afl round 9, afl round 11

Pete Roberts from Behind The Footy is sharing some of his great content with us for the 2021 AFL season. Pete spent fifteen years in AFL coaching boxes as an analyst. He now shares those insights with footy fans. Here’s his AFL Round 11 Preview.

Nearing the halfway mark of the season, thankful that most of the season has remained intact, aside from a couple of fixture changes and a game or two without crowds.

This weekend might be the competition’s biggest test as it deals with the fallout from a COVID outbreak in Victoria. Fingers crossed things can stay under control. Footy just isn’t the same when it is played in an empty stadium – particularly when it’s 1 v 2 to kick off Round 11. Disappointing, but great to still have nine games to enjoy this weekend.

Apart from the top of the table clash, it’s a very lopsided round. All of the other favourites are $1.45 or under in most places, a reasonable indication that the underdogs have some work to do to cause an upset.

Best Matchup Western Bulldogs v Melbourne

Best Underdog Melbourne, Hawthorn, Carlton

Team Under Pressure St Kilda

Player To Watch The return of Elliot Yeo. Between Yeo and Shuey, those two might hold the key to the Eagles’ finals fortunes.

AFL Round 11: Western Bulldogs v Melbourne

The match of the round. 1st vs 2nd. The Dogs go into this one as favourites, but the Demons won’t be the pushover defensively like the Saints were last week. Is a 111-point stroll the right platform for a finals-like contest on Friday night?

Get ready for an INTENSE first quarter here. The Dogs haven’t lost a first term all year -yep, they are 10-0 with a score differential of 120 points – while Demons matches have the highest pressure ratings of any side in the competition, both for and against.

All signs point towards one of the most compelling starts to a match in recent history. Can the Dogs fly out of the blocks again, or will the Demons’ pressure lock things down and force them into a few errors? Absolutely anything could happen.

The Dogs’ ability to deal with pressure might go a long way to deciding this one – only two weeks ago we saw them win an arm wrestle away from home against Port Adelaide. That game had the third highest pressure rating for the round. The highest? Melbourne’s game against Carlton. Again, what do we make of such a low-pressure romp against St Kilda as the lead-up to this sort of contest? Not sure.

No doubt the Dees have studied the Bulldogs’ second half against Richmond in Round 7 for a glimpse on how to beat them. The Tigers piled on the pressure, successfully stopping the Dogs from scoring in a super defensive effort. The game resulted in the Western Bulldogs’ lowest inside 50 count (43) and score for the year (55), and more importantly Richmond found a way to kick nine goals in a half themselves.

That’s the blueprint for the Demons – their game style isn’t too dissimilar to the Tigers at their best, so it could all come down to execution. Too many at the ball and the Dogs can find a path to the outside. Not enough pressure on the ball carrier and they will slice you up anyway.

The territory war will be interesting, given these sides sit 1st and 2nd for time in forward half for the year. It might come down to the stoppage battle – the Dogs have the best clearance differential in the competition, losing just once in the first ten games. The return of English will help, as will Melbourne’s average record at centre bounce clearances in particular. If the Dees can find a way to be more effective in the middle, it’s game on.

At either end it’s a fascinating contest – Naughton and Bruce vs May and Lever will be critical. Melbourne have conceded only 76 marks inside 50 in ten games – remarkable considering there are 13 teams over 100 and their closest opposition is Geelong with 89.

The only forward to kick more than three goals against this Melbourne defence was Toby Greene in Round 3, when he kicked five in a losing side. Will Naughton’s aerial ability stretch the Dees defence? Either Bruce or Naughton have kicked 4+ in the past three weeks but face their biggest test here. If Melbourne can keep the ball on the deck a lot of the Dogs’ scoring power falls away with it.

Melbourne’s offence doesn’t rely nearly as much on winning aerial contests, which has made it difficult for the opposition to predict their ball movement. It’s a hidden strength of the Dees, their unpredictability, and it’s certainly something that might cause trouble for the Dogs in defence. Fritsch has escaped the best defenders so many times, and the likes of Pickett and Neal-Bullen continually manage multiple shots at goal a game. Pickett has had more shots than any other Demon this year – will this be the week he kicks a bag?

Melbourne should bring the pressure and defensive structure to make this a serious test for the Bulldogs. The Dogs might have the edge at stoppage and feel right at home at Marvel Stadium, although the lack of a crowd certainly wouldn’t be helpful.

This should be an absolute cracker.

Pick Western Bulldogs by 10
TopSport current market Western Bulldogs by 1-39 points @ $3.10

AFL Round 11: Collingwood v Geelong

Did we at least see a bit of a turning point for the Pies last week? They stretched a finals contender for four quarters, won contested possession (+10), clearance (+6) and inside 50s (+3), and kept Port Adelaide to 59 points. Clearly scoring themselves is still a massive issue.

In some ways Collingwood tackle Geelong at a good time – Duncan (who is in All-Australian form again) missing with concussion, Cam Guthrie on the ropes with a shoulder injury, and no Cats ruckman in any sort of form outside the ultimate utility in Blicavs.

The Cats were just sloppy last week with their skill level. Hard to think they would lack sharpness two weeks running, so look out Collingwood. It does depend on which Cats offence turns up – their averages are skewed by two enormous scores against Richmond (126) and West Coast (136), dotted around an unlikely loss to Sydney and an absolute escape against the “good” version of St Kilda.

We would have to see a repeat of a sub-70 kind of scoreline for the Pies to win this, you’d think. Defensively they have been quite good (8th best points against tally), so it’s not impossible. Against Hawkins and Cameron? Less likely.

The choice of Blicavs in the ruck paid dividends for Geelong last week. That was against the returning Zac Smith in his first game. Fair step up to try it against Brodie Grundy – feel like a broken record, but does Stanley or Fort jump into the team to counter his influence? If not, Grundy definitely becomes the spearhead of a potential Pies upset.

While there is a particular game script that has Collingwood keeping this close (and maybe pinching it), the more likely scenario is the Cats just have too much quality down back to be really tested by an underwhelming Collingwood forward line, plus enough weapons up forward with the potential to post the kind of score the Pies can’t match.

The Pies tried Pendlebury and Sidebottom forward to start the game last week – wonder what setup they will go with here. Anything is possible now they are in transition mode with little hope of making finals.

Even if Collingwood can win the clearance battle, the Cats should be comfortable with their defence and their ability to counter-attack from their back half. Expecting them to head into the bye week with an 8-3 record and freshen up for the run home.

Pick Geelong by 28
TopSport current market Geelong by 1-39 points @ $2.01

AFL Round 11: Brisbane v GWS

Arguably two of the most in-form teams in the competition face off here – the Lions are the only undefeated side over the past month, knocking off two potential finals opponents in the process. The Giants have spent more time in front on the scoreboard than any other team and arguably should be 4-0 in that period themselves.

The loss of Sam Taylor comes at a shocking time for GWS. Even though every side has to deal with a range of injuries through the season, it just seems the timing of the Giants’ outs is particularly cruel. Taylor would have taken one of the key Brisbane forwards, so without him they go into the game already undersized down back.

All of the recent numbers for these sides point to this one being a war of possession. We’ve mentioned before how the Giants have really started to embrace the contest far more than ever before, and the Lions showed last week they are prepared to get a bit nasty themselves. Sets up for a fierce contest at the ball no doubt.

Have to be with Brisbane, but feel the two sides shouldn’t be as far apart as they are currently. Without the likes of Greene, Hogan and Taylor it just makes things a lot harder for the Giants, even if their strong midfield can at least break even at stoppage.

Lions to march on. Wouldn’t want to take this Giants side lightly, though.

Pick Brisbane by 23
TopSport current market Brisbane by 1-39 points @ $2.16

AFL Round 11: St Kilda v North Melbourne

The traditional late Saturday afternoon timeslot featuring teams we’d rather bury away. Thankfully we have Brisbane v GWS, West Coast v Essendon and the horse racing to distract us from this one.

Thanks to some Twitter users much smarter than ourselves, this is the first time a team has started such short-priced favourites after a 100-point loss since the Saints faced the Essendon top-up players in 2016. Wonder who would win a match between that Bombers side and the 2021 Roos?

It really is the perfect bounce back spot for St Kilda. They still have far too much talent across the field to drop this one. Judging by team selection, the coaching group knew this wasn’t the week to pull a selection stunt and make a “statement” by dropping one of their better players. Five fringe players make way for four more.

As bad as the Saints have been offensively, the Roos can’t afford to make this one an open contest. There is still enough class in the Saints forward line to do damage against a Roos defence leaking 15 marks inside 50 per game. They have been better defensively of late, but Marvel Stadium does expose their lack of speed. Losses of 52, 128, 41, 18 and 72 at that venue this year already. If they can’t hold onto the ball and reduce their turnover rate, this could easily be another 40+ margin.

Clearly a lot of people will be cheering the upset here, just to see what chaos ensues for St Kilda the following week. They aren’t travelling well but the reaction has been a little over the top (similar to the Dees’ disappointing 2019 season after making a preliminary final the year before). They still have enough ingredients to do the job here. Comfortable they will.

Pick St Kilda by 43
TopSport current market St Kilda by 40+ points @ $2.80

AFL Round 11: Gold Coast v Hawthorn

Another forgettable game between two strugglers. A real problem for locked-down Victorians on Saturday night – watch this one and hope for a close game at least, or a potentially super-wet game in Perth between the Eagles and the Bombers. Dilemma.

Tipping the Suns will get the kind of game script they really enjoy – a relatively open contest where the most successful side at punishing turnovers will eventually win. The Hawks have a terrible differential at midfield turnovers, so if the Suns can capitalise on their mistakes and move the ball into an open forward line they should find enough ways to score.

We saw a similar game style when Gold Coast beat the Swans in Round 6. Sydney were off their game that day, but it could be quite similar to how things play out this weekend.

Clearly the Suns aren’t exactly flying themselves, so the Hawks have a shot here too. The added element of the SCG venue change makes things interesting. Do Hawthorn need to turn this one into a clearance battle? And even if they win that area of the game, do they have the forward line potency to capitalise? Pressure on Breust, Wingard, Lewis and Koschitzke to perform. That’s their ticket to a win, for sure.

Not a matchup we are particularly keen on either way. Whoever can capitalise on turnovers at the smaller-sized SCG should prevail, even though there are big question marks on both offences. Suns are marginally better at creating turnovers through the middle, so we will side with them to end a three-game losing streak.

Pick Gold Coast by 10
TopSport current market Gold Coast H2H @ $1.42

AFL Round 11: West Coast v Essendon

We can usually rely on games at Perth Stadium to be nice and dry. Not this time! For the second week running the WA match will be a wet one – 20-30mm forecast for Saturday with a 100% chance of rain.

Clearly this is far from ideal for a West Coast side with so many players over 195cm and a game style built on marking the footy. The conditions will force them into a contested grind, which is nearly the opposite of what they enjoy. A great test to see whether they can cope.

Great to see Elliot Yeo return after such a long period out of the game. We can’t expect too much from him first up, but he does get the kind of conditions to suit. A slower contest should help him ease into things, and also help combat Merrett, Parish and McGrath through the middle.

The Bombers definitely have the speed and creativity through the midfield to challenge the Eagles in the wet. They also rely on marking the ball up forward much more than you’d think, though. Can they adjust and find more scores from ground level through Stringer, Snelling and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti? Big question mark.

Even though it will be a lot tougher for Darling, Kennedy and Allen under those conditions, they will still really test a struggling Bombers defence. Ryan, Cripps, Ah Chee and the midfielders will need to find a way to hit the scoreboard instead of relying on the talls to do the job this time.

If you ever want to come up against a team who relies on marking the ball for 50% of their score (a competition high), it is this weekend at a wet Perth Stadium. That opens the door for a Bombers upset, but we still have the Eagles with a slight edge up forward even if the ball is on the ground a lot more.

Pick West Coast by 22
TopSport current market West Coast by 1-39 points @ $1.95

AFL Round 11: Richmond v Adelaide

No doubt Damien Hardwick really enjoyed this game being moved from the MCG and over to Giants Stadium this weekend. Probably won’t affect the result, but it will feel strange seeing these two go head-to-head in Sydney on Sunday afternoon

Richmond have a whos-who of premiership players returning just in time to beat up on the Crows. Three midfielders return, we get a look at Coleman-Jones in the ruck, and Josh Caddy finally breaks back into the side. Fair inclusions!

The Crows played at their absolute top last week to sneak a win over Melbourne. They would have to find that level again here, you’d think. Possible, yes. Likely? No.

The Tigers will want to get their offence going against a side with a tendency to give you plenty of chances. The Crows have had the third-highest inside 50 total against them this season – even without Tom Lynch up forward, the Tigers should enjoy a lot of supply. It’s just a matter of whether their forwards can capitalise.

Confident the Richmond defence can contain the Crows now that their experienced midfielders have returned. The Tigers should be able to apply far more pressure through the middle than in recent weeks, making it much easier for their defenders.

The Tigers still played at a reasonably high level last week. That would be enough to take care of Adelaide here unless the Crows are at their absolute top like last week.

Pick Richmond by 29
TopSport current market Richmond -21.5 @ $1,85

AFL Round 11: Sydney v Carlton

Really looking forward to this one. Two different game styles, two closely matched teams.

Any suggestion that the SCG doesn’t suit the Swans anymore is a bit of a myth. They play a slightly different method than previous years, but still enjoy grinding away when they need to. They have a 4-1 record at home, with their only loss a 2-point thriller against the Giants in Round 5. Sydney will be used to a tight scoreboard, having played in five games decided by less than two goals in the past seven weeks.

Can the Blues keep this close? It probably comes down to how well they defend. This is the critical part of this game – aside from their match last week against the offensively poor Hawthorn, the Blues have leaked five consecutive scores of 90+. Can’t afford to do the same here.

The sides are pretty evenly matched through the middle, and clearly the Blues have enough offensive weapons to trouble a mid-range Swans defence. So the Swans forwards v Carlton defenders becomes the key.

Backing Sydney to prevail at home. Don’t think it will be easy, though.

Pick Sydney by 13
TopSport current market Sydney H2H @ $1.48

AFL Round 11: Port Adelaide v Fremantle

The late Sunday slot provides one of the better games of the weekend, with the plucky Dockers trying to knock off a finals contender for the second week running.

Taberner’s injury makes this incredibly tough for them. A key forward combination of Josh Treacy and Rory Lobb shouldn’t trouble the likes of Aliir, Jonas and McKenzie, so the Dockers will need to find enough goals from Walters, Schultz and the midfielders to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Is this the game where the Port offence finally clicks? Their numbers suggest they are slowly returning to their forward half turnover game and generating enough supply, but it just hasn’t quite turned into scores just yet. Five weeks since they’ve broken 90 points, nine weeks since they’ve managed 100.

Get the feeling the Fremantle midfield will cause Port a lot of trouble, so that’s the chance for the Dockers to pinch this. Just can’t possibly be confident in that forward line. If Freo win the clearance battle, then Port will have to rely a lot more on their ball movement from the back half, which hasn’t been a strength of late.

Big test for Port at the stoppages, even bigger test for Fremantle up forward. If Port can get their forward half pressure game going then they should have enough class to finish the job.

Pick Port Adelaide by 27
TopSport current market Port Adelaide -25.5 @ $1.90

AFL Round 11 Burning Question

Would some players be more highly rated by the media or public if they played for a Victorian team?

Absolute myth. Many have said David Mundy would be more appreciated if he wasn’t playing for an interstate side. The only people saying that are those who don’t watch enough games. It’s a statement that should’ve been retired about 15 years ago.

Pete Roberts from Behind The Footy is sharing some of his great content with us for the 2021 AFL season. Pete spent fifteen years in AFL coaching boxes as an analyst. He now shares those insights with footy fans.

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