AFL Round 12 Preview: Is West Coast Home Field Advantage A Thing? Life Doesn’t Get Easier For Freo

AFL Round 12

AFL Round 12 Preview: Is West Coast Home Field Advantage A Thing? Life Doesn’t Get Easier For Freo

AFL Round 12
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Round 11 was all about the umpires. So we’re certainly hoping Round 12 isn’t.

The AFL came out on Saturday morning to tick off the controversial ‘time-wasting’ freekick against Collingwood in its draw to Fremantle, while the league announced changes to the holding-the-ball rule this week after coaches slammed decisions over the weekend. 

The fact the AFL has made interpretation alterations to a fundamental rule midway through the season is as quirky as the fact we’ve had three draws already in 2024. Although the league is about as consistent as Melbourne weather (and Hawthorn’s results), so we can’t really be that surprised. 

With law changes, teams’ seasons on the line and injury lists making tipping a nightmare, it’s almost impossible to predict what we’ll see this weekend. 

But we’ll give it a crack anyway. 

Play & Win

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Games To Watch

Port Adelaide vs. Carlton (Adelaide Oval, Thursday Night)

    With Port Adelaide (8-3) just holding on to a top-four spot, and Carlton (7-4) hanging by a thread in eighth place, it’s all to play for on Thursday night. 

    The Power have now won three games in a row, after an easy 59-point thrashing of North Melbourne last week in Hobart. It puts them in third place on the ladder, with a bye to come after this week’s clash with Carlton. 

    The Blues, on the other hand, were made to work for their crucial five-goal victory over Gold Coast. The four points put them in eighth place, with a huge game to come against Essendon next week.

    Carlton simply can’t miss finals this season, so wins like these, against premiership contenders, go a long way in boosting confidence to help them achieve their objective. 

    With both midfields in fine form, this game is sure to be decided in the middle of the ground. 

    Carlton has won the past two games against Port Adelaide, although both games were in Melbourne. The Blues lost the last matchup with the Power at Adelaide Oval – Round 22, 2021 – by 95 points, and have never beaten them at the venue. 

    Can they break the hoodoo this week? 

    Prediction

    Carlton has injuries and a shocking record at Adelaide Oval. Port is also coming off a fairly easy clash with North Melbourne, so should be fresh enough to bring its best. Going to be hard to beat at home

    Port Adelaide by 12 points

    Collingwood v Western Bulldogs (Marvel Stadium, Friday Night)

      This one has to be the match of the round. In terms of importance, at least. 

      The Pies (6-3-2) have been smashed with injuries, continuing to find unorthodox ways to avoid defeat. 

      The Dogs (5-6), though, look like they’re back, despite losing last week. A few rounds after their coach was severely under pressure, the side has stepped up in intensity and class to ensure they’re in the fight for finals footy. 

      Collingwood is coming off its second draw of the season, giving up a 25-point lead late in the last quarter to end on level points with Fremantle at Optus Stadium last week.

      It leaves them in seventh place, in danger of dropping outside the eight by the end of the round. 

      The Bulldogs fought hard against Sydney in the 14-point defeat, and injuries to key players made it difficult. 

      Even without some stars this week, the Dogs have a healthier list than their upcoming opposition, and a win will make them believe September football is a real possibility. 

      The last time these two sides met resulted in a 12-point win for Collingwood, but the Dogs got over the line in the previous two games.

      It’s a tough one to call, with so much at stake. 

      Prediction

      A win here keeps the Dogs’ season alive, while the Pies just have so many injuries – especially up forward. The Bulldogs probably get the job done. Just as with all Pies games it seems.

      Western Bulldogs by 5 points 

      Fremantle Dockers

      Last Week

      There would have been mixed feelings from fans about the draw to Collingwood last Friday night. 

      The fact the Dockers trailed by 25 points late in the final term, to an injury-ravaged Magpies’ outfit was disappointing. Although the fightback, with four-straight goals before a Jeremy Sharp behind on the run with 45 seconds left levelled the scores at 75-apiece, was outstanding. 

      Yes, they would have liked to win the game in the end, but the never-say-die attitude allowed them to save two points.

      The tie meant they finished the round in ninth place, just two points outside the eight. 

      This Week

      The Dockers (6-4-1) face Melbourne (7-4) at TIO Stadium in Alice Springs on Sunday afternoon. 

      The Dees took care of St Kilda easily last week with a 38-point win, kicking 100 points for just the second time this season. 

      They now sit fourth on the ladder with the team feeling better after bouncing back from that embarrassing 25-point loss to West Coast a couple of weeks ago.

      It will be hot and fatiguing in the Northern Territory sun, so Fremantle’s nine-day break may aid the Dockers’ legs, compared with Melbourne’s, who have to run again after just seven days recovering. 

      Talking Points

      It’s a Sign

      “We’ve got signs that we go to … to be more aggressive and spook the opposition,” Justin Longmuir said post game, when asked about the late tactics that helped Fremantle kick four-consecutive goals to draw the game. 

      One of the signs held up meant faster ball movement and forced Alex Pearce up forward – which ended in the key defender kicking the final goal of the game. 

      It all sounds great. But the fans want to know why it takes the side being five goals down with less than 10 minutes to play to implement the strategy. 

      Surely the Dockers can play more aggressively more often. 

      Fremantle went into their shell once again during the Collingwood game. They went slow and controlled the ball, ending the match with 52 more uncontested possessions and 22 more marks than Collingwood. It meant the Pies had less of the ball, but more time to set up their defence. 

      It also meant the Dockers didn’t kick a single goal in the third term. 

      Slow play has been a feature of Fremantle’s footy this season, but last week proved it needs to change. 

      Coming up against Melbourne this week will test the tactics. 

      The Demons have a brilliant defensive set-up, and moving the ball slowly once again will only allow for them to set up and intercept. It will also mean the Dockers may have more shots from further out and on angles – further adding to their inaccuracy in front of the big sticks. 

      Go fast, Freo! It’s a sign. 

      Max Power 

        Melbourne captain Max Gawn showed his power on Sunday afternoon, dominating St Kilda ruckman Rowan Marshall. 

        He had 27 disposals, 10 score involvements and 10 inside 50s. He also kicked a goal and dominated hitouts 34 to 16. 

        If he produces numbers close to that again this week, Fremantle will lose. It’s as simple as that. 

        The Dockers ruck partnership of Luke Jackson and Sean Darcy hasn’t worked so far. And there was even a thought that Darcy should have played a game in the reserves before returning to the seniors, after his first game back from injury last week was underwhelming. 

        Fremantle have been criticised for signing Darcy on, despite having a perfectly good number-one ruckman in Jackson. So the expectation to get the partnership right is high.

        They’ll need to start performing well together soon, or the pressure will come. 

        They can’t afford any slip-ups this week. 

        Have to get it right against Gawn.

        Nat so fast! 

          Speaking of pressure, Nat Fyfe has been slammed this week by the media after some questionable defensive efforts against Collingwood and poor ball use. 

          Fyfe ended with just 20 disposals and failed to make an impact around the contest. 

          With Melbourne’s midfield bulls in fine form, the Dockers will be hoping Fyfe and his mates in the middle can compete at the coalface this week. 

          Coach Longmuir believes he can, and also hit back at the criticism during the week.  

          “I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone is saying,” he said.

          “Four or five weeks ago against the Western Bulldogs he had his best game in three or four years and we are not far away from that …I’m really confident he can bounce back.”

          Freo fans hope the bounceback is on Sunday. 

          They’ll need it to be if they want to win.

          Prediction

          It’s too hard to tip the Dockers here. Melbourne’s defence is so strong, and Freo’s forwards haven’t been consistent enough to give tipsters any confidence. It will probably be low-scoring once again, but Dees should get it done.

          Demons by 10 points

          West Coast Eagles

          Last Week

          This one was ugly. 

          The 99-point defeat to Adelaide really came out of nowhere, after the Eagles came into the game with three wins from the past six games. 

          In what was their biggest loss of the season, there weren’t really many positives. 

          Adelaide sliced through West Coast with smooth and slick ball movement for the majority of the contest. And the Crows ended with an incredible 140-more possessions and 20-more inside 50s.

          It also took the Eagles until the seventh minute of the second quarter to kick their first goal, and managed just five for the day. 

          It’s one to forget for Adam Simpson and his men. But it still leaves them two games clear of Richmond in 16th place, and a win away from Hawthorn in 14th. 

          This Week

          The Eagles hope to bounce back this week at home against St Kilda, who had an embarrassing loss of its own last week. 

          The Saints went down to Melbourne by seven goals, basically signalling the end of their finals dream. 

          Pressure is on coach Ross Lyon, as the side sits 15th on level points with West Coast. 

          After playing September footy in 2023, it looks to be a complete failure of a season, unless something remarkable happens from here.

          Beating West Coast in Perth is the first step to turning things around. 

          Saints fans expect their side to win. 

          Talking Points

          Take a scalp 

          It’s not often West Coast goes into a game as favourites, but that’s how the footy world views it this week. 

          As touched on earlier, both sides are on equal points, with a 3-8 win-loss record for 2023. And after West Coast won their last home game against Melbourne by 35 points, the supporters will be confident a win here is possible. 

          In fact, the Eagles have won three of their past four matches at home, with the only defeat in that time being by one goal to Essendon. 

          It will be a different mentality coming into a big game as favourites, so all eyes will be on how West Coast starts this one. 

          Start swinging 

          Speaking of starts, the Eagles’ first quarters have been a bit of a concern this season. 

          Last week the Crows kicked the first seven goals of the game, ensuring the contest was pretty much over at quarter-time. 

          “It wasn’t pretty, especially the start we gave them,” Liam Duggan said during the week. 

          “We’ll be focused on our start (this week), (and) really excited to be back home.”

          The excitement should hopefully result in West Coast getting out of the blocks quickly, as they did against Melbourne a couple of weeks back, kicking four goals to two in the first term. 

          If the Eagles start swinging, it could be their day against the Saints. 

          Contest and effort 

          It’s not about individuals this week, it’s all about the group.

          We mention it most weeks, but contested ball, pressure and effort have to be high for the Eagles to win. 

          Last week the side showed very little, and only two players featured in the top 10 possession winners in the game – defender Jeremy McGovern (fifth) and Tim Kelly (seventh). 

          Adam Simpson has consistently said that grunt work in the contest and pushing the ball forward is a priority, so a big turnaround this week is needed.

          They need to get their hands on the ball in the middle. 

          “We took a step back today, obviously,” Simpson said post game. 

          The only step acceptable this week is forward. 

          Prediction

          West Coast has looked strong at home this year, especially in recent times. The Saints are struggling and don’t give tipsters any confidence. Eagles should get it done.

          West Coast by 15 points

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