Round 11 Preview
Updated: Aug 10
What a bumper Saturday to kick off Round 11 on a locked-down Saturday in Melbourne. Grateful for the footy more than ever (and for the racing industry still going strong through this period - the weekly puzzle of footy and the horses has been a blessing lately).
It seems the continuous stream of matches hasn't stopped some terrible hot-takes on footy issues of late, but we will focus on the on-field here and try to find some winners in a very tricky Round 11.
Port Adelaide v Richmond
Both teams have saluted over the Bulldogs of late, while Richmond was able to take care of Brisbane last round, something Port Adelaide failed to do a while back. This is the season where those sorts of formlines don't always stand up, but in this instance it is well worth noting.
Both sides have been "up" for a fair while now, so we would've been keen to take them on against other opponents. Only a single day difference in terms of recovery period from last round as well.
This is incredibly difficult. The angle we will take is trying to weigh up the scoring power of the two sides recently - and that leaves us siding with the Tigers. Lynch and Riewoldt have re-captured some form, and their small forwards have been rotated through enough to keep them hungry.
Up the other end we have the imposing Charlie Dixon leading the way. Can Balta keep him quiet and take the Tigers a long way towards winning?
Through the midfield it's pretty much an even matchup, so just slightly leaning towards the Tigers to get the job done here despite the crowd-factor...
Pick: Richmond by 2
Brisbane v Western Bulldogs
Both teams would be bitterly disappointed with last week's results. Thankfully for them, they get a chance to do something about it pretty quickly. Lions back at the Gabba against a side super-vulnerable against any sort of marking power inside 50 - you'd think Brisbane will get enough chances to do that, but they will need to execute far better tonight.
The return of McStay could be the clincher. Never thought I'd say that.
For the Bulldogs, they just have to find ways to play to their own strengths up forward. The lack of a serious key big man inside 50 has really made things challenging for them lately, hence the need to rush back Aaron Naughton. You'd have to temper expectations on him given he hasn't played for so long, yet he's also the sort of player who could come in completely cold and kick four if given the chance.
A Bulldogs win wouldn't surprise given they can really mix their form, but siding with the Lions at home to kick the ball through the big sticks rather than the big and little ones this week...
Pick: Brisbane by 15
West Coast v Carlton
So the Eagles get a great chance to hone their craft in less than favourable conditions for them. It's an open secret that they are a far better team in dry weather with their marking power and possession-hungry style of play.
Here, they face a wet deck and a go-forward team who might be suited to a basic territory battle if not for the theory that they probably don't have the big bodies to match the Eagles across the ground.
Prepare for a bit of a dour struggle, but for those watching really closely it could still be a fascinating insight into how the Eagles adapt when things aren't served up on their terms.
Pick: West Coast by 21
Melbourne v North Melbourne
So many factors to consider, so little time.
No Gawn, no Viney, no Brown. No idea.
The Roos hung in there against the Cats last week but realistically were beaten by the better team a long way from the final siren. The Dees were easily the better side but just couldn't break away from the Crows until the final quarter.
It would be lazy to draw a line through both of their recent encounters with Adelaide, yet interestingly the Crows brought a 193 Pressure Rating against the Roos (in a game that looked far less than that) and a 200 against the Demons despite a poor last term. The Roos triumphed by 69, the Demons 51, yet both games were incredibly different to the eye.
You'd still back what's left of the Dees midfield to take care of North Melbourne at ground level. The pitoval caveat is that it's Goldstein and Daw vs McDonald and Jackson - does that provide the Roos with any advantage if their rucks are likely to get their hands on the hitouts far more often?
Really tricky, this game. Could see either side winning by 20+ (the Demons will forever live or die by their forward 50 efficiency), or a game that goes down to the wire.
On the recent body of work I'd be leaning slightly towards Melbourne. They may be hard to trust, but the team on paper is far more capable of getting over the line here than North Melbourne - too bad the game isn't played on paper, as they say...
Pick: Melbourne by 5
St Kilda v Geelong
An absolutely pivotal game for both sides here, on a Gabba surface that should hold up OK (a bit slippery later in the match, perhaps).
The two highest scoring teams (as at Round 10) face off against each other, so there is probably nothing surer than a first quarter where both sides feel each other out for a bit and try to lock down defensively. In a dour battle you'd probably back the Cats on experience alone.
Despite both sides being statistically strong on offence, I get the feeling the Cats really need to keep the game away from a shootout. The Saints haven't posted a sub-70 scoreline since Round 3, while the Cats have found it a bit tough to get on a roll at times recently.
While Geelong have had St Kilda's measure in the past few seasons, that sort of edge can be really overplayed - the Saints side has a completely different make-up, a different coach and a much more confident mindset this time around. Past history plays a far less significant role than some tend to suggest.
Leaning towards Geelong if they can keep the scoreline down - Saints have just kept winning but might be due to drop one against a quality opponent.
Pick: Geelong by 12
Fremantle v Hawthorn
Um...this is hard. Both sides have found life tough up forward, yet it's the Dockers who are playing the better football.
Did the Hawks at least find some of their mojo against the Blues last game? Carlton do have a habit of giving teams confidence by allowing them to score on a streak, so it's a bit hard to tell.
The return of Breust is the clincher, for mine. Kicked two on return in Round 9, has the benefit of a bye week to recover, and just finds ways to get off the chain time and time again. If the Hawks can find a couple of goals from their wingers and the mids, then Freo would need to find even more unlikely goalkickers to salute.
Fremantle have had the bye themselves, of course, so at least we get two relatively fresh teams going at it late on a Monday night.
Pick: Hawthorn by 8
Adelaide v Collingwood
I've been bullish for a long while about Collingwood but it's hard not to have your confidence dented by their recent form and bizarre inability to score. Injuries have just continued to plague them again, as they have for years - Howe, De Goey, Treloar, Pendlebury (and Sidebottom's suspension). But every team has lost a few so they certainly aren't unique.
The stretch of Fremantle-Sydney-Adelaide was supposed to shore up their win column enough to make them nearly certain finalists. The loss to Freo was a serious blow to their confidence as well as their finals hopes, then they produced a first half for the ages against Sydney to somehow find themselves behind at half time (2.10 to 5.0).
So now they get the easiest fixture of them all, at an incredibly opportune time for them. Injuries aside, they are simply better all over the ground and still have enough quality in their top five or six to notch up another win.
If they somehow manage to drop this game then at least you could pretty much draw a line through them for the flag (they were our pick at the start of the year), barring a miracle.
Pick: Collingwood by 38
Gold Coast v Essendon
Have to give Essendon a little credit for really hanging in there against the Giants. They arguably should have won but had themselves to blame - 29-points up reasonably late in the game should always equal a win. If that were a Melbourne, St Kilda or Carlton loss then the narrative would be very different.
So they face a very competitive but non-winning Gold Coast side without a forward line again. If Hurley and Hooker were both fit you could nearly guarantee one of them lines up at full-forward here. Do they roll the dice with Hurley or Aaron Francis given the only tall timber up forward doing any sort of damage is Ben King?
Just feel like this is a real blowtorch sort of game for the eventual loser - last game of the round, most of the issues from previous games would have been covered to within an inch of their life, and both teams could arguably already be labelled a disappointment at this stage of the season.
Suns to find a way to win, particularly if they send someone to look after Zach Merrett for the night.
Pick: Gold Coast by 10
Round 11 Burning Question:
Is the current final eight a lock to remain that way?
The Pies are shaky and injury-hit, the Dogs are inconsistent, while the Bombers and Demons might need to build some momentum if they're going to challenge (plus they get to play each other at some stage soon).
Obviously anything can happen, but it wouldn't surprise if at least the first seven are eventual finalists, with potentially one more spot truly up for grabs...