The final round of the home-and-away season sees four clubs battle it out for two remaining AFL Finals. With it all on the line, who will seize their chance?

North Melbourne v West Coast Eagles @ Metricon Stadium

Thursday 17th September, 19:10 (AEST)

North MelbourneWest Coast
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
E.Vickers-Willis, R.Tarrant, F.PerezBT.Cole, T.Barrass, B.Sheppard
HBS.Atley, B.McKay, L.McDonaldHBS.Hurn, W.Schofield, L.Duggan
CB.Scott, J.Simpkin, J.PolecCJ.Nelson, D.Sheed, J.Waterman
HFC.Zurhaar, J.Walker, J.ZiebellHFB.Ah Chee, J.Darling, J.Petruccelle
FT.Garner, N.Larkey, S.HigginsFO.Allen, J.Kennedy, L.Ryan
FOLT.Goldstein, J.Anderson, T.DumontFOLN.Naitanui, T.Kelly, A.Gaff
I/CL.Davies-Uniacke, S.Durdin, T.Murphy, A.HallI/CL.Foley, B.Williams, B.Ainsworth, J.Rotham


History:
Played 50: North Melbourne 22 v West Coast 28

Last Meeting: AFL Round 19, 2019: West Coast 18.13 (121) def North Melbourne 10.12 (72)

Final Thoughts: Top 4 is still a possibility for the Eagles, but they’ll need to both win this one and rely on either Geelong or Richmond to lose. Given those two clubs play the lowly Swans and Crows, it’s likely Adam Simpson’s men will remain in fifth either way, a result that would see them host an elimination final in Perth in a fortnight. Speaking of finals, the Eagles are hopeful the likes of Jeremy McGovern, Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo, Jack Redden and Mark Hutchings will be back for week one of the finals. None of those will play this week, although they’re hopeful of Dom Sheed and Brendon Ah Chee getting a game in before the pre-finals break.

There’s very little to play for for North Melbourne, however they are — all of a sudden — a wooden spoon chance. After losing their last seven games in a row Rhyce Shaw’s side are now on equal points with 18th-placed Adelaide, who by contrast have won three on the bounce. Even if neither side win this weekend, a heavy loss to the Roos could see them consigned to football’s most unwanted prize.

Tip: Margin: West Coast by 40+ @ $2.10

St Kilda v GWS Giants @ Gabba

Friday 18th September, 19:50 (AEST)

St KildaGWS
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
J.Carlisle, D.Howard, C.WilkieBC.Idun, L.Keeffe, H.Shaw
HBN.Coffield, J.Battle, B.LongHBL.Whitfield, N.Haynes, Z.Williams
CD.Hannebery, S.Ross, B.HillCJ.Kelly, J.Hopper, H.Perryman
HFJ.Billings, T.Membrey, D.ButlerHFJ.Cameron, J.Riccardi, M.de Boer
FM.King, R.Marshall, J.GearyFT.Greene, J.Finlayson, B.Daniels
FOLP.Ryder, J.Steele, H.ClarkFOLS.Mumford, S.Coniglio, T.Taranto
I/CD.Kent, J.Sinclair, B.Paton, J.LonieI/CD.Lloyd, J.Buckley, T.Green, C.Idun


History:
Played 10: GWS 5 v St Kilda 4 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 7, 2019: GWS 18.6 (114) def St Kilda 10.10 (70)

Final Thoughts: Despite three losses in their last four games, the Saints are still likely to make the finals. And their price reflects that, currently $1.14 with Palmerbet to remain inside the Top 8. But the fact is, their finals hopes shouldn’t be hanging in the balance. And a heavy defeat to the Giants on Friday night could see them spectacularly pushed out. A minor hamstring strain means they’ll go into this one without gun midfielder Zak Jones, too.

Leon Cameron’s men need a lot to go right in the final round to squeeze into the Top 8 (currently $10 to do so with Palmerbet). They not only need a big win over the Saints here, but for the Dogs to lose to Fremantle and Melbourne to Essendon. There’s a chance they could leapfrog the Dees even if they win, but that would require a huge win here over St Kilda, a prospect that appears unlikely.

Tip: Margin: St Kilda by 1-39 @ $2.00

Essendon v Melbourne @ Metricon Stadium

Saturday 19th September, 14:10 (AEST)

EssendonMelbourne
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
J.Ridley, B.Zerk-Thatcher, M.GleesonBJ.Smith, S.May, M.Hibberd
HBD.Smith, M.Hurley, A.SaadHBT.Rivers, J.Lever, C.Salem
CT.Cutler, Z.Merrett, B.HamCE.Langdon, C.Petracca, A.vandenBerg
HFW.Snelling, J.Stewart, M.GuelfiHFJ.Hunt, S.Weideman, A.Neal-Bullen
FJ.Stringer, J.Daniher, A.McDonald-TipungwutiFK.Pickett, M.Brown, C.Spargo
FOLS.Draper, D.Shiel, D.ParishFOLM.Gawn, J.Viney, C.Oliver
I/CJ.Laverde, M.Redman, D.Clarke, K.LangfordI/CJ.Melksham, A.Tomlinson, B.Fritsch, O.Baker


History:
Played 215: Essendon 130 v Melbourne 83 (2 draws)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 3, 2019: Melbourne 18.4 (112) def by Essendon 20.10 (130)

Final Thoughts: Like the Giants, Melbourne need several things to go right in their last-ditch attempt at finals footy in 2020. They not only need to beat the Dons on Saturday afternoon, but rely on both the Western Bulldogs falling to Fremantle and St Kilda to GWS. Even if the Saints lose, they could still squeeze in with their superior percentage to the Dees (111.4% to 106.2%), meaning Simon Goodwin’s side not only need to win here, but win big.

The Dons are in freefall, having won just once in their last nine games. After a Round 8 win over the Crows to go 5-3, John Worsfold’s side were $2.10 chances for finals footy in 2020. Since then it’s been a season to forget, and one that has made clear that big changes are needed. Pride, primarily, is on the line in this one.

Tip: Line: Melbourne -12.5 @ $1.90

Adelaide v Richmond @ Adelaide Oval

Saturday 19th September, 17:10 (AEST)

AdelaideRichmond
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
L.Brown, D.Talia, J.KellyBD.Astbury, D.Grimes, N.Balta
HBB.Smith, K.Hartigan, A.McPhersonHBL.Baker, N.Vlastuin, B.Houli
CD.Mackay, M.Crouch, L.ShollCK.McIntosh, J.Graham, M.Pickett
HFH.Schoenberg, E.Himmelberg, T.LynchHFJ.Aarts, K.Lambert, D.Martin
FT.Stengle, T.Walker, S.McAdamFM.Chol, J.Riewoldt, J.Castagna
FOLR.O‘Brien, R.Sloane, R.LairdFOLT.Nankervis, S.Edwards, T.Cotchin
I/CC.Jones, B.Crouch, B.Keays, D.FogartyI/CJ.Caddy, J.Short, D.Rioli, J.Ross

 

History: Played 39: Adelaide 25 v Richmond 14

Last Meeting: AFL Round 13, 2019: Adelaide 15.11 (101) def Richmond 9.14 (68)

Final Thoughts: After a dominant win over flag favourites Geelong on Friday night, the Tigers stole the tag back and are now the most favoured side (currently $3.40) to take out the ultimate prize in 2020. The win all but assured a Top 4 finish, too, as Damien Hardwick’s men need only a win to remain in third. After a stint in quarantine Shane Edwards is a big chance to return against the Crows, while the likes of David Astbury, Dion Prestia and Tom Lynch will aim for week one of the finals.

The Crows could spectacularly avoid the wooden spoon with an upset win here, but it’s a prospect even coach Matthew Nicks would admit is unlikely. However should they avoid a heavy defeat and North Melbourne are thrashed by the Eagles, they may yet avoid the AFL’s most unwanted prize.

Tip: To kick 2+ goals: Dustin Martin (Rich) @ $2.50

Brisbane Lions v Carlton @ Gabba

Saturday 19th September, 19:40 (AEST)

BrisbaneCarlton
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
D.Rich, D.Gardiner, J.PayneBT.Williamson, L.Jones, K.Simpson
HBZ.Bailey, R.Lester, G.BirchallHBS.Petrevski-Seton, J.Weitering, L.Plowman
CH.McCluggage, M.Robinson, C.Ah CheeCM.Murphy, P.Cripps, J.Newnes
HFD.Zorko, D.McStay, C.RaynerHFM.McGovern, L.Casboult, J.Martin
FO.McInerney, E.Hipwood, C.CameronFM.Gibbons, H.McKay, E.Betts
FOLS.Martin, J.Lyons, L.NealeFOLM.Pittonet, M.Kennedy, S.Walsh
I/CL.McCarthy, K.Coleman, C.Ellis-Yolmen, B.StarcevichI/CC.Polson, E.Curnow, T.De Koning, D.Cunningham


History:
Played 34: Brisbane 18 v Carlton 16

Last Meeting: AFL Round 12, 2019: Carlton 11.12 (78) def Brisbane 9.9 (63)

Final Thoughts: A week ago this was shaping as a Top 8 decider, with the Blues seemingly going down to the last round of the season to squeeze into the finals. But as they’ve done regularly this season, they failed when the pressure was on and were completely outgunned by bottom-placed Adelaide in Round 17. As a result, that loss means little is ‘on the line’ in this one; Carlton relegated to yet another finals-less season. They will however be looking to send off Kade Simpson (who has played the third-most games ever in the navy blue) in style.

The Lions are assured of a top-two spot and a home qualifying final at the Gabba, but could snatch the minor premiership provided they win this and Port Adelaide fall to Collingwood. Primarily Chris Fagan will see this as a vital pre-finals tuneup.

Tip: Line: Carlton +25.5 @ $4.90

Hawthorn v Gold Coast Suns @ Adelaide Oval

Sunday 20th September, 13:05 (AEST)

HawthornGold Coast
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Blake Hardwick, Ben Stratton, Shaun BurgoyneBJ.Harbrow, S.Collins, J.Bowes
HBJames Cousins, Sam Frost, Chad WingardHBJ.Lukosius, C.Ballard, W.Powell
CBen McEvoy, Jaeger O’Meara, Jack ScrimshawCJ.Sharp, H.Greenwood, B.Ellis
HFLuke Breust, Mitch Lewis, Harry MorrisonHFB.Ainsworth, B.King, J.Corbett
FPaul Puopolo, Tim O’Brien, Jack GunstonFA.Sexton, S.Day, I.Rankine
FOLJonathon Ceglar, Liam Shiels, Tom MitchellFOLJ.Witts, D.Swallow, T.Miller
I/C (from)Damon Greaves, Will Day, James Frawley, Dylan MooreI/C (from)L.Weller, N.Anderson, C.Graham, J.Farrar

 

History: Played 12: Hawthorn 10 v Gold Coast 2

Last Meeting: AFL Round 22, 2019: Hawthorn 18.10 (118) def Gold Coast 7.6 (48)

Final Thoughts: After seven losses in a row, can the Hawks finish the season on a (somewhat) high note against the Suns? It’s been Hawthorn’s most disappointing season for many years and, win or lose here, will be their worst finish since 2004 when they finished 15th. Coach Alastair Clarkson knows he has some huge calls to make in the off-season, some he has already forecasted. But that’s to come; here and now, the fans would simply like to sing the song for the first time since July.

Similarly, the Suns have won just one of their last nine and would love to bag another four points. Their upside, of course, is much higher than at Hawthorn, with a number of young kids showing hugely positive signs throughout the course of 2020. A one to watch in 2021, a year in which there’ll be no more excuses if they can’t make their first ever finals series.

In perhaps the toughest game to pick in AFL Round 18, I’m opting for the Suns to claim a sixth win of 2020. But I’m also using my Game Saver token should they be overrun in the final term.

Tip: H2H: Gold Coast @ $1.68

Sydney Swans v Geelong @ Metricon Stadium

Sunday 20th September, 15:35 (AEST)

SydneyGeelong
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
C.Mills, A.Aliir, H.CunninghamBJ.Bews, H.Taylor, J.Kolodjashnij
HBJ.Thurlow, L.Melican, J.LloydHBJ.Henry, M.Blicavs, T.Stewart
CD.Stephens, J.Kennedy, N.BlakeyCZ.Tuohy, J.Selwood, S.Menegola
HFJ.McInerney, S.Reid, W.HaywardHFL.Dahlhaus, G.Rohan, J.Steven
FBell, T.McCartin, J.RowbottomFM.O’Connor, T.Hawkins, G.Ablett Jnr
FOLC.Sinclair, LParker, T.PapleyFOLE.Ratugolea, P.Dangerfield, B.Parfitt
I/C (from)O.Florent, J.Dawson, R.Clarke, R.FoxI/C (from)L.Henderson, M.Duncan, G.Miers, C.Guthrie

History: Played 225: Sydney 101 v Geelong 124

Last Meeting: AFL Round 19, 2019: Sydney 12.8 (80) def by Geelong 16,.11 (107)

Final Thoughts: The Cats start as strong favourites against the Swans but likely won’t move from their current position in fourth even with a win gere (unless Adelaide does the unthinkable and upsets flag favourites Richmond). That sets up a qualifying final against either Brisbane or Port Adelaide in a fortnight. This clash, though, could prove crucial in getting time into the legs of players who might prove crucial in the upcoming finals. Joel Selwood is one of those, while the likes of Gary Rohan, Rhys Stanley and Jack Steven are all currently listed as ‘test’ for Sunday.

The Swans got to within two points of the Lions in the final term on Sunday night but were swiftly put away after that. The performance showed the inconsistency of youth; in fact, in all but one of their games this season, the Bloods have been younger than their opposition. This is another opportunity for those youngsters to test themselves against the best.

Tip: Line: Sydney +25.5 @ $1.90

Fremantle v Western Bulldogs @ Cazaly’s Stadium

Sunday 20th September, 18:10 (AEST)

FremantleWestern Bulldogs
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Reece Conca, Brennan Cox, Nathan WilsonBEaston Wood, Alex Keath, Caleb Daniel
HBStephen Hill, Luke Ryan, Taylin DumanHBBailey Williams, Ryan Gardner, Hayden Crozier
CAdam Cerra, Nat Fyfe, James AishCBailey Smith, Jack Macrae, Jason Johannisen
HFDavid Mundy, Matt Taberner, Mitch CrowdenHFEd Richards, Josh Bruce, Mitch Wallis
FLachie Schultz, Rory Lobb, Jesse HoganFTom Liberatore, Aaron Naughton, Lachie Hunter
FOLSean Darcy, Caleb Serong, Andrew BrayshawFOLTim English, Marcus Bontempelli, Josh Dunkley
I/C (from)Michael Frederick, Blake Acres, Ethan Hughes, Liam HenryI/C (from)Zaine Cordy, Taylor Duryea, Pat Lipinski, Roarke Smith

 

History: Played 32: Fremantle 16 v Western Bulldogs 16

Last Meeting: AFL Round 19, 2019: Western Bulldogs 16.17 (113) def Fremantle 9.12 (66)

Final Thoughts: The Dogs will secure a finals spot with a win here — it’s that simple. Even a loss could see them through, provided the Saints beat the Giants and Essendon defeats Melbourne. Thankfully for coach Luke Beveridge, given those games precede this, he’ll know the predicament before the first bounce. Devastatingly, Toby McLean has ruptured his ACL and will miss not just the rest of 2020 but most of 2021, too. Easton Wood is a chance to return, however.

The Dockers, like many teams in AFL Round 18, will be playing for pride. But there’s a real sense of optimism around the team under Justin Longmuir, with 2020 proving a productive one in developing key young talent. Don’t discount the Dockers to cause an upset here.

Tip: Winning Margin: Western Bulldogs by 1-24pts @ $2.50

Collingwood v Port Adelaide @ Gabba

Monday 21st September, 19:15 (AEST)

CollingwoodPort Adelaide
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Jack Crisp, Jordan Roughead, Jack MadgenBRiley Bonner, Trent McKenzie, Dan Houston
HBBrayden Maynard, Darcy Moore, John NobleHBHamish Hartlett, Tom Jonas, Darcy Byrne-Jones
CTyler Brown, Adam Treloar, Josh DaicosCXavier Duursma, Ollie Wines, Karl Amon
HFJamie Elliott, Brody Mihocek, Levi GreenwoodHFSam Powell-Pepper, Todd Marshall, Brad Ebert
FJosh Thomas, Mason Cox, Jordan De GoeyFConnor Rozee, Charlie Dixon, Robbie Gray
FOLBrodie Grundy, Taylor Adams, Scott PendelburyFOLScott Lycett, Tom Rockliff, Travis Boak
I/C (from)Jaidyn Stephenson, Isaac Quaynor, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Travis VarcoeI/C (from)Steven Motlop, Peter Ladhams, Boyd Woodcock, Jarrod Lienert

 

History: Played 31: Collingwood 16 v Port Adelaide 15

Last Meeting: AFL Round 7, 2019: Collingwood 15.18 (108) def Port Adelaide 10.9 (69)

Final Thoughts: Port Adelaide will sew up the minor premiership with a win against the Pies, completing a dominant AFL home-and-away season. But fans and even coach Ken Hinkley have lamented the lack of respect given by the media for excluding his side from the key contenders for this year’s flag. While not so much ‘excluded’, the Power aren’t considered in the top three favourites for this season’s premiership (currently at $6.50 with Palmerbet). Mitch Georgiades is a 50-50 chance to return from a hamstring strain, although they won’t take any risks on the eve of the finals.

The Pies looked a remarkably more damaging side with Jordan De Goey back and Mason Cox firing against the Suns. Of course, there’s bigger challenges to come (this being the first of them) but the signs were strong. The club are confident all of Jeremy Howe, Chris Mayne, Tom Phillips and Brayden Sier will be available for finals but similarly are unlikely to risk them in this one.

Tip: To get 20+ disposals: John Noble (Coll) @ $2.10