We’d like to warmly welcome two new AFL writers to Champion Picks.
 
Andrew Chichello will give us his best bet each week and Sean Callander will preview every game.
 
Andrew’s Best
 
Nth Melbourne v Port Adelaide
Saturday 4th May 2.10pm, Blundstone Arena
North Melbourne comes into this game after a heartbreaking 3 point loss to flag favourites Hawthorn on Sunday. They dominated all the major stats in that game (possesions, clearances and inside 50s) but just lacked the polish and poise going forward that is needed to beat a real quality side.  The fact that they have played some good football so far this year will count for little at the end of the season, unless they can start turning these honorable losses into wins.

Port Adelaide come into this after a remarkable win against the eagles on Saturday night. They trailed by 41 points half way through the third quarter and fought back to get home by 5 points. Yet to lose this season, the Power’s confidence is sky high at the minute but this will most definitely be their toughest test so far.

I can’t go past North here. They play well at the ground and have won 5 of the last 7 against Port. To say they’ve had a challenging start to the season would be an understatement (played last 4 grand finalists). However their draw does soften up for a while and the players and coaches will know these are the games they simply must win if they are to have any chance of featuring in September. They are second in the competition for clearances and I feel they will be too strong through the midfield with the likes of Swallow- number 1 in the AFL for clearances, Wells and Ziebell- number 3 in the AFL for centre clearances. They also look to have a distinctive edge up forward with Jackson Trengrove and Jasper Pittard out for the Power. I’m just not sure if the undermanned Port back-line can contain Drew Petrie, Lachie Hansen and Lindsay Thomas – who’s in career best form.  The fairy tale to end here for the boys from Alberton in what I see as a fairly comfortable victory for North Melbourne.

Selection: North Melbourne -19.5 @ 1.92 Sportsbet

Sean Callander’s Round 6 Preview
 
With no line shorter than 17.5 points, it would appear a fairly one-sided round of games, but extracting some value looks a tougher proposition.
Collingwood v St Kilda (Etihad Stadium, Friday, May 3, 7.50pm AEST)

It’s hard to see the Magpies being beaten here, not that either side has reached any great heights so far this season. However, the play of the round looks to be on the game total line, which looks overblown even for a game at Etihad. St Kilda has struggled for goals in all games except their big win over the Gold Coast, with limited output from both their small and tall forwards. Magpies coach Nathan Buckley has Darren Jolly back in the ruck and will be keen for a better showing from his leaky defence while his Saints counterpart Scott Watters won’t want a shootout his side can’t win.

Suggested bet (best of the round): Game total -200.5 (TAB Sportsbet)

Essendon v Greater Western Sydney (Etihad Stadium, Saturday, May 4, 1.45pm AEST)

While the soap opera continues off the field, the Bombers continue to leave their troubles in the change rooms with their 5-0 start to the season the best since their premiership-winning year of 2000. It’s hard to see their massive percentage of 176.7 suffering too much damage here as the ladder leaders take on 18th-placed Greater Western Sydney, who’ve made seven changes for this game. Kevin Sheedy (coaching against his former club for the final time) has watched his young side drop away badly in the final quarter of their past two games, and the injury list steadily grow. If the Bombers come to play, this could be an ugly afternoon for the Giants.

Suggested bet: Essendon -87.5 ($1.93 @ Bet365)

Nth Melbourne v Port Adelaide (Blundstone Arena, Hobart, Saturday, May 4, 2.10pm AEST)

Toughest game of the round to call – the undefeated Power start three-goal outsiders against a Kangaroos (1-4) outfit given no favours by the draw in their opening five games. Despite competitive showings against Collingwood, Geelong and Hawthorn, Brad Scott’s side now have little margin of error if they are to feature in the finals picture. It promises to be cold and blustery for this game, which won’t help the tall timber at either end of the park. As impressive as Port have been, they fell over the line against an Eagles side that kicked itself out of the game last week and face their toughest test of the season to date.

Suggested bet: Nth Melbourne 1-39 ($2.20 @ Sportsbet)

Adelaide v Hawthorn (AAMI Stadium, Saturday, May 4, 4.40pm AEST)

It’s hard to believe the last time these two sides met that the Hawks barely scraped over the line and into the 2012 Grand Final. Since then, Kurt Tippett has headed for the Swans in controversial circumstances and Taylor Walker’s season ended last week due to injury, leaving the Crows forward line sorely undermanned. Their average score had already fallen 15 points per game on last year. Hawthorn lost a star of its own last week when Cyril Rioli suffered another hamstring injury last week but they look well placed to improve on a record that reads 1-11 in their past 11 visits to AAMI Stadium.

Suggested bet: Hawthorn -23.5 ($1.97 @ Pinnacle)

Richmond v Geelong (MCG, Saturday, May 4, 7.40pm AEST)

This is the first meeting between the Tigers and Cats at the MCG since 2008 and you have to look back to 2006 to find the last time Richmond has claimed victory in this fixture. While the Tigers will be desperate to atone for last week’s nail-biting loss to Fremantle, this looks a tough task for a Richmond side that has yet to hits its straps this season. A lack of pressure on the opposition ball carriers has proved telling for the Tigers in the past fortnight (the return of Chaplin, Morris and King will help), and while Geelong hardly impressed in last week’s 21-point win over the Bulldogs, it’s just two weeks since Chris Scott’s side went to Sydney and beat the reigning premiers by the same amount.

Suggested bet: Geelong -17.5 ($1.99 @ Pinnacle)

Gold Coast v Fremantle (Metricon Stadium, Saturday, May 4, 7.40pm AEST)

Freo escaped with the points here last year and face another stern test from the drastically improved Suns, who are coming off a club record score and winning margin over GWS last year. Both sides have taken strides since last year, with the Suns increasing their scoring output and ability to clear the ball at stoppages while the Dockers defensive intensity is the envy of the competition. Harley Bennell returns for the Suns while the Dockers will be without Stephen Hill, Nate Fyfe and Kepler Bradley. Gold Coast isn’t quite up to this standard yet, but will certainly keep the visitors honest.

Suggested bet: Fremantle 1-24 ($3.40 @ Sportsbet)

Sydney v Brisbane (SCG, Sunday, May 5, 1.10pm AEST)

The Swans premiership defence is firmly on track and they enter this clash off a nine-day break after holding off the Saints in NZ on ANZAC Day. The Lions also won last week, but there’d have been even more heat on Michael Voss if his side had lost to Melbourne. Memories of their NAB Cup win are quickly fading into history, compounded by the long-term loss of Daniel Rich. Sydney may not be firing on all eight cylinders, particularly up forward where San Reid and Lewis Jetta haven’t quite hit their straps, but the home side look the good to make it six in a row over the Lions.

Suggested bet: Sydney 40-59 ($4.10 @ Sportsbet)

Carlton v Melbourne (MCG, Sunday, May 5, 3.20pm AEST)

The fog that lifted from Melbourne after that win over GWS a fortnight ago is rapidly enveloping the club once again after last week’s loss in Brisbane. Meanwhile, the Malthouse era looks to be gaining momentum after a sluggish opening month to the season. Their small forward set-up has steadily improved in the continued absence of Waite and Hampson. The Demons aren’t a bad side when they have the footy – it’s been a lack of defensive pressure that allowed sides to run up huge scores in the first three weeks of the season. Ironically, Melbourne last defeated Carlton in the so-called ‘Kreuzer Cup’, and looks unlikely to improve on that record here.

Suggested bet: Carlton -64.5 ($2 @ BetStar)

West Coast v Western Bulldogs (Patersons Stadium, Sunday, May 5, 4.40pm AEST)

It’s not everyday that the 15th-placed side starts a $1.06 favourite against the 16th-placed side, but the market looks pretty close to the mark. The Eagles and Bulldogs both bring 1-4 records into this match but the upside is all with the hosts. Hampered by a long list of injuries and struggling to find the form that took them as far as the semi-finals in 2012. But this is the sort of game that could put West Coast back on track with several of their key players scheduled to return in coming week. The Bulldogs are the lowest scoring team in the competition, and have shown only glimpses of competitive form.

Suggested bet: West Coast -59.5 ($2 @ Sportsbet)