Sunday afternoon sees fourth take on twelfth, with Richmond up against Hawthorn at the MCG. Both teams are coming off good wins, Richmond were strong in the sunshine state, and despite missing star forward Jack Riewoldt, were too good for the Gold Coast Suns. Hawthorn were pushed all the way before recording a six-point win against their old foe Sydney in a gripping encounter at the MCG. A Richmond win could all but end Hawthorn’s quest for an unlikely finals berth, at the same time consolidating their own hold on fourth spot and a vital double chance in the finals.
The loss of Hawthorn leader, and retiring star, Luke Hodge from the side due to suspension could prove to be a massive out. Hodge’s influence on the Hawks younger players has been enormous in their late season charge, and even in his 16th season of AFL football he has proven pivotal to Hawthorn chances in 2017.
As it is most weeks, the battle for clearances could go a long way to deciding the winner of this contest. Watching Tom Mitchell and Will Langford for Hawthorn, squaring off against Brandon Ellis and Trent Cotchin for supremacy in this area will be an intriguing contest within a contest. The winner of this duel could well decide the outcome of the match.
Richmond’s leading goal kicker Jack Riewoldt looks likely to miss this week’s clash after his training mishap last week. This will mean that the Tigers will once again rely on their small forwards like Rioli and Butler to provide the goals. One silver lining from Riewoldt’s absence is that the younger players will receive a taste of leadership and the opportunity to be a central target up forward.
With Josh Caddy expected to help cover for the loss of Riewoldt up forward, the former Sun, and Cat can expect to feel the spotlight’s glare this week. He has struggled to find a consistent spot in the Richmond team, but recent weeks he has been given more of an opportunity and fans are hoping he can capitalise.
Both teams will look to curb the influence that star men Tom Mitchell and Dustin Martin have on the contest. Both have been the keys to the success of their respective sides and will no doubt have an awful lot of attention sent their way by the opposition coach this weekend. Martin, the clear Brownlow favourite in the wake of Patrick Dangerfield’s suspension, is one of the competition’s ultimate game winners while Mitchell is an incredible accumulator of possessions. The team that can successfully negate either player may well tip the scales of the contest in their favour.
The Hawks have won three of the last five contests between the two sides including the last encounter in Round 20 last year. On that occasion, Hawthorn took a hard fought 10-point lead into the half-time break before blowing the game open with a 12 goals to two second half. What had been a tight struggle turned into a comfortable 70-point victory, with the Hawks winning a remarkable 99 more possessions than the limp Tigers.
B Nathan Broad, Alex Rance, Dylan Grimes
HB Brandon Ellis, David Astbury, Nick Vlastuin
C Bachar Houli, Trent Cotchin, Shaun Grigg
HF Kane Lambert, Shane Edwards, Jason Castagna
F Josh Caddy, Daniel Rioli, Dan Butler
FOL Toby Nankervis, Dustin Martin, Anthony Miles
I/C Dion Prestia, Corey Ellis, Kamdyn McIntosh, Ivan Soldo
B Taylor Duryea, Kaiden Brand, Jack Gunston
HB Ryan Burton, James Sicily, Shaun Burgoyne
C Liam Shiels, Tom Mitchell, Conor Glass
HF Billy Hartung, Tim O’Brien, Isaac Smith
F Luke Breust, Jarryd Roughead, Ryan Schoenmakers
FOL Ben McEvoy, Will Langford, Daniel Howe
I/C Blake Hardwick, Ricky Henderson, Teia Miles, Brendan Whitecross
The centre clearance battle will be the decisive factor in this game and I expect Dustin Martin and Brandon Ellis to be too strong for the Hawks midfield brigade. Hawthorn will take the fight right up to them but Richmond will prevail in a close game. Richmond by 10 points.
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