AFL Picks: Round 21

AFL picks round 21

Another wild weekend of results saw the top 8 completely flip again and what was looking like hopeless and hopeful situations for respective teams has now those who were once comfortable feeling very nervous and the others producing unlikely runs to the finals. There are just six points separating third from tenth, and just two points between third and eighth. An astonishing and engrossing season.

Saturday’s opener sees two teams fighting for those lower four finals positions go head to head in what should be a fascinating matchup between some of the game’s best midfielders. Every game offers a key look at teams that will be featuring in the postseason.

Let’s take a look at the fantasy picks from each game.

Hawthorn vs Geelong

Hawthorn somehow have rode four wins from five and sit in 5th place, an achievement that seemed impossible a month ago. Tom Mitchell has spearheaded their assault on the finals, but this will be his best test of that period. Coming up against Geelong’s famed midfield superstar trio, Mitchell will need to be at his absolute best if they’re to be any chance of winning. This is a huge match for the Cats too, who find themselves currently outside the top 8.

Gun: Tom Mitchell ($19.8m)

You really can’t go anywhere else. He’s the highest scorer by an absolute country mile, averaging 142 while Brodie Grundy is next best at 119. Geelong will likely throw a few different players at him but this guy really should be a lock for your team every week.

Dud: Gary Ablett ($16.4m)

Gary Ablett has found himself playing the Tom Mitchell role more and more for Geelong as the season has unfolded, cleaning up a lot of the contest and I just don’t back the little master to win that battle. He’s had a wonderful season for a man of his age, mileage and recent injury history, but there are significantly better options this week in a game that might be difficult for him to control.

Point of Difference: Isaac Smith ($14.6m)

Isaac Smith had an electric start to 2018, becoming one of the best scoring midfielders in the game. That pretty quickly tailed off, and his average now sits just above 80. This could be the ideal game for him to get back with a big score, with Hawthorn likely to set up with an extra defender and use Smith’s pace on the counter attack as one of their key weapons. Smith’s run should keep Geelong honest, and it will be interesting to see who they play on him. Either way I think he’s a strong POD option.

Gold Coast vs Richmond

This is about as lopsided a collection of talent as it can get. Richmond, the undisputed best team in the competition and Gold Coast, as bad as it gets in terms of their list. Not much more analysis needs to go into this other than how many Richmond win by.

Gun: Kane Lambert ($14.1m)

What a star Kane Lambert is yet he is not at all what you would call a household name. If you ask Richmond fans who their most important player is, a good number of them would say Kane Lambert. His class and touch through the middle of the park is so important for Richmond’s style of play, and when he’s at his best it allows Dustin Martin to stampede forward and do his thing. He’s been building the past few weeks and I’d have him as my top player for this one.

Dud: The Suns

They’re shocking, and this could be their lowest score of the season. Richmond will be hellbent on keeping themselves in premiership habits and it might be difficult for the Suns to kick more than a few goals here. I can see the highest scorer on their team in the 80s, so I’d just flat out avoid all of them, as you really should be doing every week to be honest.

Point of Difference: Jack Riewoldt ($13.3m)

He’s had an irrelevant season in terms of PlayON scoring, but Jack Riewoldt has been fantastic the past month and I feel like he’s on the verge of a monster score. Gold Coast could be the team for him, with the Richmond forward pressure likely to ensure the vast majority of the game is spent in their half. Riewoldt, historically a top Coleman medal candidate, is long overdue a 5+ goal game. Maybe this is the one Jack fills his boots.

Port Adelaide vs West Coast

This will be a fascinating measuring game for where these two teams are. Andrew Gaff obviously has dominated the news through the week following his punch on Andrew Brayshaw. His absence for the rest of the season for me all but draws a line in West Coast. Likely they will have to play a preliminary final in Melbourne where they are infamously terrible. Port Adelaide have been a yoyo in recent weeks, losing the Showdown to an Adelaide team who won’t make the finals. Who knows what to expect.

Gun: Elliott Yeo ($17.3m)

With Andrew Gaff done, Elliott Yeo becomes even more important for West Coast. He’s already a top 10 scorer, putting up 111 per game, but with Gaff gone we should see Yeo spend more time in midfield where he was unstoppable last year. Yeo is a special, special player who is as good an athlete as any every time he steps on the field, and he should be a top 3 defender for the remainder of the season.

Dud: Luke Shuey ($11.8m)

The Gaff effect I believe has the opposite impact on Luke Shuey, who has benefitted this year from the attention being on Gaff. The class and spacing of the suspended Eagle has allowed Shuey to do his work through the corridor and push forward, but I think he now becomes much more of a focus for the opposition and I can’t see him maintaining a 90 average, especially with Yeo likely to come forward.

Point of Difference: Brad Sheppard ($11.9m)

Brad Sheppard may be the one who finds more minutes and touches should Yeo push forward to fill the Gaff void. Sheppard has had an indifferent season, but last week’s 115 could be a sign of things to come. He isn’t going to evolve into a triple figure player every week but there should be an increased role that will see him as an intriguing POD going forward.

Collingwood vs Brisbane

Collingwood were simply outclassed and outmuscled by a Swans team with their season very much on the line. Lance Franklin absolutely destroyed the Pies and took a lot of the wind out of their sails, losers of three of their past four. Collingwood are now in 6th place, but a win over the hapless Lions could see them climb as high as third. It’s a crazy old season but they should get their top 4 hopes back on track with a big win here.

Gun: Brodie Grundy ($18.9m)

What a season Brodie Grundy has had. His All-Australian level form has catapulted Collingwood into contention and made them an infinitely more efficient team through the middle of the park. He is the no.2 scorer in the game, and is regularly pumping out monstrous scores, including last week’s 150. He comes up against Stef Martin here but there won’t be any doubt who comes out on top. Superstar.

Dud: Stef Martin ($15.3m)

Stef Martin was a top 5 scorer in the game not too long ago but has fallen away in the past month or so and now finds himself at no.74. It appears the big man is playing injured, as is often the case, and he comes up against Brodie Grundy this week who is cantering to the no.1 fantasy ruck in the game. The athleticism and run of Grundy will cause problems for S-Mart who has been in a free-fall as far as fantasy relevancy goes.

Point of Difference: Tom Cutler ($13.5m)

Tom Cutler has been an intriguing player in the past month and offers real value as far as PODs go. His ownership his low but his scores have been strong, seeing his average rise above 90. Brisbane should have plenty of defensive work to do so Cutler will have plenty of touches against a Collingwood forward line that does give their opposition chances to intercept mark and counter going forward. I like Cutler here.

GWS vs Adelaide

No one, and I mean NO ONE, wants to play GWS right now. Winners of four in a row, the Giants have surged into third place and are legitimate top 4 contenders, rather astonishing given they were struggling to make the finals a month ago. Their midfield stars are completely dominating and that has allowed them to paper over the absences of Jon Patton and Jeremy Cameron up front. Adelaide have looked better in recent weeks, since falling out of finals contention, but I can’t see them getting close here.

Gun: Josh Kelly ($18.5m)

The cream has risen to the top, and Josh Kelly is as good as it gets. Second in scoring with a 119 average, level with Brodie Grundy, and even outdid the Pies ruck last week with a sickening 153. He’s spending more time forward with the aforementioned absences and he is a beautiful kick, which is only spiking his scores. He’s golden. Pick him.

Dud: Rory Sloane ($13.1m)

Rory Sloane has been his usual self since returning from injury and really he deserves a lot of credit for Adelaide’s improved play. Unfortunately for him he comes up against maybe the most talented midfield in the AFL, and I don’t like his chances dealing with them. Sloane is a wonderful footy player but doesn’t have the athleticism of some of the top mids, and GWS can throw a plethora of freak athletes and talents at him. He’s not massively expensive but I’d definitely go elsewhere.

Point of Difference: Callan Ward ($16.2m)

Callan Ward is the most important player for GWS. I fully believe that. He’s not the best, the most skilful, the most talented, but he’s the most important. His level-headedness, composure and physicality in the contest allows the Kellys and Shiels and Coniglios to be at their best. Ward is a proven fantasy stud, and has had his best month of footy for a long time. His average is now 103, and coming off a 140 he is in red, red hot form. This is the perfect game to invest in the captain.

North Melbourne vs Western Bulldogs

Two wins on the trot has the Kangaroos still very much in contention for a most unlikely finals appearance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, regardless of how the season pans out from this point on for North Melbourne, their year has been a complete success. They were one of the favourites for the wooden spoon to begin the year but have played a tough brand of footy that has kept them in every game they’ve played in and has seen them knock off some of the best in the competition. The Bulldogs appear to have rediscovered themselves in recent weeks as well, with Jason Johannisen returning to his premiership winning form. This could be a fun game.

Gun: Jack Macrae ($16m)

Jack Macrae has picked up where he left off pre-injury, re-asserting himself as one of the best fantasy players in the game. He is a ball magnet, regularly racking up 30+ disposal games and doing so with elite efficiency despite not having a plethora of talent around him. His 132 in their domination of St Kilda last week was brilliant and I can see him putting up another big triple figure score here.

Dud: Hayden Crozier ($11.8m)

Hayden Crozier has emerged as one of the more important Bulldogs up front, particularly over the second half of the season, but I’m not yet convinced by his true fantasy value. The youngster is full of ability and athleticism, and has enjoyed a strong run that has seen his average into the high 80s, but in what should be a tight and physical game, he’s not for me this week.

Point of Difference: Jordan Roughead ($7.4m)

Jordan Roughead was brilliant last week, helping the Dogs control the ruck and allow Macrae and co to run straight through St Kilda’s corridor. At just $7.4m he offers a fantastic bargain price for anyone looking to save a bit of money, and he has shown an ability to comfortably score 80s, which is all you can ask for with a price tag like that. If you want to save money for Tom Mitchell, this is how you’d do it.

Melbourne vs Sydney

What a game this will be. Two teams that play a helter skelter brand of footy with superstars across the park and legitimate stakes on the line. I hope the Melbourne fans turn up for this one, and we get 80,000+ at the G. Sydney kept their season alive with a huge win over Collingwood last week and they’ll need a similar effort out of Lance Franklin and his teammates if they’re to pull off another major upset and remain in the finals positions. GWS await them next week.

Gun: Lance Franklin ($13.9m)

Has there ever been a player for the occasion more than Lance Franklin? With the Swans’ season hinging on last week’s result Buddy produces his best performance of the career, completely dominating a very strong Collingwood defensive unit. Number 23 thrashed out 139 points, his best of the year, and coming up against an injured and slightly out of form Melbourne defence, I like him to go massive again. Michael Hibberd hasn’t looked right all year and Jake Lever is missing, so Buddy should go above triple figures again here.

Dud: Callum Sinclair ($14.4m)

Stay away from Callum Sinclair this week. He’s had a fantastic season and has turned himself into one of the strongest fantasy players in the game, but he’s coming up against the best ruck in the game this week in big Max Gawn and there’s just no way he gets his average. Don’t need to say much more than that, never take a ruck who’s playing Gawn.

Point of Difference: Tom McDonald ($13m)

It’ll be interesting to see if Tom McDonald gets the job on Buddy or if he goes forward. If he takes no.23 then I’d avoid him, but if they keep him forward he could be the key man. McDonald will likely draw Aliir Aliir, who is in fantastic form, but still gives his opposition chances with his keenness to get forward, and McDonald will be the target man up front against a pretty undersized Swans defence. He’s been scoring well and ownership is still low.

Fremantle vs Carlton

A bludger of a game to end the round. Fremantle have been in the news all week but not for anything they’d done. Carlton have also been in the news, but more because everyone is speaking about their record denying Patrick Cripps winning the Brownlow. Not much to say here, let’s move on.

Gun: Patrick Cripps ($17.2m)

Can’t go anywhere else. The sixth best scorer in the game and a Brownlow medallist in waiting, Patrick Cripps is an absolute megastar of our game. Fremantle don’t have a soul who can get near this man with Nat Fyfe missing injured yet again, so Cripps should be set for another 120+ and creep that average into the top 5.

Dud: Nobody

As I’ve said in recent weeks, Carlton are one of a handful of teams that offer value in every game both for their own players and the opposition. They’ve got a handful of guys who can go well beyond 100 in any game, and because they’re so terrible they usually offer similar opportunities to half a dozen on the other team. No one I’d be looking to avoid.

Point of Difference: Bradley Hill ($13.9m)

This could be a monster game for the excitement machine Bradley Hill. The lightning fast Docker loves to run and and bounce, and Carlton’s abysmal defensive line and pressure more than allow for players to do just that. His 79 average this year has been rather disappointing for a man of his skill, but he was near his best with a 103 last week and there’s no reason why he can’t go even better than that against a woeful opposition.