AFL 2020 Round 14 Review, Round 15 Preview: A telling few weeks for top eight fancies

The battle for a top eight spot is heating up, and last weekend defined an exciting month ahead. Now eyes turn to Round 15 – which teams will firm up a spot and who will fall out of contention?

ROUND 14

Hawthorn 10.11 (71) defeated by Essendon 13.9 (87)

Big Joe sparks a frenzy

Essendon were a long way off on Thursday evening.

Halfway through the third term the Bombers sat six goals behind the Hawks, who had battled strongly due to the influence of Ben McEvoy and James Worpel. But when Andrew McGrath’s (32 touches) effort in the middle finally changed the momentum, Joe Daniher benefited. He was everywhere – sliding into a mark and goal. Curling through a snap in the pocket, before slamming through the sealer. This was surrounded by pack marks and athleticism; Daniher’s presence changed the dynamic of Essendon’s forward line. It was a disappointing second half for the Hawks, who had no answer for Daniher and McGrath’s dominance throughout the match.

Essendon were inspired by the return of Joe Daniher (Image by James Elsby/ AFL Photos/ Getty Images)

Verdict: Hawthorn let slip a golden chance to continue building, while the Bombers have the ingredients to threaten on the run home.

Richmond 14.4 (88) defeated West Coast 9.7 (61)

Are the Tigers flag favourites?

It’s the question on many people’s lips. Just like last year, the Tigers are heating up at the right time. Against one of their greatest challengers, Richmond flew away off the back of accurate kicking and Trent Cotchin’s masterful performance in the middle. With Bachar Houli returning and Noah Balta continuing his hot streak down back, Richmond had all the answers when it counted.

West Coast fought valiantly – Tim Kelly and Andrew Gaff were tough all night, but couldn’t crack through Richmond’s stingy defence enough. When the Tigers did surge forward, they looked slick and overwhelming. It’s danger signs.

Verdict: Richmond are in a perfect spot. West Coast need to work to continue their good run of form.

Western Bulldogs 9.7 (61) defeated Geelong 10.12 (72)

Mature Cats survive a mighty scare

In a tight clash, the Dogs had all the momentum in the early stages. Their deep midfield out-hunted the Cats, while their defence rebounded superbly. Chief instigators included Lachie Hunter, Bailey Smith and Josh Dunkley in the middle, with Hayden Crozier and Caleb Daniel using the ball smartly off half-back. But Dunkley’s ruck rotations cruelled the Dog’s momentum, and Geelong worked back into the contest.

Patrick Dangerfield was the instigator in the comeback, as he and Cam Guthrie won the clearance battle convincingly. When Gary Rohan and Tom Hawkins got off the chain late, Geelong stormed away to snatch a massive win.

Gary Rohan was crucial in Geelong’s comeback win (Image by Julian Smith/ AAP)

Verdict: The Dogs let a crucial game slip. Geelong have the mettle to challenge Richmond in the finals.

Port Adelaide 11.7 (73) defeated Sydney 7.5 (47)

Rusty Port push past the Swans

It wasn’t pretty, but it was important. The Power remained on top of the ladder through sheer determination. Sydney brought their trademark intensity all day; Jordan Dawson was terrific, while Tom McCartin switched back to cover Charlie Dixon and held his own in the second half.

But their smaller frames couldn’t match the bullish work done by Robbie Gray and Ollie Wines. With Travis Boak and Tom Rockliff also feeding off superb rucking from Scott Lycett, the Power always held enough cards to win this one.

Port Adelaide were forced to work hard for their win on Saturday (PAFC)

Verdict: The Power are doing enough, but need to build up form again. Sydney are giving everything; only good things are on the horizon for 2021.

Fremantle 8.5 (53) defeated by GWS 14.7 (91)

Riccardi and Cameron make hay

It was a must-win clash for the Giants, and some tall timber shone through finally.

The key came when Stephen Coniglio and Lachie Whitfield broke free. Their prolific games in the midfield resulted in efficient delivery up forward, and it brought Jeremy Cameron and second-gamer Jake Riccardi into the mix. Both slotted four in an impressive tandem display – have the Giants found a new key forward?

The Dockers tried their hard out, led by David Mundy, who is in the midst of an underrated campaign. It just wasn’t their day.

Verdict: An understandable step back for the young Dockers. GWS needed this – can they make a late charge?

Melbourne 8.4 (52) defeated St Kilda 7.7 (49)

Super Christian wins a thriller

This match stayed neck-and-neck all night, only to be decided by a controversial goal.

The score came courtesy of Christian Petracca, who starred with four majors and a show of strength in the guts. His last goal came after fighting off three Saints defenders to throw the ball on his boot. As it trickled over the line, the lack of goal side cameras meant the review rejected a despairing St Kilda hand. It was a crucial decision – Petracca got to be the hero off the back of Steven May’s terrific intercept match down back, while Jack Steele’s valiant effort for the Saints came up short. Now, they are back in the pack of teams trying to find a top eight spot.

The Dees and Saints locked horns in a tantalising match (MDFC)

Verdict: Petracca is a Brownlow smokey – his improvement has been extraordinary. St Kilda are faltering at a bad time, and someone needs to join Steele in doing the hard work.

Carlton 7.6 (48) defeated by Collingwood 10.12 (72)

Smooth Pies rise up

It was a win the Pies needed. After weeks of sloppiness and low scores, Collingwood finally played an attacking brand of footy that overran the Blues.

In a highly-touted clash between two rivals, Carlton pulled away late in the second term off the back of efficient forward play and some smart ball usage from Sam Walsh. But with Patrick Cripps and Eddie Betts falling quiet, Collingwood warmed up to the task. Their vaunted defence, led by Darcy Moore, Jack Crisp, Brayden Maynard, John Noble and Isaac Quaynor, stifled the Blues and rebounded with precision. Mason Cox and Brody Mihocek rediscovered their forward chemistry, while Jamie Elliott and Taylor Adams seized control in the middle. Perhaps the best was Josh Daicos – his game summed up a terrific year for the budding star.

Brodie Grundy and his Pies rose higher than the Blues when it mattered (CFC)

Verdict: The Blues let one slip with a terrible second half. Collingwood are hanging in and doing everything right.

Gold Coast 12.19 (91) defeated North Melbourne 4.4 (28)

Youth beats uncertainty

The Suns have been pushing for a win in the past month, but have been unlucky not to claim points. On Sunday, they finally snatched their chance. Ben Ainsworth continued his great form, while Noah Anderson and Hugh Greenwood won all contested balls in the centre. When it went down forward, Lachie Weller threatened on the flank and Izak Rankine looked as dangerous as ever.

Despite Robbie Tarrant and Luke McDonald fighting hard again, Alex Sexton broke free to snag four goals. It’s worrying times for the Roos – only Jed Anderson and Jy Simpkin could hold their heads high – a tale that sums up North Melbourne’s dismal season.

Verdict: A validating win for the Suns. North have some bright stars, but the lack of even contribution is a killer.

ROUND 15

Tuesday 5.40PM

Adelaide Oval

Hawthorn v Adelaide

Is now the time for the Crows?

Adelaide won’t have many more chances to snag a maiden win for the season. They’ve loaded up for this clash – Daniel Talia and Brad Crouch are welcomed back in to give the Crows the boost they need.

But the Hawks have some experience in too – can McEvoy continue his good form and out-point Reilly O’Brien? Hawthorn know they’ll have to match Adelaide’s intensity if they are to claim this win.

Tip: Adelaide will throw everything at the Hawks, but the brown and gold should win if they replicate their first half form from last week. Hawks by 18.

Tuesday 8.10PM

The Gabba

West Coast v Essendon

The strengthened Bombers can test the Eagles

It won’t be easy for the Eagles. They must win if they are to shake off any interstate wobbles. But to win they must replace Josh Kennedy and Jamie Cripps up forward – no mean feat.

The Bombers have some experience back in Dyson Heppell and Michael Hurley. It’s their best team they’ve put up all year – can the Bombers produce an almighty upset?

Can the Eagles find form up north? (WCFC)

Tip: Essendon are capable of winning this, but it’s just too much of a risk to back them in. Eagles by 13.

Wednesday 7.10PM

Metricon Stadium

Richmond v Fremantle

A test against the best

Coming off a demoralising home loss, Fremantle can look at this match positively. The likes of Andrew Brayshaw, Matt Taberner and Caleb Serong will get to test out their skills against the strongest all-round team in the competition.

Richmond continue to improve, and should be ominous for any team they face.

Tip: Freo can try hard, but it won’t be enough. Tigers by 28.

Thursday 4.40PM

Cazaly’s Stadium

Sydney v Melbourne

A case of who works hardest, wins

Melbourne know they must win this, but it won’t come easy. They’ll be drained after the weekend’s exhilarating finish, and are facing a Sydney side full of grit. With Josh Kennedy back crashing into packs, the Swans have a chance if they use the ball well.

But Melbourne have class – expect Petracca and Max Gawn to have big nights if the Demons get up.

The Demons, off the back of a scalp, must consolidate against the Swans (AFL)

Tip: Melbourne are good enough and should account for Sydney’s weaknesses in the talls department. Dees by 25.

Thursday 7.10PM

Metricon Stadium

GWS v Carlton

An early Elimination Final

This is it. One of these sides will be gone from finals contention after this. Carlton are basically teetering, but they can take a scalp with them if they crash the Giants’ party.

All eyes will be on whether the in-form Josh Kelly can recover from his injury in time. If not, Cripps and Ed Curnow could exploit their midfield if they are on song. It’s a big week for Jacob Weitering and Liam Jones – after getting their colours lowered by Collingwood’s talls, they must nullify the in-form Cameron and Riccardi if they are to challenge.

Tip: I can see the Blues snatching this, but the Giants could have just turned a corner. GWS by 11.

Eddie Betts must be at his best if the Blues are to beat the Giants (AFL)

Friday 7.50PM

The Gabba

Brisbane v Collingwood

An interesting test

This is the game of the round. Brisbane are shaky, and are slipping down the ladder. They must find motivation if they are to work past the Pies at home. Collingwood are warming up at the right time – can Eric Hipwood and Charlie Cameron break through their defence enough to win this?

Expect the Pies to consider bringing in Levi Greenwood to tag Lachie Neale. If this happens, it’ll be an exciting battle between Taylor Adams and Jarryd Lyons – two in-form bulls who excel in finding the footy. Also, who will take Jaidyn Stephenson, and can Cox continue his great form to nullify Harris Andrews’ marking game?

Tip: I’d normally go the Lions, but they may face a big challenge. They should be a strong chance due to the longer break, but I’m not convinced on their form while the Pies match up well against them. Collingwood by 8.

Byes: Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Geelong, St Kilda

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