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The Roar’s AFL expert tips and predictions: Round 17

Deary me.

Another week full of line-ball, risky selections, another week of me making an absolute mess of it.

I’m actually half-relieved I scraped my way to 4, making it just a genuinely bad round of tipping when it could easily have been an utter nightmare.

From watching the Tigers blow a 40-point lead and lose after the siren, to seeing my Bulldogs just plain not show up on Friday night, this was grim stuff. Thank goodness I’m having a half-decent Supercoach season or I may already have mentally checked out of season 2022.

For this week, I’m changing tacks. Looking at the form of us so-called experts against our competition leader, The Crowd, I can’t help noticing that where we tend to go wrong is in trying to back in an outsider (sophisticated analysis we run over in these parts, isn’t it?)

So, for this round, I’m following suit and only picking favourites. Just call me Star Lord to The Crowd’s Thor in Infinity War.

I certainly won’t be gaining the ground I lost on the leaders, which now stands at three tips, but at least I won’t fall headlong off a cliff. Let’s dive right in!

Tim Miller (last week: 4)

Western Bulldogs, Collingwood, Brisbane, Richmond, Geelong, Fremantle, Hawthorn, Melbourne, Gold Coast

I’m a glutton for punishment, so I’ve decided to give the Bulldogs one more chance at earning my love on Friday against St Kilda. Inexplicably, the Dogs are relatively safe favourites despite last week’s shocker against Sydney, but really who knows with my mob at the moment. Especially with Aaron Naughton’s absence through COVID nicely cancelling out Josh Bruce’s return… and then some.

Whoever loses out of this has their finals hopes basically shot; if the Bulldogs do win, though, they’ll probably still have to win two of three upcoming games against Melbourne, Geelong and Fremantle to scrape in. *shudders*

Saturday promises as an absolutely rip-snorter, beginning with a double-header of matches that appear one-sided but may prove fascinating. Collingwood’s winning streak was sorely tested against North last week, and the Crows in Adelaide is always a tough ask; but the Pies do well over in the land of the pie-floater, and are running too hot to go against. Similarly, Brisbane, despite COVID continuing to wreak havoc, should be better than they were against Essendon and account for GWS, whose honeymoon period under Mark McVeigh is officially over.

The last time Richmond played a North Melbourne side with a fresh coach, they copped an upset shellacking by Rhyce Shaw’s Roos three years ago. With a bunch of big outs including Tom Lynch, plus the Roos’ admirable effort last week, you can’t rule out an upset to star Leigh Adams’ time in charge. But that’s exactly what it would be – an upset.

In the most AFL move ever, the two matches of the round go head-to-head on Saturday night, with a Wallabies game going too just to annoy multi-code fans even more. Carlton and Geelong square off with perhaps the four best forwards in the game between them – Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay for the Blues, Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins for the Cats.

Stopping them will be a massive key to victory, and I trust the Cats’ undersized but disciplined defence a smidge more than that of the Blues. Make no mistake, though – this is a genuine line-baller.

Over in the west, starting just five minutes later, Freo host Sydney in another tantalising clash. The Dockers are fast turning Optus Stadium into a fortress – but remember, it was the Swans themselves who had the first win ever at the venue.

The Dockers have pipped the Swans in nail-biters at the ground in a number of recent encounters, and that’s what I’m anticipating will happen here.

After an action-packed Saturday, things die down quite a bit on Sunday. The Hawks took care of Adelaide and should take care of West Coast too, who took another big step backwards with a dreadful first and last quarter against Carlton. Melbourne will find out whether Clayton Oliver is just a really good player or the glue holding their team together when they face Port Adelaide in Alice Springs minus the star number 13; my guess is it’s the former, especially with Max Gawn set to take on the Jeremy Finlayson-Charlie Dixon ruck tandem.

Finally, the Suns get a chance to ratify their finest win ever with the first in a number of ‘if they’re serious they’ll win’ games. How the Suns will cope with favouritism against Essendon remains to be seen, but while I’m trusting them to win, I fully expect this to backfire, and for Peter Wright to make them regret offloading him for peanuts two years ago.

Nick Coffield takes a mark.

Nick Coffield takes a mark. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

Dem Panopoulos (last week: 5)

Western Bulldogs, Adelaide, Brisbane, Richmond, Geelong, Fremantle, Hawthorn, Melbourne, Gold Coast

Anyone else get harrowing flashbacks when Noah Anderson was lining up for goal?

Anyway, the ladder is still pretty close – even though there looks like a clear difference between teams that are on track to play in finals, and those outside that range.

We have two teams on incredible winning streaks and a new coach in charge, so Round 18 looks like it’ll be a fun one.

Three months ago, we might’ve been excited for what a contest between the Bulldogs and the Saints
might look like at this time of year. Somehow, both teams are still fighting for a top-eight spot. A win here likely shuts the door on the opposition.

It won’t be the 111-point thrashing it was last time, but the Bulldogs’ depth is a tad better offensively than what St Kilda’s is defensively.

The Magpies overcame a spirited North Melbourne team to win their seventh game in a row and come up against an Adelaide team they’ve beaten for times in a row in South Australia.

I have a reputation to uphold (according to ‘Pies supporters) though, so here’s my differential tip – Crows to cause an upset.

GWS got the jump on the Lions last time they played but couldn’t hold on. Both teams are coming off incredibly disappointing performances, but at least Brisbane had some excuses. Provided their team isn’t unexpectedly ravaged by illness again, they should win this.

It’s probably a danger game for Richmond this week. Their talls aren’t fit, Dusty isn’t back, they’re coming off that loss last week and face a team with a new coach, who are searching for that dead cat bounce effect.

If the Tigers are legitimate, and I think they are, they should still win this game handily. Can’t wait for that to backfire.

The two best games of the round are overlapping on a Saturday night, another big miss for the fixturing department who could easily have avoided this happening with the rolling fixture.

Welcome to all the newcomers who have belatedly joined the ‘Cats are a flag threat’ train – there’s
plenty of room onboard. Against the Blues, this will be a fascinating contest to see how they navigate a good group of small defenders, something they haven’t had to deal with much.

In the other game, the Dockers play the Swans in what should be an optical masterpiece. Two of the three contests between these teams at the ground have been decided by less than a kick. It could be a similar event this week.

Sunday might be a little less fun. The Hawks should beat a Nic Naitanui-less Eagles team, who’ll try hard but should fall short.

It’s astounding that there’s a Sunday afternoon game in Alice Springs – these matches are usually reserved for earlier in the round in a darker setting. The Demons should win even without Clayton Oliver, though that does make things trickier.

Finally, the pressure has been released a little on the Bombers, which is good for an extremely young
playing group. Secretly, it’d be good for the Suns to get on a bit of a roll – they’ve shot themselves in the foot recently but can still make a play on finals.

Christian Petracca celebrates a goal

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

Cameron Rose (last week: 6)

Western Bulldogs, Adelaide, Brisbane, Richmond, Geelong, Fremantle, Hawthorn, Melbourne, Essendon

Friday night sees the battle of the underwhelming teams. St Kilda can’t get knocked out of the finals race with a loss, but you’d think the Dogs are toast if they can’t claim victory.

That might be enough to see them over the line, but they are still in horrible form.

To start with on Saturday, I reckon Collingwood are due a loss, and Adelaide can take their ticket at home. Brisbane have some COVID scares to deal with, and have to travel to take on GWS, who can be a tricky opponent on their day.

I’m sticking with the Lions, but with no confidence.

Richmond should bounce back from an appalling loss, but have to deal with the ‘new coach spike’ from North that got them when Rhyce Shaw took the reins in 2019.

Carlton v Geelong at the MCG is eagerly awaited. Can the Cats keep winning? The Blues are in the habit of mixing their form at the moment, so have to go with Geelong on the basis that we can be confident in what they will produce.

Fremantle could be two games clear of fifth with the right run of results this weekend, but they’ll need to be taking care of an inconsistent Sydney to do so. They should.

On Sunday, Hawthorn can beat West Coast, in front of a few hundred seagulls at the MCG. Melbourne are warm favourites to beat Port in Alice Springs, and really should. But if not, the Power stay in the finals hunt and the Demons’ top four spot could be under threat. Unthinkable.

Can Gold Coast keep the dream alive against Essendon at Marvel on Sunday evening? It should be a classic Docklands affair, with slick ball movement and high scoring. Maybe Essendon will be better suited to it.

Peter Wright

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Liam Salter (last week: 4)

St Kilda, Collingwood, Brisbane, Richmond, Carlton, Fremantle, Hawthorn, Melbourne, Gold Coast

Much like quite a few teams as we enter the final six rounds of the season, I’ve got way too many things to achieve and not a lot of time to do it, so let’s do some rapid-fire tipping.

I’m a little surprised the Doggies are heavy tipsters’ favourites for tonight’s encounter with the Saints. Using recency bias, the Saints put up a marginally stronger losing effort last week than the Dogs, and while it’ll be a scrap given both teams are within reach of the top eight, I trust the Saints a smidgen more.

Moving to Saturday, Collingwood are on a roll, and the Crows are nothing of the sort. I’ll back the Pies to – probably, given they almost capitulated last week – win easily.

The Lions should be able to shake off their COVID woes and put in a vastly improved effort against the Giants to again make the top four race interesting; while the Tigers would be terrified, given the interim-coach bounce North are inevitably bound to have. Or was last week’s the Kangaroos’ rare strong effort? Either way, Richmond should prevail.  

Saturday night is looking incredible, with the Blues and Cats kicking us off. Both had big wins last weekend – the Bluebaggers’ bigger by margin, Geelong’s bigger in stature.

Carlton have been decimated in defence– worrying against Geelong’s incredible offensive prowess – but the Cats have dropped some obvious ones this year. Really, really hard to pick, but the Blues are who my heart wants to win, so let’s riskily tip them based off that. Yikes. 

And it’s a genuine eight-point game in the West, with Freo hosting the Swans. The Swans had a good win last week, but their recent form has been iffy at best. Freo are to be bolstered with a few returns, and while I’d give the Swans the edge up forward, Fremantle’s engine room is sure to not let a repeat of their horror first half against the Saints reoccur.

With a raucous home crowd behind them and top two in their sights, the Dockers are my pick. 

Rory Lobb

Rory Lobb could be on his way back to GWS. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Sunday’s fixture is probably the most Sunday-ish fixture imaginable. The Hawks and the Eagles might be morbidly interesting, as the Hawks are gunning for two consecutive wins for the first time this year.

The Eagles are a reasonably stronger side than they were, but I’ll still go the Hawks.

Port won an easy one last week to keep finals a possibility, but that door should slam back shut as they go down to the Demons this week.

Essendon – apparently good again, at least temporarily – face the Suns to close out the weekend, a match the Queenslanders would be desperate to win. And I’ll back them too, as an maiden finals campaign remains legitimately possible. 

Round 17 Tim Dem Cam Liam Crowd
ROLLING SCORE 97 87 92 91 100

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