It’s rivalry round. Where famous classic stoushes of years gone by like Sydney vs. Brisbane, Geelong vs. Richmond and North Melbourne vs. Melbourne are played out to a public baying for a reminder of what has come before.
Seriously though, Geelong vs. Richmond? Where’s the rivalry? Well if I was 122 years old I’d probably suggest the 1931 Grand Final where the Cats beat the Tigers by 20 points. But otherwise…
And a small point. I was criticised (very fairly) by Crikey Sports reader “mboz101” for picking all the favourites last week. It’s true — I did — and I only picked four winners as a result. So this week, I’m picking all non-favourites* and will give an authoritative and reasoned analysis of why.
Western Bulldogs vs. St Kilda — 7.40pm Friday April 30, Etihad Stadium
“Spicy,” is how First Dog on the Moon described the Bulldogs chances this week against St Kilda. Which is interesting considering Western Bulldogs major sponsor is a Mexican foods wholesaler. Conspiracy or coincidence? Anyhow, the Dogs looked good last week. I was there. So was First Dog. We had a beer together on the third tier of Etihad. Beside the beer, the thing I was most pleased with about last week’s game was Ryan Griffen. He has some freaky abilities and starting to look like he feels he belongs. Young ruckman Jordan Roughead looks a gem too.
But I’m not picking the Dogs. I’m picking St Kilda. Why? Because despite losing to Port Adelaide last week and despite looking somewhat rudderless without inspirational captain Nick Riewoldt, the Saints don’t know how to lose at Etihad. If Riewoldt is coach Ross Lyon’s biggest asset, his second greatest weapon is the enclosed basketball stadiumesque expanses of Etihad. St Kilda are so well drilled for this ground it will take a monumental effort from the Doggies to get over the top. Brendon Goddard is in scary form whereas lumbering forward Justin Koschitzke is not. To win, the Doggies must run and carry and break the well structured zones of the Saints.
St Kilda in a thriller, by 4
North Melbourne vs. Melbourne — 2.10pm Saturday May 1, Etihad Stadium
North Melbourne go into this game as slight underdogs, just the way they like it at Arden Street. They pulled off a great win last week against Hawthorn in Tasmania when no one thought they could win. This week, North Melbourne are in the comfortable surrounds of Etihad, whereas Melbourne are out of their comfort zone playing at the Docklands. And how good is Brady Rawlings? He must be close to being the premier small backman in the competition at the moment. He, however, is largely unheralded due to the general unsexiness that is North Melbourne.
If North are Susan Boyle, then Melbourne, at the moment, is Scarlett Johansson. They are flying and everyone is happy for them. Star recruit and number two in last year’s national draft Jack Trengove won the NAB Rising Star nomination for round 5. He is a beauty. The last time anyone remembers there being so much optimism around the Demons was when Keith Truscott and Norm Smith won a chook raffle in June 1939.
But I am going to dampen the euphoria by picking North Melbourne to win, because they play Etihad better and the Demon bubble has to burst at some point.
North by 12
Adelaide vs. Port Adelaide — 2.40pm Saturday May 1, AAMI Stadium
It’s the Showdown — and this is a rivalry. Who could forget Ramsgate-gate? Where after a 2002 encounter Adelaide and Port Adelaide players ran into each other at the Ramsgate Hotel, where, according to former Crows skipper Mark Ricciuto in his book, the following happened:
What started off as a spirited verbal exchange soon inside the hotel escalated to a push and shove, which ultimately made its way into the car park and attracted a crowd of a couple of hundred intrigued spectators. Mark recalls practising his tackling technique as he spread-eagled [Josh] Carr over the bonnet of a Ramsgate customer’s new Mercedes.
Now that’s what I’m talking about. It’s this sort of mutual hatred that neutral supporters are waiting to see this weekend. Adelaide have been bashed by the injury stick. Patrick Dangerfield and Chris Knights are both out. Whereas Port Adelaide are fit and firing.
So who will win? I’m picking Adelaide for no other reason than this game is always a 50/50 match despite where both teams are on the ladder. Crows coach Neil Craig needs this win. The Crows players should get their asses kicked by Ricciuto if they lose. Adelaide need to show something here and I think they will.
Crows by 7.
Essendon vs. Hawthorn — 7.10pm Saturday May 1, MCG
Thank you Channel Ten. Apparently this week Channel Ten are not telecasting a game of football by two fierce rivals, they are instead showing a Royal Rumble. Furthermore, former Hawthorn champion and enforcer Dermott Brereton is back talking about burning Essendon jerseys and Hawthorn memberships. Dermie, step away from the naked flame, I just have a feeling you’ll come off that second best.
But Jeebus, don’t both these teams need this win. It could be said that whichever team loses this match can kiss season 2010 goodbye. Hawks skipper Sam Mitchell is still out injured but the Hawks have finally named a ruckman in Brent Renouf. And Essendon were so terribly on Anzac Day last week that it’s almost incomprehensible to tip them. But I am.
The Bombers have lost important duo Kyle Reimers and Tayte Pears and this will cost them. But coach Matthew Knights is under the pump and Essendon won’t want to lose to a bitter rival two weeks in a row.
They can’t be as bad as they were last week. Surely.
Essendon by 14
Sydney vs. Brisbane — 7.10pm Saturday May 1, SCG
The Swans keep on rolling on and are arguably the form team in the competition. Losing valued defender Craig Bolton to an achilles injury will hurt but the Swans have got some pluck. Coach Paul Roos, long a Crikey Sports favourite, has his chargers primed. Nick Malceski is in superb form and is such a beautiful kick of the football that he is such an important cog in the Swans defence. Heath Grundy is having a fantastic year in the back line as well. And Daniel Bradshaw! There’s a lot to like about the Swans at the moment.
To Brisbane. The loss to Melbourne last week would have wounded the pride of coach Michael Voss’ men. Captain Jonathan Brown, obviously injured, was, in all intents and purposes, a spectator. Voss reacted aggressively dropping three players (Proud, Hawksley and Rockliff) and losing key defender Daniel Merrett to a hamstring injury. It’s Travis Johnstone’s 200th game this week. To honour this achievement, Brisbane players will line the players’ race with shopping trolleys full of empty cans.
So who will win? I’m tipping Brisbane. If Brown is fit then the loss of Craig Bolton may stretch the Swans’ defence in covering both Fevola and Brown. Granted Brisbane have lost their best defender (Merrett) to cover Bradshaw — but at the small SCG the power forwards may be the difference.
Lions by 17
Geelong vs. Richmond — 1.10pm Sunday May 2, Skilled Stadium
*You know how I said I’d pick all the non-favourites — I lied. Richmond can’t win this. God help them. Geelong lost to Carlton last week. They will rebound hard — and at their beloved home ground. Coach Mark Thompson was livid with his players — especially Gary Ablett Jr. God help Richmond. God help them all.
Geelong by 116
*** Update ***
Gary Ablett is now not playing due to hamstring soreness, i.e he is being rested because Richmond are rubbish. I’d like to thank the Geelong Football Club for screwing my SuperCoach chances this week. Due to this massive exclusion I will now reassess what the final margin will be.
Geelong by 116
Carlton vs. Collingwood — 2.10pm Sunday May 2, MCG
Captain Chris Judd is back for the Blues and boy is he making a difference. He was excellent for Carlton against Geelong on Monday, as were Bryce Gibbs and Jordan Russell off half back. And how good were the three indigenous boys Eddie Betts, Jeff Garlett and Chris Yarran? They were superb. And they enjoyed themselves so much and they look so natural with a football in their hands. All three of them. Like poetry. Unlike Setanta O’hailpin.
Who said blockbuster fatigue? That will be highly unlikely after Collingwood trounced a hapless Essendon on Anzac Day. It was almost like having a bye. The Pies ran rampant, with midfielder Scott Pendlebury claiming the Anzac Medal for best on ground. Former Melbourne defender Simon Buckley has been named by Collingwood for his first game for the Pies. These two teams hate each other and this game will prove tougher for Collingwood than last week’s “match”.
So I’m picking the Blues? Why? Well if Gibbs and Ruseell continue to hold down that spot across half back and provide that run and creativity, then along with Judd’s presence and the mosquito squad up forward — there’s enough there to trouble the Pies.
Carlton by 11
West Coast vs. Fremantle — 2.40pm Sunday May 2, Subiaco Oval
Like the Showdown, the Derby (it rhymes with herbie you idiots, not Barbie) is a must watch game. Again, a genuine 50/50 match despite where both teams are on the ladder, this game will be a beauty. The Eagles, under duress for an insipid start to the season and in the unusual position of being at the foot of the ladder when Freo are at the top, will come out at this game breathing fire. Coach John Worsfold ordered a closed session on Monday where, for Eagles fans’ sake, he hopefully lined up most of his players with Woosha shirtfront specials. They need to lift.
Fremantle on the other hand are travelling splendidly. Sitting at fourth on the ladder is uncommon for this club and they have every right to be genuine favourites for this match. Aaron Sandilands is in magnificent touch. He is the dominant ruckman in the competition. His captain Matthew Pavlich is not doing too bad either, sitting second on the Coleman Medal race with 19 goals. This is a danger game for Freo. For the first time in the club’s history they have youth and experience, hardness and skill, desire and commitment. But in years past, lesser Freo teams would beat superb West Coast teams in derbies because of the hype.
Will the Eagles step up?
It’s hard to see how. But it will be a close match.
Freo by 7**
**As pointed out by Crikey Sports reader Andos, I have also picked the favourite here. Mostly, because I can not come up with a structured reason how West Coast will win. If they do indeed get up, I will wear a snuggie to a Collingwood game and sit behind the Collingwood cheer squad.