CrikeySports_markI’m not sure who Kenny Rogers follows in the AFL, if indeed he has a team. It’s actually mostly very unlikely that he does. However when it comes to the AFL’s response to the latest gambling “crisis” Kenny’s words have never been truer: “You got to know when to holdem, know when to foldem.”

Back Page Lead‘s Charles Happell was spot on yesterday when he wrote:

The AFL has again reached for its sledgehammer in handing out hefty penalties to six AFL figures caught betting on matches. The walnuts crushed in the league’s massive over-reaction, sorry betting blitz, included Port Adelaide assistant Matthew Primus, who placed a $20 multi-bet on a Geelong-Carlton NAB Cup semi-final, a Western Bulldogs director who lashed out $50, and a trainee timekeeper who saved up for his $5 splurge.

Perhaps the league should save the leg-irons and manacles — and triumphant press conferences — for the time they catch out some real crooks.

A five buck bet.

Melbourne vs. Western Bulldogs — 7.40pm Friday May 7, MCG

Who will win? Well according to Western Bulldogs celebrity First Dog on the Moon (he now owes me a beer for saying that):

I reckon we should get them by five or six goals. But of course they could win but not by that much say one or two goals, but I couldn’t stand that so really I would take any kind of win except a close one would be demoralising so let’s split the difference and call it four goals and no injuries to us except maybe Dylan Addison gets a splinter from the bench in the fourth quarter.

However he also said this (of their possible 2011 rematch):

The 2011 season will unexpectedly be cancelled with the arrival of an armada of alien battlecraft from Alpha Centauri. We will not in fact play Melbourne again until 2140 when the game is reinstated on the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Great wall of Pluto and the Dawning of the Universal Space Truce.

So where does this leave us? Probably confused.

Melbourne have been superb this season for a team, for all intents and purposes, down and out. Rebuilding a carcass of a football club, inch by inch with valuable talent laden high end draft picks. Jack Trengove has shown he will be special. Tom Scully has it all ahead of  him. And although they lost to North at Etihad last week (a ground they hate to play on) — you can expect a big performance this week, as that’s what comes with a young team still finding their way.

I think Melbourne will have a red hot crack — but the Dogs will enjoy the freedom of not playing St Kilda and will have too much run.

Dogs by 31

Essendon vs. Port Adelaide — 2.10pm Saturday May 8, Etihad Stadium

The Essendon Bowls club want the Bombers out of Windy Hill. And I reckon some of the bowls club’s silver brigade have been knee capping Bombers players in the car park after training. How else can you explain their horrible luck with injury lately? Reimers, Pears and now Dyson. Emerging key position player Michael Hurley has knee soreness. And vice captain Andrew Welsh has been rubbed out by the tribunal. But the Bombers has a big win against arch enemies Hawthorn last week — with Captain Jobe Watson superb — and now need to back it up.

There’s a few smiles down at Alberton at the moment following last week’s fantastic win against Port Adelaide’s nemesis the Adelaide Crows. Robbie Gray was best on ground, winning the Showdown Medal, and for Port fans nothing is sweeter than beating their home town rivals. Currently sitting seveth on the ladder, coach Mark Williams would be relatively content with how his chargers are faring. But this is a big game for the enigmatic Power — it’s games like this where in seasons past they have thought they should win and didn’t.

Port by 12

West Coast vs. Hawthorn — 1.10pm Saturday May 8, Subiaco Oval

Geez both these teams need this win. The Eagles threw everything at Fremantle in last week’s Derby but fell short, being overrun in the last quarter. Worryingly for the Eagles, Chris Masten, whom the Eagles have a tonne of vested hope in to rejuvenate their midfield, injured his PCL and will be out for a couple of months. Coach John Worsfold, worshipped by at least half of WA, is still safe in his job — but losses at home — particularly to struggling teams like Hawthorn — will hurt. Brad Sheppard, the Eagles’ first round selection in last year’s draft will debut — adding hope for Eagles’ fans that something can be salvaged to a disastrous start to 2010. Watch Nick Naitanui and Dean Cox dominate a depleted Hawthorn ruck lineup.

There’s not been too much good news out of Glenferrie of late. But this week saw injured captain Sam Mitchell and premiership forward duo Jarryd Roughead and Lance Franklin commit to new contracts for Hawthorn — fending off any potential raids by Gold Coast or Western Sydney. But sadly that’s where the good news ends. Embarrassed, badly embarrassed, by Essendon last week, the Hawks dropped premiership players Jordan Lewis and Michael Osborne for this match. They need a spark do Hawthorn. Luke Hodge can’t do everything. And if you are a Hawks fan here’s something to keep you warm at night:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBbzGq97NGA&feature=player_embedded.[/youtube]

I don’t know who will win this. Eagles should win being at Subiaco Oval. But that’s the only reason I can pick them here.

Eagles by 7

Collingwood vs. North Melbourne — 7.10pm Saturday May 8, MCG

Collingwood are flying at the moment. Flying. And that spells bad news for everyone who doesn’t follow the Pies. Everyone knows someone who follows Collingwood. Some of them are nice normal people. But mostly they love being good and reminding everyone of this fact. There’s a myth that Collingwood sells newspapers. This myth was dispelled last week when former Herald Sun editor Bruce Guthrie took the paper to court over unfair dismissal. As Crikey‘s Andrew Crook reported last week:

Giving evidence in the Victorian Supreme Court this morning in sacked Herald Sun editor-in-chief Bruce Guthrie’s $2.7 million unfair dismissal trial, News Ltd CEO John Hartigan cited News folklore that the appearance of black and white colours on the front page of the Melbourne tabloid usually results in a sales bonanza.

“It’s certainly the industry view that Collingwood Football Club, when you put them on the front page, you sell a lot of extra copies,” Hartigan said.

Under cross examination this morning by Norman O’Bryan, SC, for Guthrie, Hartigan insisted more people love the Pies than hate them, prompting mirth from Justice Stephen Kaye and several AFL-mad members of the gallery.

O’Bryan appeared to refute Hartigan’s claims, presenting to the court circulation statistics suggesting a May 24, 2008 front page featuring Pies star Tarkyn Lockyer didn’t result in a sales bounce — the figures were on par with the same month’s news events, including a riot of cab drivers outside Flinders Street Station.

But as I said — they are a damn fine football team. Unfortunately.

And North. So much pluck. They needed the win last week against Melbourne and got it. This is a big big game for the boys from Arden Street. Can they win? I think so, but these are the sort of games that Collingwood would lose in seasons past and I expect the Pies to fire up for this one. Andrew Swallow is in superb touch for the Kangaroos but Brad Scott’s men will have to improve 50% on last week’s efforts to get close to a determined Collingwood.

Pies by 24

Brisbane vs. Fremantle — 7.10pm Saturday May 8, the Gabba

Brisbane are unlucky. Defender Matt Maguire’s one week suspension at the hands of the AFL tribunal was mind boggling. Clearly accidental, Maguire ‘s head clash with Sydney’s Jude Bolton should have been thrown out. But instead, Brisbane are now without their two key defenders in MaGuire and the injured Daniel Merritt. And the Lions need them when facing a rampant Freo kipper in Matthew Pavlich (Ed. — kipper, rofl! Yes this a typo but I am keeping in for posterity). In good news for Brisbane, tyro Todd Banfield won the Round 6 NAB Rising Star nomination — continuing Brisbane’s proud history of unearthing fine red headed footballers.

Freo have never won at the Gabba. Ever. That’s one hell of a monkey on the back of a football club used to being on the receiving end of footballing history. But this Fremantle team are built of different stuff. More steel, less jelly. Even after a bruising Western Derby in which half a dozen Dockers players are under an injury cloud you can expect Fremantle to come out firing for this one. And the Brisbane hoodoo has to be broken at some time. Surely?

Maguire ‘s exclusion may have a massive influence on this game.

And for this reason I’m picking a Freo upset.

Freo by 6

Geelong vs. Sydney — 1.10pm Sunday May 9, Skilled Stadium

“Geelong are gone,” says First Dog on the Moon. “They’re gone man.”

Take that for what you will. This is a man who last played AFL when he was at Yarralumla Primary where they would kick the footy at lunch time. I, on the other hand, think Geelong are still a force but perhaps the invincibility of previous years is fading. I’ve got to say though that I’m a paid up member of the James Podsiadly fan club. The 28 year old Geelong rookie power forward is playing like a man who … well … debuted at 28 .. and knows he ain’t got long. Paul Chapman is in red hot form and scarily for the Swans midfield maestro Gary Ablett returns to a Cats team that defeated Richmond last week by 8,935,948,009 points in his absence. And Gary loves playing the Swans.

And to the Swans. They are playing like a team committed. Committed to seeing out coach Paul Roos’ last year in charge in style. They are a super impressive football unit , sitting at the top of the AFL table and travelling, with confidence, to the opposition graveyard that is Skilled Stadium. Are they a realistic chance? I think so. If anyone is going to knock off Geelong at their home ground I think it is the Swans. At this moment in time.

Swans by 11.

Adelaide vs. Richmond — 4.10pm Sunday May 9, AAMI Stadium

This:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4aHrRocA3E&feature=related[/youtube]

Crows by 22

St Kilda vs. Carlton — 7.20pm Monday May 10, Etihad Stadium

If St Kilda play the sort of rubbish football they dished up last week against the Bulldogs then our enemies have won. Whoever they are. I was at Etihad last week and if hadn’t of had a free ticket, and I hadn’t have had my overpriced drinks paid for me — I’d ask for my money back. Hell, I should have had costs paid for emotional damage. But in the end the Saints won and that’s all they can be ever asked to do. I guess.

Carlton. What are Carlton? They beat Geelong one week and then are thrashed by Collingwood the next. I can’t get a read on them. They will probably win this game just to piss me off. Paul Bower is proving to be quite the player in the Blues’ defence and any team with Judd, Gibbs and Murphy in the midfield can match it with the best.

But … beating St Kilda at Etihad is like trying to make some money in Greece at the moment. Not going to happen.

St Kilda by 31