• Pete Roberts

Round 5 Preview

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

Is this round as straight forward as it looks on paper? No genuine coin flips, only two games with a starting line of fewer than two goals and a couple of serious mismatches where complacency will be the only threat to a six-goal plus margin.

Quick form reversals (outside of the Saints and maybe the Bombers) have been rare. Not everyone is playing their best every week but a four-game sample size is just enough to give us a reasonable guide on where teams sit in the pecking order.

For the underdogs, the key is to bring pressure early. The hallmark of most upsets so far has been a willingness to chase and tackle, a kind of mindset that doesn't require any real talent. Obviously it has to be combined with hitting the scoreboard when you get your chance - the Bombers did it well against Sydney despite falling just short, and a few others have hung in there enough to give themselves a shot in the second half.

Every game will be worth watching to see if any of these outsiders can find a fast start. From there, anything could happen...

Best Matchup - St Kilda v Richmond

Best Underdogs - Fremantle, GWS, Carlton (tough week for the outsiders)

Team Under Pressure - Collingwood

Player To Watch - Darcy Moore: couldn't pick a worse week for people to be calling for him to be switched forward, given they desperately need him down back to take care of the Eagles' key forwards. Does he stay in defence? Do the Pies bring in another defender and push him forward? Could Jeremy Howe be the man to move instead? Can't wait to see what they do...

Game by game previews below. Fascinating week!


St Kilda v Richmond

Probably the most interesting matchup of the round, only because nothing would surprise. With both teams at 2-2, this becomes a pretty important game.

How many quarters do you think St Kilda have won this season?


No other team has won fewer. Only one of their quarter wins has been in a first half.

So how can they possibly win? It really depends on which St Kilda side turns up. At their best they can trouble the Tigers with their game style. Richmond don't tend to blow teams away early, either.

Richmond had to survive an early onslaught themselves last weekend against Port, and could easily have found themselves four goals down at half time. But their second half rally shows they can still match it with anyone. They should have pinched the four points in the end.

Are Richmond defending as well as they used to? Early days, but the numbers suggest they aren't. Opposition sides have been able to score from their back half much more easily than previous seasons - the Blues did it in Round 1, the Swans definitely did it in Round 3. The Saints would love to do the same this week but it's not exactly a weapon of theirs at the moment.

St Kilda's best chance of gaining the upper hand is through the midfield. They went +16 clearance against the Eagles last weekend and broke even against a super Melbourne midfield group with Paul Hunter as their ruckman in Round 2. Even if Marshall's foot is a little bit suspect, they have a genuine chance to win the clearance battle. At best it will provide them with plenty of scoring opportunities. At the very least it should help to protect their defence.

For the Tigers, Riewoldt and Lynch (as usual) will have a big bearing on Richmond's fortunes. Somehow the Saints kept the Eagles to only 9 marks inside 50 last weekend. Can they do it again? Not so sure. If Dusty and the so far underperforming small forwards can also hit the scoreboard, the Tigers deserve to be considered a reasonable favourite. Which "mood" will the Saints be in? Can't wait to find out.

Pick: Richmond by 15


West Coast v Collingwood

In a lot of ways this is the perfect time for Collingwood to mix things up - the offence is struggling, the defence has been super brave but constantly under the pump, and the midfield has lost their best player in Taylor Adams.

Will we see anything different from the Pies? Any one of Moore, Howe, Grundy or Cameron could go forward on Friday night. Having broken 75 points only once so far this season, something has to change.

The fixture is definitely not on their side. The Eagles would be the worst side to face when you're considering moving one of your best key defenders up the other end.

The Saints gave us the blueprint to beating the Eagles in the second half last week - a high-pressure turnover game with plenty of speed on offence. Do the Pies have that sort of game in them?

The numbers suggest they don't - a pretty low pressure rating for the season, second last at creating turnovers through the middle, bottom four at scoring from their defensive 50. The Eagles are lethal at the uncontested game. We saw what they did to Port in Round 3, and they did the same to St Kilda in the first half before the Saints turned up the heat.

Just can't see Collingwood playing the high-pressure tackling game which generally troubles the Eagles - they are a long way from the team which pinched the elimination final last year. West Coast don't need a huge inside 50 count to post a decent score (they lead the league for goals per inside 50 so far), so the clearance battle isn't as relevant in this one.

Eagles to win. Big watch on whether we see anything different from Collingwood. It's time.

TEAM UPDATE: Petrucelle and Ryan out for the Eagles robs them of significant speed in their front half which would have really troubled the Pies. Certainly brings them back a notch against a team with their back to the wall.

Cox omitted is a good sign Bucks and the coaching group are starting to try a few things. Wouldn't surprise to see Grundy play a lot more time forward with Darcy Cameron coming in to assist as a forward/ruck.

Eagles now with a depleted midfield, a forward line with far less ground-level speed and pressure (if they can't mark it up forward that could be critical), and they lose a general in Shannon Hurn down back. Still a better side, but these changes bring the teams a little closer together.

Pick: West Coast by 22


Western Bulldogs v Gold Coast

Surely the grace period for the Suns is over? The only reason they escaped a 30+ point hiding last week was because of Carlton's inaccuracy. Their long injury list hasn't helped of course, but it's hard to see how they turn things around before another year goes by without any progress.

The Dogs won a slightly different way against Brisbane, which is a really good sign. They lost the disposal count for the first time this season, Caleb Daniel failed to have any influence, and they ended up behind in the clearances for the first time since Round 14 last year. Importantly, a few of the Bulldogs midfielders hit the scoreboard to help them over the line.

Clearly a mismatch in talent, this one. The Dogs are superior through the middle, particularly with English and Martin against a Suns ruck setup without a recognised ruckman. This should give the Dogs forwards plenty of opportunity one-on-one.

Up the other end, the Suns just don't have enough weapons to target the fragile Bulldogs key defenders. It is Ben King or bust at the moment which makes them far too predictable to pose any real challenge when the ball goes in there.

Gold Coast play far better when the game is an open contest. The problem is the Dogs are just better at that style of game. Can't see how the Bulldogs drop this one.

Pick: Western Bulldogs by 38


Sydney v GWS

The Swans find themselves favourite in the Sydney Derby for the first time since 2018. This looks like an absolute trap game for them - you don't see a 4-0 side averaging 85 points against too often. They sit alongside Carlton, Hawthorn and GWS for points conceded - those sides have won four games between them.

Can the Giants take advantage of the Swans defensive issues and hit the scoreboard? Time for GWS to load up and get the ball into the likes of Greene, Himmelberg and Finlayson as fast as possible. With this kind of setup, the Giants can win it.

GWS obviously don't want a complete shootout, so the key for them defensively is just being able to turn the game into a scrap for long enough. Curbing the Swans' speed of ball movement will be their biggest challenge - the Giants are bottom six for conceding coast to coast inside 50s and scores at the moment.

With four games of vision to study this new look Swans outfit, this is where opposition teams can start to find ways to defend their method. The jury is out as to whether GWS are equipped to do it, but can't wait to see them try. An upset isn't out of the question.

Pick: Sydney by 10


Carlton v Port Adelaide

Port with injury worries, Carlton with consistency issues. One of the most interesting matchups of the weekend.

The Blues would have loved watching Port and Richmond smashing into each other in Round 4 with the carnage that followed - Duursma and Butters injured, Fantasia and Rozee banged up and sore.

Not surprisingly, Port are now only slight favourites this week away from home. Team changes are worth watching for this one - expecting Marshall and Rockliff to come into the side at the very least. Two handy inclusions.

This all comes down to Carlton's efficiency on offence. They have lost the past four against Port and haven't hit above 72 points in any of them. Anything short of 80 this weekend and they might struggle to get over the line.

The Blues have competitive figures for inside 50 differential and scores per inside 50 so far this year. Last week they got away with some sloppy delivery - Port won't give them the same number of chances.

So many other question marks over this game - how much did last week's brutal contest take out of Port? Are the Blues better suited at Marvel Stadium than the MCG at the moment? Can they keep Port under 80 points?

Plenty of unknowns for this one so it's hard to be super confident. Port still a better side but this is a great chance for the Blues to knock them off.

Pick: Port Adelaide by 10


Brisbane v Essendon

Big Joe faces his former side and the Lions are finally back home.

Get ready for the hot-takes on Joe Daniher smiling during the game. He probably plays better footy when he's being a bit weird, so the Lions won't care as long as he's kicking goals for them.

Think this might be the game where the Bombers drop off slightly and the Lions take advantage of them. Brisbane need this win desperately to stay in touch, have been playing good footy without winning, and have the offence to trouble Essendon.

Back-to-back interstate trips for the Bombers, a very inexperienced lineup and they've been "up" for a fair while playing above expectation. This kind of setup usually results in a slight dip in form, so it wouldn't surprise to see the Lions run rampant.

If the Bombers can hold their form then they are a definite chance. Going out on a limb that they won't this week.

Pick: Brisbane by 27


Adelaide v Fremantle

How blessed have the Crows been with the fixture!?! Any other side would have knocked them off last week, and now the face a side which struggles to score and fails to deliver away from home.

The Crows are absolutely ripe for the picking. Defensively they still have massive holes that are ready for teams to exploit. The Dockers are probably the side you would trust the least to be able to do that.

If it wasn't Fremantle I'd be confident the Crows drop this game. The Dockers struggle to generate winning scores a lot of the time, particularly away from home. The Crows might give them enough opportunities that they simply score by accident.

Is it Tex vs Fremantle? Probably.

Really want to pick against Adelaide but can't possibly be confident in Fremantle. 70 points might win it.

Pick: Fremantle by 2


Hawthorn v Melbourne

The Dees are flying. And at least they lose Steven May in a week where they probably don't even need him, given Mitch Lewis earned himself a week off by whacking Caleb Serong last weekend.

Melbourne just have too much quality to be troubled by the Hawks in this one. We saw last week that Hawthorn just couldn't find avenues to goal, or even a way forward a lot of the time.

The Dees have the highest inside 50 tally so far this season. The Hawks have the lowest. Melbourne sit second for winning the ball back in their front half (behind the Bulldogs). The Hawks? Dead last.

So we know the ball is likely to live in Melbourne's forward half for large periods. That alone spells trouble for Hawthorn's key defenders who are shaky with ball in hand and gave away an extraordinary number of free kicks last weekend when under pressure.

Dees comfortably.

Pick: Melbourne by 30


Geelong v North Melbourne

Beware an angry Geelong side with Dangerfield returning. Just can't see how North get close, which will come as a shock to no one.

Back at GMHBA Stadium where they don't lose too often, the Cats should just be far too good. The margin is arguably a little conservative - are they a two-goal better side than North over a 30-minute quarter? Absolutely.

Geelong aren't playing well at all, but the fixture has blessed them with the prefect bounce back spot to get them back to a little bit of form.

Pick: Geelong by 48


Round 5 Burning Question:

What is wrong with Geelong?

Our tip for the minor premiership and the flag has looked incredibly underwhelming over the first four rounds. They could easily be 0-4 and under serious pressure. But with 2 wins banked and an easy kill against North to come, they will somehow be ahead of the ledger by Round 5 despite not playing anywhere near their best footy.

It's hard to tell whether teams have just figured them out or if they are just out of form. The rule tweaks combined with the absence of Dangerfield and Cameron haven't helped either. Stoppages are also a problem, which then puts a strain on their usually solid back six.

If Chris Scott's history is any guide, they won't look like the same team in the back half of the season so it's not panic stations just yet. Keen to see how they can improve with a few key players back in the mix and a few more weeks of coaching. A long way from Premiership favourites, though...


Best Matchup - St Kilda v Richmond

Best Underdogs - Fremantle, GWS, Carlton (tough week for the outsiders)

Team Under Pressure - Collingwood

Player To Watch - Darcy Moore: couldn't pick a worse week for people to be calling for him to be switched forward, given they desperately need him down back to take care of the Eagles' key forwards. Does he stay in defence? Do the Pies bring in another defender and push him forward? Could Jeremy Howe be the man to move instead? Can't wait to see what they do...