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MCG, 7:50pm (AEST), Friday August 23
Team News: The Magpies will likely have Darcy Moore at their disposal for the first time since round 17, he’ll face a fitness test in the build up. Devastating news for Steele Sidebottom (ruptured testicle) who won’t be available for this blockbuster clash. If Moore replaces Jack Madgen defensively, then Collingwood have an opportunity to call upon either Josh Daicos or Tyler Brown for the injured wing-man.
With a number of players returning, the Bombers should be keen to develop form heading into September. Cale Hooker was a late omission for the Dockers clash, while big man Tom Bellchambers is looking likely for a return. David Zaharakis will miss several weeks with an ankle complaint, the Bombers have already announced a debutant, with rookie Tom Jok set to play his first senior game. Bellchambers for Z.Clarke, Hooker for Zerk-Thatcher and Dylan Clarke a chance for the injured Zaharakis.
Prediction: A big interstate win for the black and white last week should give them confidence for this clash. Pies by 10.
SCG, 1:45pm (AEST), Saturday August 24
Team News: It’s Buddy time! Despite this one being a dead rubber, Sydney have announced that superstar forward Lance Franklin will play game number 300 this weekend. There’s also an opportunity for Jarryd McVeigh to be sent off in a farewell game. Two of Ryan Clarke, Ben Ronke and Daniel Menzel to make way for the two veterans.
It’s good news stories all round this weekend, with St Kilda announcing Sam Rowe’s club debut. The defender/ruck played 99 games for Carlton before being delisted – and gains an opportunity to hit the ton. There’s also Jimmy Webster, who was solid for Sandringham last weekend. Crafty forward Jade Gresham (fractured eye socket) will face a fitness test, will likely fly up with the team.
Prediction: Swans to reign supreme for Buddy’s 300th. Swans by 19
North Melbourne (76%) vs Melbourne (24%)
Blundstone Arena, 2:10pm (AEST), Saturday August 24
Team News: The final match for these two teams this season, both coaches may make heavy adjustments. For North, trade bait Mason Wood could be called for what might be his final game in Roos colours. Mid-season recruit Lachie Hosie was named in the VFL team of the week after kicking six-goals last round. Inside mid Paul Ahern was a late out during the clash with Port, he may need to replace the injured Jed Anderson.
Max Gawn may miss the final clash of the year with hamstring tightness, inviting big Braydon Preuss to ruck a lone hand pending selection. Preuss put up some mega numbers in the VFL, 23 disposals (all kicks), 63 hitouts and 0 goals 5! Speedster Jayden Hunt also played state-league, a chance of returning in place of mid-season pick Kyle Dunkley.
Prediction: North to win and end only a win away from the finals contending teams. North by 31
Geelong (81%) vs Carlton (19%)
GMHBA Stadium, 4:35pm (AEST), Saturday August 24
Team News: After a promising outing in the VFL, Rhys Stanley was earned a call up which will allow Mark Blicavs to return to defence. It’s difficult to say who will come out of the star-studded backline, potentially former-Blue Lachie Henderson. Midfielder Sam Menegola was just about best-afield for VFL Cats, coming at the right time with Tom Atkins needing hand surgery.
A win for the ages last weekend will have Carlton riding high. Coach David Teague feels comfortable with the team from last week, but he may be forced to replace Michael Gibbons (shoulder), while Darcy Lang (ankle) will need surgery. The better news however, key defender Jacob Weitering is expected to return, helping fellow defenders Lachie Plowman and Levi Casboult tackle the Geelong talls.
Prediciton: The in-form Blues should make Geelong’s task at securing a home final a little difficult. Cats by 18.
Metricon Stadium, 7:25pm (AEST), Saturday August 24
Team News: There’s a slight chance we witness a debut from #2 draft pick Izak Rankine, who got through his return NEAFL match. Aaron Young was electric against Swans NEAFL, and should time his run right due to play his 100th career game. Young for George Horlin-Smith looks likely.
Jeremy Cameron is bound for a return along with fellow forward Jeremy Finlayson. The Giants want to get games into their players with the weeks break ahead. Down back, rising defender Sam Taylor is expected to return, so to Shane Mumford. There’s a handful of options to be sent back to NEAFL, while Nick Haynes won’t play until finals.
Prediction: The most predictable match ahead of us, a percentage booster for GWS. Giants by 43.
Optus Stadium, 8:10pm (AEST), Saturday August 24
Team News: Premiership trio could be in line for a return, defenders Liam Duggan and Will Schofield look ready, while veteran Chris Masten will also be welcomed back. An injury to Mark Hutchings will hurt his chances of September action. Goalsneak Jarrod Cameron is also an option up forward, while Jackson Nelson is another waiting in the wings.
First-year Hawk Jack Scrimshaw is primed for a return after consecutive VFL matches. Hawks fans are eager to see either of Matthew Walker or Jack Ross debut, and they’re both a chance with Jarryd Roughead and Mitch Lewis already missing out.
Prediction: A big task ahead of the Hawks, expect the Eagles to put an end to their season. Eagles by 19.
Mars Stadium, 1:10pm (AEST), Sunday August 25
Team News: Timmy English should be good to go, sending Jackson Trengove back while Lewis Young faces the unlucky omission. There aren’t many other worries for Dogs’ coach Luke Beveridge, but there’s an opportunity to bring Rhylee West in for his second game.
Suitable changes ahead for Don Pyke’s men as they try to reinvigorate their season with a finals berth. Defender Alex Keath is ready to go, while Rory Atkins and Hugh Greenwood massive possibilities for this one. Riley Knight and Jake Kelly will face fitness tests, but it’s do or die and the Crows need their best players available.
Prediction: What a match this is set to be, win or go home, simple. Dogs by 9.
MCG, 3:20pm (AEST). Sunday August 25
Team News: A week after the Tigers did battle with West Coast, they’ll come up against the other interstate side wanting the minor premiership. Skipper Trent Cotchin is aiming to play, while Noah Balta has been the in-form big at state-level. If Cotch is ready, he’ll replace Jack Ross. Balta a chance for Mabior Chol.
Fringe pair Rhys Mathieson and Lewis Taylor were huge at NEAFL level, with the Lions reserves winning their 17th consecutive game last week. Allen Christensen (hamstring) has suffered a setback at the wrong time, the previous two mentioned or midfielder Ben Keays could be called upon for this epic clash.
Prediction: This one promises to be match of the round, with the Lions a chance at finishing first. Tigers by 14.
Team News: After a rollercoaster last month, Port may still be able to finish in the eight, pending losses for both Bulldogs and Hawthorn. Premiership ruck Scott Lycett should be recalled, while Xavier Duursma’s running will be needed against the likes of Brad Hill and Ed Langdon. No massive casualties on the injury front.
An unexpected week for the Purple Army after the sacking of coach Ross Lyon and club CEO. Brennan Cox (hip) has to be in consideration, while Luke Ryan will need to face tests. Bailey Banfield responded to his omission from the senior side with 38 disposals and 12 tackles, so you’d assume there’s room for him also.
Prediction: Power to finish with a win, but other results don’t go their way. Power by 20.