Round 4 the 2021 AFL season already appears the toughest one yet for punters, with tough-to-split games across the board.

Sydney v Essendon @ SCG

Thursday 8th April, 19:20 (AEST)

H.Cunningham, D.Rampe, B.CampbellBJ.Laverde, B.Zerk-Thatcher, A.Francis
HBJ.Dawson, T.McCartin, J.LloydHBH.Jones, J.Ridley, N.Hind
CO.Florent, L.Parker, N.BlakeyCK.Langford, D.Heppell, B.Ham
HFI.Heeney, L.McDonald, S.WicksHFD.Smith, C.Hooker, Z.Merrett
FT.Papley, L.Franklin, S.ReidFJ.Stringer, P.Wright, A.McDonald-Tipungwuti
FOLT.Hickey, C.Mills, J.KennedyFOLN.Cox, D.Parish, A.McGrath
I/CG.Hewett, C.Warner, J.McInerney, E.GuldenI/CW.Snelling, M.Guelfi, A.Perkins, A.Waterman

Played 223: Sydney 89 v Essendon 133 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 2, 2020: Sydney (73) def by Essendon (79)

Final Thoughts: Both of these clubs were $4+ outsiders in Round 3 yet ran out convincing winners; the Swans by 45 points against premiers Richmond and the Bombers (incredibly) 75-point victors over finals hopefuls St Kilda. Those results create a greater buzz around this contest but the truth is, Sydney start as strong favourites. The young Bloods outfit have shortened in Palmerbet’s AFL Premiership market from $51 into $11 in an explosive start to the season that few expected.

It’s hard to say what the ceiling is for John Longmire’s side in 2021, but finals now appear the bare minimum. They welcome back Buddy Franklin for this one, with James Rowbottom also a strong chance of returning. For the Bombers, Dyson Heppell is a chance to return should he get through training this week.

Tip: Margin: Sydney 1-39 @ $2.20

Port Adelaide v Richmond @ Adelaide Oval

Friday 9th April, 19:50 (AEST)

Port AdelaideRichmond
R.Burton, T.Clurey, D.HoustonBD.Astbury, N.Balta, D.Grimes
HBA.Aliir, T.Jonas, D.Byrne-JonesHBL.Baker, J.Short, B.Houli
CX.Duursma, O.Wines, K.AmonCS.Edwards, T.Cotchin, M.Pickett
HFO.Fantasia, M.Georgiades, S.MotlopHFJ.Aarts, K.Lambert, J.Castagna
FZ.Butters, C.Dixon, R.GrayFT.Lynch, D.Martin, J.Riewoldt
FOLS.Lycett, W.Drew, T.BoakFOLT.Nankervis, W.Martyn, J.Graham
I/CH.Hartlet, C.Rozee, T.Marshall, L.JonesI/CS.Bolton, R.Mansell, J.Ross, N.Broad

Played 34: Port Adelaide 19 v Richmond 14 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL Preliminary Final, 2020: Port Adelaide (40) def by Richmond (46)

Final Thoughts: In contrast with the Swans and Bombers, both Richmond and Port Adelaide were completely outclassed in Round 3. Moving forward, it’s hard to know the impact those dismantlings will have on the respective playing groups — Richmond have overcome far bigger obstacles, while Port too should brush it aside as an off-day in a tough environment in the West. In short? Both will be fine.

But the news isn’t great on the injury front for the Tigers, with Dion Prestia set to miss a month and follow-up scans putting Nick Vlaustin (knee) back another four weeks, too. Kamdyn McIntosh faces the mandatory 12 days out with concussion. By contrast Port are experiencing a relatively good run with injuries, but might consider swapping Peter Ladhams in the ruck.

Tip: Line: Port Adelaide -8.5 @ $1.90

Western Bulldogs v Brisbane Lions @ Mars Stadium

Saturday 10th April, 13:35 (AEST)

Western BulldogsBrisbane 
B.Williams, A.Keath, C.DanielBR.Lester, H.Andrews, D.Gardiner
HBT.Duryea, E.Wood, B.DaleHBD.Rich, G.Birchall, B.Starcevich
CL.Vandermeer, B.Smith, L.HunterCJ.Berry, L.Neale, H.McCluggage
HFA.Treloar, A.Naughton, J.DunkleyHFM.Robinson, E.Hipwood, Z.Bailey
FT.English, J.Bruce, M.BontempelliFC.Cameron, J.Daniher, D.Zorko
FOLS.Martin, J.Macrae, T.LiberatoreFOLO.McInerney, J.Lyons, L.McCarthy
I/CA.Scott, J.Johannisen, L.McNeil, P.LipinskiI/CD.Robertson, T.Berry, T.Fullarton, M.Adams

Played 57: Western Bulldogs 33 v Brisbane 24

Last Meeting: AFL Round 11, 2020: Brisbane (96) def Western Bulldogs (72)

Final Thoughts: It’s hard to underestimate just how big Brisbane’s ‘sliding doors’ moment was against Collingwood last week. Had Zac Bailey missed his after-the-siren shot for goal, Chris Fagan’s side would have slumped to a 0-3 start, meaning they’d likely need to win 12 of their next 19 games to guarantee a 2021 AFL Finals spot. Instead, they’re a more respectable 1-2 and more importantly, the weight on their shoulders has lessened. Nevertheless, they face a rampaging Dogs outfit who are coming off their biggest ever win.

This is probably the biggest ever AFL clash in Ballarat, with the outcome carrying real weight. Who Fagan sends Harris Andrews to will be on the game’s most interesting matchups; the high-marking Aaron Naughton or Josh Bruce, coming off a 10-goal haul?

Tip: Winning Margin: Western Bulldogs 1-24 @ $3.30

St Kilda v West Coast Eagles @ Marvel Stadium

Saturday 10th April, 16:35 (AEST)

St KildaWest Coast
J.Carlisle, D.Howard, C.WilkieBB.Sheppard, T.Barrass, S.Hurn
HBJ.Webster, J.Sinclair, H.ClarkHBT.Cole, J.McGovern, J.Nelson
CJ.Billings, Z.Jones, B.HillCL.Duggan, D.Sheed, J.Redden
HFT.Membrey, J.Higgins, D.ButlerHFJ.Cripps, J.Darling, J.Brander
FS.Ross, M.King, J.BattleFL.Ryan, J.Kennedy, O.Allen
FOLR.Marshall, B.Crouch, J.SteeleFOLN.Naitanui, T.Kelly, A.Gaff
I/CN.Coffield, J.Lonie, J.Bytel, D.McKenzieI/CJ.Waterman, J.Petruccelle, J.Rotham, J.Jones


History: Played 50: St Kilda 18 v West Coast 31 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 17, 2020: St Kilda (50) def by West Coast (65)

Final Thoughts: Just what has happened to the Saints? Blasted as ‘embarrassing’ by coach Brett Ratten and legend Nick Riewoldt, it seems inconceivable the side who were touted as Top 4 fancies just three weeks ago could lose by 75 points to a young Bombers outfit. All of a sudden, they’re staring down the barrel of a 1-3 start, with a big question hanging over their finals aspirations. Despite being a home, they start this one as $3+ outsiders. They’re in desperate need of Rowan Marshall’s return, who is touch-and-go.

The Eagles, by contrast, send a huge warning shot to the competition last week that they might just be the most difficult club to topple at home in 2021. The only downside is skipper Luke Shuey’s repeated hamstring injury, of which they’re still unsure of the severity.

Tip: Line: St Kilda +17.5 @ $1.90

Gold Coast Suns v Carlton @ Metricon Stadium

Saturday 10th April, 19:25 (AEST)

Gold CoastCarlton
J.Bowes, S.Collins, S.LemmensBL.Plowman, L.Jones, L.Parks
HBO.Markov, C.Ballard, J.LukosiusHBS.Docherty, J.Weitering, A.Saad
CB.Ellis, D.Swallow, N.AndersonCS.Walsh, P.Cripps, M.Cottrell
HFA.Sexton, N.Holman, W.PowellHFM.Murphy, L.Casboult, P.Dow
FI.Rankine, B.King, D.MacPhersonFM.Gibbons, H.McKay, E.Betts
FOLC.Burgess, B.Ainsworth, T.MillerFOLM.Pittonet, L.Fogarty, E.Curnow
I/CC.Graham, H.Greenwood, J.Harbrow, L.WellerI/CS.Petrevski-Seton, W.Setterfield, J.Newnes, J.Silvagni

Played 13: Gold Coast 5 v Carlton 8

Last Meeting: AFL Round 13, 2020: Gold Coast (27) def by Carlton (60)

Final Thoughts: Probably the toughest match of Round 4 for punters. Carlton weathered a brewing storm on Sunday with a comprehensive win over the Dockers that kept the critics at bay — for now, at least. If David Teague’s men are to play finals footy in 2021, they need to consistently defeat mid-ladder sides, of which Gold Coast are one. They could welcome back tall Mitch McGovern, who proved his fitness last week.

One could argue the pressure is equally on Stuart Dew’s Gold Coast outfit who, like the Blues, are sitting 1-2. At home in this one, they too need victories in these clashes if they’re a chance of a first ever AFL Finals spot. An ACL injury to skipper Jarrod Witts puts Dew in a difficult situation with an empty ruck cupboard, and he’ll need whoever replaces him to simply be competitive.

Tip: To score 2+ goals: Michael Gibbons (Carl) @ $2.25

Collingwood v GWS Giants @ MCG

Saturday 10th April, 19:25 (AEST)

CollingwoodGWS Giants
B.Maynard, J.Roughead, I.QuaynorBS.Taylor, L.Keeffe, M.Buntine
HBJ.Madgen, D.Moore, J.HoweHBI.Cumming, N.Haynes, C.Idun
CJ.Crisp, S.Pendlebury, C.MayneCJ.Kelly, T.Green, L.Ash
HFJ.Daicos, B.Mihocek, J.De GoeyHFT.Taranto, T.Greene, J.Finlayson
FW.Hoskin-Elliott, M.Cox, J.ThomasFB.Hill, H.Himmelberg, B.Daniels
FOLB.Grundy, T.Adams, S.SidebottomFOLS.Mumford, J.Hopper, C.Ward
I/C (from)C.Brown, B.McCreery, J.Noble, B.SierI/C (from)J.Buckley, C.Stone, J.Riccardi, X.O’Halloran


History: Played 11: Collingwood 6 v GWS 5

Last Meeting: AFL Round 4, 2020: GWS (66) def Collingwood 64

Final Thoughts: Just what has gone wrong at the Giants? Since a 2019 Grand Final dismantling by Richmond, Leon Cameron’s side have lost 12 of their next 20 games (including a 0-3 start this season). While their form has been poor, injuries certainly haven’t helped. And now they’ll have to play at least the next six weeks without skipper Stephen Coniglio, Phil Davis and Matt de Boer. The lack of experience and class means they will rely heavily on the likes of Toby Greene to drag them over the line.

The Pies start as strong favourites in this one and should bag their second win of the year — something that should have happened last week.

Tip: Total Points: Under 160.5 @ $1.88

North Melbourne v Adelaide @ Marvel Stadium

Sunday 11th April, 13:10 (AEST)

North MelbourneAdelaide
A.Bonar, B.Cmkay, S.AtleyBJ.Kelly, J.Butts, L.Brown
HBJ.Ziebell, J.Walker, L.McDonaldHBT.Doedee, B.Smith, W.Hamill
CJ.Simpkin, L.Davies-Uniacke, T.PowellCL.Sholl, B.Keays, P.Seedsman
HFC.Lazzaro, C.Zurhaar, T.ThomasHFJ.Rowe, B.Frampton, T.Lynch
FJ.Mahony, N.Larkey, J.StephensonFS.McAdam, T.Walker, L.Murphy
FOLT.Goldstein, B.Cunnington, W.PhillipsFOLR.O’Brien, R.Laird, S.Berry
I/C (from)B.Scott, K.Turner, K.Hayden, A.HallI/C (from)N.McHenry, H.Schoenberg, D.Fogarty, A.McPherson


History: Played 45: North Melbourne 22 v Adelaide 23

Last Meeting: AFL Round 9, 2020: North Melbourne (119) def Adelaide (50)

Final Thoughts: Few would have thought that, less than a month into the 2021 AFL season, last year’s wooden spooners Adelaide would be heavy favourites in a game away from home. But here we are, in Round 4, and the Crows are heavily-backed to defy the critics and start the year 3-1. The head-to-head odds (of which Adelaide are currently favoured $1.30) are both a reflection of Matthew Nicks’ impressive start to 2021, as they are North Melbourne’s horrific opening month.

Smashed by 128 points to the Dogs on Good Friday, the only way is up for beleaguered first-year coach David Noble. A number of North players are touch-and-go for this one (Aiden Bonar, Jed Anderson, Luke McDonald, Curtis Taylor), and North will likely give them all week to prove their fitness.

Tip: Total Points: Under 180.5 @ $1.88

Melbourne v Geelong @ MCG

Sunday 11th April, 15:20 (AEST)

N.Jetta, S.May, J.LeverBLachie Henderson, Mark Blicavs, Jed Bews
HBJ.Hunt, A.Tomlinson, T.RiversHBTom Atkins, Tom Stewart, Jake Kolodjashnij
CA.Brayshaw, C.Oliver, E.LangdonCIsaac Smith, Mark O’Connor, Zach Tuohy
HFK.Pickett, T.McDonald, A.Neal-BullenHFMitch Duncan, Gryan Miers, Luke Dahlhaus
FC.Spargo, L.Jackson, B.FritschFSam Menegola, Tom Hawkins, Brad Close
FOLM.Gawn, C.Petracca, J.VineyFOLRhys Stanley, Cameron Guthrie, Joel Selwood
I/C (from)N.Jones, C.Salem, J.Melksham, J.JordonI/C (from)I/C: Jack Henry, Brandan Parfitt, Jordan Clark, Zach Guthrie


History: Played 219: Melbourne 85 v Geelong 132 (2 draws)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 4, 2020: Melbourne (44) def by Geelong (47)

Final Thoughts: The Dees have started superbly in 2021 and, along with the Swans, are the second unexpected 3-0 starters. But after wins against the Dockers, Saints and Giants, this is their first real test. How will Simon Goodwin’s side stand up against a battle-hardened Cats outfit? They’re likely to go in with the same side as against the Giants, although Jake Melksham could squeeze his way in.

Geelong were far from impressive in their Easter Monday clash against the Hawks but, like most good sides, put the four points in the bag and moved on. Their ball movement was conservative and slow, and the Dees could look to exploit that. Sam Menegola (shoulder) should return.

Tip: Margin: Geelong 1-39 @ $2.30

Fremantle v Hawthorn @ Optus Stadium

Sunday 11th April, 16:40 (AEDT)

Ethan Hughes, Brennan Cox, Tobe WatsonBSam Frost, Kyle Hartigan, Changkuoth Jiath
HBReece Conca, Luke Ryan, Nathan WilsonHBJarman Impey, Blake Hardwick, Michael Hartley
CAdam Cerra, Andrew Brayshaw, Blake AcresCDylan Moore, Jaeger O’Meara, Harry Morrison
HFTravis Colyer, Sean Darcy, Michael FrederickHFLuke Breust, Chad Wingard, Tim O’Brien
FJosh Treacy, Matt Taberner, Michael WaltersFTyler Brockman, Mitch Lewis, Dan Howe
FOLLloyd Meek, Nat Fyfe, David MundyFOLBen McEvoy, Tom Mitchell, James Worpel
I/C (from)Sam Sturt, James Aish, Caleb Serong, Heath ChapmanI/C (from)Jack Scrimshaw, Tom Phillips, Jonathon Ceglar, Liam Shiels


History: Played 37: Fremantle 9 v Hawthorn 28

Last Meeting: AFL Round 11, 2020: Fremantle (48) def Hawthorn (32)

Final Thoughts: It’s hard to escape the fact that, on current evidence, Fremantle have plateaued in 2021. Yes, they have a rough injury list at present. But so have many other clubs, and they simply haven’t been competitive enough in two of their opening three games. The sluggish start has seen them move from $3.75 finals hopes, out to $4.20. In good news, however, two-time Brownlow Medalist Nat Fyfe appears on track to return on Sunday after a nasty concussion in Round 2.

The Hawks came hard late at the Cats on Easter Monday but ran out of time to force a win at the MCG. While there were many promising signs, the early evidence this season is that the Hawks will do well to exceed eight wins in 2021. This, however, could very well be one of those.

Tip: Margin: Fremantle 1-39 @ $2.10