AFL Round 18 Preview: Will West Coast Game Plan Change? Freo A Chance To Be In The Top 2

AFL Round 18 Preview

AFL Round 18 Preview: Will West Coast Game Plan Change? Freo A Chance To Be In The Top 2

AFL Round 18 Preview
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The closer we get to finals, the less idea we have regarding which teams will make the eight, and given the margins for error are so small; there are eight-point games everywhere you look.

Essendon announced themselves as genuine contenders, defeating Collingwood by 12 points with Craig Macrae’s side now swimming against the tide in a bid to make it into the finals.

North Melbourne continued the Gold Coast Suns’ horror road record with a four-point win for the ages at Marvel, while Ken Hinkley survives another week after his Port Adelaide side dismantled a poor Western Bulldogs team at Adelaide Oval by 48 points.

Geelong smacked a youthful Hawthorn side between the eyes with a comprehensive 51-point drubbing, and the GWS Giants remained the competition that when they get things right, they are tough to stop, beating Carlton by two goals.

Fremantle moved up to third on the ladder with a 51-point win over Richmond with Justin Longmuir’s side now getting the media credit they deserve. 

West Coast started poorly and was put to the sword by a slick Melbourne side to the tune of 54 points in what was another down display from the Eagles in what turned out to be Adam Simpson’s last game as West Coast.

Play & Win

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Games To Watch

Collingwood vs. Geelong (MCG, Friday night)

The Pies are again reeling from being hit with the injury bug. Brody Mihocek was ruled out for the rest of the regular season with a ruptured pectoral tendon. With Collingwood now fighting to stay in the eight, they come up against a Cats team that has suddenly found its best football.

Since the 63-point drubbing by Carlton, Chris Scott, and his coaching team have sprinkled the pixie dust, and the Cats have rattled off wins against Essendon (45 points) and Hawthorn (51 points) to sit firmly in the top 8.

The Pies have been struggling with their injury toll and it appears that Macrae will again have to shift the magnets in an attempt to arrest the two-game skid his side is on.

Geelong appears to be hitting its straps, while the Pies’ aura of invincibility seems to have dissipated. The world will be watching on Friday night.

Prediction

Putting it simply, the Cats are in form, and the Pies aren’t. But beware, the wounded animal and Collingwood still have enough venom to take down the Cats if Scott’s side isn’t careful.

At the MCG, the Pies faithful will be doing their best to get their team over the line in what looms as a genuine eight-point game.

The Cats have steadied the ship, while Collingwood’s appears to be sinking. This game could have huge ramifications for the top eight with the rest of the AFL world watching to see if the Pies, who are on the canvas, can get up before the ten count.

Geelong has the form line trending in the right direction, Collingwood’s isn’t.

Cats by 17 points.

Gold Coast vs. Port Adelaide (People’s First Stadium, Sunday afternoon)

The Suns are back at home where they are bulletproof and face a Port Adelaide side that has stopped the wobble…for now.

Damien Hardwick was prickly in his post-game press conference after the loss to North Melbourne and expect a response from his team. Ken Hinkley has now secured back-to-back wins and the media storm has been quelled after the Brisbane Lions demolished his team on their home deck.

Gold Coast at home is a different team and will want to lay down a marker against Port, who, while having won two games on the bounce, still feel gettable.

Prediction

The Suns are at home and want to put in a better performance in front of their home fans.

Suns by 19 points. 

Fremantle Dockers

Last Week

The Dockers showed the lowly Tigers a clean set of heels at Optus Stadium with a workman-like performance in a 51-point win.

Key forward Josh Treacy bagged a career-best five goals, while Andrew Brayshaw (35 disposals), Caleb Serong (27 disposals), and Jordan Clark (26 disposals) were among the best.

After the Bulldogs disaster, Fremantle has now won three straight, and with Longmuir’s side sitting third, they are looming large in September.

This Week

A tricky away trip down to Tasmania to face a Hawthorn side who got dealt a little taste of reality by the Cats. Fremantle is 1-2 all-time at The University of Tasmania Stadium and Saturday’s clash will be a true test of if we can trust the Dockers away from home.

Given how tight the top eight is, a loss could be catastrophic, whereas a win could solidify Fremantle’s top four (yes, you read that right) credentials.

Buckle up.

Talking Points

Treacy the solution up forward?

Treacy was superb in front of goal vs. the Tigers, kicking 5.0, but also around the ground, picking up 16 disposals, having six score involvements and three inside 50s. If he can reproduce this kind of performance regularly, Fremantle will be in good shape come September.

The key now is to produce that again vs. a Hawthorn team that can be got at.

Momentum building

After the Bulldogs humiliation, many wondered exactly what to make of Fremantle, but Longmuir’s team has re-established their credentials with three straight wins to announce to the competition they are for real.

Of course, there is still plenty to play out, but the Dockers are building momentum at the right time of the year, and they have a chance to do that in Tasmania against a plucky Hawthorn side.

Chance to consolidate top four spot

The Hawks down in Tasmania is looming as yet another key stepping stone in the Dockers’ charge towards September.

Not only that, but to manage a win at a place so few have managed would signal that this team, after a rocky period is steeling itself for a genuine September tilt.

The Dockers know the assignment; now it is time to get it done.

Prediction

Fremantle by 22 points.

West Coast Eagles

Last Week

It was again a poor display from Adam Simpson’s team against Melbourne and one that would signal the end of his 11-year tenure as coach. The first quarter was the catalyst for the 54-point loss. The Dees kicked 7.3 to the Eagles’ 1.2 to effectively end the game as a contest.

Oscar Allen looked better for the run, kicking 4.4, while Tim Kelly (23 disposals) and Elliott Yeo (21 disposals) were best around the ball on an otherwise dirty day that was ruined by one quarter of football.

This Week

Beware the team who has just fired their coach, Brisbane.

The Eagles will be hosting the Brisbane Lions at Optus Stadium in the late game on Sunday in what will be the first game without Simpson, and you can bet that the fans and players will have extra motivation to do well. The Lions have been in resurgent form, having won their last five on the bounce, and somehow, after a horror start to the year, sit seventh.

Sunday’s game was already looming as an interesting watch, and now, with Simpson out as coach, the Eagles will be a different-looking team for the last part of the season. 

They have nothing to lose, which makes them a dangerous proposition.

Talking Points

Allen starting to hit his stride

Allen is starting to get his feet underneath him in 2024. While he has been inaccurate in his four games (6.12) against the Dees, Steven May, and Jake Lever, he took some towering marks and looked a real presence up forward.

Now up against Harris Andrews and Jackson Payne, Allen will again have his hands full, but will need to present and be the focal point up forward if the Eagles stand any chance.

Start fast

It was a shame the game against Melbourne was over at quarter time, as after that, the Eagles gave a decent account of themselves. Against the Lions, West Coast needs to start better…far better.

Simpson’s side have been a different beast at home of late (Hawthorn result aside) and will look to play the role of spoiler in the Lions’ assault on the top four.

But to do that, starting fast and kicking straight (yes, you Mr. Allen) is crucial.

Emotional response to Simpson’s sacking

There are a lot of unknowns in AFL football, but perhaps the biggest one is teams who sack their coach, more often than not end up winning the following week.

The Eagles will be under new leadership with the bad taste from parting ways with Simpson still lingering. It will go one of two ways. Either the players will respond and give a good account of themselves and push the Lions to the brink.

Or they will capitulate as the mental toll of seeing their coach lose his job midweek becomes too much? Which way will it go?

Prediction

Lions by 35 points.

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