• Pete Roberts

Round 6 Preview

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

Anzac Day falls on a Sunday this year, so the usual blockbuster matchups of Richmond v Melbourne and Collingwood v Essendon get a little lost in the fixture. Hopefully the Government opens up the doors of the MCG to allow 100% capacity before this weekend - will the Tigers v Demons match attract a bigger crowd than Pies v Bombers? Quite possibly.

Let's take a look at every game this week. There are angles everywhere this round, so hopefully we can look deep enough and find some winners.

Best Matchup - Melbourne v Richmond

Best Underdog - West Coast, sneaky chance Essendon

Team Under Pressure - Carlton

Player To Watch - Jeremy Cameron - he was our player to watch in Round 1 until he pulled a hamstring. Surely this is the week he returns. Can't wait to see how he fits into the Geelong forward mix. They desperately need a change of scenery down there.

Check back through the weekend after teams have been announced. A few matches depend on selection this week.


GWS v Western Bulldogs

A strange game to start with in the prime time slot on a Friday night, but here we are.

With an overnight low of 1 degree on Friday night, the over/under on long sleeve jumpers might reach double figures for the first time in history. Had it not been for the Bulldogs having a practice run in freezing conditions against Brisbane in Round 4, we might have wondered if there was the potential for the Dogs to put in a flat one away from the cosy comforts of Marvel Stadium.

The Bulldogs certainly didn't play their best against the Lions but they did grind their way to another win. And they will have to grind away once again in this one. The Giants have started to dig in and find a game style that suits their current list profile - after the awful display against Fremantle they have found their mongrel again. But...

Can they play nasty without Mumford though? At nearly 35 years old, Mumford can probably hardly walk after two back-to-back matches given the way he plays, so Matthew Flynn will have to try and fill the void. Not often that a playing assistant coach finds himself as the barometer for a team. Big test for the rest of the Giants to step up.

But if they are going to bring their nasty streak again, it's clearly going to be against the Dogs. They dead set hate each other and have a history of beating the living hell out of each other. You'd hope the Giants show up for the contest as much as the fisticuffs.

Still have to be with the Bulldogs here. Too many weapons through the middle, too dangerous and unpredictable up forward. The Giants best chance at knocking them off is to turn it into the kind of dour struggle we saw last week against the Swans, where 70 points is competitive and goals are at a premium.

Potentially a trap game for the Dogs so the Giants probably should be a little closer in the market, but it's nearly impossible to curb the influence of Macrae, Bontempelli, Treloar and their key forwards. Hard to make a strong case for the Giants unless they bring the heat and the Bulldogs put in a flat one.

TEAM UPDATE: The Giants will field the youngest team of any side so far this season. Usually this can make you less confident in an upset, but for the Giants it's probably helpful - the youngsters don't care about past seasons or history, they just want to play footy.

As we said in the preview, the focus for the young group should be the footy and not anything silly off the ball. A less mature group means it would be easy for them to get distracted by a bit of niggle and forget to actually play properly (or give away stupid free kicks). Interested to see how they handle it tonight.

The Dogs have had the luxury of being able to omit four players (Williams is listed as omitted for some reason, but he's injured), and bring bring back Daniel and Martin to look even more formidable. Big job for Zaine Cordy to help down back, too.

Pick: Western Bulldogs by 19


Geelong v West Coast

Geelong playing with the speed of a dial-up modem and the skills of a 5th grader. They desperately need to change something in order to rise to the level of West Coast and finally find some reasonable form.

The saving grace for Geelong is they come up against a team without a hell of a lot of speed themselves at the moment. The loss of Liam Ryan and to a lesser extent Jack Petrucelle has robbed them of some pace and unpredictability up forward. Instead it's the usual scenario for the Eagles - marks inside 50 or bust.

Team information is obviously critical here. Dangerfield off for surgery, Cameron due back, Kennedy still hobbling after being tripped over behind play, Hurn unlikely to return. The Eagles are a better side as it currently stands, even with their depth tested through the middle.

Really tough to predict what will happen in this one. The Cats can't possibly play this badly for the whole season (despite somehow still being 3-2), but it's a fair stretch to suggest they immediately lift enough to knock off the Eagles, even at home.

Jeremy Cameron's return at least gives them something different to break the mould a little. That sort of player will challenge any defence - he could be the circuit breaker they need to finally get some offence going.

Defensively, the back six is basically the same as last season aside from Harry Taylor. They just aren't defending nearly as well. Challenging week for them to turn it around against the land of the giants in West Coast.

The great part about this matchup is we get to see how serious the Eagles are when it's not all going their way (they were seriously blessed by De Goey and Howe going down early last weekend). Can they dig in down at a cold GMHBA Stadium with a feral pro-Cats crowd breathing down their neck? Even with a few injuries through the midfield, we would love to see them win the contested possession count, particularly forward of centre - if they do, they can win, and we would again be convinced they're a chance to win the whole thing. If they don't, jury is still out.

Genuine coin flip here, pending team announcements. Does that mean the Eagles present a little bit of value? Time will tell...

TEAM UPDATE: The absence of Josh Kennedy potentially swings things back in favour of the Cats given how important he is to their structure. The Eagles injury list is starting to affect them as much as any side in the competition at the moment. So many best-22 players on the sidelines. The Cats are super fortunate to find the Eagles in a vulnerable spot. If West Coast still had their speed in the front half they could trouble Geelong. Still a chance, but it does just have that stench of a Geelong side that finally lifts and plays reasonable footy. We will keep our pick of West Coast by 2 but genuinely feel like the Cats now get the upper hand in this one.

Pick: Geelong by 4 (Originally West Coast by 2)


Gold Coast v Sydney

The Suns have escaped the blowtorch again, with nearly all the prominent football shows (aside from the SEN Crew) basically ignoring their performance last weekend. How do they turn it around?

The Swans come off a flat one against the Giants and have been hit by injuries to Lance Franklin and Tom Hickey, probably the two players they would least like to lose. In that spot you'd be worried the Swans might drop another one. Against the Suns though? Tough to see it happening.

Both sides were absolutely torched by the coast-to-coast ball movement of their opposition last weekend - the Suns had no answers for the Bulldogs. The ball came back as quickly as it went in. The Swans had some defensive holes of their own, with the Giants swarming from their back half to their forward half with ease.

These two teams were 17th and 18th at preventing inside 50s and scores from their own forward 50 last weekend. Both would have gone to school to try and rectify it in Round 6. The Swans have the tools to address it quickly, while the Suns might find it difficult to fix in a week.

If Gold Coast are going to knock off a side it will be on their home deck against a team in a flat spot with a few injuries. The Swans fit the bill in a way, but we have enough of a sample size to confidently say Sydney can win without Buddy and still put in an honest performance each week regardless of personnel.

Still siding with Sydney. The Suns can't possibly play any worse than their first half last weekend, so you'd expect them to address that and lift a little from the outset this week.

TEAM UPDATE: A long list of injury issues and omissions for the Swans. The Suns could smell a kill here if they can find ways to score. Heeney, Rowbottom and Sinclair aren't bad inclusions at least. Interesting to see both Sexton and Harbrow omitted for the Suns. Dew making a statement after their form in recent weeks.

Melican v Ben King the crucial matchup. If King can get on top and the delivery is up to standard, he could be the reason the Suns pinch it.

Pick: Sydney by 15


Carlton v Brisbane

Convinced the Blues will absolutely jump a team out of nowhere shortly. Not convinced it will be this week though.

There is a touch of Melbourne 2018/2019 about Carlton's forward 50 delivery at the moment. They are 5th for average inside 50s so far this season, yet bottom six for scores per inside 50. With those sorts of figures, the Blues have a chance to fix their method and reap the rewards. Like we saw with Melbourne, however, it can't be fixed overnight.

Up the other end, there are signs the Lions are starting to adjust to having an inside 50 magnet like Joe Daniher in the team. He has been targeted inside 50 less than Eric Hipwood so far this year and isn't currently in the top 20 for marks inside 50 either - sounds strange but there is serious upside to Big Joe yet to be unlocked by the Lions. They have at least shown they aren't reliant on him, particularly with McStay thrown into the forward mix last weekend.

Between Adams and Andrews, the Lions should have McKay and Casboult covered pretty well. Liam Jones and Jacob Weitering tackle Hipwood and Daniher, leaving interesting matchups for Mitch McGovern and Daniel McStay on either side. Those third key forwards become pivotal pretty quickly.

Given all of that, really feel like this game will be won and lost at stoppage. This is arguably the toughest midfield the Blues have faced since Round 2 against Collingwood. The Lions broke even against the best midfield in the competition in Round 4, so they will seriously test Carlton's ability to win their fair share.

Not as negative about Carlton as some others, but over a 120-minute game against a side yet to lose a final quarter, we have to be with Brisbane here. The first term will tell us a lot about what sort of contest this might be - if Carlton can spring out of the blocks, game on!

Pick: Brisbane by 18


Melbourne v Richmond

The big one. Easily the best matchup of the round, in front of hopefully around 80,000+ at the MCG on Saturday night. Nothing better.

We tend not to look too far back in our previews, but in this case it provides an interesting angle.

The traditional Anzac Eve match between these two began in 2015. The Dees won the first two - Richmond ultimately finished 5th in 2015 and 13th in 2016. Melbourne ended up 13th and 11th in those two seasons.

The Tigers have won the past four and finished no lower than third at the end of the season in that time. Melbourne's only finals appearance was their unlikely preliminary finals run in 2018 after finishing 5th.

In every one of their Anzac Eve matchups, the Demons have gone into the game with a record no better than 2 wins, 2 losses (or 2-3 in the years they didn't meet until Round 6). Every time they've tackled the Tigers in one of the marquee matches on the calendar, Melbourne faced the prospect of falling behind in their win/loss ratio.

That's a totally different scenario than they face here. At 5-0, they effectively get a "free swing" at the best team in the competition of the past four seasons. A team still regarded as quite possibly the best team right now. What an opportunity.

Fearful of losing and hopeful of winning is a mile away from confident in competing and a hell of a chance of winning.

So can they win? Absolutely. How much has the Tigers demolition of St Kilda last weekend influenced public opinion? Their biggest margin since the 2019 Grand Final was super impressive, but they come up against a team travelling far better this week with a lot more weapons than the Saints could throw at them.

The Dees slipped into 5th gear last week and put a gap on the Hawks, making the win look a little better than it was. The Demons have won all the arm wrestles this season. No bigger arm wrestle than this one - Melbourne get to see where they sit in the pecking order pretty quickly.

Team announcements will be interesting, with the return of Sam Wiedeman on the cards. Pretty tough assignment for Sam first up so Dees fans should temper their expectations. Does Fritsch return from injury as well? He becomes super important in their line up, given Melbourne need as many goalkickers as possible against this Richmond defence.

The mismatch of key forwards at either end has us leaning towards the Tigers - Steven May hopefully returns to tackle Tom Lynch which will help, but both Riewoldt and Lynch have multiple modes of scoring that could really challenge Melbourne if they get enough supply.

And supply might be the key in the end - Melbourne (2nd) and Richmond (3rd) are used to winning the Inside 50 battle, so get ready for an absolute war through the middle. In these high-pressure contests it often becomes the team who is cleaner with the footy that prevails - Richmond have the upper hand in that area for sure.

The Tigers are smart enough to know how important this game might be. These two are a reasonable chance of facing off in a final, and this will be as close to a finals-like test as they will get in the regular season. This is when Richmond find a new gear.

Neither team has lost a final quarter in 2021, so hopefully it's level at three-quarter time with no injuries and a 30-minute fight to the death.

What a match it should be. Can't wait. TEAM UPDATE: Fritsch and May return, no sign of Brown or Weideman. Feel like this is the right move for Melbourne. Changing a forward setup that has worked (somehow) for the first five weeks would have been a risk, and does make them pretty unpredictable down there. Ball movement and forward 50 delivery becomes the key for the Demons. Need to be super clean to challenge the Tigers defence.

Pick: Richmond by 24


Fremantle v North Melbourne

Do we really have to preview this one?

The Dockers beat a pretty weak Crows outfit but showed some real character away from home and took their opportunities. They are ever so slowly building, even though they are potentially two draft and trade periods away from building a forward line with enough potency to seriously challenge.

North are trying desperately to hang in there during games but just don't have the cattle to keep it going for long enough.

Ben Cunnington might try and lift the whole team on his back and get them over the line himself. Even with 23 Ben Cunningtons it's hard to see the Roos causing the upset here. The offensively-challenged Fremantle might be an easier test than some other matchups on the horizon, so there's that glimmer of hope at least.

The 44-point line does seem extreme, though. Might be the most interesting part of the match...

Pick: Fremantle by 30


Hawthorn v Adelaide

The first AFL game in Tasmania since Round 23, 2019 and the first at UTAS Stadium since Round 19, 2019. Let's see how keen they are for a team of their own - should be a full house for this one if they are.

Where to start with these two? The Hawks are second last in points scored and can't seem to find avenues to goal. Anyone know who their leading goalkicker is? It's 21 year-old, 15-gamer Dylan Moore. With eight goals in five games.

If they are ever to post a winning score, it's against the Crows who consistently give you opportunities. Only the Kangaroos have failed to post 80 points against Adelaide so far this season. The Hawks have hit 80 twice but only just - that incredible Round 1 comeback against Essendon and an eventual loss to Fremantle when they were never really in the hunt.

Unless the infamous Tassie wind plays a part down there, 80 points should be a certainty for the Hawks. With Tex Walker under an injury cloud, can the Crows post the same total?

Obviously Walker's status is the most important watch for this one. Regardless, the Hawks should get enough scoring opportunities thanks to their superior midfield and the Crows defensive frailties. It's just a matter of who can stand up and hit the scoreboard...

Pick: Hawthorn by 17


Collingwood v Essendon

The beauty of this matchup is that no matter how poorly the sides are travelling, the game always throws up something remarkable. Fascinated to see what it is this time.

The only certainty is the potential for a jumper clash. There's a serious amount of black in both of these guernseys...

The Pies have injury troubles (again) but they are somehow still in a better position than the Bombers. The Ridley loss is brutal for Essendon - players like him are absolute gold in tense blockbusters like this one, so it does offset the Pies missing Howe and De Goey a fair bit.

Absolutely no idea how this might pan out, but surely this is a chance for the Pies to finally find some scoring power - Darcy Moore in the forward line makes sense to address Collingwood's offensive struggles as much as stretch a depleted Bombers defence. Does Cox return? Do they use Grundy in attack in a similar way to last week? Two contested marks against the West Coast defence resulting in goals suggests they should.

The Pies lack a bit of leg speed, while the strength of the Bombers (at times) has been their ability to move the ball quickly into an open forward line. With Howe absent and Moore up the other end, the pressure is on Hooker, Stringer and Waterman to win the aerial battle. They've only won the Inside 50 Mark count once this season: +2 against St Kilda in a 75-point hammering.

Looks like whichever offence is more effective will win this one. And with Grundy up against either Wright, Phillips or Bryan (waiting on teams), you'd think the Pies get enough supply to see if their new forward structure can triumph.

Leaning Collingwood, but nothing would surprise here.

Pick: Collingwood by 4


Port Adelaide v St Kilda

The last meeting between these two proved to be the making of St Kilda in 2020 - a gritty 29-point win away from home keeping the second-highest scoring offence for the year to only 44 points.

Things have changed a fair bit since then. The Saints have lost their mojo, and the team from Round 8, 2020 looks a fair bit different than the one about to tackle Port Adelaide this weekend.

Ryder was absolutely the difference last time (1 Brownlow vote, probably should have been three) but he won't be around for this one. No Gresham through the middle, or Paton down back to help their suspect key defence.

For the Saints to have any chance they have to win the midfield battle. Port have a blue-collar midfield, not a star-studded one, so if Steele, Clark, Crouch and Jones can win the clearances then they've got a sneaky hope. After being embarrassed by the Richmond midfielders last weekend it's hard to be confident they can turn it around so quickly, but it's arguably their best chance of winning.

For Port, they just need to test this shaky Saints defence like the Tigers did last weekend. If Dixon, Marshall and Georgiades aren't marking it, then Gray and Fantasia should be able to finish the job. St Kilda just aren't going well enough defensively to keep them to 44 points this time.

Keen to see team changes for this one - does Marshall return? Has Houston recovered from his busted shoulder?

Regardless, Port to march on.

Pick: Port Adelaide by 28


Round 6 Burning Question:

When will the Lockett and Coventry ends at Marvel Stadium finally be upgraded to digital signage?

Bit more of a light-hearted Burning Question this week.

The Bombers cover up Gordon Coventry's name (much to the disappointment of Eddie McGuire many years ago when it first appeared) to create the Lloyd End every time they play, then we saw Lloyd's name covered up in Round 3 in a brilliant tribute to Danny Frawley, where it has remained for St Kilda home games. Probably won't be the last time we see the names change this season either.

Spare a thought for the poor bugger who has to get up there and hang a huge fabric sign over the top, depending on who is playing. Time to go digital!


Best Matchup - Melbourne v Richmond

Best Underdog - West Coast, sneaky chance Essendon

Team Under Pressure - Carlton

Player To Watch - Jeremy Cameron - he was our player to watch in Round 1 until he pulled a hamstring. Surely this is the week he returns. Can't wait to see how he fits into the Geelong forward mix. They desperately need a change of scenery down there.