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  • Pete Roberts

Round 4 Preview

Updated: 6 days ago

If previous years are any guide, this is around the time in the season where a few things generally happen:

  • A couple of quality teams are prematurely written off - Richmond were 1-1-2 at Round 4 last year, West Coast were 1-3

  • There is significant hype around an early season "bolter" - the Suns were 3-1 and had beaten the Eagles. Hawthorn were 3-1 and had beaten Brisbane and Richmond by that stage in a shortened fixture

  • A few critical injuries begin to shape the fortunes of a few teams - Jeremy Howe went down in Round 4 last year and many thought he took the Pies' top four hopes with him

In 2021, the Saints and Lions have taken the mantle of talented teams out of form early. The Swans have quickly become everyone's favourite team, but can they sustain it? And we've already seen the Suns, Bombers and Giants decimated by injuries - will any of the genuine finals contenders end up hit with an injury to a player they can't afford to lose?


Three rounds isn't a big enough sample size to draw any huge conclusions, and makes picking winners this weekend quite difficult. Also around this time, the tipsters and the betting market can definitely overreact off the back of a previous week's result. It wouldn't shock to see a few underdogs play much more competitive footy than many predict...


Best Matchup - Port Adelaide v Richmond

Best Underdog - Melbourne, Richmond

Team Under Pressure - St Kilda

Player To Watch - Kysaiah Pickett: kicked four against GWS last weekend and is the kind of player to give the Cats some serious trouble with his speed and unpredictability. Has had 12 shots at goal in three matches - could this be the week he legitimately explodes and kicks six?


Game by game previews below.

Sydney v Essendon


Was there a worse hot-take than whoever said resting Lance Franklin in Round 3 sent the message to the rest of the team that the Swans didn't think they could win? Absolutely hilarious. Someone failed to tell the players, obviously.


Buddy returns here to terrorise Essendon again. But this time he doesn't need to be the main man. With Sydney's new-found ball movement he should really thrive and loves bringing others into the game - everyone forgets how good a field kick he is. Can't wait to see him drill a ball towards Logan McDonald and split him in half.


Can the Bombers bottle the excitement they generated last week against the Saints and do something similar here? St Kilda were terrible and just didn't defend, so it would take a similar lack of effort from the Swans for Essendon to cause an upset.


A Bombers win isn't totally out of the question if they can get off to a fast start and build some belief. Most of the outsiders to salute this season have gained confidence from a quality first quarter rather than pinching it late. If they can't keep pace with the Swans early then this might be a battle they just can't win.


Obviously all the figures point to the Swans - the best ball movement team from defence to attack faces a bottom four team at conceding coast to coast inside 50s. Add to that, the Swans are still top four at forcing turnovers in their front half so they don't have to absorb a heap of entries like they used to.


Swans to win. Perhaps a little overhyped right now, but should still get the job done.


Pick: Sydney by 27


Port Adelaide v Richmond


Match of the round, this one. Surprised to see Richmond so unfancied after a few injuries last weekend - we've seen them go in undermanned before and still perform. Even more so after a loss. Do they deserve to be such outsiders?


Port are an interesting one. They took advantage of two weak opponents in the first two rounds, then were beaten up by West Coast at their own game in Round 3. What some might have missed was a reasonable second half from Port, enough to suggest they will be OK in the long run. The match review would have given them some valuable lessons as well - in that scenario you can usually be confident they can bounce back.


Did Sydney give Port the blueprint to beating the Tigers? They broke through the come-forward defence of Richmond and managed 5.2 from defensive 50 turnovers and beat them for speed. Port are built a similar way to the Swans and the Tigers would have addressed that side of their game during the week. Sets up for a fascinating contest.


Siding with Port Adelaide on their home deck but the difference between the two sides isn't all that great. Lynch and Riewoldt alone should trouble their key defenders if the ball movement is slick enough. Wouldn't talk you out of picking the Tigers if you fancy them...


Pick: Port Adelaide by 4


Western Bulldogs v Brisbane


Another cracker, this one. A rare Saturday afternoon of footy in Ballarat with the Lions still in Victoria for the third match in a row. A slight chance of rain. A 100% chance its bloody cold up there.


Both sides are travelling well. The Bulldogs are undefeated and as confident as ever. The Lions may have salvaged their season after the siren last weekend but their form overall has been super solid for a 1-2 side. Can they get up again for a matchup that will be won and lost through the midfield?


A lot rests on the shoulders of a clearly hampered Lachie Neale and his centre bounce sidekick Jarryd Lyons. Somehow they need to take on all those Bulldogs mids and break even at the clearances - the territory game is absolutely critical given the key forwards at either end.


The one achilles heel for the Dogs is still their key defence - that's the window of opportunity for Daniher and Hipwood to take advantage. Will the weather hold up? If it does, Brisbane will be desperate to find a few marks from McInerney (if he plays), Bailey, Cameron and the midfielders. They will be praying for a dry deck, while the Dogs will be super happy if it gets a bit slippery. Worth monitoring the forecast close to game time.


The Lions have Andrews and Adams to take care of Bruce and Naughton in a great 2 v 2 matchup - will it be the Dogs smalls that keep the scoreboard ticking over? Nearly half the side kicked goals against the Roos last week so it was a little misleading, but the Bulldogs have arguably the best goalkicking midfielders in the game - they don't need to rely on Bruce and Naughton kicking bags every week which is a huge positive for them moving forward.


The Lions are relying on their top six to eight players heavily at the moment. If they fire then a win over the Dogs isn't out of the question. Really feel like we will learn a hell of a lot about both teams after this game.


With so many different ways for them to score and a midfield that should give them a win in the territory battle, happy to side with the Dogs. Any side that can put up 30 scoring shots against the Eagles (and win) deserves to be favourite.



Pick: Western Bulldogs by 17


St Kilda v West Coast


Oh boy. Fresh off an embarrassing performance last week, the Saints smack straight into arguably the best team in the comp at the moment. And the kind of team that will give them nightmares.


St Kilda have serious issues defensively, and it's got nothing to do with a lack of effort or intensity. Their key defence is a big problem - is there a worse side to face than the Eagles if you don't trust your key defenders?


The Saints have conceded 17 marks inside 50 for two weeks running - to Melbourne and Essendon, two teams that don't exactly scream offensive potency. West Coast have taken 28 forward 50 marks the past two weeks against two quality teams in the Dogs and Power. What will they do to this mob under a roof?


Expecting St Kilda to come out breathing fire after the usual "open and honest" conversations in the match review. Against most other sides you could mount a case for the Saints to bounce back with a win, but the Eagles are just the worst team for them to face given their weapons on offence. Couldn't possibly see how West Coast don't put up 80+ even if they are away from their cosy home ground.


The only case you could make for St Kilda is to somehow find the Eagles in a flat spot early, hit the scoreboard and get the crowd on their side. Over a 120-minute game, West Coast are just a better side so we have to go with the much more likely scenario here.


Given that, expecting the Eagles to win and move closer to flag favouritism by the week.


Pick: West Coast by 25


Gold Coast v Carlton


The Suns are decimated by injury, while the Blues had a big confidence booster last weekend.


Last week was a really good guide on the Suns and how they fare offensively against a team that will give them plenty of looks on offence. Unfortunately, Gold Coast just couldn't find their efficiency up forward and really should have beaten the Crows.


They come up against a similar defence in Carlton this weekend - they should still have enough clean possession on offence, but have they learned anything from Round 3? How do they find more avenues to score?


Up the other end, Carlton suddenly look a lot more dangerous. We need to temper expectations though, given they faced a very undermanned Fremantle defence and very little scoreboard pressure. The Suns defence is arguably better than the Dockers right now, so this game could come down to a forward 50 mark battle.


Ben King needs help up forward. Harry McKay does too. Who will be the other forward to stand up and kick a few to help haul their side over the line? Rankine (4.5 in three games) and Fogarty (2.1, 6 score assists) the most likely for the two sides to bob up in this one.


The loss of Witts is the killer blow for Gold Coast. With the likes of Cripps, Walsh, Williams and Saad finding plenty of the ball the Blues look the more likely winner in a close one.


Pick: Carlton by 15


Collingwood v GWS


Fascinating game, this one. The Pies find a great bounce back spot after the disappointment of last week (how brutal would their review have been of that last 90 seconds?), while the Giants were brave against Melbourne despite losing three soldiers over the course of the game.


Collingwood have come up super short in the odds markets to win, presumably off the back of all the Giants injury issues. They are clearly going better than GWS but couldn't possibly have them such overwhelming favourites with their challenges on offence.


The Pies come up against another side with an inexperienced ruckman, their mids should be able to get on top through the middle, and if they can contain Toby Greene as he tries to carry the entire Giants offence on his back then they just win.


For the Giants to win they'd have to make this a low scoring game and pinch it late in a scrap. Collingwood just need to get on top at clearances to win the territory and post a score that the Giants can't match.


Pick: Collingwood by 18


North Melbourne v Adelaide


Wow. Who would've thought Adelaide would end up $1.30 favourites away from home at any stage this year, but here we are...


North were bad. Still are. They just don't have the level of talent available at the moment to match it with most sides. Yet somehow they could still win this.


The surprising form of the Crows has masked the holes in their defence. Any side (even North) can exploit their deficiencies and get on a bit of a roll. The Roos will clearly find it a challenge regardless, but if they can post a reasonable total in the first quarter and actually believe then they're half a chance. Can't believe I'm saying this, but a North win wouldn't shock at all.


Tex vs a very poor North defence will be fascinating. He's become one of the most exciting players to watch this season - is he leading the Brownlow count? Don't think there has been a better set shot at goal in recent history than Tex. He has carried the Crows to victory twice and kicked 6 against the Swans - hard to see the Roos keeping him under six shots at goal. Forcing him wide or just hoping he misses a few might be their only hope.


Clearly you can't possibly pick North Melbourne at the moment. The Crows just aren't that great either so there is a window for the Roos to grab one of those fairytale wins we've seen over many years from bottom four sides (remember Adelaide v Hawthorn last season?).


Actually looking forward to seeing if North can get close. Or even win it. If they can't then it's hard to see where their first win will come from.



Pick: Adelaide by 17


Melbourne v Geelong


Contrasting styles for this one - the Dees are enjoying a 3-0 start and playing with a fair bit of speed. The Cats are probably lucky to be 2-1 and play a methodical style of game far different to the rest of the competition.


Melbourne are currently the best side at forcing front half turnovers - their fate in this game might rest on their ability to cut off Geelong's first kick out of defence or apply enough pressure that they kick it back to them. If they fail, then Geelong's kick-mark style should allow them to slowly move the ball up the other end until they find a hole in Melbourne's defence.


Hawkins vs May is worth the price of admission alone. And it might well decide the match.


Get ready for a strange looking game. Lots of numbers up Geelong's end, a lot of open space up the other end. The Cats won't want to turn it into a running race or the Demons will come out on top.


Absolutely no idea which style of play will win out in this scenario. Does the game suit a faster, more chaotic method these days? If that's the case we will side with the Demons to knock off the Cats in a thriller.


Pick: Melbourne by 4

Fremantle v Hawthorn


Another snooze fest to finish. First to 70 points, wins?


Freo were poor last week but they do grow a leg at home. The Hawks were a bit stiff against the Cats yet still struggle to score themselves.


Whoever can break the shackles and play with some dare will get the four points. A large part of the game will be played at ground level up either end - big test for the small forwards to stand up.


The return of Nat Fyfe swings things towards Fremantle, but it's incredibly hard to be confident in them right now. A Hawks upset wouldn't shock.


Pick: Fremantle by 11


Round 4 Burning Question:


How are West Coast not second favourites for the flag?


Early days of course and we need to see the Eagles knock off another top eight side (preferably away from home to tick that box). But their home record is formidable, they could end up playing two finals at Perth Stadium and seem to have a bit more of a competitive edge in the contest this season which was always a knock on them come finals time.


Surprised they aren't at least on level terms with Geelong and Port Adelaide at the moment.


Best Matchup - Port Adelaide v Richmond

Best Underdog - Melbourne, Richmond

Team Under Pressure - St Kilda

Player To Watch - Kysaiah Pickett: kicked four against GWS last weekend and is the kind of player to give the Cats some serious trouble with his speed and unpredictability. Has had 12 shots at goal in three matches - could this be the week he legitimately explodes and kicks six?


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