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The Roar’s AFL expert tips and predictions: Round 20

The karma bus hit me last week; after picking against my beloved Bulldogs for the fourth time all year, I was finally made to regret my lack of faith by the footy gods (and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan).

My father, on the other hand, has only been too keen to rub his decision to stick true in my face – and, having soared up our family tipping competition with a perfect 9 (yep, he beat me to that punch, too), he’s been looking like this all week:

But as they say, there’s no time like the present: so sit back, grab yourself a Krabby Patty and let’s take a look at Round 20!

Tim Miller (last week: 7)

Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Sydney, St Kilda, Geelong, Carlton, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Essendon

I’m four tips behind with four weeks to go courtesy of once again being burned by the lure of picking West Coast at home. That means it’s time for a few Hail Marys!

Friday night promises to decide who of Fremantle and Melbourne remains Geelong’s biggest threat for the flag (Brisbane still feel a bit flaky this year and I’m not prepared to give Collingwood any legitimacy just yet). The Dockers’ attack fell to pieces on Friday night, while the Dees’ backline resembled Swiss cheese as neither won their matches last week.

I’m still bullish on the Dees’ best being THE best, and just like they did to Brisbane a few months ago, I’m expecting them to come out against another contender and remind everyone who’s boss.

Collingwood and Geelong are both on nine-game winning streaks, but one evokes a sense of being an unstoppable train and the other just a feeling of ‘they’re due a loss’. Narrow wins over North Melbourne, Adelaide and Essendon don’t exactly scream confidence, and against a Power outfit desperate to keep their finals hopes alive and in more than reasonable touch, I’m expecting an upset here that could just begin to leave the Pies wobbly in the top eight.

Sydney are going well enough that there’s no team in the competition they’d fear, certainly not the flagging Giants. GWS tend to get up for Sydney Derbys, and nearly snatched the one in Round 1 minus Toby Greene, but these Swans have the top four in their sights and no pesky crosstown rival is going to stand in their way.

St Kilda, too, have so much to lose compared to an opponent in Hawthorn that has its sights firmly on 2023 at this point. Win, and unless the Bulldogs can upset Geelong at the Cattery, they’ll finish the round with their finals fate in their own hands. Surely that’s too tempting for the Saints to botch it?

Saturday night sees Carlton travel to Adelaide; coming home with anything less than a stress-free four points would be a disappointing outcome for the Blues. Keen to see the reception Mitch McGovern gets from his old fans as well – is three and a half years long enough to let bygones be bygones when he hasn’t actually fronted up to his old stomping ground yet as a Blue?

Picking against the Bulldogs didn’t work out well for me last week, but as much as I’d love to stay loyal, Geelong in Geelong terrifies me like no other team and no other venue. Whether it’s Jeremy Cameron again, the narrow boundaries at Kardinia Park or Joel Selwood marking his 350th game by eye-gouging Bailey Dale again, it’s hard to pick against the Cats.

On to Sunday, and Gold Coast should really be taking care of West Coast if they’re a serious footy side, never mind a finals contender. The same goes for Essendon against North Melbourne, a side they haven’t lost to since the top-up Dons in 2016.

The most interesting – and crucial – game of the week sees Richmond host Brisbane, and it’s the one I’m most conflicted about.

On the one hand, the Lions haven’t won at the MCG since 2014, have a terrible record against the Tigers in Melbourne, and will be facing a desperate side buoyed by the return of Tom Lynch.

On the other hand, the Tigers have made an art form of losing the unlosable to lesser sides recently, and for me, there’s just enough doubt for this to be my roughie of the week to try and close the gap. (Plus it helps the Bulldogs, so there’s that too.)

Bailey Smith of the Bulldogs and Zach Tuohy of the Cats exchange a greeting.

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Dem Panopoulos (last week: 6)

Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Sydney, St Kilda, Geelong, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Richmond, Essendon

Things were never going to be good when a draw kicked off the round.

Sure, there was hope of a few upsets – the ones I had tipped chief among them – but in the end, it was just
disappointment and the risks never paid off.

What’s the point in playing it safe at this stage of the season and this far back? Nothing? Exactly.

What would have previously been a much-anticipated contest is now most interesting for seeing which of the Demons and Dockers can halt their slide.

Personally, I’m not too fussed with how the rest of the home-and-away season goes – they’re two of the three teams I think can win the flag, with the Swans entering the fray as a fourth. I think the Demons will sneak over the line here.

Trusted sources have indicated to me that Collingwood won’t win another game in 2022. It’s all I’ve got to go on for this game, so congratulations, Port Adelaide.

One would imagine we get high-scoring footy in the Battle of the Bridge (I’m not calling it the Sydney Derby) – surely Spike McVeigh has nothing to lose either in his last few weeks in the GWS hot sea?

Sydney’s a good team, though, and they’ll get the chocolates here.

For some reason, I can’t picture the Saints-Hawks twilight clash at Marvel being played in full
lighting. There’s something a little dull about it in my head; maybe it’s the form of the former.

In saying that, St Kilda have beaten Hawthorn by a nice margin twice in a row, so another win seems likely here to have them in the eight – whether it’s for a matter of hours or for the weekend remains to be seen.

Do I think the Cats are better than the Bulldogs? Well and truly. Do I think the Cats need to drop a game? Yes.

Is it this one? Well, it’s either this one or the Suns clash and I don’t know how the Bulldogs can stop Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins. Win number 10 in a row for the ladder-leaders.

Here’s another upset alrt – the Blues have never won at Adelaide Oval (granted, they’ve only played the
Crows there once), and Adelaide is a step or two away from picking up an upset win somewhere. This might be it.

Come Sunday, and starting us of, the Suns will beat the Eagles, but they’ve disappointed when they’ve needed to fire this season.

I vaguely remember the scene from back to the future when there are five seconds left in the last quarter, the Tigers up by 2 points, and there’s a ball up in Brisbane’s goal square.

All Richmond needs to do is not allow for clean possession. The Tigers launch the ball through the goals on the full,
giving Brisbane a shot from straight in front, after the siren to win the game.

There aren’t too many more ways to not win, I don’t think, so I’m hopping back on the Tiger train.

Finally, flip a coin between Essendon and North. It’s probably the Bombers, but who really knows at this point?

Zac Bailey of the Lions celebrates after kicking a goal

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Cameron Rose (last week: 7)

Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Sydney, St Kilda, Geelong, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Richmond, Essendon

Is Friday night Melbourne’s last stand? They could conceivably be as low as fifth or even sixth with the right run of results, if they can’t beat Fremantle.

The wobbles are real, but the Dockers aren’t exactly flying themselves. I’ll be sticking with the premiers.

Collingwood is the cat with nine lives, which will surely run out soon. They are the team that everyone wants to play in week one of finals.

Perhaps Port can burst their bubble and keep their own finals chances alive?

Sydney are putting together a fantastic few weeks and can build on that with a win against GWS, while immediately after, St Kilda can keep their finals hopes alive with a win over Hawthorn. Both have too much to gain and even more to lose to drop these games.

Geelong are a powerful outfit right now, and it’s hard to see them dropping one to the Dogs at home on Saturday night. Carlton simply must beat Adelaide in the city of churches, and I’d be shocked if they didn’t.

Gold Coast should be too good for West Coast on Sunday, but ‘too good’ isn’t really something you can associate with the Suns in a pretty disappointing last fortnight.

Richmond are running out of last chances, but have a good record against Brisbane, especially in Victoria. If they can’t win for Kane Lambert’s retirement and Shane Edwards’ 300th, they can start planning their September holidays.

Essendon are back in form, and will relish putting some score on against North and take some frustrations out from last week’s comedy loss.

Dylan Shiel

Dylan Shiel. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Liam Salter (last week: 7)

Fremantle, Collingwood, Sydney, St Kilda, Geelong, Carlton, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Essendon

Well, my heart rate has finally come down from last Friday night (many thanks to the Noahs at Richmond for two premiership points), just in time for another terrifying Friday night experience!

Freo on Friday nights are a bit like buses: you wait years for one and then two come in a row. Not that I’m complaining – fingers crossed this clash with Melbourne is a better spectacle than against the Tigers.

My head still says tipping against the reigning premiers is fraught with danger; my heart says that their backline is susceptible, the Dockers will be harder to crack for the Dees than the Bulldogs were last week, and that Freo are overdue a real reminder to everyone that they’re a flag threat. I’ll back my boys in.

With every week it’s getting harder and harder to remember when Collingwood or Geelong last lost; on home soil against top-eight hopefuls Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs respectively, they’re better than even chances of extending their streaks into double digits. Can’t wait for the Pies to win three games of their last four, lose the other by 10 goals and enter the finals as a 16-win team with a percentage under 100.

As for the rest of Saturday, Sydney should safely account for GWS in the Battle of the Sydney Derby or whatever we’re calling that these days, though Leek Aleer’s debut made for the most wholesome moment of the week on footy Twitter.

At twilight, a Hawks team with nothing to lose faces St Kilda with everything to gain. I still remember the Saints winning this clash by miles earlier this year, so I’ll stick with them. Finishing us off, it’s hard to see Carlton not getting the job done against Adelaide, even on the road, for their first win in South Australia since that night they made finals from ninth.

Sunday has one fascinating fixture among two dead-rubbers. Home ground advantage should make Gold Coast safe against West Coast, while Essendon would have to play four quarters like the last minute against Collingwood to lose to North Melbourne.

Sandwiched in the middle is Richmond hosting Brisbane, with top eight on the line for the former and top four for the latter. Brisbane’s inability to win at the MCG meets Richmond’s inability to win, period.

It feels like the Lions are due a win at the ‘G, and they found some of their best footy against the Suns. But to be honest, I’m just expecting Richmond to win, then for it to be revealed they played half the last quarter with 19 on the field and have their score stripped. And it wouldn’t be any more comical than the way they lost to North!

Michael Frederick of the Dockers in action.

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Round 20 Tim Dem Cam Liam Crowd
ROLLING SCORE 110 98 105 102 114

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