Round 17 the 2021 AFL season is crunch time for a number of clubs hanging onto Top 8 ambitions, particularly the Saints and Blues. 

Port Adelaide v Melbourne @ Adelaide Oval

Thursday 8th July, 19:40 (AEST)

Port AdelaideMelbourne
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Burton, McKenzie, AliirBHibberd, May, Lever
HBHouston, Jonas, Byrne-JonesHBHunt, Petty, Salem
CBergman, Wines, AmonCJordon, Petracca, Langdon
HFRozee, Marshall, MotlopHFViney, McDonald, Spargo
FGeorgiades, Dixon, Powell-PepperFNeal-Bullen, Jackson, Fritsch
FOLLycett, Boak, DrewFOLGawn, Oliver, Pickett
I/CLienert, Farrell, Mayes, BonnerI/CHarmes, Brayshaw, Rivers, Sparrow


History:
Played 35: Port Adelaide 22 v Melbourne 13

Last Meeting: AFL Round 9, 2020: Melbourne (32) def by Port Adelaide (83)

Final Thoughts: Concerns are beginning to creep in at the Dees. Two losses in the last three weeks, both to clubs (at the time) outside the Top 8, has seen punters cool slightly on the idea of a drought-breaking premiership this year. In fact, three clubs are now ahead of the Dees ($5.50) in flag betting. “I think they’ve lost their flow in the game, their dare in their game. I think they’re trying to play a perfect game of football at the moment,” Essendon premiership player Adam Ramanauskas told ABC’s Grandstand recently. “When they slow it down they come right back to the field.”

By contrast, Port have won five of their last six and go into this one as marginal favourites. Victory here (percentage pending) could even see Ken Hinkley’s side leapfrog the Dees into second. Young star Zak Butters returned last week in the SANFL, but a short turnaround for this one might mean his AFL return has to wait.

Tip: Margin, Port Adelaide 1-39 @ $2.25

Essendon v Adelaide @ Marvel Stadium

Friday 9th July, 19:50 (AEST)

EssendonAdelaide
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Laverde, Stewart, RidleyBDoedee, Butts, Kelly
HBHind, Redman, GleesonHBSmith, Murray, Mackay
CGuelfi, Merrett, CoxCSholl, Keays, Seedsman
HFStringer, Wright, McDonald-TipungwutiHFMcHenry, Himmelberg, Murphy
FSmith, Jones, WatermanFPedlar, Thilthorpe, Frampton
FOLDraper, Parish, LangfordFOLO’Brien, Laird, Sloane
I/CCutler, Snelling, Perkins, HookerI/CRowe, Berry, Schoenberg, Jones


History:
Played 40: Essendon 21 v Adelaide 19

Last Meeting: AFL Round 8, 2020: Adelaide (59) def by Essendon (62)

Final Thoughts: For all the positivity surrounding Essendon’s season, the cold hard facts are this: Ben Rutten’s side have lost three of their last four, and face an uphill task to ensure September action. They go into this one with confidence, however, likely on the back of stats like these; only two clubs (Western Bulldogs and Brisbane) have scored more points than the Dons this season, whilst only one club (North Melbourne) has conceded more points than Adelaide. Essendon’s scoreboard pressure should be far too strong in this one, against a Crows outfit whose output is declining the longer the 2021 season lasts. Matthew Nicks will be sweating on the fitness of Taylor Walker, who left the field against Brisbane with a neck strain.

Tip: To score 3+ goals, Jake Stringer (Ess) @ $2.50

Hawthorn v Fremantle @ UTAS Stadium

Saturday 10th July, 13:45 (AEST)

HawthornFremantle
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Hardwick, Hartigan, ScrimshawBWilson, Pearce, Ryan
HBBurgoyne, Frost, JiathHBAish, Logue, Tucker
CShiels, Worpel, BrambleCAcres, Fyfe, Cerra
HFJeka, Bruest, O’MearaHFColyer, Lobb, Walters
FMoore, McEvoy, HoweFSchultz, Treacy, Henry
FOLCeglar, Mitchell, NashFOLDarcy, Mundy, Brayshaw
I/CGrainger-Barras, Phillips, Brockman, KoschitzkeI/CSwitkowski, Banfield, Serong, Walker


History:
Played 38: Hawthorn 28 v Fremantle 10

Last Meeting: AFL Round 4, 2021: Fremantle (96) def Hawthorn (81)

Final Thoughts: The Dockers blew a huge chance to move into the Top 8 in Round 16, as nearby rivals Richmond, West Coast and Essendon all lost. But Justin Longmuir’s side were wasteful when it mattered most against Carlton. With a tricky next month (Geelong, Sydney, Richmond, Brisbane), a loss here (in a clash they start as marginal favourites) could spell curtains in a season that is yet to really get off the ground.

The Hawks have had somewhat of a mid-season revival and, after news of a coaching succession plan emerged this week, are a huge chance to dent Freo’s flailing finals hopes. Their recent record against the Dockers is curious; while they’ve lost their last two encounters, Alastair Clarkson’s side had won the previous six in the row.

Tip: H2H, Hawthorn @ $2.05

Carlton v Geelong @ MCG

Saturday 10th July, 16:35 (AEST)

CarltonGeelong
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Plowman, Weitering, NewmanBAtkins, Kolodjashnij, Henry
HBPetrevski-Seton, Jones, StockerHBHenderson, Stewart, Blicavs
CWalsh, Cripps, NewnesCSmith, C.Guthrie, Menegola
HFE.Curnow, McKay, SilvagniHFDangerfield, Ratugolea, Close
FBetts, Casboult, FogartyFHiggins, Hawkins, Rohan
FOLDe Koning, Dow, KennedyFOLStanley, O’Connor, Parfitt
I/CSaad, Williams, Martin, OwiesI/CBews, Tuohy, Holmes, Miers

 

History: Played 221: Carlton 118 v Geelong 101 (2 draws)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 3, 2020: Geelong (77) def by Carlton (79)

Final Thoughts: Back-to-back wins has seen Carlton keep their finals hopes (however slim) alive in 2021. Victories against Adelaide and Fremantle saw David Teague’s side shorten from $21 into $9 in Palmerbet’s Top 8 market. Their price might actually be shorter if they weren’t pitted against one of the premiership favourites this week; a task they start as $3.64 outsiders in. Teague will take confidence in the fact Carlton knocked off the Cats in their only encounter last season, at GMHBA Stadium no less. The Blues are sweating the fitness of Patrick Cripps (foot), while Zac Williams will return, as should Zac Fisher.

Chris Scott will be without Jeremy Cameron for the next month but aside from that, there’s no huge worries at the Cattery at present. Percentage could play a huge factor in Geelong’s bid for a Top 4 spot this season (they’re currently in fifth by just one percentage point), and any opportunity for a big victory will need to be taken.

Tip: Line, Carlton +21.5 @ $1.90

Brisbane Lions v St Kilda @ Metricon Stadium

Saturday 10th July, 19:25 (AEST)

BrisbaneSt Kilda
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Adams, Andrews, PayneBHoward, Webster, Wilkie
HBBirchall, Starcevich, RichHBLong, McKenzie, Hill
CRobinson, Zorko, BaileyCRoss, Dunstan, Sinclair
HFMcCluggage, McStay, McCarthyHFButler, Billings, Byrnes
FCameron, Daniher, HipwoodFMarshall, King, Membrey
FOLMcInerney, Neale, LyonsFOLRyder, Steele, Crouch
I/CRobertson, Ah Chee, Coleman, MaddenI/CConnolly, Jones, Wood, Highmore


History:
Played 48: Brisbane 24 v St Kilda 24

Last Meeting: AFL Round 13, 2020: Brisbane (50) def St Kilda (48)

Final Thoughts: Like Carlton, back-to-back wins has kept St Kilda’s season alive — but only just. Victories over Richmond and Collingwood has seen them shorten from $26 into $7 in Palmerbet’s Top 8 market. But similarly to the Blues, they face a premiership contender this week in a clash that will serve as an audit of where they are actually at. Despite claiming four points from the Pies, the Saints’ dismal second half was perhaps the best indicator they simply mightn’t be up to it in 2021. Nevertheless they’re alive, and an upset here could propel them inside the Top 8, however fleeting that might be.

By contrast, there’s few worries at the Lions who are tracking well in their bid for a first flag since 2003. Ten wins in their last 11 games (each by an average of 43.2 points) underlines their dominance after a shaky start. Brownlow Medalist Lachie Neale should return.

Tip: To come

GWS Giants v Gold Coast Suns @ Mars Stadium

Sunday 11th July, 12:40 (AEST)

GWSGold Coast
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Taylor, Davis, AshBPowell, Collins, Lemmens
HBPerryman, Haynes, CummingHBLukosius, Ballard, Bowes
CKelly, Ward, KennedyCEllis, Miller, Sharp
HFDaniels, Greene, WhitfieldHFFlanders, Day, Holman
FHill, Himmelberg, LloydFRankine, King, Ainsworth
FOLMumford, Taranto, HopperFOLBurgess, Rowell, Swallow
I/C (from)Flynn, Idun, Finlayson, Green, O’Halloran, de Boer, Reid, HoganI/C (from)Atkins, Fiorini, Graham, Greenwood, MacPherson, Markov, Sexton, Smith

 

History: Played 14: GWS 10 v Gold Coast 4

Last Meeting: AFL Round 9, 2020: Gold Coast (35) lost to GWS (61)

Final Thoughts: Unexpected victory against the Dees has breathed life into the Giants’ 2021 campaign, launching them into the Top 8. They’re now $2.50 to remain there come season’s end, but face a tough month ahead (Sydney, Essendon, Port Adelaide and Geelong). It means this clash (like any at this time of the year) is must-win. They start as $1.36 favourites.

The Suns are coming off their best win of the season, a come-from-behind 10-point win over premiers Richmond that has blown up the finals race in 2021. It’s the sort of performance they’ve delivered fleetingly this year, and must become the regular output Stuart Dew demands. The Covid-induced change to this clash (now in Ballarat) levels the playing field, and allows the Suns a chance of an upset.

Tip: Line, GWS -16.5 @ $1.90

Western Bulldogs v Sydney Swans @ Marvel Stadium

Sunday 11th July, 15:20 (AEST)

Western BulldogsSydney
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Daniel, Keath, WilliamsBFox, Rampe, Cunningham
HBDuryea, Cordy, DaleHBDawson, McCartin, Lloyd
CHannan, Liberatore, SmithCMcInerney, Mills, Hewett
HFJohannisen, Ugle-Hagan, WeightmanHFHayward, Amartey, Heeney
FScott, Bruce, HunterFPapley, Franklin, Gulden
FOLEnglish, Macrae, BontempelliFOLHickey, Parker, Florent
I/C (from)Young, Wallis, Schache, McNeil, Crozier, Garcia, Sweet, RichardsI/C (from)Rowbottom, Kennedy, Sinclair, Wicks, Bell, Blakey, O’Riordan, Stephens

 

History: Played 162: Western Bulldogs 83 v Sydney 78 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 4, 2020: Sydney (39) def by Western Bulldogs (67)

Final Thoughts: The Swans have returned refreshed post-bye, and are now well-positioned to secure sixth this season which would hand them a home final (currently $1.20 Top 8 hopes with Palmerbet). John Longmire’s men were electric in their 92-point hammering of the Eagles in Round 16, and their pressure game now has the hallmarks of a finals side. This clash, however, represents a huge test. The Dogs are the only side inside the Top 8 the Bloods are yet to play in 2021, and will be a great audit of where the Swans are at.

Deservedly, the Dogs have moved into premiership favouritism in 2021. A percentage that nudges 150 is the truest indicator of their dominance this season and while the Swans will push them here, should walk away with another four points. Aaron Naughton will miss with concussion.

Tip: To score 2+ goals, Isaac Heeney (Syd) @ $2.30

Richmond v Collingwood @ MCG

Sunday 11th July, 16:10 (AEST)

RichmondCollingwood
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Grimes, Astbury, VlastuinBQuaynor, Roughead, Maynard
HBBaker, Short, MansellHBCrisp, Madgen, Mayne
CMcIntosh, Cotchin, PickettCHoskin-Elliott, De Goey, Murphy
HFCastagna, Riewoldt, PickettHFBianco, Cameron, Thomas
FLynch, Martin, CholFSidebottom, Mihocek, Elliott
FOLNankervis, Collier-Dawkins, BoltonFOLGrundy, Pendlebury, Adams
I/C (from)Ross, Stack, Naish, Rioli, Dow, Graham, Martyn, ParkerI/C (from)Brown, Cox, Ginnivan, Henry, Kelly, Macrae, Noble, Ruscoe

 

History: Played 212: Richmond 91 v Collingwood 119 (2 draws)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 2, 2020: Collingwood (36) drew with Richmond (36)

Final Thoughts: Weeks ago this might’ve been chalked down as a comfortable Richmond win in their charge for the finals. Now, however, that’s under serious threat. A horror fortnight for Richmond has seen them beaten by two non-finals outfits in the biggest indicator yet that their dynasty may just be cracking. They’ve gone from $1.06 near-certain Finals hopefuls to a much more shaky (but ultimately still fancied) $1.62 with Palmerbet. The Gold Coast loss in AFL Round 16 was riddled with errors rightly described as ‘un-Richmond like’ — all after coach Damien Hardwick had dubbed it their “most important game” of the season. A loss here, with games against premiership fancies Brisbane and Geelong to come, would be catastrophic for Hardwick.

For the Pies, who were described by Bombers great Matthew Lloyd as “unwatchable” this week, the main carrot here is to cause huge disruption to a rival’s season. The club is seemingly in a holding pattern, waiting for the announcement of a new coach. But they go into this one with some confidence, knowing the reigning premiers have beaten them just once in the last four outings.

Tip: Tri Bet 24.5, Richmond -24.5 @ $2.80

West Coast Eagles v North Melbourne @ Optus Stadium

Monday 12th July, 19:40 (AEST)

West CoastNorth Melbourne
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Hurn, Barrass, ColeBWalker, McKay, Turner
HBSheppard, McGovern, DugganHBZiebell, Tarrant, Hall
CGaff, Kelly, CrippsCDumont, Simpkin, McDonald
HFSheed, Darling, RyanHFStephenson, Larkey, Davies-Uniacke
FAllen, Kennedy, LangdonFMahony, Zurhaar, Taylor
FOLNaitanui, Yeo, ShueyFOLGoldstein, Cunnington, Thomas
I/C (from)Edwards, Vardy, Petruccelle, O’Neill, Foley, Nelson, Rotham, Ah CheeI/C (from)Scott, Polec, Atley, Phillips, Walker, Lazzaro, Xerri, Campbell

 

History: Played 51: West Coast Eagles 29 v North Melbourne 22

Last Meeting: AFL Round 18, 2020: North Melbourne (34) def by West Coast (49)

Final Thoughts: It’s not a stretch to say the Eagles 92-point defeat to Sydney in Round 16 was one of the worst performances of the season. Going in equal on points, pre-match markets could hardly split the two sides. But Adam Simpson’s side resembled witches hats as the young Swans ran rings around his side, who lost their second game by 90+ points at GMHBA Stadium in 2021. The result is damning for two reasons; it’s not only an eight-point swing to a Top 8 rival, but was also a huge hit to their percentage (now down to just 95.3), which given could determine finals spots given the close nature of mid-ladder sides. As such, back in familiar surrounds, they’ll be desperate for a big win on Monday night.

That mightn’t be an easy task, however, given that North have tightened up well (defensively) in recent months. The bottom-placed Kangaroos have not lost by over 30 points since Round 6. It ensures that, despite starting as outsiders, a blowout could be unlikely.

Tip: Margin, West Coast 1-39 @ $2.00