AFL Picks and Preview: Round 8

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North Melbourne beat Sydney in Sydney. Do not adjust the brightness on your screen, you read that correctly. In a round of largely predictable results where the favourites mostly won and mostly won comfortably, the Kangaroos produced maybe the biggest shock of the season, out-grinding the Swans on a miserable Saturday night at the SCG.

Round 8 offers a less than straightforward weekend of fixtures, starting with Friday night’s blockbuster against the old rivals Sydney and Hawthorn, while equally mouthwatering matchups include Collingwood versus Geelong, GWS versus West Coast and the surprise package of the season North Melbourne playing the champions Richmond.

Hawthorn vs Sydney

These two teams held the game’s best rivalry for the better part of five years as they traded premierships and classic games of footy. A lot has changed in the past few seasons, with the players that became the backbone of their famous battles moving on and retiring. Lance Franklin, a premiership winner with both teams, will not feature, taking a lot of the sting out of the contest. The Hawks sit in the top four but a loss could see them fall as far as 11th, with a similar situation facing the Swans who sit a game back. This game won’t have the luster it used to but it still should be a cracker.

Gun: James Sicily ($13.5m)

I thought about going Josh Kennedy from Sydney here, and he would be my 1B choice as gun as he is certainly back as a top line fantasy choice, but James Sicily simply cannot be denied. He is averaging 97 points per game, better than any Swan outside of forward duo Franklin and Callum Sinclair, and is starring as the free roaming halfback. Without Buddy, Sydney are infinitely less threatening going forward and Siciliy could see himself with the chance to intercept and spring out of the defensive half. Still massively underpriced and a genuine gun. Oh, there’s almost Tom Mitchell and his 124 points per game, but I don’t think I need to mention him every week.

Dud: Isaac Heeney ($14.2m)

He’s long been the heir to the throne as Sydney’s crown jewel and Isaac Heeney has certainly made a strong start to the season, but this game has got nightmare written all over it for the blonde-haired star. Hawthorn have forever been the masters of creative, strategic game plans to take their oppositions best out of games. With the aforementioned Sicily in halfback, Isaac Smith in midfield and a number of other versatile defenders, the Hawks could pressure and tag Heeney out of the game and I suspect that is what they will do. Look elsewhere this week.

Point of Difference: Luke Bruest ($12.4m)

Luke Bruest is enjoying one of the better seasons of his career, starring with advanced forward opportunities and more freedom after the departures of Hawthorn’s legendary midfield over the past couple of years. With Sydney’s attention likely to fall on stopping their former star Mitchell, Bruest could find himself with plenty of space to get his hands on the ball. Priced at $12.4m and averaging 84, I think he tops that on Friday night.

GWS vs West Coast

The Eagles have arguably been the most impressive team this season with an incredibly balanced attack through the defensive line, across midfield, the ruck and into the forwards. This will be their hardest test so far, made all the harder with the absences of Luke Shuey and Nic Natanui. I think those losses will be too much to overcome a GWS team hungry for a big win.

Gun: Stephen Coniglio ($15.7m)

After a down week, Stephen Coniglio will get back to dominating the contest and put together another 30 possession performance. The Giants will look to overrun West Coast in the midfield, who might have to bring Elliot Yeo forward to combat their run, and Coniglio will be supplying the ball to the Giants runners.

Dud: Andrew Gaff ($16.1m)

The aforementioned losses of Natanui and Shuey will eat into Gaff’s scoring, which has been immense to start the year. The kid is a star and will be for years to come, but without the service and run of their big ruck and experienced mid, GWS will be able to focus more on shutting down Gaff. Avoid, but just for this week.

Point of Difference: Tim Taranto ($12.7m)

Tim Taranto is just one of an outrageous plethora of talent at GWS but this 94 average shows he is far from just making up the numbers. This could be the ideal game for him, with the Eagles focusing on containing all the Giants’ big names while they are missing a few stars, allowing Taranto to jag a couple of goals. Great average and great price.

Carlton vs Essendon

The optimism to start the season for both these teams appears to be rapidly fading, as Essendon and Carlton find themselves further and further away from the finals spots. This would be a great time for the Blues to grab their first win of the season, but they’ve really not showed anything the last couple of weeks to suggest that will happen.

Gun: Brendon Goddard ($15.2m)

This was a tough one, as evident by my picking a man older than time itself. Yet Brendon Goddard somehow has managed to stay relevant both in the AFL and fantasy sports. Nearly everyone else on the park is hugely volatile and unpredictable, but you know what you’re getting from the veteran, so he wins my gun pick for this game.

Dud: Andrew McGrath ($11.4m)

This one hurts me as I think this kid is phenomenally talented but he has failed to find his role in a more crowded 2018 Essendon side. Andrew McGrath has received more time through the middle in his sophomore year after a rookie of the year debut, but his 68 average suggests he has struggled to fit in. Will be a gun for years to come but not for now.

Point of Difference: Ed Curnow ($15.4m)

Unlike his more heralded brother Charlie, Ed Curnow has become the star of this struggling Blues team and has excelled with the Marc Murphy role. He is allow Patrick Cripps to roam around and get forward, cleaning up the contest and getting the ball to teammates in a fantastic breakout season. Averaging 116 too, you could do a lot worse.

Gold Coast Suns vs Melbourne

The Suns enter another week of AFL irrelevance, particularly for fantasy players. I truly wonder how long the AFL and all Australian codes in general keep persisting with the Gold Coast market as it seems to only produce boring teams and empty crowds. Melbourne, for all their offseason noise, sit in 10th, a position they have seemingly occupied for a century as well. I am falling asleep even writing this preview.

Gun: Max Gawn ($15.8m)

Ok I’m awake. Best ruck in the game, averaging 120 points, not ridiculously priced. PICK HIM.

Dud: Jarrod Witts ($14.7m)

I went to school with Jarrod Witts, nice guy, that won’t help him here though. Witts has historically struggled against the really physical guys and there is no greater challenge than rucking against Max Gawn right now. He has been really impressive this year, Witts that is, coming off a breakout year last year, but there’s no value for him here at $1m less than Gawn.

Point of Difference: Michael Hibberd ($13.7m)

A lot of people have sworn off Michael Hibberd for the year after his slow start to the season but I am a huge fan and a monster performance is due. This game would make sense. He has plenty of opportunities against a sleeping pill of a Suns team to rebound and attack, and could supplement that with tackles and intercept marks. He’s so overdue a 120 score.

Port Adelaide vs Adelaide

THE SHOWDOWN! Always one of the best days on the sporting calendar, the day when Port Adelaide continue to cram down our throats that they play Never Tear Us Apart by INXS pregame and that it’s some sort of tradition (fun fact: I started playing the saxophone purely because of the solo in that song). Adelaide own this fixture and I expect nothing less here, even with the help of Michael Hutchence (RIP).

Gun: Rory Laird ($16.1m) and Bryce Gibbs ($16m)

My first ever double gun! These are self explanatory. Rory Laird is the best defender in the game not named Alex Rance and the best fantasy defender the AFL may ever see. Bryce Gibbs, the local, is playing in his first ever Showdown. Both to have monster games, pick both.

Dud: Ollie Wines ($14.7m)

Ollie ‘The Body’ Wines has seen his impact decreased this year by the moving chairs of the Power, and it’s confusing to see. As their crown jewel you’d think they’d be planning their team around him, not in spite of him. Either way his 86 average is well down on last year and the speed and class of the Crows I think will render his influence even lower.

Point of Difference: Sam Jacobs ($14.2m)

Does anyone else feel like Sam Jacobs has been playing for 30 years? Well he’s having another strong season, averaging 92 and adding further versatility to one of the most rounded teams in the competition. The absence of Paddy Ryder on the other side means Jacobs should control the ruck and I can see him linking up well with the Laird/Gibbs kick and the star-studded Crows forward line.

Western Bulldogs vs Brisbane Lions

The Bulldogs wheezed to a win over the Titans last week while a staggering Dayne Zorko effort couldn’t lift Brisbane over Collingwood. Honestly there really isn’t much point discussing either of these teams as neither will be making the finals and neither offer huge fantasy value so let’s get this finished.

Gun: Jack Macrae ($17.2m)

What a year and a half Jack Macrae has had. He has surpassed Marcus Bontempelli as the absolute star of this team, and his 40 disposal, 8 tackle effort last week only cemented that. He is one of the best two or three options every week.

Dud: Dayne Zorko ($15m)

DON’T CHASE LAST WEEK’S POINTS. Dayne Zorko is good for a couple of absolute monster scores every week but he is still only averaging 82 and at that price it doesn’t make sense. Don’t chase last week’s points.

Point of Difference: Mitch Robinson ($13.7m)

Mitch Robinson has quietly become one of the integral parts of the Lions and that is shining through with his 97 point average. There are sexier picks but the price and average speaks for itself in a game that should be played out through the middle. You could do worse.

Fremantle vs St Kilda

After a promising start to the season, two straight losses have Fremantle fans starting to panic again. They would do well waiting a week. St Kilda have been atrocious, notching up just one win and one unexplainable draw with GWS. Basically the only reason to watch this game is for Nat Fyfe and Lachie Neal, so let’s get to the two guns.

Gun: Nat Fyfe ($15.8m) and Lachie Neal ($15.7m)

I’d never doubled up on guns until this week and now there’s two. Remember this day guys. As I mentioned earlier, there really isn’t much more to this game other than these two midfield stars controlling the game and racking up huge scores, which I believe they will. Neither would look out of place in your team, but won’t be easy this week with plenty of other guns offering great value.

Dud: The rest

St Kilda really have no one to look to when things get rough other than Jack Steven who simply isn’t the player to be carrying a footy side. Fremantle are largely irrelevant outside of the two I mentioned above, so really I’d stay away from this fixture altogether.

Point of Difference: David Mundy ($13.4m)

Did I say no one else was of any interest? Well there is one. David Mundy has enjoyed a footballing renaissance and is thriving as a rotating midfielder and key forward. His 88 average is impressive and St Kilda have little to stop him down back.

North Melbourne vs Richmond

This may be the game of the round, and who would have thought that two months ago. Richmond are striding clear atop the table, but they are not the interest here. The Kangaroos’ win over Sydney last week made everyone sit up and take notice, and should they put in a similar effort this week they could send shockwaves through the AFL.

Gun: Todd Goldstein ($12.6m)

The obvious choice here would be Dusty but I don’t want to keep telling you to buy the most expensive players, so I’m going with big Todd Goldstein here. Toby Nankervis has had an indifferent start to the year compared to last season and I think Goldstein could dominate this matchup. Both play a similar style, moving up and down the ground, and I think that will only inflate Goldy’s total more. Surely he is watching the form of Max Gawn with envy and will want to remind everyone he is just as good.

Dud: Jarrad Waite ($11.6m)

On his day he might be the most damaging forward in the game not named Lance Franklin, and his 86 average suggests those days have come more frequently this year. Well, this week Jarrad Waite comes up against Alex Rance. I don’t think I need to say anything else.

Point of Difference: Josh Caddy ($12.2m)

Quietly, Josh Caddy is benefitting from the attention being everyone but Josh Caddy. He is a clean user of the ball and his 85 average is proof of that. North Melbourne will likely use their tough tackling midfielders to rile up Dusty and Trent Cotchin, but Caddy should find himself space to take advantage. A pretty cheap option having a strong season.

Collingwood vs Geelong

An almighty game to end the round, Collingwood are surging after their awful start to the season and will be full of belief they can beat Geelong at the G on Sunday afternoon. The Cats dismantled GWS last week and will be up for whatever comes at them. This will be a cracker, let’s hope Melbourne’s weather can hold off and we get a clean game of footy.

Gun: Scott Pendlebury ($16m)

Adam Treloar has deservedly gotten the attention so far this year but Scott Pendlebury is still the classy superstar he has been for the better part of a decade. His 106 average means he is $1m cheaper than Treloar, and I think in the bigger games he is the much calmer head and better option of the two.

Dud: Scott Selwood ($11.5m)

Scott Selwood formed a lethal midfield combination with his brother Joel and Patrick Dangerfield last year but rookie sensation Tim Kelly appears to have taken his role and Scott is struggling to find his place as a result. A few really eyebrow raising errors last week were proof his confidence is down and he’s not worth even a speculative pick at this stage.

Point of Difference: Will Hoskin-Elliott ($13m)

I don’t have any metrics to put behind this to be honest, but for whatever reason Will Hoskin-Elliott seems to always have a big impact at big games at the MCG. He is one of a handful of players to kick a goal in every game this year and I think he could grab a few on Sunday afternoon and get near 100 points.

That’s all for Round 8. Good luck in your games!

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