of woe for the Bombers, who were thoroughly outclassed against Geelong last week and look to be an defeated outfit after a year where injury has decimated them.
The Bombers will at the very least be looking for a competitive performance after last week’s drubbing and will likely welcome back Joe Daniher after he was rested for the Round 16 clash.
If Port Adelaide are in the mood and Essendon bring the same sort of defensive effort which saw them concede 12 goals to two in the first half against the Cats, this could be another humbling margin for coach John Worsfold to digest.
Essendon has won both their games at Adelaide Oval this year and shouldn’t be discounted, even if their current form suggests otherwise, but the Power will still be too strong.
Both sides did the unthinkable last and round lost to teams below them on the ladder despite a spot in the eight being up for grabs for both. The Giants, who managed to cling onto eighth position. were beaten by Adelaide on Tuesday night some 24 hours after the Demons shot themselves in the foot when going down to Fremantle.
It sets this up as a vital encounter with GWS currently in the way of a potential Melbourne finals berth.
The two clubs have traded blows the last four times they’ve met with two wins apiece, the most recent a 26-point triumph to the Giants at the MCG in Round 10 last year.
Personnel-wise, key defender and former skipper Phil Davis is now out for the year which is a major blow but the Giants should have Josh Kelly back after he missed the last two matches with concussion. The Dees don’t have any fresh injury concerns from the Dockers loss.
This is a tipster’s nightmare with two clubs who have the tendency to underperform when it matters most doing battle.
Neither are trustworthy sources so you have to pick something out as a point of difference in order to make a decision. The overall quality the Giants possess is why they get the nod.
Adelaide has played a number of good games in recent weeks and will see this clash with Carlton as one final chance to pinch another win before the end of the season. The Blues meanwhile have been competitive against better teams like Collingwood and GWS, but have struggled to turn leads into wins and now find themselves out of the finals race, barring a miracle.
The Blues will likely lose key players Sam Docherty and Jack Martin to calf injuries and while this will open the door for Eddie Betts and Michael Gibbons to return to the team, they will no doubt miss the classy duo.
Carlton should win this game. They should control the clearances, should control time in forward half and should be able to finish on the scoreboard against a Crows backline that has struggled all year. The key word is, clearly, ‘should’, because it’s hard to know what to expect from both teams in this dead rubber.
However, Adelaide’s form in recent weeks has been strong and their forward line, built around Elliott Himmelberg and numerous small forwards, will cause the Blues trouble. Expect Ed Curnow to pay close attention to the red hot Rory Laird in the middle.
The Western Bulldogs have no margin for error heading into their final two matches of the home and away season.
Two wins from their final two games will likely see the Bulldogs make the finals, but a loss could dash their hopes of playing in October.
A vital two-point win over West Coast – their second win over a top eight side in 2020 – ensured the Dogs kept pace with St Kilda, Collingwood and GWS in the finals race.
Sitting outside the eight on percentage and with the Giants and Melbourne due to meet in a virtual elimination final on Saturday, a victory over Hawthorn would mean Luke Beveridge’s men are a live chance of making the finals heading into a winnable final round match against Fremantle.
The Hawks put in a vastly improved performance against St Kilda but were unable to take their chances in the final quarter, eventually going down by 14 points.
Alastair Clarkson’s side are on a run of six consecutive losses and dropped to 16th on the ladder in what is the club’s lowest ebb since Clarkson’s first season in 2005.
Rebuilding on the run has been the story for Sydney in 2020 and they get the chance to put their incremental improvement to test against one of the game’s best sides in Brisbane on Sunday at Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns.
Even though John Longmire’s side sit in the bottom four, the strides they’ve made in bedding in their next generation of players this season positions them well for the future. The likes of James Rowbottom, Jordan Dawson, Tom McCartin and Nick Blakey have all cemented their spot in Sydney’s best side in the medium to long term.
Fresh off a tight clash with Carlton and before that, an impressive 21-point win over Melbourne, the Swans will face a Lions side coming off a four-day break after the Q-Clash against Gold Coast.
It’s been a while since these two sides have played, with their last meeting coming way back in Round 7 last year when Brisbane won by 22 points.
The Lions are positioning themselves well for a premiership tilt but first must negotiate a tricky matchup against a Swans side which shouldn’t be underestimated.
This is a game Collingwood must win if they are to make the finals. It’s as simple as that.
The Magpies have clung to a spot in the eight for the majority of the season but after the Western Bulldogs’ upset win over West Coast, an October berth has never been in greater doubt.
Nathan Buckley’s men fell eight points short of the Brisbane Lions, which wasn’t unexpected given Collingwood’s well-documented injury list. It does mean, however, that a positive result against the Suns is a non-negotiable, given they face a tough encounter with ladder leaders Port Adelaide to round out the season.
For only the second time in seven matches, Collingwood will face a fresher opponent after their bye in round sixteen while the Suns battled it out midweek with the Lions.
While their finals hopes are well and truly over, the Suns will still be determined to influence the shape of the eight.
A win for Stuart Dew’s side over a big Melbourne club would put the cherry on top of a season where huge strides have been made in turning a perennial cellar-dweller into a future premiership contender.
Despite Collingwood’s understrength line up, they know what they need to do and should have the cattle to get the job done.
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