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The Roar’s AFL expert tips and predictions: Round 15

Long ago, there were whispers. Rumours, passed down from parent to child through generations, of a round so impossible to tip that it’s said men dared not even glance at it on their tipping cards.

Only legends, some said. But no. We have found out that this most ghoulish of rounds does exist – and it’s right here.

It’s more terrifying than this scene from the Japanese film Kairo, widely regarded as the scariest in film history. Warning: it ain’t for the faint-hearted.

Making it even scarier, I’ve lost my lead to The Crowd after an ugly 3 from myself last week, while a brilliant 5 from Dem Panopoulos and 4 from Cam Rose has seen them rapidly gain ground. A shocker here, and suddenly even the most assured, confident punter you know will be lying on the ground in the foetal position by Sunday night.

There will be someone out there, tipping seriously, trying to back every winner, who will get a 0 this week. Just don’t let that be you.

Tim Miller (last week: 3)

Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Essendon, Fremantle, Richmond, St Kilda, Adelaide, Collingwood, Port Adelaide

For just the second time in the 18-team era, we’ll see the whole top eight play one another this round. As a result, it’s surely the toughest round to tip we’ll see all year.

Starting us off, I like Melbourne’s chances of rebounding from their three losses against Brisbane, especially now that Dayne Zorko and Zac Bailey have been ruled out. Steven May is a huge boost for the Dees, offsetting somewhat the loss of Max Gawn, and I feel Melbourne will be out to prove they remain the AFL’s resident force. Plus, the Lions haven’t played at the MCG since that fateful day in March 2020 when the competition was shut down due to COVID.

Friday night sees, somehow, the AFL schedule TWO games from teams outside the eight – that floating fixture, eh? I’m bullish about my Bulldogs against the Hawks, despite losing Tim English, Taylor Duryea and (at the time of writing) probably Cody Weightman.

Midfield is the Dogs’ major strength and the Hawks’ big weakness, so a territory domination by the Dogs should see them put on a winning score – but this team rarely makes it that simple.

The later game sees Essendon travel west to face the Eagles. West Coast are a major chance here – they looked actually competitive last week against Geelong, and can never be discounted in Perth. The Bombers, however, were even better in slicing the Saints apart, and it’s more a case of tipping for them for me than against the Eagles.

Super Saturday actually fits the billing this week; for starters, Carlton and Fremantle duke it out in probably the tightest match of the round. I can’t see the Blues’ midfield getting thumped like they did by Richmond last week, but Rory Lobb looms seriously large up forward against the one key defender left for Carlton to pick – which I believe is Liam Stocker standing on Sam Docherty’s shoulders. In a thriller, the home side is my tip.

Up next, the sensible option is to back Geelong against Richmond, but the ghosts of finals past still linger strongly in my mind. Richmond’s only weakness is injuries to key defenders – a bad weakness, to be sure, against Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins – but a better midfield than the Cats’ was ripped apart last week by them. Tigers to continue their hot streak.

Finishing us off, I just can’t shake the feeling that St Kilda are about to make a statement that they belong in the eight. After a week of criticism following disaster against Essendon, Jack Steele should be back, which instantly makes the Saints’ midfield look better. The Swans, too, disappointed last week against Port Adelaide, and as I say every week, I’m still not convinced about how they play the SCG.

After the highs of Saturday, we start Sunday with… *shudders*… North versus Adelaide in Hobart. Cop that, Tassie. North should put up a decent fight, but I just cannot justify tipping them at the moment.

Up next, I expect Collingwood’s week from hell to have galvanised the group a bit. We’ve seen this club respond to adversity superbly before – they won the unwinnable final as the ‘dirty Pies’ in Perth a few years ago, for instance – and against a GWS outfit minus the crucial Braydon Preuss in the ruck, I expect them to win even without Jordan De Goey.

Finally, Port’s brilliant performance at home last week against Sydney gets them the nod here over Gold Coast – somehow, the Suns are probably the biggest outsiders of the round. I love what they’ve done, but they just don’t play the Adelaide Oval well, and I won’t be tipping them to break their 11-year dry spell there this time around.

Lachie Neale of the Lions handpasses the ball

(Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Dem Panopoulos (last week: 5)

Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Essendon, Fremantle, Geelong, Sydney, North Melbourne, GWS, Gold Coast

We’re back with lots of footy this week, which is good for finding excuses to get out of things. The matchups are tantalising and the weather looks decent: sign me up!

What a great way to start the round between the top two teams on the ladder. We know that Brisbane barely plays at the MCG and their record is awful there anyway, but I also think we’re overrating their season thus far.

It’s a big challenge, although the Demons have to try snap a three-game losing streak of their own. There’s lots to prove in this game and for me, it comes down to the fact one team is still a clear flag favourite and the other one is a couple of levels below.

Hawthorn have an incredible ability to hang tight and compete with top eight teams. Unfortunately for them, the Bulldogs are currently 10th and the Hawks don’t like playing at Marvel.

Last week, my wildcard was Essendon to beat St Kilda. This week, there’ll be a lot of people thinking that the Eagles could do the same to them after staying relatively competitive with the Cats in Round 14. I’ll stick fat with the Bombers to pick up another win, though.

The Blues hosting the Dockers at Marvel Stadium is a little anticlimactic – it would’ve been good to
see these teams play on a fast MCG track. I think there’s a bit of a difference between the two teams
but the venue makes things interesting. Without a heap of confidence, I’ll keep backing in Fremantle.

The Cats are genuine flag contenders and the Tigers are getting into the conversation with quick, fast footy. This will be a really fun game to watch, so time to go with a win-win result and tip the Cats.

Maybe the concept of the Saints missing finals isn’t that silly after all. They stumbled, but more than that, they played at a level that they’re probably best suited to last week, with inefficiency costing them.

The Swans have been pretty disappointing themselves too, I’ve got a piece coming out tomorrow on the one thing that needs to be fixed for them to be a legitimate contender. The home team should win here.

What’s the opposite of Super Sunday?

I’ll go with North Melbourne with very little confidence against the Crows. Hopefully it’s a showcase of young talent at least.

The Magpies and the Giants are two unexpectedly fast, attacking teams these days. It’s getting more and more likely
that Collingwood will play finals if they deliver on what their fixture offers to bring them. I’m flipping a coin in this shootout, though, and backing Mark McVeigh to have his biggest scalp yet as caretaker coach.

Finally, it’s a tough game for the Suns, but they’ve always had a piece of my heart.

Brandon Ellis of the Suns marks

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Cameron Rose (last week: 4)

Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, West Coast, Carlton, Geelong, St Kilda, Adelaide, Collingwood, Port Adelaide

The lull of the byes is behind us, somewhat saved this year by a handful of competitive games, and we are ready to pick up momentum again on the swing towards finals.

And goodness me, what a round we’ve got. Cancel all plans, because it’s a footy feast this weekend.

A top-of-the-table clash greets us to kick off the round on Thursday night, but both teams are coming off the bye in indifferent form. Melbourne has lost three in a row, all without Steven May, and while being plagued by off-field issues.

Brisbane have lost to Fremantle and Hawthorn, alongside narrow wins against GWS and St Kilda. If we trust that both teams are going to be near their best after a break, we should stick with Melbourne, particularly at the MCG, but whoever loses is under severe pressure for their top-four spot.

Friday night sees the Western Bulldogs host Hawthorn at Marvel. The Dogs need to keep winning to stay in touch with the eight, but the Hawks have proven to be a tricky banana skin this year.

West Coast and Essendon both put in improved showings last week, and will be looking to consolidate their form and get something out of the second half of the season. Maybe the Eagles for me.

Super Saturday sees three games between top eight sides as the round ramps up. For starters, Fremantle comes to Melbourne to take on Carlton, after already comfortably defeating them in Perth this year. The Dockers have been gradually winning over the sceptics, and now find a Blues outfit ripe for the picking.

Rory Lobb, Matt Taberner and Nat Fyfe should be licking their lips at the lack of tall defenders to stop them in the air. Carlton’s midfield will look for a lift after getting beaten by the Tigers, and with the lowest percentage of all teams in the eight, a loss would be grim for their top-four prospects. They should find a way.

Richmond v Geelong has been one of the spicier rivalries in recent times. The Cats have often held sway in home and away games, while the Tigers have won the finals clashes between the two teams.

Richmond are feeling the pinch down back, with Noah Balta out and Robbie Tarrant under an injury cloud, so Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron should hold the key to this match. The Tigers will likely win the territory battle, but can they find a way around Tom Stewart, Mark Blicavs and co.? The Cats should be winning.

St Kilda were as bad as any team this year against Essendon last Friday. They almost made the Bombers look AFL standard! Surely they’ll be stung into action against Sydney.

The Swans, too, have found a habit of going missing in games. Whichever team goes closer to putting in a four-quarter performance will win, and the loser could find themselves as low as 11th come Sunday night.

Some of the Sunday games are less tantalising. Adelaide’s form is stronger than North, so you’d back them to win even in Tassie. Collingwood are a free-flowing team in great form, and GWS are playing that way themselves, since they finally rid themselves of Leon Cameron several years too late. Will the ridiculous Jordan de Goey affair put the Pies off their game?

Port’s season is in a cutthroat phase, where they must win every game. Gold Coast are no pushover, but you’d back the Power in to find a way at home.

Nick Daicos competes with Lachie Whitfield.

Nick Daicos of Collingwood competes for the ball with GWS’ Lachie Whitfield. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Liam Salter (last week: 2)

Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Essendon, Fremantle, Geelong, St Kilda, Adelaide, Collingwood, Gold Coast

I think the best strategy here is to ignore my horrid results from last week and look longingly into the distance towards the absolutely incredible weekend of football we’re going to be treated to this week. So let’s do that.

It begins tonight, as Melbourne host the Lions. This is a huge game in every sense of the word, but especially so when you cast your minds back to before the byes – the reigning premiers lost top spot on the ladder after a third straight loss, as the Lions simultaneously perfectly garnered the 0.2 percent needed to leapfrog them.

‘Listless’ is not usually a word I’d typically use to describe Melbourne, but with the Lions perhaps the theoretical strongest of the four teams to face the Dees in the last month, therefore being desperate to prevail, there’s massive risk here for the Demons. But no risk, no reward – with too much on the line, I’m going to back the Dees.

It’s another double header on Friday night. Let’s cover the easiest-to-tip of the duo first: an obviously improved effort from the Eagles was good to see, but if the Dons simply match the genuine effort they displayed in their win last week they should go two on the trot.

The slightly earlier game is the Doggies v Hawks. I’ve been generally more impressed with the latter this year, though the Dogs were scintillating last weekend and seem more likely here, even with a swathe of first-choice names out.

Saturday has a beautiful fixture: all six teams playing are in the top eight. The Dockers have four games at Marvel Stadium between now and August, the first of which is Saturday against Carlton.

Games against the Blues perennially frighten me, especially in Victoria. But the Blues’ horror injury list is a serious worry, and Freo – and this remains bemusing to say – look dangerous offensively this season. If they can maximise that while repeating their strong defensive job against the Blues, they’ll prevail. (I’m only 55% sure on this tip, though).

I needn’t remind anyone that you shouldn’t judge Geelong’s lacklustre performance last week (Geelong suck post-bye, duh), but nevertheless, they’ll need to perform better against the Tigers. This is one I have zero logic on – let’s go the Cats in a flip-the-coin decision.

Meanwhile, Sydney would be nervous, with Tuesday’s headlines reporting Jack Steele could make a return for the Saints sooner than expected. If that rings true, it’s a massive boost for the Saints, who need to win here ahead of a tough fixture.

The Swans, too, desperately need the win, which makes this a fun one. Sydney are at home, which clinches the tip for me. 

Jack Higgins

Jack Higgins (Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

We begin Sunday in Tassie, with the Kangas hosting Adelaide. The Kangaroos are a genuine rabble at the moment, and I have so little confidence in them that the Crows are deservedly warm favourites here.

So too – apparently – are their South Australian counterparts in Port as they host the Suns, though I’m less sure. The Suns’ injuries are starting to mount, and they have a horrid history against the Power. But there’s a level of genuine motivation that we haven’t seen from the club in years, and if they’re to make finals this year, they’ll win this one.

Collingwood – who have taken their turn as the league’s ‘controversial club of the week’ (I joke, unintending to minimise the very serious issues brought to light these past few days) – will complete their seven days from hell with a win over the Giants, keeping their finals ambitions on track. 

Round 15 Tim Dem Cam Liam Crowd
ROLLING SCORE 81 72 72 76 81

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