Here we go: 33 games in 19 days of wall-to-wall footy. AFL season 2020 is certainly a strange one, but it’s arguably the most open we’ve ever seen it.

Western Bulldogs v Richmond @ Metricon Stadium

Wednesday 29th July, 19:10 (AEST)

Western BulldogsRichmond
E.Wood, A.Keath, C.DanielBN.Broad, D.Grimes, N.Balta
HBB.Williams, Z.Cordy, H.CrozierHBJ.Short, L.Baker, D.Eggmolesse-Smith
CJ.Johannisen, J.Macrae, P.LipinskiCK.McIntosh, S.Stack, M.Pickett
HFT.McLean, M.Bontempelli, L.VandermeerHFJ.Aarts, K.Lambert, J.Castagna
FM.Wallis, J.Bruce, S.LloydFD.Martin, T.Lynch, J.Riewoldt
FOLT.English, T.Liberatore, B.SmithFOLI.Soldo, S.Bolton, T.Cotchin
I/CM.Suckling, C.Weightman, E.Richards, B.GowersI/CO.Markov, M.Chol, J.Higgins, J.Ross

Played 155: Western Bulldogs 74 v Richmond 79 (2 draws)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 7, 2019: Western Bulldogs 15.9 (99) def Richmond 7.10 (52)

Final Thoughts: The Tigers can probably count themselves unlucky in their narrow loss last week to the Giants. “If that game was played 100 times over,” Terry Wallace said in the aftermath, “with the way the game was played I think Richmond would have won it 98 times out of 100.” But they didn’t, and coach Damien Hardwick needs more out of key forwards Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch. The pair have kicked 19 goals between them despite playing all eight games this season. Thankfully for Hardwick, they welcome back skipper Trent Cotchin after three weeks out.

The Dogs have won four of their last five and are showing signs they’ll play finals footy again this season. But despite having won five of their last six against the Tigers, they go into this one as marginal outsiders.

Tip: Line: Richmond -2.5 @ $1.90

Melbourne v Port Adelaide @ Gabba

Thursday 30th July, 19:50 (AEST)

MelbournePort Adelaide
J.Lockhart, O.McDonald, J.LeverBS.Mayes, T.Clurey, J.Lienert
HBC.Salem, S.May, M.HibberdHBH.Hartlett, T.Jonas, D.Byrne-Jones
CE.Langdon, C.Oliver, T.SparrowCX.Duursma, O.Wines, K.Amon
HFJ.Melksham, S.Weideman, A.BrayshawHFS.Powell-Pepper, B.Ebert, C.Rozee
FK.Pickett, M.Hannan, T.McDonaldFZ.Butters, C.Dixon, R.Gray
FOLM.Gawn, C.Petracca, J.VineyFOLP.Ladhams, D.Houston, T.Boak
I/CN.Jones, J.Harmes, L.Jackson, B. FritschI/CJ.Westhoff, T.Rockliff, K.Farrell, M.Georgiades

Played 34: Melbourne 13 v Port Adelaide 21

Last Meeting: AFL Round 1, 2019: Melbourne 9.7 (61) def by Port Adelaide 12.15 (87)

Final Thoughts: The Dees were oh-so-close to knocking off premiership fancies Brisbane on Sunday night, a late error costing them dearly. But there’s good signs for Simon Goodwin, who has seemingly got his side finally playing the footy most know they’re capable of. The Dees have some work to do and, at 3-4 in a shortened AFL season, will likely need to knock off one or two of the top four sides if they’re to seal finals action.

And it might be that Port Adelaide are ripe for the taking. Sure, Ken Hinkley’s side still occupy top spot on the ladder, but cracks began to appear in their final quarter mauling at the hands of St Kilda; on home turf no less. While they are deserved favourites to bounce back, don’t be surprised if they’re pushed all the way.

Tip: Total Points: Over 122.5 @ $1.88

Carlton v Hawthorn @ Optus Stadium

Friday 31st July, 17:40 (AEST)

L.Plowman, J.Weitering, K.SimpsonBB.Hardwick, J.Frawley, J.Sicily
HBS.Docherty, L.Jones, S.Petrevski-SetonHBJ.Impey, S.Frost, B.Stratton
CS.Walsh, P.Cripps, M.MurphyCT.Scully, J.O’Meara, I.Smith
HFJ.Martin, L.Casboult, M.GibbonsHFJ.Gunston, S.Burgoyne, C.Wingard
FE.Betts, H.McKay, D.CuninghamFW.Day, T.O’Brien, L.Shiels
FOLM.Pittonet, E.Curnow, W.SetterfieldFOLB.McEvoy, J.Worpel, T.Mitchell
I/CT.Williamson, J.Newnes, M.Kennedy, C.MooreI/CJ.Scrimshaw, J.Ceglar, H.Morrison, L.Breust

Played 167: Carlton 103 v Hawthorn 64

Last Meeting: AFL Round 6, 2019: Hawthorn 13.15 (93) def Carlton 13.10 (88)

Final Thoughts: Where to now for the Hawks? An ageing list, a cranky coach and poor on-field results suggest there’s some big decisions to make going forward. Besides a strong second quarter against the Swans (undone by a horror 30 seconds where they gifted two goals to Tom Papley) they were outplayed by the competition’s youngest side in a dour effort. And up against a Blues side which takes the game on, it’s unlikely their beleaguered defence will stand up top the task.

For David Teague’s side, they have a unique ability to keep sides in the game when they should have seen them off. Yet again they let North Melbourne back into the game last week despite a blistering start. It was the fourth time since the AFL season re-start they’ve given supporters a heart attack, where the game was decided by a single-figure margin. For that reason, it’s a good opportunity to use the Game Saver in this one.

Tip: H2H: Carlton @ $1.50

Essendon v Brisbane Lions @ Metricon Stadium

Friday 31st July, 20:10 (AEST)

A.Francis, B.Zerk-Thatcher, M.RedmanBC.Ah Chee, H.Andrews, D.Gardiner
HBJ.Ridley, M.Hurley, A.SaadHBA.Witherden, G.Birchall, B.Starcevich
CT.Cutler, D.Shiel, B.HamCM.Robinson, D.Zorko, H.McCluggage
HFW.Snelling, D.Zaharakis, D.ParishHFJ.Berry, C.Rayner, L.McCarthy
FA.McDonald-Tipungwuti, J.Townsend, D.SmithFZ.Bailey, E.Hipwood, C.Cameron
FOLS.Draper, Z.Merrett, A.McGrathFOLO.McInerney, J.Lyons, L.Neale
I/CT.Bellchambers, M.Gleeson, N.Cahill, J.StewartI/CS.Skinner, C.Ellis-Yolmen, C.Ballenden, N.Answerth


History: Played 31: Essendon 16 v Brisbane 14 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 4, 2019: Essendon 17.10 (112) def Brisbane 9.11 (65)

Final Thoughts: Both of these sides were given an almighty scare in Round 8 but, thankfully for both sets of supporters, emerged with four points in the bag. Essendon, while sitting nicely in the top 8 with a game in hand, have issues in their forward-50. Jake Stringer remains on the sidelines while Jayden Laverde, who has been superb in the last couple of weeks, remains in doubt after coming off against Adelaide. Once again, it will be left to the smalls and mids to kick the majors.

One would expect the Lions to improve of their effort against Melbourne. It was perhaps the sign of a good side that Chris Fagan gave them a stern talking to post-game, despite picking up four points. By contrast, their injury list is not extensive although will probably miss Daniel Rich (hamstring) for another week.

Tip: To get 20+ disposals: Darcy Parish (Ess) @ $1.83

North Melbourne v Adelaide Crows @ Metricon Stadium

Saturday 1st August, 14:35 (AEST)

North MelbourneAdelaide
J.Walker, R.Tarrant, L.McDonaldBR.Laird, D.Talia, L.Brown
HBS.Atley, B.McKay, K.HaydenHBW.Hamill, K.Hartigan, A.McPherson
CA.Hall, J.Simpkin, T.DumontCP.Seedsman, M.Crouch, B.Keays
HFC.Zurhaar, N.Larkey, B.ScottHFT.Lynch, E.Himmelberg, S.McAdam
FJ.Mahony, M.Daw, C.TaylorFT.Stengle, T.Walker, L.Murphy
FOLT.Goldstein, S.Higgins, J.AndersonFOLR.O’Brien, B.Smith, C.Jones
I/CL.Davies-Uniacke, A.Bonar, J.Pittard, J.MacmillanI/CR.Knight, B.Gibbs, J.Kelly, R.Atkins

Played 44: North Melbourne 21 v Adelaide 23

Last Meeting: AFL Round 4, 2019: North Melbourne 9.17 (71) def Adelaide 8.11 (59)

Final Thoughts: Both clubs were gallant in defeat last week. But ‘honourable losses’ only cut it for so long, and it’s high time the Crows get their first win of 2020. They arguably won’t get a better chance, coming up against a North side who have lost six in a row. However poorly North are travelling, though, it’s hard to see just how the Crows will kick a winning score. They haven’t kicked more than eight goals in any game since the season kicked off again after the COVID-enforced break.

Rhyce Shaw too is desperate for a win and can expect the pressure to intensify if they can’t get past the wooden spoon favourites. The Kangaroos have a fairly horrendous injury list, and will rely on depth players to get them through the 20-day, four-round football frenzy.

Tip: Margin: North Melbourne by 1-39 @ $1.83

St Kilda v Sydney Swans @ Gabba

Saturday 1st August, 17:10 (AEST)

St KildaSydney
J.Geary, D.Howard, J.CarlisleBJ.Dawson, D.Rampe, A.Aliir
HBH.Clark, C.Wilkie, B.PatonHBJ.Lloyd, R.Fox, C.Mills
CS.Ross, Z.Jones, J.BillingsCJ.Bell, J.Rowbottom, H.Cunningham
HFB.Hill, T.Membrey, J.BattleHFW.Hayward, T.McCartin, N.Blakey
FR.Marshall, M.King, D.ButlerFS.Gray, S.Reid, T.Papley
FOLP.Ryder, J.Steele, J.GreshamFOLC.Sinclair, L.Parker, O.Florent
I/C (from)N.Coffield, J.Sinclair, N.Hind, M.ParkerI/C (from)E.Taylor, L.Taylor, M.Ling, R.Clarke


History: Played 217: St Kilda 77 v Sydney 137 (3 draws)

Last Meeting: AFL Round 23, 2019: Sydney 17.7 (109) def St Kilda 8.16 (64)

Final Thoughts: A lot has changed since these clubs last faced off in the final round of last season. On that day, it was party time at the SCG as the Swans celebrated both Buddy Franklin’s 300th, plus the final ever game for premiership stars Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack (the injured Heath Grundy and Nick Smith were also chaired off), thumping the Saints by 45 points. But the Bloods lost 1048 games of experience that day, and are now going down a youth path that paid dividends last week against the Hawks.

The Saints, however, are the real news story. In knocking off ladder leaders Port Adelaide last week, they’ve moved into $1.83 to make the finals – the shortest price they’ve been in years. St Kilda haven’t finished in the top eight since 2011, and they appeared primed to break the nine-year drought in 2020. A fortnight ago they had to break a 10-game losing streak against Adelaide and they’re going to have to do so again, having also lost to the Swans on the last 10 occasions. Expect them to get the job done, however.

Tip: Line: Sydney +15.5 @ $1.90

West Coast v Geelong @ Optus Stadium

Saturday 1st August, 20:10 (AEST)

West CoastGeelong
L.Duggan, T.Barrass, S.HurnBM.O’Connor, M.Blicavs, J.Kolodjashnij
HBB.Sheppard, H.Edwards, T.ColeHBJ.Henry, H.Taylor, T.Stewart
CD.Sheed, T.Kelly, A.GaffCS.Menegola, P.Dangerfield, L.Fogarty
HFJ.Cripps, J.Darling, J.CameronHFM.Duncan, T.Hawkins, G.Miers
FJ.Waterman, J.Kennedy, L.RyanFS.Simpson, G.Rohan, B.Close
FOLN.Naitanui, E.Yeo, L.ShueyFOLE.Ratugolea, C.Guthrie, B.Parfitt
I/C (from)O.Allen, J.Nelson, B.Ainsworth, B.Ah CheeI/C (from)J.Bews, L.Henderson, C.Constable, Z.Tuohy

Played 53: West Coast 26 v Geelong 26 (1 draw)

Last Meeting: AFL Semi-Final, 2019: Geelong 13.10 (88) def West Coast 10.8 (68)

Final Thoughts: The Eagles have stormed into premiership favouritism with Palmerbet, and have now won four on the bounce, each of which by 30+ points. It’s a stunning reversal of form after they were languishing at 1-3 and out to $15 in the flag market. Josh Kennedy has also stormed into a $3 Coleman Medal favourite after his bag of seven against the Pies and now sites just one goals behind leader Tom Papley.

The Cats got the job done on Monday night in what was — keeping in mind it’s a studded field — the worst game of football this season. It was a professional effort in the wet but it won’t be featuring on the end-of-season DVD. Mitch Duncan and Tom Stewart were good in their return. It will be interesting to see how the Cats approach what is forecast to be a dry game at Optus Stadium, after two wet games in Perth against both the Pies and Dockers.

Tip: Margin: West Coast by 1-39 @ $1.80

Gold Coast Suns v GWS Giants @ Metricon Stadium

Sunday 2nd August, 15:35 (AEST)

Gold CoastGWS
C.Budarick, S.Collins, J.BowesBH.Shaw, P.Davis, A.Corr
HBJ.Lukosius, C.Ballard, J.HarbrowHBL.Ash, L.Keeffe, N.Haynes
CP.Hanley, H.Greenwood, B.EllisCJ.Kelly, S.Coniglio, H.Perryman
HFN.Holman, S.Day, A.SextonHFL.Whitfield, J.Cameron, B.Daniels
FI.Rankine, B.King, B.AinsworthFH.Himmelberg, J.Finlayson, T.Greene
FOLJ.Witts, D.Swallow, T.MillerFOLS.Jacobs, J.Hopper, M. de Boer
I/C (from)L.Weller, N.Anderson, W.Powell, D.MacphersonI/C (from)Z.Williams, T.Taranto, J.Caldwell, Z.Langdon

Played 13: Gold Coast 4 v GWS 9

Last Meeting: AFL Round 23, 2019: Gold Coast 7.13 (55) def by GWS 20.7 (127)

Final Thoughts: The Giants are yet to properly hit their straps, despite last week’s win over the Tigers. Without a doubt they wouldn’t have won without superstar Toby Greene, who is shouldering a big load in their forward 50. Currently sitting in 12th, the Giants need to start banking these sort of wins if they’re to again finish in the top 4.
After a rollicking return to the season where they bagged three straight wins, the Suns have stumbled since and have now lost three of their last four games. They go into this one on the back of a 10-day break, but will need a sharp reversal of recent history: Stuart Dew’s side have lost to the Giants by an average of 91 points in the last four clashes.

Tip: Line: GWS -10.5 @ $1.90

Fremantle v Collingwood @ Optus Stadium

Sunday 2nd August, 18:10 (AEST)

B.Cox, R.Conca, T.DumanBJ.Crisp, M.Keane, I.Quaynor
HBE.Hughes, L.Ryan, N.WilsonHBB.Maynard, D.Moore, J.Noble
CB.Bewley, N.Fyfe, T.ColyerCT.Phillips, S.Sidebottom, C.Mayne
HFA.Cerra, M.Taberner, M.FrederickHFJ.Stephenson, B.Mihocek, W.Hoskin-Elliott
FL.Schultz, R.Lobb, B.MateraFJ.Thomas, D.Cameron, J.Elliott
FOLS.Darcy, D.Mundy, A.BrayshawFOLB.Grundy, T.Adams, A.Treloar
I/C (from)C.Blakely, C.Serong, M.Crowden, T.WatsonI/C (from)J.Daicos, B.Sier, J.Madgen, T.Varcoe

Played 31: Fremantle 12 v Collingwood 19

Last Meeting: AFL Round 11, 2019: Collingwood 11.9 (75) def by Fremantle 11.13 (79)

Final Thoughts: Do the Pies just write off their big loss to the Eagles in Round 8? They probably should, and start afresh. Geographically though it’s back to the scene of Sunday’s loss, on what will be their last game at Optus Stadium. The bad news is that skipper Scott Pendlebury will have to sit out the next fortnight (quad), but Steele Sidebottom makes his long-awaited return following a breach of COVID rules.
Speaking of write-offs, Freo coach Justin Longmuir will want to do the same after Monday’s torrid affair against the Cats in the wet. Kicking just two goals, it was a night to forget for the Dockers. Pleasingly, though, they face an undermanned Pies outfit and themselves could welcome back dual Brownlow Medalist Nat Fyfe. Fellow star Michael Walters is touch-and-go with a hamstring complaint.

Tip: Margin: Collingwood by 1-39 @ $1.72