CrikeySports_markWhat an interesting week in football!

Firstly, the footy was pretty good. Great wins by Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle particularly. The St Kilda juggernaut rolls on. This columnist picked six winners last week children. Six. Put that in your tipping pipe and smoke it.

But footy took a sidestep this week to the Bold and the Beautifulesque theatrics that were played out by the Collingwood and Richmond football clubs.

If you call someone a rapist, then deny you called someone a rapist, and then television shows undeniably that you called someone a rapist, and then you apologise that you called that person a rapist, and then a tree falls down in an empty forest, then is Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse the sound of one hand clapping?

Poor Mick.

He’s copped it from everyone this week. Except from Ben Cousins, who’s busy landing haymakers on drunken team mates.

Poor Benny.

I like the cut of this man’s jib. Sometimes you just need to smack a team mate in the chops. I’m sure at least seven Saints players want to hit Stephen Milne. Maybe even his own mother.

Anyway, was Richmond’s home ground, the beautiful Punt Road Oval, buried on an ancient Indian burial ground or something? They can’t cop a break.

To the footy…

West Coast vs. Essendon — 6.40pm Friday April 16, Subiaco Oval

West Coast. They are a giant of this competition. They are rich  and powerful, and are used to success. But something is going on this season. Winless after three rounds, West Coast ruckmen Nick Naitanuii and Dean Cox were driven to call one of those late night self help lines at halftime during last week’ game against North Melbourne. Coach John Worsfold may come under fire if he continues to play the likes of Chris Masten away from the ball — given his potential and disposal ability. Mark Le Cras is all class but they need this win like Hey Hey its Saturday needs to be pulled off air. Ashton Hams has been named to debut … mmmmm … ham.

In contrast, Essendon had their first win of the season last week against their whipping boys of their past six meetings or so, Carlton. Kyle Reimers and Mark Williams up forward were the difference. Kyle Reimers is one of those guys you just want to punch. Where’s Ben Cousins when you need him? But he can play. The big addition to this Bombers outfit is the inclusion of rising star Michael Hurley. Essendon need Hurley like a drunken 19 year old needs Hungry Jacks at 1am. Will he be the difference this week?

Essendon may be too quick for the Eagles at the vast expanses of Subiaco. Tough one to pick.

Bombers by 7 points.

North Melbourne vs. Sydney — 2.10pm Saturday April 17, Etihad Stadium

Coach Brad Scott tasted his first home and away victory as coach last week. Early reports are it tasted like chicken. Captain Brent “Boomer” Harvey and Daniel Wells ran around virtually unchecked last week and they can be rest assured a disciplined Swans outfit won’t give then that freedom this time round. The Kangaroos have made no changes as Scott aims to build momentum.

Sydney, aka The Bloods. That’s such a cool nickname. Anyway, Sydney look very impressive. Even though they smashed Richmond last week (which is quickly become a weekly bye for whoever plays the Tigers) they are playing with a commitment and tenacity representative of the Paul Roos mantra. As an aside, Paul Roos should bottle and sell his mantra. Heath Grundy has come on leaps and bounds this season and defender Nick Malceski has shown everyone that if you have Luke Skywalker-esque surgery (you know, at the end of Empire Strikes Back he gets that awesome robot hand) on your knee you can come back  better than ever.

Swans by heaps, say 36

Adelaide vs. Carlton — 2.40pm Saturday April 17, AAMI Stadium

The Crows are quickly becoming 2010’s Corey Haim. Too soon? They need a win like Adelaide needs decent drinking water. Too soon? Ravaged by injuries last week, how the pride of South Australia bounce back will tell us how much the 22 players respect the jumper and coach Neil Craig — who is quickly finding himself in dangerous waters. Patrick Dangerfield, Kurt Tippett, Trent Hentschel and Nathan Bock were all high profile injuries last week with Hentschel and Bock ommitted for this round. Brett Burton and Simon Goodwin were the Crow’s best last week, and those old timers need some help from the kids and mid tier players.

Carlton. The only team they have beaten this year is Richmond. Hell, I could beat Richmond. After losing to their must hated rivals Essendon last week the Blues need a massive injection of enthusiasm into their team this game. Come on down Chris Judd! He’s not really enthusiastic is Chris, that was a bad adjective. He’s pretty boring actually. Maybe an “injection of class” and “HTFU”. That’s more apt for Judd. His inclusion may make his Carlton chargers stand a little taller around him. And what’s with Setanta O’Halpin? He is quickly becoming my favourite player to just stand and point and laugh at.

Poor beaten up Crows. Carlton by 29

Brisbane vs. Western Bulldogs — 7.10pm Saturday April 17, the Gabba

Brisbane Lions, as their song says, will “kick the winning score”. And that they certainly will when they have Brendan Fevola and super freak Jonathan Brown in their forward line. Have you seen Rocky IV? There’s this seen where Dolph Lundgren portraying Ivan Drago says of Rocky Balboa: “He’s not human … He’s like a piece of iron!” (In a cool Russian accent — you’re doing it now aren’t you?). Anyway, that’s what Jonathan Brown is like. Iron. And he’s continuing to lead his undefeated Brisbane Lions into battle.

Everyone loves the Doggies. How could you not? There’s is the unrequited fairytale and they play sexy football. Barry Hall is slowly moving up gears as his six goal haul last week shows.  Sadly Jason Akermanis is not playing. I love Aker. And it’s always good watching him play his old team the Lions. If you haven’t yet, check out First Dog on the Moon’s cartoon of the Round 3 Western Bulldogs game.

What a game! Dogs by 4 points

Collingwood vs. Hawthorn — 7.10pm Saturday April 17, the MCG

Collingwood lost last week in a spiteful Friday night game against St Kilda. This week, no doubt, they will play a spiteful game against Hawthorn. It goes without saying that the Pies need more from their forward set up. Travis Cloke needs  to lead the Collingwood scoring charge. There’s a lot to like about this Collingwood team (that hurts even saying that) but they do have class and if they fix their problems up forward they are going to push almost every team in the competition. Random trivia: did you know Mick Malthouse once tried out to be the third member of Manilli Vanilli?

Hawthorn is interesting. They have again lost Lance Franklin to the strange nuances of the AFL Tribunal. He’s out for one week. And defender Josh Gibson is out for three months after injuring a hamstring. The football gods are being quite unkind to the Mayblooms. But Hawthorn still have a fantastic line up. Cyril Rioli has showed the football world what he’s capable of in the past two weeks. This will be a great game.

Collingwood by 12

Richmond vs. Melbourne — 1.10pm Sunday April 18, the MCG

Richmond. What can you say about Richmond? They only put up a fight in a hotel room? Jokes aside there’s nothing Richmond fans can do but sit back and watch the kids develop. Which is sort of like watching crab grass grow. But you can’t accuse Richmond of being boring. Pathetic yes, boring no. Look at this list of ins! Polak, Hislop, Nahas, Collins, Farmer, King, Taylor, Astbury, Dea. That’s like a Brady bunch plus a Partridge family!

The Demons win against Adelaide last week was superb. I was shouting at the TV. I think most people were (at least those non-Crows supporters). Melbourne are quickly becoming a bipartisan favorite among football fans. They have good kids and you want them to do well. Except against your team. The future is bright for the Red Legs and their should be fire in the belly among this playing group for another win.

Luckily for them they are playing the Tigers.

Melbourne by 40.

Geelong vs. Port Adelaide — 2.10pm Sunday April 18, Skilled Stadium

Gary Ablett and Paul Chapman were on fire last week against Fremantle. And when these two modern day Geelong legends fire, the Cats rarely lose. But lose they did. It was one helluva game last week and this Geelong team hates to lose. Brad Ottens, Matthew Scarlett and Cameron Mooney come back in to bolster an already strong Geelong outfit. Like that barking man guy, Geelong will be rabid this week.

Unlucky for Port Adelaide, they take on the Cats at Skilled Stadium this week. The Power too have important inclusions as Robbie Gray is set to play his first game of the season. The Power have had a good solid start to the season and no one gives them a hope of beating Geelong this week. Any this is exactly when you should be wary of the boys from Alberton. Given the history between the two teams it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Power fire up. But I think they’ll still fall short.

Geelong by 43

St Kilda vs. Fremantle — 4.40pm Sunday April 18, Etihad Stadium

Who would have thought this game would be close to match of the round? St Kilda sans inspirational skipper Nick Riewoldt are still are a mighty team. And they’re going to have to prove that too as they look to be without him for most of the year. Justin Koschitzke will also not be there. It’s the first time since 2005 the Saints have been without both of their tall timber. But they have so much class. Goddard, Montagna, Hayes, Dal Santo etc. And coach Ross Lyon has them so organised and so well drilled. How could they lose? And at a venue they have won 20 of their last 22 games at!

Freo is the buzz word in the AFL at the moment. The Dockers are playing highly attractive football and are undefeated so far in 2010. Chris Tarrant is back for Freo and the players, led magnificently by captain Matthew Pavlich, are giving their all for yet to be recontracted coach Mark Harvey. If Fremantle win on Sunday they will sit clear on the AFL ladder after four rounds. Surely, and I say this is a mad Freo supporter, the world will end if this happens.  I have a friend who stands to win $13K if Sandilands wins the Brownlow and Freo make the grand final. I have another friend in Perth  who refuses to take off his lucky Freo boxer shorts as they, somehow, are the key to Fremantle’s winning ways. So much optimism.

Highlight of the week: master pest annoyer Stephen Milne to be on the same field with his apprentice, the barnyard rat, Fremantle’s Hayden Ballantyne.

Surely, St Kilda by 10.