The Roar’s AFL expert tips and predictions: Round 21

2022 has not been the year for tipping outsiders. At least, not for me.

Time after time I’ve gone against the grain looking for an edge, only to see it blow up in my own face. Seven weeks ago I was sitting pretty on top in this competition: now, I’m six off the leader, having seen Brisbane get mown down by Richmond and Port Adelaide fail to do the same on Collingwood to further my disadvantage.

Round 21 is my last hope. Have a crack at a few outsiders, and see if I can halve the difference. But as President Snow said in the first Hunger Games movie, a little hope is effective – but a lot of hope is dangerous.

Will I Katniss my way to glory, or will things end in disaster like the random tributes killed in that opening massacre? Let’s find out.

Tim Miller (last week: 6)

Melbourne, Hawthorn, Essendon, Western Bulldogs, Geelong, Richmond, Sydney, Brisbane, West Coast

This season has already seen more twists and turns than a particularly bendy pretzel, and I for one can’t wait to see what unfolds next.

Presumably Craig McRae made a deal with Satan pre-season to sacrifice his firstborn to ensure Collingwood never lost another close game again. It feels inevitable that if their clash with Melbourne goes down to the wire, the Pies will find some way over the line – so the question is, can the Dees turn this into a blowout?

I can’t help feeling the Magpies are due a loss, and with the Demons finding form against Fremantle, they’re hard to go against – even if the Pies remain the only side they haven’t knocked over since the start of 2021.

Gold Coast’s trip to Tassie to face Hawthorn doesn’t have quite the same significance, but it will be interesting to see how two of the year’s biggest surprise packets look to end the year. Is it about winning as much as possible, or blooding kids and looking to get a head-start on planning for 2023?

The Hawks in Tassie are a notoriously difficult beast – they knocked over Brisbane down there earlier this year and play *shudders* the Bulldogs there in Round 23 – and despite all the Suns’ impressive gains in recent times, I’ll back the brown and gold.

GWS hosting Essendon is also interesting, if only to see whether the whole host of Giants seemingly on borrowed time at the club respond to that Mark McVeigh spray. Facing his old side, McVeigh would love a chance to inflict some more misery on the Dons; I just don’t think it’ll happen with the way his boys are flat-lining.

Game of the round is probably Dees-Pies, but the most crucial is surely the Western Bulldogs hosting Fremantle. The top eight is on the line for the former, and the top four for the latter.

Sam Darcy isn’t exactly being eased into AFL life, thrown into the cauldron of a crunch match and probably set to go head-to-head with (future teammate?) Rory Lobb. He’s been clunking everything in the VFL, and provides a potential point of difference if the Dogs can somehow steal their way into September. Here’s hoping he makes his debut on a winning note.

It’s impossible to see anyone beating Geelong at the moment, let alone in Geelong, let alone a somehow still-afloat St Kilda. The Saints nearly stole a win at this venue about 12 months ago, but this is a more intimidating Cats outfit by far.

It’s the other match that draws my eye: Port Adelaide are a dangerous beast at home, but Richmond have made their name in claiming matches like this. With the eight on the line – eighth will be theirs for the weekend unless the Saints can somehow down the Cats – it feels unwise to tip against the Tigers now that their mojo is back.

Sydney by plenty against North, who seem firmly in ‘play the kids’ mode and rightly so; then, the injury-hit Blues head to Brisbane awaiting likely defeat. I’m still convinced Carlton will find a win from their last three and squeak into the finals, and there’s every chance it’ll be this game – but the Lions will be smarting from their loss to Richmond, and a home Gabba match against an injury-hit rival is a chance to again prove their bona fides.

Adelaide have the honour of being Josh Kennedy’s last foe – interestingly, the Crows are one of the teams who have by and large kept the spearhead under wraps throughout his career.

They might as well play two on him, because surely every inside 50 will head his way. I’m no doubt falling into a trap picking the Eagles at home again – but for JJK, I’m ready to be hurt again.

Clayton Oliver of the Demons and Darcy Cameron of the Magpies in action.

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Dem Panopoulos (last week: 7)

Melbourne, Gold Coast, GWS, Fremantle, Geelong, Richmond, Sydney. Brisbane, West Coast

Alright, we’re at the business end of the season and there’s a heap to play for.

The Crows getting up last week was helpful, only because the other wildcards failed to deliver. We go again.

Perhaps Collingwood will never lose again. I doubt it – it feels like they have exceeded so many expectations this season that honourable losses are fine from here. The Demons are starting to find another gear, and it’s hard to see them dropping a third game in a row to the Pies.

The Suns still have a chance to play finals: and to keep these chances alive, however slim they may be, they need to beat Hawthorn. Trips to Tasmania are hard but they’ll squeeze over the line in a tight one.

No one expects GWS to beat Essendon given the form of both teams. Is that a good enough reason to tip them? Probably not, but the last four games between the teams have been decided by a total of 25 points. I’ll lean towards them in a coin-flip.

Enormous ramifications will be felt from the Bulldogs-Fremantle game. There’s no logic with this one: I like both teams but it’d be beneficial for the Dockers to win to keep eighth spot open for the run home. Go Freo.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, so Geelong will beat St Kilda, while I don’t have too much insight into the Port-Richmond clash. Todd Marshall out really helps the Tigers, but who can honestly be confident? I’m not sure. Let’s just say Richmond.

Finally, the Swans will beat North Melbourne because they’re very, very good, and North are very, very not. The Blues have lost eight of their last nine at the Gabba, but to rule them completely out of upsetting the always vulnerable Brisbane is perhaps a bit naïve.

No George Hewett or Matt Kennedy means there’s less protection for Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh in midfield. I think that’s ultimately the deciding factor, otherwise there isn’t a heap between these two teams.

Finally, let’s acknowledge just how good the severely underrated Josh J Kennedy has been in his career. For a good three-season stretch, he was the best key forward in the game.

Expect a record number of forward 50 targets, and the Eagles to send him off in style.

Charlie Curnow

Charlie Curnow (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Cameron Rose (last week: 7)

Melbourne, Hawthorn, Essendon, Western Bulldogs, Geelong, Richmond, Sydney, Brisbane, West Coast

Are Collingwood contenders or pretenders? Their remarkable winning run continues on, now up to ten, and they are trying to claim the scalp of Melbourne for a second time in that same streak to open the round.

However, I think this is where the buck stops: the Demons will win and win well, with no fairytale for the Pies this year.

Hawthorn are finishing the season full of running, and can take down the Suns in Tassie. At the same time, Essendon are a good thing against GWS, with the Giants looking shot.

The Dogs need to keep winning to stay in the finals race, and should get every chance to beat the ailing Dockers who have only averaged seven goals a game over their last three matches. The Dogs might have left their run a bit late this time around though.

Geelong are simply flying, and while they are due to drop a game, can we see the inconsistent Saints causing them any troubles at GMHBA on Saturday night? Unlikely.

The other Saturday night feature is also a cracker, and although Port is essentially out of the finals race, they would love to keep Richmond out of it too.

These two teams have played some crackers in recent years, and we can expect more of the same.

On Sunday, Sydney should clean up North with a minimum of fuss.

Brisbane hosts Carlton, and neither team is in rich form. You have to stick with the Lions at the Gabba though, as the Blues’ hold on a top eight spot becomes shakier still.

I reckon West Coast have one more win in them this year, and hosting Adelaide in Josh Kennedy’s farewell feels like it.

Aliir Aliir of the Power handpasses the ball

(Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Liam Salter (last week: 6)

Melbourne, Gold Coast, Essendon, Western Bulldogs, Geelong, Port Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide

I feel like it’s my most common score this year, but it’s happened yet again: I took a reasonably alright score of six from a consequential round last weekend.

I can somewhat forgive myself for picking Freo and Brisbane, but I won’t forgive Carlton for giving my many Adelaide fan mates something to – dare I say it – neverendingly crow about since Saturday night.

Nothing short of an absolutely massive game kicks us off, and for those upset about being stuck with a decisively average Freo for the past two Fridays, it’s a cracker: Melbourne hosting Collingwood.

I’m tempted to instinctively pick the Pies, as I suspect they’ve made some deal with the Almighty to ensure they never lose ever again; but the Demons were enthralling last week and appear keen on securing a top two finish. Melbourne’s a stronger team, regardless of the Magpies’ super form, and with the medical room becoming an impediment for the ‘visitors’, tonight is the Dees’ to lose. 

Saturday’s afternoon clashes are almost virtually both dead-rubber games. I say almost, as only one of the four teams (the Suns) does have a slim – and we’re talking REAL slim – chance of making a finals debut.

That requires a hell of a lot going right, and that begins with a trip to Tassie to face the Hawks. The Hawks will be competitive, but to hell with it – the Suns to keep the faintest of chances alive.

The other clash is GWS hosting Essendon, and the Dons just seem more likely to prevail here, as the Giants contemplate a tough near future. 

Things get more interesting the later Saturday goes on, with Freo visiting the Doggies in the twilight clash. Freo were horrendous a week ago, a fact only slightly countered by the fact the Dogs struggled immensely against the Cats in the second half of their loss.

Freo have almost completely lost their early season mojo, and while they won’t miss finals, things do get uncomfortable if they can’t prevail here. Unfortunately, it’s the Dogs at home, with finals genuinely possible, who seem ripe for the win.

Another team ripe for a win are the Cats, who are gunning for the minor premiership – and may yet move a step closer depending on the results of the round’s opener on Friday night. They play a team who hasn’t won at Kardinia Park since yours truly was a year old. That’s be the Saints, who start the round in the eight and are heavy outsiders here – they’ll lose but may yet remain in improbable finals contention if two teams below them lose.

One of those teams are the Tigers, who play Port – and will lose. There, I said it. 

There’s no wonder the primetime Sunday game is the only one that matters – a wobbly Brisbane hosting a wobblier Carlton.

The Blues have a shockingly difficult end to the season – lose this, and they head into clashes against the Dees and Pies on a cliff’s edge in terms of the top eight. The Lions are obviously very strong at the Gabba, and Carlton’s injury concerns are too much to overcome: Brisbane to win. 

As for the rest of the Sunday, there’s not a whole lot on offer. Sydney should solidify their top four chances with a win over North, who won’t be much of a challenge.

Meanwhile, over in the West, I’ll give the Eagles the nod over a back-in-the-headlines Adelaide purely on the basis of the sentimental factor. Go well in your final game, JK. 

Josh Kennedy. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Round 21 Tim Dem Cam Liam Crowd
ROLLING SCORE 116 105 112 108 122

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