Yet another week of a shortened round of the AFL, bizarrely, kicks off on Thursday night in the match of the round between two of the competition’s heavyweights Adelaide and North Melbourne. The first of just six matches this weekend should draw a huge crowd to Adelaide Oval with the Crows faithful remaining hopeful of continuing the Kangaroos’ dip in form.
On Friday night, Collingwood and last year’s minor premiers Fremantle will play at the MCG and on the back of three straight wins, the Dockers will be confident of turning that three into a four. Three matches fall throughout Saturday when the Lions and Tigers play at the G, the Giants battle the Blues in Sydney and the Saints and Cats finish off the day when they go to battle at Etihad Stadium. On Sunday, defending premiers the Hawks are expected to dispose of the Suns in Tasmania.
Thursday, June 23, 7:20pm (AEST) @ Adelaide Oval
The match of the round features two of the AFL’s best performing clubs in the form of Adelaide and North Melbourne for a rare instalment of Thursday night footy. The Crows have been in particularly good touch in recent weeks and will head into this match fresh off the bye. In their last game, two weeks ago, Adelaide was in sensational touch in disposing of the Eagles, who were previously unbeaten at Perth’s Domain Stadium before the Crows arrested their momentum with a solid 29-point win.
After winning their opening nine games, the Kangaroos have found themselves in somewhat of a slump after losing three of their last four matches. Those losses, to be fair, have come against very good opposition such as Sydney, Geelong and the Bulldogs. Brad Scott’s men would love to register another win to shoot to the top of the tree and underline their premiership credentials.
Brad Crouch returns for Adelaide in place of the injured Paul Seedsman. Andrew Swallow and Ben Cunnington are in for North at the expense of injured duo Daniel Wells and Luke McDonald.
Friday, June 24, 7:50pm (AEST) @ MCG
Collingwood is coming off the bye and the week’s rest will have done a world of good for the under-siege club, with a number of injuries affecting form. With Eddie McGuire’s ‘sexist’ comments hogging the limelight this week, the Pies have found themselves in a situation where issues both on and off the field have the potential to impact their bid to get back in the winner’s circle.
Fremantle endured a torrid start to the year, inexplicably, losing its first 10 matches. Since that disgraceful losing streak, Ross Lyon’s men have bounced back beautifully with three straight wins over Essendon, Brisbane and Port Adelaide. They say winning is contagious and now the Dockers have a taste of it, they will want even more.
Nathan Brown, James Aish and Travis Cloke have been called up by Pies coach Nathan Buckley while for the Dockers, Jack Hannath comes in for the injured Tanner Smith.
Saturday, June 25, 1:40pm (AEST) @ MCG
Richmond has struggled throughout much of the AFL season but have since turned around their shocking dip in form by winning four of their past five matches. Last week the Tigers had the week off after they went into the bye round with victory over the struggling Suns. While the Tigers were expected to easily account for the Gold Coast, one of the AFL’s newest clubs turned up in a big way forcing Richmond to earn victory and they eventually did by 17 points.
Brisbane is going through the season from hell at the moment. They’ve lost 12 games including their last nine and have not won away from home all year. The effort on display from Justin Leppitsch’s men has been questioned in recent weeks, particularly in their 83-point loss to fellow stragglers Fremantle two weeks ago.
Daniel Rioli and Corey Ellis are unavailable for the Tigers while the Lions have added Daniel McStay, Harris Andrews, Rhys Mathieson, Josh Green and Matthew Hammelmann to their squad.
Saturday, June 25, 4:25pm (AEST) @ Spotless Stadium
GWS have been spoken about ad nauseum of how they are the AFL’s surprise packets and how they are one of five or six clubs genuinely in contention to win this year’s title. Heading into round 14, the Giants sit in fifth spot – just one win shy of four AFL clubs tied for the lead. Last week, the Giants registered back-to-back wins in disposing of the hapless Bombers by the surprisingly small margin of 27 points, and they start this week as favourites to make it three in a row.
Carlton is two wins outside the top eight and most AFL experts are predicting the teams within the upper echelon of the ladder will remain there when round 23 concludes in August. The Blues will have their work cut out to prove the doubters wrong after this week’s bout in which they are expected to lose again.
In a huge boost for the Giants, they welcome back Rhys Palmer, Shane Mumford and Steve Johnson. The Blues have named Andrew Phillips and Jason Tutt in place of injured duo Daniel Gorringe and Dennis Armfield.
Saturday, June 25, 7:25pm (AEST) @ Etihad Stadium
The Saints are expected to be bolstered even further with the return of all-time great skipper Nick Reiwoldt after their last start victory over old rivals Carlton. That win was two weeks ago and last weekend St Kilda was issued with the bye, which was a huge factor in Riewoldt returning this for this match-up against the Cats.
Geelong is probably the form team of the competition after cruising to a 57-point win over fellow premiership heavyweights the Bulldogs in Melbourne. The dynamic duo of Patrick Dangerfield and skipper Joel Selwood has been in sensational touch over the past few weeks, with Danger alone amassing more than 90 disposals in victories over North and the Dogs.
Saints skipper Nick Reiwoldt returns while the Cats have named Cameron Guthrie in place of Josh Caddy, who is injured.
Sunday, June 26, 3:20pm (AEST) @ Aurora Stadium
The flag holders of the last three seasons are on track to become the first AFL club in 96 seasons to win four consecutive premierships. Hawthorn is in equal first position with three other clubs and is at $5.50 with UBET to go all the way again in 2016. This match should pose few problems for Alistair Clarkson’s champion team with the Suns struggling for form.
Gold Coast has lost their last 10 matches but in a positive sign for Rodney Eade’s side, they were right in the contest a fortnight ago against Richmond. While they eventually went down by 17 points, it is a huge improvement on multiple 70+ hidings they have received during this winless run.
Cyril is out for family reasons for the Hawks with coach Alastair Clarkson naming an extended squad that features Luke Hodge, Will Langford, Kaiden Brand and Brendan Whitecross. Gold Coast named Adam Saad, Aaron Hall, Jarrad Grant, Mitch Hallahan, Matt Shaw and Clay Cameron in its squad for this fixture.