Round 21 of the 2022 AFL season sees two key encounters at the MCG and Gabba that are set to feature a finals-like atmosphere.

Melbourne v Collingwood @ MCG

Friday 5th August, 19:50 (AEST)

MelbourneCollingwood
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Rivers, Petty, MayBMurphy, Moore, Howe
HBJordon, Lever, HibberdHBPendlebury, Maynard, Quaynor
CBrayshaw, Oliver, HuntCJ.Daicos, Crisp, Noble
HFPickett, Fritscg, LangdonHFElliott, Cameron, Sidebottom
FNeal-Bullen, Brown, SpargoFMcCreery, Mihocek, De Goey
FOLR: Gawn, Viney, PetraccaFOLCox, N.Daicos, Lipinski
I/CSalem, Jackson Melksham, SparrowI/CCarmichael, Johnson, Hoskin-Elliott, Ginnivan


History:
Played 241: Melbourne 84 v Collingwood 152 (5 draws)

Last Meeting: AFL R13 2022: Collingwood 12.10 (82) dftd Melbourne 8.8 (56)

Final Thoughts: The resurgent Dees take on the ten-in-a-row Pies in what is a mouthwatering Friday night clash with huge Top 4 ramifications. All the talk has surrounded whether Collingwood, who have edged a number of tight encounters throughout their incredible run, are actually premiership material. They have a huge opportunity to prove exactly that in what will be a finals-like atmosphere under lights at the MCG. The Pies’ task, however, has been made harder by the fact that experienced midfielder Taylor Adams will miss, while the expected return of ruckman Brody Grundy likely won’t eventuate after an injury setback.

After a fairly lacklustre back-half of the season from Melbourne, Simon Goodwin’s men look to finally be peaking at the right time. Victory over Fremantle last week had all the hallmarks that drove them to the flag last season; sound backline structure, manic pressure around the footy and strong run-and-carry around the ground. If they replicate that performance here, it’s tough to see the Pies edging an underdog win.

Tip: Line, Melbourne -16.5 @ $1.90

Hawthorn v Gold Coast Suns @ UTAS Stadium

Saturday 6th August, 13:45 (AEST)

HawthornGold Coast
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Sicily, Jeka, ScrimshawBGraham, Collins, Lemmens
HBImpey, Hardwick, Grainger-BarrasHBFaraar, Andrew, Ellis
CWard, Mitchell, MorrisonCSharp, Miller, Hollands
HFSerong, Breust, MacdonaldHFAinsworth, Chol, Swallow
FButler, Gunston, MooreFLukosius, Casboult, Hollman
FOLMcEvoy, Newcome, O‘MearaFOLWitts, Rowell, Anderson
I/CMaginess, Nash, Day, KoschitzeI/CDavies, Rankine, MacPherson, Rosas


History:
Played 15: Hawthorn 11 v Gold Coast 4

Last Meeting: AFL R11 2022: Gold Coast 18.13 (121) dftd Hawthorn 7.12 (54)

Final Thoughts: Likely no finals ramifications in this one (the Suns’ faintest of finals hopes would only remain alive with a huge win at the MCG and other results going their way), but if last week was any indicator it matters little in both these sides’ will to win the contest. The Suns smashed Hawthorn by 67 points when they met earlier this season, scoring a healthy 121 points in the process. Hitting three figures again last week, the Hawks’ backline (which has conceded the fourth-most points in 2022) will be under the pump. And, given the last four matches between these sides has gone over the total match points line, we could be in for another high-scoring encounter. Being back on home soil could bode well for Sam Mitchell’s young side here: the home team has won nine of the last 10 encounters between these two clubs.

Tip: H2H, Gold Coast Suns @ $1.87

GWS Giants v Essendon @ Giants Stadium

Saturday 6th August, 14:10 (AEST)

GWSEssendon
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Cumming, Taylor, HaynesBRidley, Laverde, Zerk-Thatcher
HBKennedy, Keefe, PerrymanHBRedman, Kelly, Hind
CKelly, Ward, WhitfieldCC:Durham, Langford, Heppell
HFTaranto, Greene, PeatlingHFGuelfi, Martin, Hobbs
FConiglio, Hogan, LloydFWright, Stringer, Stewart
FOLPreuss, Hopper, GreenFOLDraper, Merrett, Parish
I/CHimmelberg, Aleer, Briggs, RiccardiI/CMcGrath, Perkins, Snelling, Jones


History:
Played 13: GWS 7 v Essendon 6

Last Meeting: AFL R19 2021: Essendon 7.11 (53) lost to GWS Giants 9.12 (66)

Final Thoughts: A poor season turned torrid in Round 20 for the Giants, who were not only thrashed to the tune of 73 points by rivals Sydney but the majority of players had their commitment questioned by interim coach Mark McVeigh. And it wasn’t hard to see why; GWS looked disinterested last week, and clearly the siren on Round 23 can’t come quicker. They’ve averaged just 45 points per game in the last four weeks, and something drastic needs to change in a game they start as outsiders in on home turf.

Just two spots higher on the ladder is Essendon, where things are comparatively far rosier. The Dons have won four of their last five, and could have both Darcy Parish and Andrew McGrath return for the trip to Sydney.

Tip: Line, Essendon -4.5 @ $1.90

Western Bulldogs v Fremantle @ Marvel Stadium

Saturday 6th August, 16:35 (AEST)

Western BulldogsFremantle
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Williams, Keath, CordyBChapman, Cox, Walker
HBTreloar, Darcy, DaleHBYoung, Pearce, Ryan
CRichards, Liberatore, SmithCClark, Brayshaw, Acres
HFJohannisen, Bruce, DunkleyHFSchultz, Lobb, Serong
FWeightman, Naughton, Ugle-HaganFFrederick, Taberner, Walters
FOLEnglish, Bontempelli, MacraeFOLDarcy, Brodie, Aish
I/CWest, McNeil, Daniel, GarciaI/CLogue, Tucker, Mundy, O’Driscoll

 

History: Played 34: Western Bulldogs 18 v Fremantle 16

Last Meeting: AFL R12 2021: Fremantle 9.11 (65) lost to Western Bulldogs 13.15 (93)

Final Thoughts: It’s go-time now for the Western Bulldogs in 2022, and if last year’s grand finalists hope to propel themselves inside the Top 8 will need victory here against a struggling Fremantle outfit. Luke Beveridge’s side keep threatening, but it’s now or never in a game they start as favourites in. They’ll take confidence into this one knowing they’ve beaten Fremantle on each of the last three occasions, by an average of 35 points.

For the Dockers, once looking a nailed-on prospect to finish inside the Top 4, they’ve hit the skids at the worst possible time. Without a win in their last three games, Justin Longmuir’s men are decelerating while the likes of Geelong, Melbourne and Sydney are all ramping up. In fact, they’ve lengthened from $1.25 out to $4 in the Top 4 market. So it goes without saying that they need a strong performance here, at the same venue they got their last victory (a 41-point demolition of the Saints).

Tip: Margin, Western Bulldogs 1-39 @ $2.15

Geelong Cats v St Kilda @ GMHBA Stadium

Saturday 6th August, 19:25 (AEST)

GeelongSt Kilda
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Guthrie, De Koning, BewsBWilkie, Howard, Webster
HBKolodjashnij, Stewart, HenryHBBattle, Sharman, Sinclair
CDuncan, Blicavs, SmithCClark, Windhager, Wood
HFClose, Cameron, StengleHFMembrey, Hill, Butler
FHawkins, Stanley, DangerfieldFHiggins, King, Owens
FOLCeglar, C.Guthrie, ParfittFOLMarshall, Steele, Ross
I/CO’Connor, Holmes, Atkins, MiersI/CPaton, Hannebery, Crouch, Long


History:
Played 219: Geelong 133 v St Kilda 85 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL R9 2022: St Kilda 13.12 (90) dftd Geelong 11.14 (80)

Final Thoughts: Despite the fact they sit inside the Top 8, St Kilda start as considerable underdogs in this one against a Geelong side who continue to impress in 2022. The Cats have now won ten on the bounce, and are deserved outright favourites in Palmerbet’s premiership market. Victory here almost certainly assures them a home qualifying final in early September.

The Saints sit inside the Top 8 on the eve of Round 21, but a tough run home has them outsiders to remain there come season’s end. Brett Ratten’s side aren’t expected to win this one but need to ensure any losing margin remains small such is their poor percentage to date in 2022, and the likelihood this could determine the makeup of the 8 in just over two weeks’ time. To compound the task at hand, the Saints haven’t won at the Cattery this century; their last victory down the highway coming in 1999.

Tip: Total score, Over 153.5 @ $1.88

Port Adelaide v Richmond @ Adelaide Oval

Saturday 6th August, 19:40 (AEST)

Port AdelaideRichmond
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Burton, Jonas, McKenzieBGibcus, Tarrant, Balta
HBByrne-Jones, Aliir, HoustonHBBaker, Vlastuin, Rioli
CAmon, Boak, DuursmaCPickett, Short, McIntosh
HFButters, Finlayson, FarrellHFGraham, Cotchin, Bolton
FGray, Dixon, Powell-PepperFRiewoldt, Cumberland, Lynch
FOLTeakle, Wines, RozeeFOLNankervis, Prestia, Sonsie
I/C Bergman, Drew, Burgoyne, McEnteeI/CRoss, Miller, Rioli, Broad

 

History: Played 36: Port Adelaide 20 v Richmond 15 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL R13 2022: Richmond 11.11 (77) dftd Port Adelaide 10.5 (65)

Final Thoughts: At 42 points down in the second term against Brisbane last week, still six points outside the Top 8, Richmond’s season hung by a thread. But in taming the Lions in an extraordinary late comeback, they’ve breathed life into their season. Richmond have a more straightforward draw to come compared with other rivals looking to squeeze into the Top 8, with MCG games against Hawthorn and Essendon to come. But before that they have this trip to Adelaide, which will be no means be straightforward despite the fact Ken Hinkley’s men are out of the running in 2022.

These two clubs have a history of close games (including in finals) in recent years, and the last three clashes have all been decided by two goals or less.

Tip: H2H, Richmond @ $2.23

North Melbourne v Sydney Swans @ Marvel Stadium

Sunday 7th August, 13:10 (AEST)

North MelbourneSydney
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Corr, McKay, La.YoungBMcCartin, Rampe, McCartin
HBDawson, McDonald, StephensonHBLloyd, Fox, Florent
CScott, Davies-Uniacke, TaylorCMcInerney, Mills, Stephens
HFPowell, Zurhaar, GreenwoodHFHayward, Reid, Gulden
FCurtis, Larkey, ZiebellFPapley, Franklin, Heeney
FOLGoldstein, Simpkin, Horne-FrancisFOLHickey, Warner, Parker
I/C (from)Anderson, Walker, Coleman-Jones, Turner, Goater, Lazzaro, Perez, HallI/C (from)Blakey, Clarke, Rowbottom, Roberts, Ladhams, McDonald, Ronke, Kennedy

 

History: Played 166: North Melbourne 74 v Sydney 91 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL R4 2022: Sydney 13.8 (86) dftd North Melbourne 12.3 (75)

Final Thoughts: With all the talk around Geelong’s premiership charge and Collingwood’s 10-straight wins, Sydney have stealthily propelled themselves into the Top 4 and are readying themselves for a genuine flag charge. Stealth as it might be, it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by the traders, who have shortened Sydney from $18 into $7 premiership chances on the back of four straight wins. A fifth beckons here in a game coach John Longmire will look to shore up his side’s percentage.

The Swans were given a big scare from the Kangaroos earlier this season, but their form going into this one suggests that — should they play to their ability — this one will be over before three quarter time, with punters looking to the line on just how much the Bloods can get this one done by. North haven’t beaten Sydney in Docklands since way back in 2006.

Tip: To score 2+ goals, Will Hayward (Syd) @ $1.99

Brisbane Lions v Carlton @ Gabba

Sunday 7th August, 15:20 (AEST)

BrisbaneCarlton
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Gardiner, Adams, RichBSaad, Le.Young, Docherty
HBStarcevich, Andrews, ColemanHBMarchbank, Weitering, McGovern
CBailey, Zorko, McCluggageCCottrell, Cripps, Cerra
HFRayner, Hipwood, McCarthyHFO’Brien, McKay, Owies
FMcStay, Daniher, CameronFMotlop, Curnow, Silvagni
FOLMcInerney, Neale, BerryFOLPittonet, Walsh, Fisher
I/C (from)Lohmann, Ah Chee, Robinson, Lyons, Prior, Fort, Mathieson, AnswerthI/C (from)Martin, Setterfield, Durdin, De Koning, Dow, Fogarty, Kemp, Newnes

 

History: Played 53: Brisbane 24 v Carlton 29

Last Meeting: AFL R6 2021: Carlton 12.13 (85) lost to Brisbane Lions 15.13 (103)

Final Thoughts: If Melbourne v Collingwood on Friday night constitutes ‘match of the round’ status, then this is a close second. A match with huge Top 4 and Top 8 ramifications, Carlton need one more win to secure a first finals berth since 2013. Except given their form slump (they’ve lost four of their last seven games) and the quality of opponent they’re up against in those weeks (Brisbane here, then Melbourne and Collingwood), it’s no guarantee they get there, and the once confident Blues fans this season are sitting far less comfortably.

Ironically, the Blues haven’t won at the Gabba since 2013 too, having lost at the Lions’ fortress on their last six attempts. In what is Adam Saad’s 150th AFL match, the potential All Australian half-back will again prove crucial to the Blues hopes on the smaller confines on the Gabba. For the Lions, they need four points to maintain their bid for a fourth straight Top 4 finish. If anything, getting back to winning ways will cleanse the soul after another heartbreaking MCG defeat in Round 19.

Tip: Margin, Brisbane by 1-39 @ $2.20

West Coast Eagles v Adelaide Crows @ Optus Stadium

Sunday 7th August, 16:10 (AEST)

West CoastAdelaide
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Hurn, Barrass, DugganBWorrell, Butts, Hamill
HBHough, Edwards, JonesHBSmith, Murray, Dawson
CWaterman, Kelly, GaffCHinge, Laird, Jones
HFRyan, Darling, CrippsHFMcAdam, Fogarty, Keays
FWilliams, Kennedy, RioliFMilera, Walker, Murphy
FOLNaitanui, Redden, ShueyFOLO’Brien, Berry, Schoenberg
I/C (from)Langdon, Petrevski-Seton, O’Neill, Foley, Nelson, Bazzo, Clark, DixonI/C (from)Davis, Frampton, Hately, Soligo, Himmelberg, Parnell, McHenry, Sholl

 

History: Played 52: West Coast 30 v Adelaide 22

Last Meeting: AFL R12 2022: Adelaide 13.10 (88) dftd West Coast 8.9 (57)

Final Thoughts: A dead-rubber of sorts to round out the weekend, but Adelaide go in huge chances to win on the road after a big win over Carlton in Round 20. Matthew Nicks’ side were harder at the footy for all four quarters against a (almost) finals-bound side in a performance that bodes well in their protracted rebuild. Ben Keays and Rory Laird continue to prove crucial in Adelaide’s hopes, and will need to fire again should the Crows win on enemy turf.

For the Eagles, three straight weeks of ‘gettable’ games have resulted in defeats and while they were unlucky to be pipped at the post by the Suns last week, are limping towards the end of 2022. Given Adelaide’s heavily contested game, it goes without saying that Adam Simpson will need to extract something out of an stuttering side in this one.

Tip: Line, Adelaide -1.5 @ $1.90