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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

AFL round 5 preview: Shuffling the draw

The Queensland Government’s decision to force any Victorian team, or any team that has played a Victorian side, to quarantine for 14 days on their arrival back in Queensland has thrown the AFL fixture into chaos.

The South Australian Government has since followed suit and just what it means for the future of the competition remains to be seen.

Despite a few changes, the fixture for round 5 is now sorted, so let’s get into it.

Carlton Blues (12th) vs St Kilda Saints (7th) Thursday 2 July 7.40pm @Marvel Stadium

This match was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon but is now on tonight (Thursday 2 July) with both teams coming off a five-day break between games.

The Blues only won by a point last week but they played much better than that, their forward line looks dangerous in the air and on the ground while skipper Sam Docherty hasn’t missed a beat after missing the past two years with ACL injuries.

They struggled for accuracy in front of goal last week and with the Saints in some hot form, they will need to fix that.

The Saints were fantastic against the Tigers last week with their pressure around the ground the standout feature of their game.

They seem to have found a good mix of inside grunt and outside run with Bradley Hill and Dan Butler looking like two of the best recruits of the off-season.

Collingwood Magpies (5th) vs Essendon Bombers (8th) Friday 3 July 7.50pm @MCG

The Magpies had every opportunity to beat the Giants last round but came up just short.

The Pies will miss Jeremy Howe’s extraordinary marking ability.

Despite the loss, coach Nathan Buckley would still be happy with his side’s effort, but they may just be lacking a quality tall forward with Mason Cox looking well off the pace in his first game back from injury.

The Pies lose gun defender Jeremy Howe for an extended period after a nasty knee injury, which is a shame because he was in career best form. He is one of the best marks in AFL history, so the Pies will need to find a way to cover his ability in the air.

The Bombers looked a little bit flat against the Blues last round and will need to improve drastically to challenge the Pies.

There was plenty of drama around the Bombers in the week leading up to the game so perhaps that had an impact on their performance.

The form of ruckman Tom Bellchambers has come under scrutiny, and with Collingwood gun ruckman Brodie Grundy awaiting the Bombers, Essendon may need to make a change.

West Coast Eagles (16th) vs Sydney Swans (11th) Saturday 4 July 1.45pm @Metricon Stadium

This was one of the matchups that was changed this week and it presents as a real opportunity for the Eagles to get their season going again.

The Eagles were originally scheduled to play the Tigers but despite their poor form, they will fancy themselves against a young Swans side.

The Eagles have been woeful since the season restarted and are in desperate need of a win to keep their top-four hopes alive.

The Swans were bitterly disappointing last round against the Bulldogs in Josh Kennedy’s 250th match but get a chance of milestone redemption with this set to be co-captain Luke Parker’s 200th game for the club.

Parker has been a champion for the Swans and is at the peak of his powers, playing some outstanding footy this year.

They lose Sam Naismith who tore his ACL last week so it will be up to Callum Sinclair to go solo against the Eagles’ Nic Naitanui in the ruck.

Luke Parker has been a sensational player for the Swans as he brings up game number 200 this weekend.

Geelong Cats (6th) vs Gold Coast Suns (2nd) Saturday 4 July 4.35pm @GMHBA Stadium

The Cats have looked out of sorts in recent weeks but will hopefully be inspired by their champions’ milestones.

This will be one of the biggest days for the club, with captain Joel Selwood set to play his 300th match for the club and superstar Gary Ablett’s 350th so it’s a big occasion for the club.

Selwood is one of the greatest Cats players to pull on the hoops, so his team will be desperate to get the win for their skipper. The only disappointment is the stadium will be empty.

The Suns, meanwhile, have been in blistering form with three wins in a row.

A lot of talk has been about 18-year-old Matt Rowell who has claimed best-on-ground honours three games in row in just his 2nd, 3rd and 4th AFL matches.

He’s been so good that Cats coach Chris Scott declared that he would send a tagger to do a job on the rookie.

It’s not just Rowell performing for the Suns with the whole group looking confident and no doubt they will travel to Geelong believing they can crash the Cats party.

Gary Ablett (left) and Joel Selwood are champions of the game, so the Cats will want to win this one for them.

Western Bulldogs (13th) vs North Melbourne Kangaroos (9th) Saturday 4 July 7.40pm @Marvel Stadium

The Bulldogs look to have got their game going the past two weeks after a poor start to the year.

Their ferocity around the footy has clearly improved along with their defensive pressure.

Unfortunately for the Dogs, they lost two of their forwards in Aaron Naughton and Sam Lloyd which means skipper Marcus Bontempelli may be required to play more forward than midfield this week.

The Kangaroos played about 10 minutes of good football and almost stole a victory over the Hawks last week.

They showed in those 10 minutes they can score quickly when they play an aggressive style of footy, so hopefully we see a bit more of that against the Bulldogs.

They lose their captain Jack Ziebell to a hamstring injury so their other senior players will need to step up and fill the leadership void in his absence.

Brisbane Lions (3rd) vs Port Adelaide Power (1st) Saturday 4 July 7.40pm @Gabba

This is the match of the round with two top-four teams to do battle with an opportunity to prove just how good they are.

The Lions have come back from the break with three consecutive wins but against relatively poor opposition, so the Power should be a good test for them.

Their midfield has been most impressive with the like of Lachie Neale, Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry all in the best form of their careers.

The Power have been super impressive all year dominating every match they’ve played, but a bit like the Lions, they haven’t faced great opposition so this will be their biggest test to date.

Charlie Dixon was in fine form, kicking six goals last week so his matchup with Harris Andrews will be one to watch.

Lachie Neale will have to be at his brilliant best for the Lions to win this one.

Adelaide Crows (18th) vs Fremantle Dockers (17th) Sunday 5 July 1.05pm @Metricon Stadium

The bottom of the table clash shapes as a potential playoff for the wooden spoon already with both sides searching for their first win.

The Crows have been woeful this season, but this is easily their best chance to get off the mark for 2020.

The Dockers have been close in several matches so far this year but have failed to come away with a victory.

They will be without their skipper Nat Fyfe which is a huge blow for the struggling side.

Melbourne Demons (15th) vs Richmond Tigers (14th) Sunday 5 July 3.35pm @MCG

This should be an interesting matchup with both sides desperate for a victory.

The Demons had every chance to beat the Cats last week but instead find themselves in need of a victory to stay in touch with the top eight.

Max Gawn should have a strong influence in this game with the class edge over the Tigers ruckman Toby Nankervis meaning his midfield should get first look at it from the stoppages.

The Tigers look a shell of the side that won last year’s premiership with their usual intensity at the contest missing.

I certainly wouldn’t be writing them off this year just yet, but with a shortened season, they need to get their mojo back quickly.

GWS Giants (10th) vs Hawthorn Hawks (4th) Sunday 5 July 6.10pm @Giants Stadium

The Giants got their appetite for the contest back last round with a hard-fought two-point victory over the Magpies.

Their forward line looked much more dangerous with Toby Greene up there, while Lachie Whitfield and Josh Kelly were welcome additions to the midfield.

They lost both games to the Hawks in 2019 by a combined 89 points so they will need to change something up to get the win this time.

The Hawks hung on against the Kangaroos last round, but Alistair Clarkson would’ve been extremely disappointed with his team’s final 10 minutes.

The Hawks sit 4th on the ladder but it’s hard to know just how good they are with some up and down form.

A win against the Giants in Sydney will go a long way to cementing themselves as top-four contenders.

It snowed in Canberra the last time these sides met, but it was the Hawks that ran away with an easy victory.

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