It’s the last short week of the 2017 AFL regular season as there are just six matches on the ledger. The West Coast Eagles, Western Bulldogs, and St. Kilda Saints take center stage this week, these three struggling sides are looking to arrest their decline in form to remain finals contenders in an unpredictable season that is seeing fierce competition from 17 of 18 sides, for just 8 finals round spots.
West Coast Eagles vs Geelong Cats (Thursday at Domain Stadium)
Despite having to travel, the 8-3 cats are deserved favorites to pick up a fourth straight win and defeat the struggling Eagles. West Coast has dearly missed key forward Josh Kennedy, and their midfield has slowed down, struggling to generate contested possessions. The Eagles have plainly looked tired in recent weeks and a loss in this one would make it four straight defeats, and perhaps put them in a position on the ladder they can’t return from at 6-6.
Geelong is missing key forward Tom Hawkins, but they have gotten a true team contribution outside of Dangerwood in recent weeks. Both Selwood brothers have been fantastic, along with the likes of Mitch Duncan and Sam Menegola, even veteran Harry Taylor has been solid. Geelong isn’t the perfect team, but they should cause West Coast headaches with their pressure. Cats by 24
North Melbourne vs. St. Kilda (Friday at Etihad Stadium)
Despite their less than thrilling 4-7 record, North Melbourne has played hard this season and kept it close in almost every outing. Their young side still struggles to finish games at times though and playing against another Melbourne side, this should be a pretty even contest. The Saints dropped Jack Steele this week and after three straight losses, Alan Richardson is trying to right the ship, and better the Saints awful record against North, having lost their last six head to head contests.
St. Kilda is also a somewhat young side that will likely come into their own more next season, barring something surprising from their key players like Jack Steven, Ben Brown, Shaun Higgins, and the rest of the the Roos should enjoy a needed win, causing the Saints further pain. Kangaroos by 17
Richmond vs. Sydney Swans (Saturday at the MCG)
Despite these teams having opposite records, the Tigers at 7-4, and the Swans at 4-7, this is a toss-up contest and a must-win for both teams. Richmond needs this win to cement their top 4 status and remain ahead of a muddled pack of sides below them, while the Swans need the win to stay in the finals hunt having caught fire and won four of their last five games.
Richmond has been a form team as well this season and although a healthy Swans side led by Lance Franklin and Josh P. Kennedy is a difficult team to face, the Tigers should rise to the occasion again this season, with Dustin Martin continuing his Brownlow medal push, while Alex Rance looks to lock down the Swans forward line. Tigers by 9
Port Adelaide vs. Brisbane Lions (Saturday at Adelaide Oval)
5th in the ladder vs 18th, the Power should roll in this one, but the Lions are not a side to sleep on this year. Chris Fagan has triggered a roar in young Lions, besides hope for the future, the likes of Dayne Zorko and Dayne Beams have battled hard this season, and they are up two wins on the year. Port has had a good season, but there are signs of worry, as the Power have dropped two of their last three games.
Travis Boak, Robbie Gray, Jasper Pittard and others will need to step up big to prevent a defeat, as Port looks to avoid the same fate as aforementioned Richmond is aiming to avoid. They’d rather be safely in the 8 than having to battle for their spot in the final rounds of the regular season. Port is the better side and should win this at home regardless. Power by 35
Gold Coast Suns vs. Carlton (Saturday at Metricon Stadium)
The winner of this game will be firm top 8 contenders, although they both will need help to get in, while the loser can likely start hoping for next year as two of the youngest teams in the competition battle it out on Saturday night. The Suns won this contest in round 4 by a solid margin, and led by Gary Ablett they have won two straight games. Carlton got a massive confidence boosting win over GWS last week though, and the young Blues have built solid chemistry as a side, and have seen some big performances from Liam Jones, Levi Casboult, and others this season to get to four wins, which is more than what was expected.
Gold Coast is a better mover of the footy and has more offensive firepower, with the likes of Tom Lynch, Peter Wright, and Brandon Matera more formidable than what the Blues can offer. Carlton has a fantastic backline though, and Sam Docherty will look to keep the Suns in check. I’m not sold on Gold Coast, but I do think they will outscore the Blues and win this, as they are better in open ground. Suns by 14
Western Bulldogs vs. Melbourne (Sunday at Etihad Stadium)
The banged up Bulldogs have been struggling, as some of the best players on their list have been down this season compared to last. Having lost three of their last four, the Bulldogs are dangerous to face, but clearly wounded.
Melbourne looks to be getting healthier and more confident as they go for a third straight win to further embed themselves within the top 8. Christian Petracca and Nathan Jones have been huge in recent weeks, as Melbourne has showed fighting spirit and solid use of the footy. The Dogs have failed to produce goals when it matters this season, and Melbourne should be clear favorites in this one. Demons by 17