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The Roar’s AFL experts tips and predictions: Round 23

And now, the time is near

And so I face the final curtain

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen and goodbye to 2022 – my worst tipping season in a long, long time.

How I’m still clinging to second in our experts tipping competition is a minor miracle, but being six down from The Crowd with one round to play, two of three of my ‘roughies’ falling to pieces like Essendon at the moment, she’s pretty grim, I won’t lie.

Regrets? I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.

With nine games to go, three top-four spots and one top-eight spot up for grabs, it’s going to be an absolutely ripping week regardless of how your tips have fared. So let’s jump straight in!

Tim Miller (last week: 7)

Melbourne, Fremantle, Gold Coast, Geelong, Richmond, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Carlton, Sydney

Okay, it wouldn’t be Round 23 without a few dead-rubbers – Saturday in particular looks a decent day to get some gardening in or visit loved ones – but the amount of games with serious finals ramifications (plus a Showdown!) makes this one of the most thrilling finales we’ve seen in many a year.

Let’s get the snore-fests out of the way first. Fremantle need to knock over a GWS biding time until the end of the season to have any chance of the top four. The Giants nearly pulled off a shock against the Bulldogs last week, but the Dockers are substantially better.

Geelong resting Tom Atkins and losing Jeremy Cameron and Rhys Stanley probably sums up how the Cats are treating this one. It probably won’t be a record win, but the Eagles have a stack of big injuries as well, from Nic Naitanui to Andrew Gaff, and while they could win a flag without that pair in 2018, they won’t come close at GMHBA Stadium.

In between, North Melbourne host Gold Coast in a match that would have seen the Roos as favourites in just about any other year; but in 2022, they suck and the Suns certainly don’t.

Saturday night sees Richmond face Essendon in a match surely only fans of the two teams and gluttons for Bomber failure would want to watch over the Showdown. Richmond to win by plenty.

The Showdown is in essence a dead rubber, but good like telling Adelaide and Port that. The Derby saw fights aplenty, but the match itself has always been front and centre in this bitter rivalry. I can’t be the only one hoping for Robbie Gray to win a sixth Showdown Medal and carry the Power to victory one last time.

Then on Sunday twilight – a half-dead rubber – the Saints might technically still be in the finals hunt, if Carlton get walloped by Collingwood, while Sydney will have top two to play for. Dan Hannebery’s last act as a footballer will be, in bitter tragedy, watching the side he once played for swan into the finals while he bows out. At least he can head home and count his millions.

Now, onto the main event.

For starters, Friday night sees Melbourne travel to the Gabba and face Brisbane. The carrot is a top-four (and maybe even top-two) finish. The stick? An elimination final against either Richmond or Carlton. Yuck.

It’s season on the line stuff, so while Brisbane’s home record is imperious, I’m still yet to give up on the Demons’ chances of back to back flags.

In the early Sunday game, Hawthorn are in full experimental mode and should be a safe kill for a decent side – but the Bulldogs showed last week that’s far from what they are.

I can’t bring myself to back against the Dogs with so much at stake – they’ll win, and probably by enough to get past Carlton on percentage, but they probably won’t make it easy for themselves.

Last but not least, the main event: the MCG, Sunday at 3:20pm, Carlton versus Collingwood. The latter knowing a win means top four, the former just playing for their spot in the eight.

The Blues have rolled the dice on selection, and a lot of this game will rest on whether George Hewett, Adam Cera and Zac Williams are match-fit or just Hail Mary ins. If it’s a desperate move, the Magpies will be in the box seat – but it’ll probably be a thriller, and I’m not sure if my heart can take it.

The bottom line is that the Blues have been a finals-worthy side all the way through the season, and as funny as it would be to see them fall at the last gasp, I don’t think it’ll happen. Carlton to have one of their great days.

Lachie Neale of the Lions handpasses the ball

(Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Dem Panopoulos (last week: 6)

Melbourne, Fremantle, North Melbourne, Geelong, Richmond, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Carlton, Sydney

It’s the final week of the home-and-away season already, and it absolutely flew by!

While most of the top eight has been settled for a while, there’s been plenty of jockeying for positions that has made most matches intriguing over the last month or so.

It also means the majority of the tipping season is over, so we may as well end it as we’ve started it – throwing darts at a tiny board.

I’d have Brisbane in the bottom tier of premiership contenders out of the top eight teams, but given their incredible home record in home-and-away matches, you’d have to think the match is slightly leant in their favour. Given the squeeze for a top-four position though, it’s hard to see the Demons rolling over easily.

While Mark McVeigh is apparently in the final three options for the GWS job, it’s hard to see them really doing anything of note to finish the season. Fremantle want a top four spot and the only way that happens from their perspective is winning.

Picture this. It’s Saturday afternoon and the rumours are buzzing about the senior coaching position at North Melbourne. The players are excited – it’s happening, it’s actually happening. They go out and win their third game of the season, avoiding consecutive wooden spoons.

Then Alastair Clarkson’s music hits like a CM Punk return and the year ends on a high.

We can dream people.

Imagine if that was followed up by West Coast beating Geelong in Geelong, forcing North to actually win the spoon. It won’t happen, but there’s dark humour to it.

Tigers fans are breathing easier with the idea that they don’t have to face a new coach to finish the regular season. The Bombers will have a crack for Ben Rutten and Michael Hurley, but they’ll probably fall short.

Expect Port to send off Robbie Gray in style, justifiably for a legend of the club, on a fitting stage in the Showdown.

We already know all eyes will be on Sunday footy, but I think it might end up being a little anticlimactic. Hawthorn hasn’t lost a final round game since 2009. The Bulldogs have everything to play for, but the Hawks fire up for these sorts of contests.

An upset could be on the cards here, then all eyes will have to be on Luke Beveridge.

Yet no matter the result of that game, Carlton may well beat Collingwood anyway. Which is great news for Magpies fans, as I’m almost exclusively on the wrong side of this one on a weekly basis. Enjoy the top four.

Finally, the Dan Hannebery Cup ends the 2022 regular season. He’s tried to squeeze everything he can out of his body and recency bias tends to overshadow just how good the midfielder has been in his career.

The Swans will win, but the only hope is that he can run out the game strongly.

Dan Hannebery

Dan Hannebery poses during a St Kilda Saints AFL Media Opportunity at Moorabbin Oval on November 15, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Cameron Rose (last week: 8)

Melbourne, Fremantle, Gold Coast, Geelong, Richmond, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Carlton, Sydney.

What a juicy round 23 we’ve got! Can’t wait.

Brisbane hosts Melbourne to start it all off in what might be the biggest home and away match the Gabba has ever seen.

I’m not sure the Dees are at the best of their 2021 form, but they still have substance. The Lions have no substance. They keep playing an attacking game without a sound defence, and they keep coming up short in the biggest games. It will happen again.

The loser finishes fifth or sixth and an elimination final against potentially Richmond. Sheesh.

Fremantle will take care of GWS – you can take that to the bank. If Collingwood stumble against Carlton, the Dockers will be top four.

Gold Coast should beat North to continue a very lacklustre Saturday (compared to what’s ahead at least). Geelong will get four points against West Coast with no fuss, and you’d think the Tigers do the same against an imploding Essendon.

Port can win the showdown over Adelaide and send Robbie Gray off on a high.

On Sunday, the Dogs have to win to sneak into eighth place, and will be there at the final siren if victorious.

Then we get to the MCG and Carlton vs Collingwood in front of what must be 90,000 people.

The Pies’ luck finally ran out on the weekend, and Carlton put up the most gallant loss of the season against Melbourne. Will they suffer an emotional let-down, or can they get up again?

I reckon Collingwood has won their last game for the season already. They’ll lose on Sunday and get bounced in week one.

Sydney and St Kilda finish off the season. The Swans might well be fifth or even sixth on the live ladder when this one starts, but second place is theirs if they can win.

Every goal might be crucial in this one.

Robbie Gray of the Power celebrates a goal

(Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Liam Salter (last week: 7)

Brisbane, Fremantle, Gold Coast, Geelong, Richmond, Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Carlton, Sydney

Hell yeah, it’s the final round before finals, and it need not be said that it is a gloriously thrilling round we’ve arrived at.

Top four? Up in the air. Top eight? Not assured. Me being bound to get tips wildly wrong? Yeah, that’s nearly certain.

Thank the Lord, the AFL fixturing depatment have got it right for once: we open the round with an absolute thriller. Brisbane, so good at the Gabba yet possibly underrated throughout this year, host the Demons, who may yet miss out on the double chance a year after their premiership win.

Brisbane have lost three in a row to the reigning premiers – and presumably have a gag order on anyone mentioning their 10-goal loss to them in Victoria in June (my gut can assure you this will barely be a three goal loss either way tonight). With the raucous home crowd behind them, I’m prepared to throw my backing behind the Lions. Nervously, that is. 

Rapid-firing through Saturday’s games, given seven of the ten teams featuring won’t be playing finals: I cannot explain how bad a feeling I have about my own team against the Giants, so I’ll just tip Freo out of patriotism and move on quickly.

North may or may not have Alastair Clarkson on board by the time they run out for the final time in ’22, but even that motivation won’t help them win against the Suns, who’ll cap off their best season in yonks.

For all the ranting about not getting a genuinely home final, everybody is missing the blatant Geelong bias in the fact they get a bye before the pre-finals bye (no hate mail, Eagles fans). Richmond are secured in finals, so promptly should beat Essendon, I guess – but who the hell knows what the club from Tullamarine will do, to be honest.

And here’s the potentially stupid tip of the week: the Crows will spoil Robbie Gray’s final game in the Showdown (just as they ruined Josh Kennedy’s farewell and Ben Cunnington’s return game. Those dastardly Crows…)

And yet, amongst all that fun, Sunday is by far the most consequential day. And the most consequential game – the one that could influence the positions of about a half dozen different teams – is Carlton v Collingwood.

Here’s the basic context: Collingwood’s winning streak is snapped; Carlton begin the round rather uncomfortably in eighth owing to, well, Kozzie Pickett; the Blues need to win to make finals; Collingwood would love to in order to make top four. Enough pressure?

It’s hard to predict anything about this game, given Collingwood’s injury concerns may alleviate some of the pressure on the Blues; yet it’s impossible to forget Carlton’s average form in recent weeks. But a game of this stature generally has little logic, and for that reason, I’m gonna back the Blues to keep the finals fairytale going. 

Regardless of other results, the Dogs absolutely, non-negotiable-y need to win to have any chance of making finals. The issue is, they’re playing the Hawks in Tassie, a land where the Dogs haven’t won in 14 years. Fortunately, the Doggies – especially with the motivation – are a stronger team than the Hawks, and I can’t see them dropping this one. Will it be enough?

Another team who should win purely on the basis of collective strength are the Swans: they play the Saints, who need a miracle to play finals and who have looked so poor over the last few months it’s difficult for me to comprehend them surprising the visitors in the home and away season’s final game.

Patrick Cripps of the Blues avoids a tackle by Brayden Maynard of the Magpies

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Round 22 Tim Dem Cam Liam Crowd
BL vs MEL MEL MEL MEL BL BL
GWS vs FRE FRE FRE FRE FRE FRE
NM vs GCS GCS NM GCS GCS GCS
GEE vs WCE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE
ESS vs RCH RCH RCH RCH RCH RCH
PA vs ADE PA PA PA ADE PA
HAW vs WB WB HAW WB WB WB
CAR vs COL CAR CAR CAR CAR COL
STK vs SYD SYD SYD SYD SYD SYD
ROLLING SCORE 128 117 125 118 134

READ:  A Hawks fan's take on Clarkson going to North

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