AFL Round 5 Preview: Another Challenge For Freo, Could West Coast Get First Win?

AFL Round 5 Preview - Harley Reid
Breaking down the action ahead of AFL Round 5.

AFL Round 5 Preview: Another Challenge For Freo, Could West Coast Get First Win?

Breaking down the action ahead of AFL Round 5.
AFL Round 5 Preview - Harley Reid
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Within seconds Fremantle supporters were about to begin chants of FLAGmantle and then they suffered their first loss of the season. To make matters worse, the ball was touched and this week doesn’t get any easier with Fremantle playing Port Adelaide in Adelaide.

You were no doubt surprised just as much as we were that the West Coast game didn’t end up in a complete and utter disaster — are the wheels finally turning for the Eagles?

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Key Matches For Round 5

Melbourne  vs. Brisbane (MCG, Thursday Night)

Brisbane’s ‘statement’ against North Melbourne last week was more of a ‘suggestion’. 

Are they really ‘back’? 

Yes, they thrashed the opposition by 70 points in their first win of the season. But North Melbourne are terrible. 

“We were very determined today to show the footy world we are a united group,” Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said post-game.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to show it. People who want to talk about those things may stop. For a little while anyway.”

He’s right. They will stop. Unless they suffer a big loss to Melbourne this coming Thursday. 

The Lions were under the pump in the lead-up to last week, and they responded in the best possible way. The question marks over their hunger and locker-room rift will fade away for now. But a test against a genuine premiership contender, in their first trip to the MCG since last year’s Grand Final, will reveal a lot about Fagan’s group. 

Melbourne are in top form after beating Adelaide at Adelaide Oval by 15 points. It was their fourth consecutive win after losing to Sydney in Opening Round, and it has convinced a heap of pundits to pick Melbourne for the flag. 

The last time these two sides met was Round 18 last year at the ‘G. Melbourne came from nowhere to pip Brisbane by a point, after trailing by 28 points during the third quarter. 

We all hope this week’s fixture is yet another classic. 

It’s a huge opportunity for Brisbane to make a true ‘statement’ in Lachie Neal’s 250th game. He’ll be keen to mark the occasion with a win, against a team he labelled, “the benchmark of the competition,” this week. 

All eyes on, undoubtedly, the game of the round. 

PREDICTION: You can’t tip against Melbourne right now. Brisbane doesn’t like playing the ‘G either.

Demons by 10 points

Western Bulldogs vs. Essendon (Marvel Stadium, Friday Night)

The Essendon fans are ropeable after a terrible display against Port Adelaide last week. And the only way to make up for the 69-point embarrassment is to beat the Western Bulldogs this Friday. 

It won’t be easy though. Essendon has beaten the Western Bulldogs just once since 2014 — back in 2021 by 13 points. 

The Western Bulldogs aren’t in ‘bad’ form either, unlucky to lose to Geelong by four points on Saturday night, after kicking the final three goals of the game. In saying that, it was yet another close loss for Luke Beveridge’s side, who have made a habit of letting them slip. 

The loss to Geelong was Western Bulldog’s fifth by seven points or less from their past 11 matches. 

The Western Bulldogs should be quietly confident this week though, after watching Essendon get absolutely monstered in the centre by Connor Rozee, Jason Horne-Francis and the Port Adelaide mids. 

Essendon had 20 fewer inside 50s and 13 less centre clearances. And with Tom Liberatore, Marcus Bontempelli and Adam Treloar in good form, and the Western Bulldogs No.2 in the AFL for clearances, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see similar numbers this week. 

Both sides have two wins and two losses to their name, with this game being a huge occasion to build some momentum. 

Huge opportunity.

PREDICTION: Essendon simply must win to restore some faith from the fans. But the Western Bulldogs are in better form. They’ve had the wood over Essendon in recent times too.

Western Bulldogs by 22 points

West Coast Eagles vs. Richmond Tigers

Last Week

West Coast finally won … a quarter! 

All jokes aside, the fans were finally able to witness some positive footy. 

West Coast kicked five goals to three in the second term to lead Sydney by five points at the main break — much to the shock of many. 

While West Coast ended up losing the game by 26 points, their spirited effort was enough to give the supporters some hope for the season. 

Retired premiership Eagle Will Schofield summed it up well during his half-time cross with 3AW Football in Melbourne when revealing, “thought I was going to be joining you 100 points down … West Coast fans have got to be rapt with what they’ve seen.”

And they would have been. The pressure game that had been promised all pre-season was finally on show.

West Coast ended the game with more centre clearances and contested possessions, enabling them to hold their heads up high after staying competitive with a premiership contender. 

Finally, something to smile about. 

This Week

There are mixed feelings about the upcoming game with Richmond this Sunday at Optus Stadium. 

Some fans believe it’s a big opportunity to grab the first win of the season, while others say Richmond is underrated. 

Richmond has won just one game in 2024, although it was over the highly-regarded Swans. 

And despite a long injury list, a fairly new starting lineup and a brand new coach, they’ve been competitive in most games this season. 

Richmond started their game against St Kilda last week terrifically. They applied constant pressure and kept the St Kilda goalless while kicking four of their own. 

St Kilda coach Ross Lyon, however, had an excuse for the slow start from his side.

“What happened is we actually landed a UFO in and walked out 22 aliens and put them in St Kilda jumpers and went out and played,” Lyon said. 

The aliens lifted from quarter time, and just held on for a seven-point win in a tight ‘arm wrestle’ of a game. 

Richmond showed last week, as well as since the start of the season, that they lack connection from the midfield to the forward line.

The side is struggling to perform in the front half of the field, which possibly opens the door for West Coast this week. 

But as Adam Simpson said this week during his press conference, “I don’t think we play any side thinking we’re just going to roll up, so we’ll get to work and we need to go as hard as we can.”

If they do, in fact, go as hard as they can. Anything’s possible. 

Talking Points

Number one

Harley Reid — enough said … but we will elaborate.

This was the breakout game the footy world and all the back pages had been waiting for. 

The swagger, the toughness, the passion. It was all on show against Sydney. 

Reid’s celebration, by grabbing his jumper after kicking his first AFL goal, was a true moment to savour for supporters sick of the heckling from the rest of the league. Reid showed he’s happy in Perth and loves the club. 

Reid finished the game with 18 disposals while breaking seven tackles, and laying seven of his own. 

We’d love to see him do it again against Richmond this week. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers put any extra work into him.  

Backline boys

Defenders Liam Duggan, Tom Cole, Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern were all impressive last week. Especially during the opening term. 

And with the attacking issues for Richmond a real concern for Adem Yze, it allows West Coast’s experienced backline to take advantage.

Richmond ranks 15th in the AFL for marks inside 50, and played with just one real ‘tall forward’ in Jacob Koschitzke last week. 

Koschitzke was poor, and Richmond has been relying on counterattacks or small forwards to kick most of their goals.

West Coast’s young defender Brady Hough also continued his growth last week and may have another shutdown role on one of those small forwards on Sunday. After completing tasks on Toby Greene and Cody Weightman in previous rounds, he played on Tom Papley at the weekend, keeping him goalless from just 10 touches. 

If Adam Simpson can find a way for his backline to intercept and hit Richmond on the rebound, they’ll have a good chance of winning this game. 

Yeo Yeo still spinning

Elliott Yeo was the best on ground for the Eagles last week. And if West Coast wants a chance of beating Richmond in Round 5, he’ll need to be close to his best again. 

The veteran ended up with 28 disposals and six clearances while laying eight tackles in a relentless display. He also provided the forward line with multiple chances to hit the scoreboard through nine inside 50s. 

His efforts gave fans a further reminder of what they’ve missed in recent seasons.

Richmond’s on-ball brigade has been decent this season, so West Coast will have to rely on Yeo and others to bring the intensity this week. 

PREDICTION: Richmond should be too good here, they’ve been unlucky this season. West Coast should make it tough though.

Tigers by 20 points. 

Fremantle Dockers vs. Port Adelaide Power

Last Week

“It’s a bit unfair,” Justin Longmuir said ahead of his team’s trip to Adelaide for Gather Round last week. 

“We have to travel again as WA teams,” he responded, when being asked about the toll of constantly flying interstate for matches. 

If the Fremantle coach thought that was ‘unfair’, just imagine how he felt when Carlton scored a goal despite the ball having been touched by a Fremantle player. 

Then imagine the emotions when the Blues were given another shot at goal, immediately after slotting the first, following defender Jordan Clark being penalised for ‘dissent’ for reportedly arguing about the initial error from the umpires. 

Longmuir, to his credit, was calm in the post-match press conference. But fans were rightly up in arms at the controversial finish of the 10-point loss. 

Fremantle could have easily won that game and probably should have. 

They were poised to continue their undefeated streak, controlling the game for the majority of the afternoon. 

Silly errors and missed opportunities allowed Carlton back in the game, and a dodgy then the two questionable calls sealed the deal. 

Fremantle should be angry. But mostly at themselves. It was a huge opportunity missed, against quality opposition. 

This week

Fremantle are facing a tough opponent in Port Adelaide this week at Adelaide Oval.

The Power dominated Essendon last week, and should be fresh in their third-consecutive game at home — which is unheard of for teams outside of Victoria.

The midfield, especially Connor Rozee and Jason Horne-Francis, did as they pleased in the 69-point win, while the defence kept Essendon to just 21 points after quarter-time.  

Port Adelaide has lost just one game this season, although it was to Melbourne who looks like the team to beat so far. 

It’s going to be a huge test for Fremantle, who has lost four of the last five against them. 

A win for the Fremantle, however, would send a statement to the league. Win for Port Adelaide and their season is in fine form.

Talking Points

Kill the game 

If it’s a close finish this week, Dockers fans will be sweating. 

They had multiple chances to kill the game against Carlton last round, but dropped marks, poor decision making and a silly ruck tap in defensive 50 had supporters scratching their heads. 

It looked as though the players didn’t have a plan for shutting down the match in the final stages. 

There is no doubt Justin Longmuir would have spoken about it this week. So if there’s an opportunity to protect a tight lead, you’d hope the players can execute this time. 

Forward line flow

Midfield – tick. 

Backs – tick. 

Forwards – cross. 

Fremantle simply couldn’t put their good work on the scoreboard last week. But they really can’t afford to do the same against Port Adelaide. 

Against the Carlton, Fremantle converted just 18 per cent of inside 50s into scores in the first quarter, 20 per cent in the second, 18 per cent in the third, and 29 per cent in the fourth. 

The only multiple goalkicker last week was Tom Emmett, who still needs to improve. 

The forward line is inconsistent and too many players go missing. But if they can turn that around this week, Fremantle will have a good chance of winning this game. 

Port Adelaide’s key defenders, Aliir Aliir, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and Esava Ratugolea aren’t going to make it easy though. 

Midfield magnified  

This game will likely be won in the midfield.

We’ve already spoken about how good Port Adelaide’s on-ball brigade was last week. It’s now up to Fremantle to match it. 

They’ve beaten Brisbane, Adelaide and North Melbourne through solid contributions from midfielders, especially Caleb Serong. 

Serong was a bit quieter last week though, while Andrew Brayshaw was best on ground with 38 possessions. Nat Fyfe played his best game in years, and Hayden Young and Jeremy Sharp are going from strength to strength. 

Fremantle dominated clearances (+17) against Carlton and contested numbers have improved this season. 

The biggest midfield test of the year so far will likely be this week, so it’s going to be intriguing to see how they match up. 

If they win the battle in the middle, it could be enough to get over the line. 

PREDICTION: It’s tough to call this one. Port Adelaide’s form is better, so you’d probably have to go with the home team.

Port Adelaide by 5 points

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Featured image: MICHAEL ERREY / AAP Image