The first three rounds of the AFL have been fantastic with surprise results and a much more even competition than I envisioned. A 14-11 start to the season is one I’ll be looking to improve heavily on this week as I take a look at every game in Round 4 and give my best bets below.
Give me a follow on Twitter at @AFLBYB if you're interested in some nonsensical live footy commentary or reading my totally biased Top 50 players in the AFL over the next few days.
The Giants lost their first game of the season on the weekend as the Swans were too much for them at the SCG. Stephen Coniglio continued to assert his dominance in the early part of the season with another great performance, potentially boasting over six Brownlow votes already. Injury concerns surround ruckman Rory Lobb but negative scans on a knee will likely see him play this weekend along with the returning Toby Greene from a hamstring injury.
Fremantle captured their second win of the season to move to 2-1 as they downed the Suns in Perth on Saturday afternoon. Nat Fyfe was once again fantastic in the win, and seems to be back to some of the form that won him a Brownlow medal a few years ago. Aaron Sandilands is also a massive key to their success, with the big ruckman racking up 33 hitouts on the weekend. He should be able to handle Lobb or any replacement ruckman for that matter.
GWS start as massive favourites here and rightfully so given their first few weeks. A tough game at the SCG is the only reason why they don’t have an unblemished record so far and even so they were extremely competitive in that game. 34 point line is a little too high for my liking, however, so I’ll take the Giants at the 1-39 margin here.
The Lions sent a scare through the Port Adelaide camp last weekend when they led at half time of their clash in Adelaide and finished within just five points of the now only undefeated team in the league. Stefan Martin was absolutely dominant in the win, racking up 49 hit outs and 30 disposals for a whopping 177 fantasy points, the highest score of the year so far.
We are still waiting for the Richmond performance that really signals the return to their premiership form, but we saw signs of it against the Hawks last weekend. A late surge by Hawthorn dampened what should have been a blowout win for the Tigers, and for the first three quarters their defence looked as ominous as ever, pressuring and tackling relentlessly.
Not interested in the 42 point line here but do like the total points market. Struggle to see Brisbane posting a high score if Richmond’s defence was half as good as it was in the early stages of Round 3. I like the unders here, especially with rain getting about Melbourne on Saturday.
The Western Bulldogs captured a galvanising win on the weekend as they downed Essendon at Etihad Stadium by 24 points. They looked to have actual structure going forward for the first time this season with Jack Redpath, Tory Dickson and Marcus Bontempelli all presenting well. Their defence is still a massive issue, and while I thought it would be susceptible to a big Essendon forward line on the weekend, I still have concerns with it against the likes of Lance Franklin this weekend.
Sydney were fantastic in their win over GWS on Saturday night. The win takes them to 2-1 on the season and they could get a few key players including Zak Jones back from injury this weekend. The fact that the likes of Nic Newman and Aliir Aliir are missing out on regular selection in the Sydney side is a testament to their depth, not to mention offloading arguably the best midfielder in the competition in Tom Mitchell at the start of last year.
The win for the Dogs last weekend brought the line in just nicely this week, which I am very grateful for. Nothing inspired my about the Dogs first two performances and it’s not hard to look past them in the wake of one good decent performance against an Essendon team that is well and truly underdone. Happy to take the Swans at a less than three goal line here.
Just one win between North Melbourne and Carlton to open the season and both will be coming off losses in Round 3 as they face off at Etihad on Saturday night. North Melbourne were gallant in defeat to the Demons on the weekend, going down by a margin that just got away from them in the last quarter as they allowed six goals. Ben Cunnington was a standout in the loss, racking up 25 disposals, 16 of them contested.
Carlton suffered a tough 24 point loss in the opening game of the round to Collingwood. The Blues midfield was overrun by Collingwood as only Ed Curnow, Patrick Cripps and Marc Murphy were able to rack up at least 25 possessions compared to five Collingwood players. Injury to Caleb Marchbank will be a big blue for the Blues, whose run and carry off half back seems to be disappearing by the minute.
Really tough game to call here. I give the slight edge to North Melbourne simply because of their abundance of hard ball winners in a game that is likely going to be a bit of a slugfest. If you write off Ben Brown’s Round 1 egg in torrential rain, he has since averaged five goals a game and is proving incredibly hard to stop. A likely matchup on an undersized Liam Jones or Jacob Weitering gives another slight edge to the Roos.
I have loved the way West Coast have gone about it since their Round 1 loss to the Swans. They were big winners over the Bulldogs in Round 2 before returning home to beat the Cats. Their young players have been the shining light as Liam Ryan, Daniel Venebles and Jake Waterman have all played crucial roles. Ryan will be out indefinitely, however, after potentially breaking his ankle in Round 3. The spot left by Ryan will most likely be filled by back to back reigning Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy, who will make the Eagles forward line even more potent than it already is.
The Suns suffered their first loss of the season on the weekend, going down to Fremantle in Perth. They’ll remain in Perth this weekend as they face the Eagles in what should be a tough match. If there’s one team in the comp that does have the utilities to go with the Eagles size down back, however, it could be the Suns, who boast some tall timber in defence in Rory Thompson and Steven May.
West Coast’s midfield has really stepped up after the departure of Sam Mitchell and Matt Priddis in the off-season. Luke Shuey is on the verge of becoming an elite midfielder while he has great support from the likes of Dom Sheed, Andrew Gaff and Elliot Yeo. There’s also Nic Naitanui, who is tearing apart games with only 50% time on ground at the moment. He stated after last weekend’s game that his minutes restriction is off as of Round 4, which helps me conclude that the Eagles should be too strong here.
The Bombers were awful in Round 3, going down to an underperforming Bulldogs team by 21 points at Etihad Stadium. They’ll be at Etihad again this weekend as they host the 3-0 Port Adelaide Power. The tall Bombers forwards just couldn’t get into the game in Round 3 which will need to change this weekend if they hope to keep up with dynamic offence of the Power.
The Power were surrounded in controversy throughout the week as young midfielder Sam Powell-Pepper was hit with an indefinite suspension by the club pending an AFL investigation into a late-night indiscretion. The Power should be able to deal with his absence though, as they boast one of the deepest midfields in the league.
In fact, the suspension of Powel-Pepper could open the door for Tom Rockliff to finally get some much needed repetitions in the middle of the ground, where he has lacked the ability to do what he does best - get in and under. The Power looked rusty against Brisbane on the weekend but that could be due to the fact they were on a six day break from a trip to Sydney that resulted in an absolute slug fest. Should be fresher this weekend and should have Essendon’s measure.
The Hawks suffered their first loss of the 2018 season on the weekend, going down to the Tigers by 13 points at the MCG. They’ll be back at home once again this weekend where they’ll host the Demons in an interesting clash. Tom Mitchell was ridiculous once again on the weekend, making it three games in a row with at least 40 disposals and adding a further 12 clearances to his league leading tally.
Melbourne looked a little shaky in their game against North Melbourne in Round 3 but ultimately ran over the top of them in the last quarter to record a 37-point win. Jesse Hogan continues to work himself back into dominant form racking up 26 disposals and a goal in a midfield-forward role on the weekend. I love the idea of Hogan in the midfield, he has the agility and endurance to play spurts in their and his pure size makes him a real handful in the packs.
At this point, anyone who agrees with the notion that Tom Mitchell ‘isnt damaging enough to be elite’ immediately loses all credibility in my opinion. The guy is arguably the best clearance player we have seen since peak Gary Ablett, and although he doesn’t run and carry an awful lot, gets the ball out to the guys that do better than anyone in the league. I love the way he goes about it and I think himself, mixed with a host of consummate professionals on the Hawks roster see them over the line here.
The Cats will get their first home game at GMHBA Stadium this weekend as they host the Saints, who after a Week 1 win over Brisbane, have looked really lacklustre the last two weeks. Billy Longer and Mav Weller could return for the Saints this weekend, but with three omissions in Round 3, there’s no knowing what the Saints team will look like on Sunday
Geelong were stiff to miss out in Round 3. They mounted a monumental comeback to get back in the game after being 32 points down at half-time, however, injuries to three players leaving them with just one player on the bench caught up to them in the final quarter as West Coast were able to run over the top. Gary Ablett will miss up to six weeks with a hamstring injury but Mitch Duncan should return to the side this weekend.
Saints haven’t looked near it in the past two weeks and in all honesty were lucky to get past Brisbane in Round 1. No confidence in them at all this week, especially playing down at the Cattery. I think Cats in a blowout, happy for the Saints to prove me wrong.
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