Three elite football clubs were out on Gosch’s Paddock this morning under the beaming Melbourne sun, but only one held the interest of the media and onlookers.

It was a triangle of stars with the Melbourne Victory, Melbourne Football Club and on the main oval, Collingwood Football Club.

The entire Magpies list was on the park along with new head coach, Nathan Buckley. All eyes were on last year’s runners-up including a large media pack consisting of journos and several television cameras and photographers feverishly snapping away.

If the Demons and Victory wanted any attention, they clearly picked the wrong time to train.

The Magpies players were pushed hard during the session with many bent over sucking the big ones in after each drill. Heath Shaw and Alan Didak left the track earlier than the main group.

In his first media engagement as Collingwood head coach, Buckley said, in response to being asked how does it feel taking over, “It’s good. I think anyone that comes in to this job first up thinks you can conquer everything in a week, it’s not going to happen like that.” Bucks went on to say that there will be adjustments to the clubs game plan in 2012 and added, “You can’t afford to stand still, standing still is going backwards.”

Collingwood head away tomorrow to Arizona to undertake their annual altitude training exercise.


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Round 24 review

The Good

1. Garry Jnr

After years of playing finals, Ablett finished his season on the weekend and he concluded on a very high note. The former cat was instrumental in keeping his young team in the game with 43 disposals and 13 disposals.

2. Big Bad Bustling Barry Hall 

Hall ‘hung up the boots’ after a sensational career playing 288 games and kicking 746 with time spent at St Kilda, Sydney and the Western Bulldogs. After being sacked by the Swans due to cheap shots to Staker and Rutten, the Dogs picked him up and he flourished with 130 goals in 38 games.

3. GEEEEElong!

The Cats went into the huddle after the first quarter against the ladder leaders on Friday night trailing by 19 points. What we were about to witness was near perfect footy.Geelongended the second period with a 10 goal to one romp; they dominated the tackle and disposal count and hunger for the ball. Several commentators said that Collingwood put the cue in the rack but the end result was 100 points! Cop out???

4. Matthew Boyd

He is an All-Australia certainty and showed 18,128 at Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Boyd finished his last game of the year with 35 possessions.

5. Boomer

After a week that wasn’t his finest, Brent Harvey showed his class and leadership with 31 touches and two goals. When the game was up for grabs in the final period Boomer was very good.

6. St Kilda

The Saints head into their clash against Sydney with confidence after kicking eight of the final ten majors for the match to record a come from behind victory against Carlton.

7. Luke Breust

Still in his first season at AFL level, Breust was dominant in a 13-minute burst in the premiership quarter kicking four goals. He finished with a career-high five for the match. The young Hawk has now slotted home 30 goals from 16 matches.

8. Gold Coast Suns

Although facing Hawthorn who were missing eight regular players including Hodge, Franklin, Lewis and Sewell, the Gold Coast were good and took it right up to the Hawks and gave their fans confidence for the 2012 season.

9. Gary Rohan

The young gun continues to shine for the Swans with three goals on the weekends versus the Lions.

The Bad

1. Daniel Jackson

Tiger Daniel Jackson had a brain freeze at the wrong time (14 minute mark last quarter) at the wrong place (in front of goal) resulting in a David Swallow goal and the Tigers downfall.

2.Melbourne in Adelaide

The Dees finished the season on a low and continued their horror run in South Australia.Melbournehave yet to win when travelling west since 2001 against the Crows.


While St Kilda made the Good list, the Blues slipped and fall into the bad after letting an 18 point third quarter lead slip and allowed goal after goal after goal from the Saints in final period and a half. They also have a few injuries concerns going into the finals.

4. The bookies increase the odds for Bicks

Another loss, big loss I must add, on the weekend for Adelaidedidn’t help Mark Bickley’s chances on securing the coach’s gig next season. Scott Burns is still my tip as I wrote on 27 July on TheRoar http://www.theroar.com.au/2011/07/27/scott-burns-will-coach-the-adelaide-crows/.

5. Nick Riewoldt

The St Kilda captain struggled on Saturday night and left the game without kicking a major. Big concerns on the impact he will have in the finals especially when the game is on the line.

The Ugly

1. Good weekend overall so I won’t put anything in here…Port Adelaide won also so that limits what I can write.

It heats up now with first week of the finals. Below is the schedule:

Geelong v Hawthorn, MCG, Friday 7.45pm.

Collingwood v West Coast, MCG, Saturday 2.20pm.

St Kilda v Sydney, Etihad Stadium, Saturday 7.20pm.

Carlton v Essendon, MCG, Sunday 2.40pm.

Finals predictions can be read on Thursday night on www.camcallsthegame.com.

I will finish by congratulating the following players who have or will be retiring after the finals series:

Adelaide: Scott Stevens.

Brisbane: Jamie Charman.

Collingwood: Leigh Brown.

Essendon: Darcy Daniher and Mark Williams.

Fremantle: Roger Hayden and Byron Schammer.

Geelong: Marcus Drum and Cameron Mooney.

Gold Coast: Daniel Harris.

North Melbourne: Brady Rawlings.

Port Adelaide:Chad Cornes.

Sydney: Craig Bolton, Daniel Bradshaw and Tadhg Kennelly.

Western Bulldogs: Mitch Hahn, Barry Hall and Ben Hudson.

AFL preview: The final countdown

Collingwood v Geelong, MCG, Friday night

I was at the round 8 clash between these two current day powerhouses and witnessed a classic game, and it is expected we will see a similar affair tonight although both teams have nothing to play for, except only a win. Here is something to note however, if Geelong are to lose and the Hawks who travel to the Gold Coast win by a very large margin, the cats could slip to third position by percentage.

Although talk around is that both teams will try to get through unscathed, once the ball is bounced look forward to both teams playing hard for the points.

Prediction: Collingwood by 12.

Gold Coast v Hawthorn, Metricon Stadium, Saturday afternoon

Hodge, Buddy, Rioli, Lewis and Sewell amid other who are all staying in Melbourne while their teammates travel north. Sam Mitchell is the big inclusion. The burning question is can the Gold Coast get up at home after a long, long season?

Prediction: Hawthorn by 35.

Western Bulldogs v Fremantle, Etihad Stadium, Saturday afternoon

Fremantle defeated the dogs at home in round 5 by 7 points but that result will be reversed on Saturday at Etihad. Both clubs have been poor in 2011 and can’t wait for the year to end, especially Fremantle with their extensive injury list. This is a game of retirees and a coach looking to show why he should get the gig next year.

Will Barry kick 10?

Prediction: Western Bulldogs by 42.

Sydney v Brisbane, SCG, Saturday afternoon

Sydney was very good last week against the cats at Skilled Stadium playing with strong emotion.Brisbanecomes off a loss against West Coast and a bye in round 23. When half time ticks over and the swans are leading by several goals, it will only get worse for Brisbane as I suspect motivation levels will drop in Voss’ men.

Prediction:Sydney by 28.

Carlton v St Kilda, MCG, Saturday night

Only 3 points split these two finals contenders in round 7 with the blues triumphing. This is probably the game of the round in my eyes. Both teams will want to take confidence into the first round of finals and thus it is set for a tough contest.

Can Riewoldt stand up and deliver against a tougher competitor in Carlton? Will Dempster continue his good form and impede Judd’s dominance? Is Jamison fit enough to play on the saints key forwards?

While the blues are locked in, St Kilda can move on the ladder.  

Prediction:Carltonby 7.

West Coast v St Adelaide, Patersons Stadium, Saturday afternoon

This should be a training session for the eagles at home. Do I need to say more?

Prediction: West Coast by 39.

Port Adelaide v Melbourne, Adelaide Oval, Sunday afternoon

The only interesting element with this game is that it is the first-ever match to be played at Adelaide Oval.Melbournehas not won in Adelaide against the power or crows since 2001 – will the hoodoo continue? Port Power were good last week against the bombers until the final ten minutes when they let Essendon just walk in and kick goals uncontested, while Melbourne defeated the Gold Coast at the ‘G.

If there was ever a ‘who cares up’, this would be it.

Prediction: Port Adelaideby 3.

North Melbourne v Richmond, Etihad Stadium, Sunday afternoon

This should be a good game to end the regular season.

Richmond stormed home last week when they ventured into crow-land (they hadn’t beatenAdelaidesince 1999 over there), meanwhile the kangaroos were good for a mere one-quarter against St Kilda. The roos once again failed to deliver on the big stage when it counted.

Prediction:Richmond by 22.

Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown on Saturday

Here is how the field stacks up this weekend.

So You Think (141 Timeform) – 3 from 4 in the UK incl. 2 at G1. Likely to join the prestigious honour roll of champions.

Snow Fairy (133) – Irish mare and winner of 2010 Epsom & Irish Oaks, QE II Commemorative Cup & HK Cup.

Famous Name (131) – last start runner-up in German G1, the Dermot Weld stakes winner is 4 from 6 this year. Never won beyond G3.

Roderic O’Connor (126) – last two starts were 6th in Irish Derby (G1) and Prix du Jockey Club (G1), won Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) in May. Same stable as So You Think.

Recital (126) – didn’t seem to handle Epsom last start in Investec Derby (G1), another Aiden O’Brien runner.

Dunboyne Express (121) – has lengths to make up on several of these.

So You Think, then under the guidance of Bart Cummings

Ireland, France and US for So You Think, but no Australia

It is a race renowned for turning out champions of the turf and future leading stallions. Thus it is fitting that the former Bart Cumming trained galloper So You Think will line-up against Europe and the world’s best in this weekend’s Irish Champion Stakes.

Held at Leopardstown Racecourse in Ireland, the Irish Champion Stakes is raced over 2,012 metres for three-year olds and up. The honour roll is a who’s who of world racing and has become well-known to Australian’s due to many champions shuttling down under to stand at stud.

The 2010 winner Cape Blanco, one of the great European racehorses of all time – Sea The Stars, New Approach, Dylan Thomas, Oratorio, High Chaparral, Fantastic Light, Giant’s Causeway, Daylami, and Suave Dancer to name several.

Behind that list of valuable bloodstock are the dominant powerhouses with the likes of (trainers) Aidan O’Brien, HH Aga Khan IV, John Hammond, and Saeed bin Suroor and Michael Stoute, and (jockeys) Michael Kinane, Kieran Fallon, Johnny Murtagh and Frankie Dettori claiming the prize multiple times.

Now owned by the all-powerful Coolmore international breeding organisation, will O’Brien collect another Irish Champion Stakes with the dual Cox Plate victor?

Since being sold by Dato Tan Chin Nam in 2010 for a reported $A25 million, So You Think has won three from four including the group 1 Tattersalls Cup and group 1 Eclipse Stakes in which he defeated Workforce (2010 Derby and Arc winner).

So You Think has been entered for the weekend’s race at Leopardstown against only a handful of other contenders and will be extremely hard to hold out. What’s in store for the 2010 Australian Champion Three Year Old after that?Franceand then most likely the US Breeders Crown seems to be on the cards; not Australia and the Cox Plate.

That isn’t what the Moonee Valley Racing Club wants to hear. If So You Think was to fly back to Australia, he would be aimed at equallingKingstonTown’s record of three wins in our ‘best’ race. But the breeding value far outweighs a third Cox Plate.

Ever since running fifth in the Caulfield Guineas, the High Chaparral (IRE) stallion has continued to stamp himself as a true racetrack champion and it is only a matter of time before he becomes a very happy male in the breeding barn.

Follow me on Twitter @camcallsthegame

The good, the bad and the ugly – AFL Round 23 wrap

The good

Collingwood midfield – The magpie key ball winners ran riot around Patersons Stadium on Friday night with Pendlebury, Swan, Beams, Didak and Thomas all had leather poisoning with 36, 35, 31, 31, and 28 respectively. Pendlebury’s 36 touches included 16 contested disposals, eight clearances and two goals. Swan was also super impressive with two first half goals. In his 10 games since returning from Arizona, Swan has averaged 35 possessions.

Swans win at Skilled – The came, the saw, the conquered, and at Skilled Stadium to top it off. The Sydney team playing with great emotion was far too good on the Cats turf and stopped Geelong from recording their 30th consecutive win at home. Goodes, McGlynn on Sellwood, and the big Mummy were very good with awesome pieces of play by young Gary Rohan.

Shut down players – Two big games that saw two players have great impacts on the match. Down the highway in Geelong, McGlynn was very good on Sellwood while Sean Dempster on Saturday night against the kangaroos played a superb shut down role on North skipper Brent Harvey.

Game winning tackle – Chris Masten’s tackle on Daniel Rich in the final period that resulted in a goal was massive and presented the win and a top four spot to the Eagles.

Kick to kick on the ‘G – The AFL allowed fans onto the MCG after the Melbourne v Gold Coast. It was a big welcome back that saw the famous sprint to the centre square. Please AFL, more of it!

Coleman in the bag – Buddy Franklin kicked five against the Western Bulldogs and all but engraved his name on the goal-kicking prize.

A terrific career comes to a close – Congratulations to Luke Power who announced his retirement to the Brisbane crowd on Saturday night. Power was a three-time premiership player with the Lions in a career spanning 282 games, including one game in the big V jumper.

Young Tigers – Martin (19 possessions) and stand-in Captain Cotchin (27 possessions and six clearances) were highly influential in the Richmond win. Cotchin is showing his strong leadership credentials each week and is stamped at being a great player in the future.

The bad

Shinboner spirit lost  – I’ll leave Brad Scott to sum it up, “Against a side that’s lower than us we need a much better performance than that and I’m confident we’ll get that, but it’s these games you play for, it’s these games you’re in the competition for and we’re not holding our end up.”

Mauled crows – Mark Bickley said after the game to the waiting media, “We’re not that good a side”. That was obvious in the second half with Richmond coming from behind to kick ten of the last 14 majors of the match.

Power surge faded – Ok, Port Adelaide put in a much, much better showing on Sunday afternoon but they couldn’t close the door on the Bombers. Essendon booted home seven goals in the final term with five of those coming in a ten minute burst.

The future of Mick – Give it a rest. It has become very boring – Leigh Matthew’s made a good point, how about we focus on the dominance of Collingwood rather than who is doing what in the coach’s box.

Unnecessary high hits  – Jack Ziebell of the Roos and Nick Lower from the Dockers will be having early season finishers after poor decision-making saw them both make high hits that were far from tough. Not needed guys; instead why not let the guy get the ball then tackle?

Hawkins and Nathan Ablett – These two are just not up to the standard of AFL. Hawkins hasn’t delivered despite big wraps on him. Having the Sherrin kicked to him by Gary Jnr, Sellwood, Bartel, Corey, Ling, etc, etc, etc, still isn’t enough. Trade bait or VFL prospect?

Unruly supporters – I was at the Saints v Kangaroos match and wow! Don’t some people just take passion to a new level that is border lining sickness?

The ugly

Umpiring – The level of adjudication on the weekend was poor and hopefully this is recognized by the Jeff Gieschen.

 Razor Ray Chamberlain – the name says it all; he was atrocious on Saturday night. The game isn’t about you Razor.

My Dream Caulfield Guineas Field

Being an avid horse racing follower who has worked as a strapper at Flemington and Caulfield during my teens, I take pleasure in watching the youngsters take to the track. The Blue Diamond, Golden Slipper, Victorian and AJC Australian Derby, and Crown Oaks – all races that become eyewitness to greatness begin and flourish.

There is one race however that for me stands alone. The Group one Caulfield Guineas over 8 furlongs.

The Guineas is the blue riband for the three-year olds as is known for producing future stallions and turf champions. I can still recall vividly the 1999 event where the crowd were witness to one of the races’ great contents between Redoute’s Choice and Testa Rossa; I can still hear Greg Miles’ call in my head.

I sat down recently (as the races in only weeks away) and analysed the race to come up with my best Guineas field.

1. Lonhro.

2. Redoute’s Choice.

3. Mahogany.

4. Manikato.

5. Surround.

6. Vain.

7. Luskin Star.

8. Tulloch.

9. Ajax.

10.  Red Anchor.

11. Heroic.

12. Storm Queen.

13. Encounter.

14. Our Maizcay.

15. Dual Choice.

16. Weekend Hussler.

Lonhro – went into the race as John Hawkes’ second-ranked runner after Viscount who had won the G1 George Main Stks in Sydney. In a field (possibly the best Guineas assembled) including Dash for Cash, Viking Ruler, Pure Theatre, Magic Albert and the Bart Cummings trained Ustinov, Lonhro dropped back to last, settled, and once the field turned for home, the big black champion swept over the top to win; an amazing effort. Lonhro was a champion on the track and at present a champion and leading sire in the breeding barn. In 2004 Lonhro was named World Champion Miler in 2004 and finished his career with a Timeform rating of 128.

Redoute’s Choice – The Danehill bay produced a phenomenal effort to win in 1999. His triumph over Testa Rossa and Commands (both stallions) gave the roaring crowd more than what they had paid for with a dogged, head to head slug down the straight. He too has become a leading sire and demands a mammoth stud fee.

Mahogany – Kerry Packer’s favourite horse. An eight-time G1 winner including the Victorian Derby and Australian Derby, he took home the Guineas prize in 1983. Two years later Mahogany would run oh-so close to Octagonal in the Cox Plate.

Manikato – what a galloper he was; a Blue Diamond, Golden Slipper, five straight William Reid Stks wins, and four Futurity Stks firsts. Manikato was successful in the guineas in 1978.

Surround – The only filly to have won the Cox Plate before taking out the VRC Oaks not long after. Surround won the Guineas by two and a half lengths over a very good line-up comprising the AJC Derby winner Great Lover.

Vain – I’ve seen footage of this champion but what’s better than that is having worked for Jim Moloney – Vain’s trainer. I have had the pleasure of listening to the great horseman speak about his loved racehorse. One of the greats of the turf who turned consistently turned in brilliant performances which encompassed the 1969 Caulfield Guineas.

Luskin Star – When you speak about Vain you soon bring up this champion. Luskin Star was unstoppable in 1977 and followed in Jim’s star by claiming the Golden Slipper and Guineas. The chestnut colt went into the Guineas not having run for four-week and still won.

Tulloch – one of Australia’s finest racehorses who did it all from 1000m to two miles. As a three-year old alone, he won 14 from 16 starts; he won the Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup, VRC and AJC Derby’s, and the Guineas in 57’ to mention a few. Tulloch is in both the Australian and NZ Racing Hall of Fames.

Ajax – Inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame in 2004, Ajax was a true champion on the track and like Redoute’s Choice and Lonhro, a champion sire. He would win the Caulfield Guineas in race record time in 1937.

Red Anchor – 14 starts, 9 wins, 4 seconds and a third; an impressive record. Trained by Tommy Smith (originally it was Paul Sutherland), he won the Guineas, Victoria Derby and the Cox Plate all in 1984. In 85’ he was awarded the Australian Horse of the Year award.

Heroic – Another Hall of Famer who was dominant in the 1924 version of the Guineas winning by three lengths after taking out the AJC Derby in a tough fight-out to the line. Heroic would go on to produce Ajax.

Storm Queen – After a first race start defeat, this Bart Cumming’s champion won eight straight including the Golden Slipper. In addition to the Slipper, Storm Queen won the 66’ Guineas, the VCR Lightning Stks, and Sires’ Produce Stks.

Encounter – A champion two-year old and outstanding three-year old who raced against many tier one gallopers. Just before the barriers opened in his successful Guineas win, the line-up included General Nediym, Schubert, Umrum, and Gold Guru. Encounter will most likely be remembered for his close and unlucky loss in the Slipper.

Our Maizcay – in 1995 there were queries over whether such a brilliant horse could handle the 1600m but Our Maizcay was never in trouble putting a three length gap on the field on straightening to win effortlessly from Ravarda with a black colt running on late for third called Octagonal.

Dual Choice – the Showdown filly Dual Choice won the Caulfield in outstanding fashion winning by three lengths.  She went on to prove herself one of the best sprinter-milers of the modern era winning the Craven A Stakes, Lightning Stakes and Oakleigh Plate as a 3yo.  She repeated her Oakleigh Plate victory at 4 followed by a second in the Newmarket before retiring to stud.

Weekend Hussler – The Hussonet gelding prepared by Ross McDonald at Caulfield, was named as Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year in 2008 and Champion Three Year Old in the same year. In his three-year-old season, Weekend Hussler won 9 from 11 start comprising the Guineas and Randwick Guineas, Newmarket Hcp, Oakleigh Plate, Ascot Vale Stks, and George Ryder Stks.

Wallabies win as RWC gate thrown open

It’s taken ten years but the wait is now over. Australia has clinched the rugby tri-nations with a thrilling 25-20 win over the world cup favourites, New Zealand.

Newly promoted skipper James Horwill in his first test as Wallabies captain joined his long-time idol in holding the trophy above his head.

The win has thrown next months rugby world cup wide open.

The match looked over in the first half after the Australian’s setup a 20-3 lead. However, the All Blacks fought back to level the scores 20 minutes out from full-time. Beale got over the line to give the Wallabies a five-point lead but the Cooper conversion went astray.

The aggression and hunger was shown early by the Australian’s with sacked captain Rocky Elsom leading from the front. Robbie Deans was very pleased with how his former skipper competed and was confident that the big man wouldn’t drop his head.

The match was completely different to that played in New Zealand between the two giants of world rugby.

With the Australian win, there are now even more questions with the lead up to next month when 20 sides go head to head with the aim to hold ‘Bill” aloft.

New Zealand, going into tonight’s game, was extremely short favourites with bookmakers, but can they let go of the chocker-tag?

Are The Wallabies now the side to beat? They have been improving game by game and slowly working their way into form need to win the world cup.

Then there is the South African’s. Has time caught up with the Springboks and are they too old to win back to back?

At 15-1 England, the 2011 six nations champion, look to have the easiest draw out of the favoured countries with Argentina and Scotland their toughest opponents, Georgia, and Romania. England at present look more like they will need a further twelve months to be a cup winning team but in saying that, they are a proven performer who will put up a good showing.

France and Ireland round off the others that could cause an up at 34-1 and 126-1 prior to the Wallabies win.

Follow me on Twitter @camcallsthegame.

AFL selection panels need a rethink

Have we put AFL on too high of a pedestal? Everything recently seems to be played up for the salivating and waiting media who jump on any piece of information to gain that highly sought exclusive.

The present day practice of clubs to carry out is the formation of small committees with the aim of selecting their next head honcho to lead them to premiership success.

On that note, it is now my honour to introduce Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide.

Mike Sheehan made a good point in his employer’s paper this morning mentioning that the three abovementioned clubs have appointed selection panels to seek out their next coach; however none have solicited the services of an ex-coach. Sheehan does note that former Collingwood and Brisbane four-time premiership winning coach, Leigh Matthews, will provide counsel to the Crows when they boast a shortlist of three.

The one club for my part that plainly just do not get it is Melbourne. The Dees panel comprises two former players including club greater and Brownlow Medallist Jim Stynes and stand-in Director Garry Lyon. Some may come back at me with antipathy because I am not categorizingLyon’s coaching career with All-Australian team in the same esteem as an AFL coach of one of the 17 clubs. But that’s just how it is. Jason Akermanis was quoted as saying in the Herald Sun’s SuperFooty column that, “I’m a club legend but it doesn’t mean I know a thing about picking a good coach.”

The other element which stands-out is the inclusion of Cameron Schwab. I appreciate he is the CEO but I truly wonder if Melbourne is serious about this process or not? Only a few weeks ago Schwab was out the door and himself searching for a position.  How can an individual be involved in the identification and acquisition of a coach if the club had torn half way through his contract prior to a back flip that saw Dean Bailey sacked?

Here is a question I pose to the heads of the Dees, Dogs and Crows. What does this list have in common – Dennis Pagan, David Parkin, Leigh Matthews, Paul Roos, Terry Wallace, Robert Walls, and Grant Thomas? Answer – All coached at AFL level and several actually took their sides to finals and walked away with the premiership cup.

How about asking one or two of those named or one who I may have left off, to assist, employ their practical knowledge, and get serious for what is a highly important process. Be pragmatic, give the situation the attention it requires and then in the end assign the best and right person to lead the club.

I’ll conclude on this. The last time the Western Bulldog’s tasted glory was in 1954, Melbourne 1964, and Adelaide 1998. It might be time to rethink the panel setup.

AFL Round 23 Preview

Fremantle v Collingwood

@Patersons Stadium on Friday 8.30pm

The flag favourites are flying with only one loss for the year (against Geelong) and finals ahead, the other has lost it’s last five games and on the track of missing the top eight. Last week Brisbane pushed Collingwood to 18 points whereas the Dockers were pathetic against the Kangaroos losing by 98. Although Collingwood has lost its past five matches versus Fremantle at Subiaco, they will take home the four points; they are strong up forward, down back and have a dominant midfield. The game within a game here involves Dane Swan – he averages more possessions against the Dockers than any other club.

Verdict: Collingwood by 38.

Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs

@MCG on Saturday 2.10pm

Similar to the preview for the round’s opener, these two clubs have different outlooks – one to September, one to 2012. The last time the Hawks and Dogs met was round 10 at Etihad Stadium, a game where Hawthorn outclassed their opponent and dominated possession. In or soon to be in rebuild mode, the questions that the Dogs coaching staff will be asking is ‘who will play stop Hawthorn’s dynamic forwards including Coleman Medal favourite Buddy Franklin and game breaker Rioli?’

Verdict: Hawthorn by 26.

Geelong v Sydney

@Skilled Stadium on Saturday 2.10pm

Scarlett, Mackie, Milburn and potentially Tom Hawkins return after a week with their legs up on the couch with a bye. Sydney face AFL’s toughest test, that being defeating the Cats at Skilled Stadium. If Geelong is successful, it will be their 30th consecutive win at home. The hosts have beaten Sydney in their last four outings, one of which was played in Geelong and resulted in a 126-59 victory. The last time the Swans beat the Cats in down the highway was 11 years ago…when Tony Lockett booted through 6 majors.

Verdict: Geelong by 43.

St Kilda v North Melbourne

@Etihad Stadium on Saturday 7.10pm

The game of the round as 6th plays 9th on Saturday night in Melbourne. This contest presents us with two midfields who possess depth, Nick Riewoldt under significant pressure to perform and an injury cloud, and in-form and potential All-Australian Drew Petrie in the Kangaroos forward 50 who will face double to triple teaming. St Kilda has had the edge on Boomer’s chargers including five of the last 6 games. Over the last few weeks the media and coach’s spotlight has been on the poor delivery of the ball to Riewoldt – will that play a part on Saturday night? A question for the Kangaroos is can they beat the Saints if Petrie is subdued?

Verdict: St Kilda by 8.

Brisbane v West Coast

@GABBA on Saturday 7.10pm

These two haven’t met since round 19 last year and what a thrilling game it was with a Jonathan Brown goal with only seconds remaining on the clock. In that match, Brisbane and West Coast were playing to not be ‘awarded’ the wooden spoon. While the Eagles have gone on to better and brighter things, the Lions have remained near the bottom of the ladder. Brisbane performed well last week against Collingwood and again face a tough test this week at home. Playing at the GABBA gives Brisbane a show however West Coast is in superlative form with the last three wins over eight goals.

Verdict: West Coat by 25.

Adelaide v Richmond

@AAMI Stadium on Sunday 1.10pm

1999 – the last time Richmond travelled to Adelaide and went home with the win. Another stat to note is that the Tigers have a terrible track record against (13 losses from the last 15 contests. Stand-in coach Mark Bickley has his team performing at higher levels than earlier in the year and should hold off the tiger challenge. Just don’t expect Thompson to get another 51 disposals.

Verdict: Adelaide by 12.

Melbourne v Gold Coast

@MCG on Sunday 2.10pm

A long season has caught up with the leagues newest club and this week they travel south to Melbourne to face the Demons at the MCG. I will keep this short and sweet – if Melbourne can pick up where they left off last week against Richmond and bring that hunger for the ball, they will win well. However, if Ablett runs around and dominates the clearances and inside 50s, well the Suns may well close a shocking season for Melbourne.

Verdict: Melbourne by 38.

Essendon v Port Adelaide

@Etihad Stadium on Sunday 4.40pm

Has there ever been a less competitive team in the AFL than Port Adelaide in 2011? The last time these two clubs met was round 7, 2010, resulting in a Power 109-106 triumph.

Verdict: Essendon by 81.