Last week saw the further sliding of teams that were once considered two of the elite of the competition, with both Sydney and West Coast being humiliated with 40+ point losses. It’s hard to see how either are going to turn it around, with both now in real danger of missing the top 4 and Sydney potentially missing the finals completely. It is just absurd how close the competition is, and how one win or one loss can see teams drop from the elite positions to out of the finals altogether.
Saturday night’s blockbuster won’t help Sydney’s dire situation as they welcome Collingwood to the SCG, a team that has a history of success in the NSW capital. We also get our second Showdown of the season, with Adelaide hosting the now fourth-placed Port.
Let’s break down the picks from each game.
Hawthorn vs Essendon
Hawthorn have surged into seventh place bumper win over Fremantle, leapfrogging a bunch of teams thanks to the absurd closeness of this year’s competition. Tom Mitchell appears the likely Brownlow winner at this stage, particularly given the only thing that can stop Patrick Cripps is his own terrible teammates, and should Mitchell carry the Hawks to the finals it will be his guaranteed. This is a ripper matchup between two teams with a lot to play for and who play similar styles through midfield but contrasting in the forwards and down back. Should be a barnstormer of a Saturday arvo game.
Gun: Tom Mitchell ($19.5m)
I’m sorry but you just can’t go anywhere else. He’s the most expensive player in the game but with an average 26 points higher than second place and barely costing $1m more, it’s a no brainer. Move on.
Dud: Zach Merrett ($16.9m)
This might be the game Zach Merrett’s dominating month or so of footy ends. With Tom Mitchell completely controlling the middle of the park, Merrett will find it a lot harder to find his usual 30 touches per game and while he has been in fantastic form, the efficiency with the footy still remains to be seen at times with the Bombers gun and that really is what is stopping him from joining the game’s elite. With Hawthorn’s pressure I think there are much better options this week.
Point of Difference: Jaegar O’Meara ($13.4m)
He’s a borderline gun option here but couldn’t scrape into the category given the number of superstars on the field. Jaegar O’Meara has pretty quietly put together a ripper last month or two as it appears he is finally getting over the knee injuries that really threatened to end his career. He’s sent his average skyrocketing into triple figures, a cracking 108, and is regularly pushing scores north of that hence the quick spike. He’s become Tom Mitchell’s perfect second fiddle and is the link up between him and Luke Breust who apparently thinks he’s Wayne Carey (on the field, not off it, although I have never met the bloke).
Brisbane vs North Melbourne
This is a real stinker as far as attractive footy goes, with neither player really possessing any game-breaking stars to get you excited over. North Melbourne are still somehow in with a chance of making the finals despite having a real sleeping pill of a list, while the Lions have shown improvement in the second half of the season but still really lack elite level talent outside of Alex Witherden. Not a whole lot of relevant fantasy players unfortunately.
Gun: Dayne Beams ($15.9m)
Easily the most relevant in this game, Dayne Beams has had a monster month of footy, spiking his average to the 6th best in the game at 112. He is regularly going north of 120, having scored 129 or more in two of his last three games. North Melbourne’s pressure won’t make it easy on him but he’s still the best there is in this one.
Dud: Todd Goldstein ($14.7m)
I wrote that a month or so ago was the time to get on the Todd Goldstein train as the big man was sharing less of the ruck and looked to be the fittest and strongest he’s been in two years. I think this is a good game to avoid a man who’s been one of the hottest rucks in the game the last month. He comes up against Stef Martin, who is an All-Australian that no one knows about because he plays for the black hole of a club that is Brisbane. I think Goldstein comes off second best, but probably best avoiding both.
Point of Difference: Luke Hodge ($12.2m)
I was tempted not to do this purely because I’d written him off earlier in the year, he looked his age last week and as a Swans fan he’s not someone I’m massively fond of, but I quite like the champpppp (Bruce McAvaney voice) this week. Luke Hodge has become significantly more fantasy relevant in the second half of the season as Brisbane have become a little more free off halfback and allowed Hodge to dictate the games. He has played more of the sweeping fullback role intercepting marks and has been allowed to push up and try and link with the Lions midfielders, which has certainly helped Beams. Not the cheapest 67 year old but could be a real POD.
Adelaide vs Port Adelaide
The second Showdown of the season carries infinitely less significance as one of the two Adelaide sides has really lost its way and surprisingly its the one who made the grand final last year. Despite the All-World play of Rory Laird and Bryce Gibbs, the Crows have had very little go right for them this year and the sooner the season is over the better for a team that thought a flag was in its destiny less than 12 months ago. Port really should send a statement here, but you never know in the Showdown.
Gun: Ollie Wines ($15.3m)
Ollie Wines has had a really disappointing month following signing his big extension to remain with Port Adelaide, but I think this is the perfect occasion for him to bounce back with a big score and keep his average in triple figures. I’m far from the biggest fan of Wines, in fact I’ve told a friend I’d take Sam Powell-Pepper’s future over his, but he’s still at the moment the undisputed man in the Power midfield and I can see him racking up a number of contested possessions here to make him worth your investment. Adelaide’s midfield has looked vulnerable to the more powerful guys so Wines should dominate this one.
Dud: Any of the forwards
I see this being a really tight, low-scoring game without much for the forwards. These games usually have plenty of feeling in them and you rarely see the forwards getting a whole lot of space and time to work, and with neither really possessing super reliable fantasy options outside of Robbie Gray. I’d be avoiding all but him really.
Point of Difference: Riley Knight ($6.8m)
Riley Knight has been a surprise performer for Adelaide in recent weeks, making a real nuisance of himself off the bench and adding a bit of support up top for the Crows forwards. Admittedly I just warned you off any forwards in this game, but at $6.8m and coming off a 102, Knight offers real value and true potential, and you can spend your money where it really matters.
St Kilda vs Western Bulldogs
Another stinker of a game, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs are winding down on more wasted season’s from teams that appeared on the rise a couple of years ago. Hard to know how this one will go, you’d hope given there is nothing to play for that both would open up and this could be a lightning exchange of handballs and drives through the corridor, but it appears every time I’ve said that this year it has gone the other way.
Gun: Jackson Macrae ($15.5m)
Jackson Macrae returned to footy with a monster score following his two month layoff with injury, but he was brought back down to earth after that with back to back stinkers. Last week he looked himself again, throwing up 115 with plenty of touches and he should do the same if not better in this one. He is clearly the best player on the field and should score as such.
Honestly I can’t see that many players to avoid in this one. I would expect or at least hope this been an open and expansive game which should allow the relevant players from both sides to score well. Both teams have become more relevant for fantasy players in recent weeks and looking through the rosters on each team there really don’t appear to be any massive red flags.
Point of Difference: Jack Billings ($13.2m)
This will likely only be speaking to people who, like me, always have this guy in the back of their mind and are just looking for the tiniest bit of reinforcement to pick him. Jack Billings is wonderfully talented but an absolute rollercoaster ride as a footy player and even worse in fantasy. He’s capable of monster scores, and when they come they come big, as evident by an 88 average that is also chock full of woeful scores. This could be the perfect game for him to find a bit of space in behind the roaming Jason Johannisen and potentially put up a big triple-figure score.
Sydney vs Collingwood
What a game to end Saturday’s fixtures this is. The SCG will be absolutely packed with Swans fans, Collingwood fans, and the usual Melbourne expats who will be conflicted over who to root against the loudest. This really is do or die for Sydney from here on in, particularly as their next three games are the Pies, Demons and Giants. If they lose this one, it might completely unravel and be all over well before the final game.
Gun: Josh Kennedy ($15.4m)
I can’t see anyway Josh Kennedy doesn’t have a massive game here. The Swans absolutely must get a 30+ super efficiency and effective game out of their skipper and no one on the field has mastered the tiny SCG pitch like JPK. His average has taken a bit of a hit in recent weeks but the absence of Adam Treloar has me picking Kennedy as the clear best midfield option on the field.
No duds here again for me. Think there’ll be plenty of fantasy points in it for both sides and there is class all over the field. Contested possessions for the silk masters in Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Kennedy and Henney and tackles/free kicks for the tough boys in Adams, Parker, Rampe and Sinclair. Brodie Grundy could be a prime outlet option in the small pitch too. No bad choices.
Point of Difference: Steele Sidebottom ($17.2m)
I’ve noticed his ownership has been quite low in recent weeks with most people looking to Scott Pendlebury to fill their Adam Treloar void. I think this will be the perfect game for Steele Sidebottom and his change of pace, classy game. He will likely sit just behind the play and dictate with his elite reading of the game and sharp kicking to target. I can see plenty of touches with the Swans trying to get out of their own end and Sidebottom picking off his smalls inside Sydney’s 50.
Carlton vs GWS
GWS rightfully so are the team everyone wants to avoid outside of Richmond right now. The young team of superstars are absolutely rolling even without their star forwards, which is a scary sign for when they do return. Carlton got a win on the board last week but I can’t see it being anything but another miserable, miserable day for the Blues. I’d love to see them jag a few late wins here to give Patrick Cripps a shot at a Brownlow though.
Gun: Josh Kelly ($18m)
As much as I’d love to go big Patrick Cripps here, I think Josh Kelly is the safer top line option. The possibility of Carlton getting blown off the park scares me too much, and while Cripps has still managed to produce even despite that, I’m going for Kelly. He’s number 5 in the game with a 114 average and in the last month or so of footy he’s been as good as anyone in the AFL. Class personified and an easy player to follow if you’re invested in him.
Dud: Ed Curnow ($15.7m)
Ed Curnow has come rocketing back down to earth the past month or so and hasn’t been able to nearly dominate games like he did earlier in the season. I don’t know whether he is carrying an injury but he doesn’t appear to be moving as freely as he was, and at times seems a step behind the opposition. Coming up against one of the most talented and athletic midfields in the game, this won’t be his week. Draw a line through Marc Murphy too.
Point of Difference: Tim Taranto ($14.2m)
I’ve never been a huge fan of Tim Taranto and have gone against the grain when everyone has been throwing his name around as a genuine fantasy gun, but he’s had a great month of footy and this could be the perfect game for him. Carlton’s backline is injured and in general a complete mess, so there should be plenty of chances for him to come and get the footy about 70m out from goal and turn to either find a teammate or gallop inside for a goal or two of his own. Not cheap but a great POD.
Melbourne vs Gold Coast
I feel like we’re all just sitting around waiting for Melbourne to Melbourne this. They have the undisputed best ruck in the game, one of the best midfielders in the game and a plethora of other talent around those two, but the history of that guernsey has everyone unconvinced. Their loss against Geelong a couple of weeks ago was the most Melbourne defeat I’ve ever seen and until they prove otherwise, I can’t take them for real. That all being said, they’ll win this one by 40+.
Gun: Max Gawn ($17.3m)
Max Gawn has torn shreds into Jarrod Witts in the past and I can’t see any way that doesn’t happen again here. The undersized Witts has been bashed out of games in the past and big Gawny has been completely unplayable this year even by the likes of Brodie Grundy. Huge score incoming for Gawn.
Dud: Any Gold Coast Sun
This might be one of the biggest wins of the year for Melbourne. They are one of the best front runners in the game, and if Clayton can get a couple of quick clearances off Gawn’s advantage, find Hogan inside 50 and kick a couple of early majors, this could be a 80+ point margin. No Suns.
Point of Difference: Alex Neal-Bullen ($12.6m)
I think Alex Neal-Bullen has been one of the unsung heroes for Melbourne this year and is one of the most underrated players in the competition. ANB is one of a number of Demons that go unnoticed because they do the little things so well, but he has been massive for the Dees cleaning things up in the forward half and adding little touches of class that have directly led to goals. He’s quietly averaging 87 and had a monster 112 last week. A real POD.
West Coast vs Fremantle
West Coast were humiliated by Norths last week, kicking just 6 goals in one of the worst performances of the year by a top 4 team. They’ve done very little to dispel the talk they’re unreliable away from home, and even with their big win over an injured Collingwood a few weeks ago, their performance against the Kangaroos looked more like the failed teams of old. The first meeting between the Eagles and Dockers at the new Optus stadium took a while to come, but we finally have it. Unfortunately it should be completely one-sided, and if West Coast want anyone to take them seriously they’d better hope it is.
Gun: Andrew Gaff ($17.1m)
The third highest scorer in the game gets the nod over Elliott Yeo here because I can’t see Yeo having too much work to do in his defensive half. Andrew Gaff has had a season that will see him among the stop Brownlow vote-getters and has been a hugely profitable investment for anyone who has tracked him this year. Can see him completely dominating a decaying Freo side here.
Dud: Shannon Hurn ($14.5m)
As I mentioned with Yeo, I just can’t see enough work for Shannon Hurn. The Eagles captain has had another All-Australian year but he needs to be in there bashing, taking intercepts and contested marks to really be of value and Fremantle shouldn’t pose anything remotely resembling a fight.
Point of Difference: Jamie Cripps ($13.6m)
Jamie Cripps returned with a monster score last week even in maybe the Eagles’ worst loss of the year. He appears to be the go-to man up front even ahead of Josh Kennedy and he’s definitely their best fantasy proposition. If he kicks a few here he could get another big triple-digit score.
That’s all for this weekend’s daily fantasy AFL picks, now be sure to get your lineups in. Good luck!