AFL 2020 Round 12 Review, Round 13 Preview: Cats get the cream and a great Sir Doug Nicholls round ahead

For the first time in weeks the AFL community can stop and take a breath. An insane schedule of matches has left some teams languishing heading into a make-or-break Round 13, where wins come at a premium.

ROUND 12

Sydney 10.6 (66) defeated GWS 3.7 (25)

The Harbour’s best young talent on full display

GWS never looked comfortable. From the get-go, Sydney’s injury depleted side looked more desperate for the four points, unleashing an aggressive assault on last year’s Grand Finalists before cruising to an inspiring win.

Led by the seasoned Luke Parker and Dane Rampe, who played with a broken hand, the real story lay with Sydney’s younger troops. It was a breakthrough night for the likes of Nick Blakey (2 goals), James Rowbottom and Jordan Dawson, while Lewis Melican did a superb job helping Sydney’s defence restrict GWS to just three goals. Other superb players included Will Hayward, Dylan Stephens and James Bell; with such an even contribution from inexperienced footballers, Sydney have a lot to be optimistic about.

Verdict: GWS are in a lot of trouble if they dish up efforts like this. Sydney may have a quiet year, but this is a highlight.

Geelong 14.7 (91) defeated Port Adelaide 4.7 (31)

Top four clash turns one-sided

It was meant to be one of the games of the round between two in-form teams, but from the opening minutes Geelong stamped their superiority on the clash. For all of Port Adelaide’s aggression and boldness, they were let down by some simple tactical errors that left them devoid of any confidence.

Tom Clurey was given a first crack at nullifying Tom Hawkins, and was made to pay for trying to defend him from the front. Hawkins’ six goals set the tone for a wonderful night. Geelong also defended the Power easily, and Port Adelaide simply gave up trying to attack through the middle, all of which played right into the Cats’ hands.

Tom Hawkins was unstoppable last week (Image by Jono Searle/ AFL Photos/ Getty Images)

Verdict: Port Adelaide need to draw up a plan B. Geelong are doing everything right, and could be a dark horse come the finals.

North Melbourne 8.4 (52) defeated by Brisbane 7.11 (53)

Brisbane very lucky to escape

The Lions may have gotten away with the win, but it doesn’t mean they deserved it. If Cam Zurhaar had slotted his set shot within the last minute and a half then it could have been a different result. North Melbourne were brave, as Nick Larkey gave another solid performance after his midfield benefitted from Todd Goldstein’s dominance.

Brisbane only got through because of their midfield. With Charlie Cameron out of sorts due to a knee injury, Eric Hipwood and co couldn’t get going. In the end, it was Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons and Dayne Zorko who did the heavy lifting to carry the Lions over the line. Poor conversion in front of goal will continue to worry Brisbane in the coming weeks.

Verdict: North Melbourne are producing a better effort, but Brisbane need to find another gear if they are to challenge for the flag.

Melbourne 16.4 (100) defeated Collingwood 6.8 (44)

The Dees blitz past the woeful Pies

It was the performance Melbourne needed to prove their worth. Now with a foot in the top eight, the Dees have bounced back terrifically. On Saturday night, Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw and Christian Petracca all stepped up in the midfield in the absence of Max Gawn. Around the ground, Ed Langdon was ever-dangerous on the wing while Michael Hibberd and Steven May held up the defence perfectly.

For Collingwood, their forward line was once again in tatters, and more injuries will only hurt them more. Too many leaders are out of form, and they were taken apart by the fast-flowing play style produced by Melbourne.

Verdict: Melbourne are improving by the week, and could be a finals threat. Collingwood are in a slump, and need a win to get back on track.

Christian Petracca wasn’t the only Demon smiling on Saturday (Image by Glenn Hunt/ Getty Images)

Fremantle 5.6 (36) defeated by Carlton 5.10 (40)

A crazy shot seals the win

Fremantle can consider themselves hard done by. They had done everything right in a grinding game – Matt Taberner slotted three great goals while Luke Ryan, Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw all continued to grow as young players. But when Jack Newnes was lucky to have a shot after the siren, everything came undone.

Ed Curnow, Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh were all crucial to getting Carlton into the match in the final minutes. But when the game was on the line, the former-Saint in Newnes produced one of the greatest set shots post siren to lift Carlton to an amazing win.

Verdict: It’s stiff for Freo, who deserved better. But the Blues needed to grab that, and now they must keep winning.

Western Bulldogs 16.15 (111) defeated Adelaide 8.6 (54)

Naughton’s return inspires the Dogs

The Dogs needed a pick-me-up against the bottom of the table Crows. It took one high-scoring quarter for Aaron Naughton to assert himself on the match, and he ended with six great goals. Alongside Naughton was Marcus Bontempelli, who dominated all four quarters and snagged two majors himself. With Bailey Smith and Lachie Hunter also flexing their muscles in the midfield, Adelaide had no answers to the Bulldogs’ depth.

The Dogs were ably led by skipper Marcus Bontempelli against the Crows (Herald Sun)

Reilly O’Brien was a lone soldier in the middle, and will have to continue performing if Adelaide are to grab a win in 2020.

Verdict: The Bulldogs may be making their run too late, but it’s still good to see them in form. Adelaide are fighting, but don’t have the class to hang in games.

St Kilda 10.8 (68) defeated Essendon 5.3 (33)

The King and his friends blunt Essendon

It’s taken a while for Max King to get a Rising Star nomination, but he finally snatched it after a wonderful performance against the Bombers. His three booming majors helped his side over a dour Bombers line-up who fought hard despite a lack of personnel.

An engaging midfield battle between Darcy Parish, Dylan Shiel, Zach Merrett and Zak Jones, Jack Billings and Jack Steele finally went St Kilda’s way. It wasn’t a clean win for the Saints, but it was another important victory that they worked hard for.

Verdict: St Kilda are grinding out points at the right time. Essendon need some help up forward, is big Joe the answer?

West Coast 12.9 (81) defeated Hawthorn 7.7 (49)

The Eagles keep rolling at home

It wasn’t pretty, but the Eagles did what they had to do.

The Hawks gave a strong effort around the footy despite losing James Sicily to an ACL injury. Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and James Worpel all held their own against one of the league’s best midfields, and Will Day continued his great start to his AFL career.

But Jeremy McGovern’s return to the side calmed his troops, and allowed Tom Barrass to dominate in the air down back. Liam Ryan was electric up forward, and took some breathtaking marks to boot three goals alongside the ever-dangerous Josh Kennedy.

It’s six in a row for the Eagles – how will Queensland treat them? (Image by Gary Day/ AAP)

Verdict: West Coast now face another interstate challenge, but are in decent shape for it. Hawthorn are definitely fighting harder, but lack the polish.

Richmond 8.5 (53) defeated Gold Coast 4.8 (32)

Weary legs give way

For the majority of this match the Suns were better. They ran harder, played more direct and kicked some wonderful goals.

But a four day break, compared to Richmond’s nine day hiatus, meant everything in the second half. Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch both shone with two goals each (despite the latter coming into some hot water for an off-the-ball hit), and Dylan Grimes controlled the back line superbly. In the end, Gold Coast couldn’t match it with them in the final quarter, despite Noah Anderson and Jack Lukosius both having break-out games against the reigning premier.

Verdict: A great effort by the Suns, but they got unlucky with the fixturing. Richmond are just getting through, and more wins will solidify their top four finish.

ROUND 13

Friday 7.50PM

TIO Stadium

Gold Coast v Carlton

How do the Blues bounce back?

In the first game in the Northern Territory for season 2020, Gold Coast will be looking to avenge their Monday night loss to the Tigers while Carlton must prove last week’s crazy finish has spurred them on.

For me, I’m looking at Jack Lukosius and Sam Collins – will they be able to defend Carlton’s deep forward line? A lot of attention will be on the Blues and how they respond to Saturday night’s after the siren goal – was that a fluke or are they strong enough to keep going?

Carlton will be looking for this winning feeling again (Image by Will Russell/ AFL Photos/ Getty Images)

Tip: Lineball. I can see the Suns winning if they bring the same effort they gave against Richmond. But Carlton must keep winning, so I’ll go with them. Blues by 10.

Saturday 1.45PM

Metricon Stadium

Western Bulldogs v Melbourne

Which midfield wins?

It’s arguably the battle of the round, and it has massive ramifications on the top eight. Both teams are challengers, and are in good form.

The key to this game is the midfield – without Max Gawn, Melbourne will rely on Petracca, Brayshaw and Oliver once again to attack from the centre and give their forwards first use. But if Bontempelli can star alongside Jack Macrae, Hunter and Smith, then the Dogs could snatch this one. It’s a battle between the in-form Dees and the potential of the Dogs.

Tip: A headscratcher. When will Melbourne’s form give way to the injuries? If Braydon Preuss is out then I’m going the Dogs by 17, but if he stays in and keeps the side balanced then Melbourne should get up by 20.

Saturday 4.35PM

Adelaide Oval

Port Adelaide v Hawthorn

Can the Power prove their worth?

Playing Hawthorn is no longer easy. In the past few weeks they’ve managed to galvanise and play a hard brand of footy that makes them tough to beat. So if the Power are to avenge their horror loss to the Cats, they must bring the intensity around the ball.

A lot is on Charlie Dixon, who was blanketed by Geelong and now has an opportunity due to Sicily’s injury. He needs to stand tall and pluck contested marks in order to bring some confidence back to Port Adelaide.

Tip: It may be tighter than expected, but the Power should get home. Port by 26.

Saturday 7.45PM

TIO Stadium

Essendon v Richmond

A Dreamtime like no other

Isn’t it exciting to have a Dreamtime at the ‘G clash up in the Northern Territory? It could also get more thrilling for Bombers fans if Joe Daniher makes his long-awaited return from injury. He could add a much-needed dimension to Essendon’s forward line to take the pressure off the midfield.

Up the other end, Tom Lynch will face some scrutiny. He has been in the news all week, and could respond with a big game in front of goals.

Can the Tigers win another Dreamtime match?

Tip: Sorry Essendon, but I can only see the Tigers snatching this one. Richmond by 23.

Saturday 8.10PM

Optus Stadium

Fremantle v Sydney

Will the Dockers handle heartbreak well?

It would have been a tough week for Fremantle. Such a loss can derail a season and evaporate form. But they have plenty of young guns who can bounce back.

This game will be more exciting than first thought. Two sides with some great young talent will square off. Who wins – Luke Ryan, Andrew Brayshaw and co, or Nick Blakey, Dylan Stephens and James Rowbottom?

Tip: This could come down to the wire (again), but I’m trusting the Dockers. Freo by 7.

The Dockers will need to play well to avenge for last week’s loss (Image by Paul Kane/ Getty Images)

Sunday 1.05PM

Adelaide Oval

Adelaide v Geelong

Danger should exact more pain

It’s a bad time for Adelaide to be reminded of who they let go. The Crows are in a low point, and now must find a way to stop an in-form Patrick Dangerfield.

But he is not the only problem – Geelong are so even around the park, and have a game style that is troubling all teams. Good luck to Daniel Talia, who will no doubt get the gig on Hawkins.

Tip: It may not be pretty for Adelaide. Cats by 43.

Sunday 3.35PM

The Gabba

Brisbane v St Kilda

Who’s more in form?

If this isn’t the game of the round, it’s a close second. The Lions aren’t looking as fast-paced and verdatile as they were earlier in the season, and must snag a big win if they are to prove themselves.

But something about St Kilda could trouble the Lions. Their midfield should match Brisbane’s and clamp Neale, while their defence is capable of holding Hipwood and Cameron. Up forward, they may have too many weapons.

The Lions must be much cleaner if they are to beat the Saints (Image by Matt Roberts/ Getty Images)

Tip: I’m bucking the trend – I could be wrong, but the Saints look to be flying much better than the Lions. St Kilda by 15.

Sunday 6.10PM

Optus Stadium

West Coast v GWS

Which pillar stands tallest?

Both of these sides have so many weapons all over the ground. But one side is on a winning streak, and the other can’t seem to catch a break.

If the Giants are to cause an upset, they need Jeremy Cameron, Nick Haynes and Jeremy Finalyson to perform at their respective ends. If they aren’t up to scratch, McGovern, Kennedy and Jack Darling should all wreak havoc and inspire their midfield towards victory.

Tip: The Giants have potential, but not this year. West Coast by 33.

Monday 7.10PM

The Gabba

Collingwood v North Melbourne

Can the Magpies click?

This is a massive game. The Roos have shown hints at better form, and can sniff an upset here. If Collingwood are to win this, they need to open up their forward line. Dropping Jaidyn Stephenson was a big mistake – leave him one-out deep forward and encourage some fast ball movement through the middle. If this doesn’t happen, North Melbourne could win the down-the-line contests and come away with the four points.

Tip: It’s a shaky tip, but I’m backing in the Pies amidst adversity. Collingwood by 21.

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