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Round 18 Review – Cats make mark, Blues snap streak, Saints tumbling

Round 18 of the 2023 AFL season saw Geelong’s back-to-back hopes rise, the resurgent Blues snap a long streak, and the Saints’ tumble continue.

Cats make their mark

Coach Chris Scott warned the competition not to forget about Geelong last week. And the reigning AFL premiers showed exactly why, with the statement win of the round.

While there were rumblings during the week that a clash befitting the Cats and Essendon deserved to be at the MCG, Geelong snuffed out any hope of a competitive game within a scintillating seven-goals-to-none first term. Scott’s men went on to hammer the Dons by 77 points to more than comfortably cover Palmerbet’s pre-game line (-24.5). Tom Hawkins led the way with five majors; $9.75 pre-match.

The result was as important for the here-and-now — that is, propelling the Cats to fifth — as it is in underlining their prospects for back-to-back AFL flags. In a year beset by yo-yoing form and unfortunate injuries, the Cats are finally purring. Geelong’s flag hopes in 2023 have fluctuated significantly; starting the year as $5.50 premiership favourites with Palmerbet, they went swiftly out to $10 after going 0-3, however five wins on the bounce took them back into $5.00, before mixed results again pushed them out to double figures. Now, however, they’re back into $8.00. And, along with Collingwood, they’re emerging as the club that opposition sides might least like to face in September.

Unheralded Blues help snap Power’s streak

Carlton’s mid-season resurgence had certainly been impressive in recent weeks, peeling off three-straight wins of 50+ points. But the reality was, they were yet to beat an opposition of real substance. That opportunity presented itself on Saturday, when Michael Voss’ men came up against a Port Adelaide outfit that had won a club record 13 games in a row. It was a mark of Carlton’s good form that the Power, nine spots higher on the AFL ladder, started as $1.95 underdogs.

The Blues ($1.85) went on to deliver — and they did so in style. Carlton walked off 50-point victors, and it was their lesser lights that led the charge. Jess Motlop and Jack Silvagni both finished with four majors — the latter a juicy $41 pre-game with Palmerbet to do so. They’ve now injected life into their previously lifeless season. Four weeks ago, Voss’ men were distant $15 Top 8 hopes, and one loss away from a final dagger to their season. But four big wins have seen them shorten into genuine $2.10 AFL finals hopes with Palmerbet. What a turnaround.

Stuttering Saints on the brink

They’re still sitting sixth on the AFL ladder, but St Kilda’s grip on a finals appearance in 2023 looks to be in huge jeopardy after Round 18.

Travelling north, the Saints were $2.35 to snap a poor run of form on Saturday and get up over a Gold Coast outfit ($1.55), who had seen their coach sacked mid-week. But by the final siren, the Suns had not only covered the pre-game line of -9.5 to prevail by 26 points, but had consigned St Kilda to their fourth loss in five games. Jack Lukosius again starred for the Suns, booting four goals ($6.50 pre-game with Palmerbet) as the home side led all day to keep their finals hopes alive.

For the Saints, however, their AFL Top 8 hopes are fading. After shortening into $1.20 finals hopes earlier this season after a strong start to 2023, they’re now out to $2.40. Coach Ross Lyon didn’t mince his words post-match about his side’s prospects of being in the frame come September. “I hear that narrative and to be honest, how we’ve been playing, particularly today, we don’t deserve to (play finals) and we won’t earn the right,” he said. “If we play like today, we won’t challenge North Melbourne next week.”

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