AFL Round 17 – Five Burning Questions

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Nathan Jones reckons he’s turning the telly off during games due to lack of excitement.

The Melbourne midfielder is right, footy is no doubt missing it’s usual oomph, but one quick peak at the ladder shows there’s plenty more stories yet to come.

There’s a big weekend of footy ahead, and some serious finals implications on the line. Better yet, with so many teams sitting on the fringe of the eight, battling injuries or just inconsistent form, there’s some big opportunities for punters to cash in ahead of Round 17.

So who should you back in your footy multi this weekend?

Before you lay down the coin, here’s a few questions to consider.

Can the Hawks Survive Without Ben McEvoy?

Big boy laid a serious bump on Bulldogs midfielder Josh Dunkley last week, but it was McEvoy who came off second-best. One fractured cheekbone later, McEvoy is set to miss over a month of action, a serious blow to a Hawthorn side already riddled with injuries.

Up next for the Hawks, the Brisbane Lions, a young and resilient side who look capable of an upset on any given week. Having already lost to the Lions back in Round 9, Hawthorn already know how dangerous this side is, and at $2.30 to miss the Top 8, the Hawks’ finals hopes are no guarantee.

McEvoy’s absence will be felt overhead – the big fella normally reels in three or so pack marks each game – but his tackling pressure will be missed the most. Led by Dayne Zorko and Dayne Beams, the Lions were savage through the midfield last week, and after racking up eight tackles against the Dogs, the Hawks really could have done with McEvoy in the lineup.

In positive news for Hawthorn, the inclusion of Brendan Whitecross is a welcome sign, but going forward, the Hawks may feel the pinch without their most talented big man unless replacement Jon Ceglar can fill the void.

Are the Demons Still a Genuine Premiership Threat?

The Demons have fallen all the way to $13.00 to win the premiership, but there’s still a case to be made for this side to finish Top 4.

If you’ll remember, the Dees were flying when they last met the Bulldogs back in Round 11, but how things change. Back then Melbourne had won five straight, but now they probably look a little wobbly and inconsistent to punters.

The run home is mean and nasty now, with trips to Geelong, Adelaide and West Coast to come. We should learn plenty about Melbourne this week against the Bulldogs though, but to be fair, you can’t consider anything short of a belting the least bit convincing.

Melbourne welcome back Bernie Vince this week, but as it’s shaping up, Melbourne could be in store for some final week, ninth placed heartache for the second year in a row.

Magic Majak?

The chips are down, and it’s crunch time for the Roos against the Swans this week.

Injuries have ravished North Melbourne’s forward line, and with Jarrad Waite and Mason Wood still out, you have to wonder where the goals are going to come from.

North thought they found the answer after recalling Cameron Zurrhaar, but a broken ankle sustained during last week’s win against the Suns has ruled the 20-year old out indefinitely.

So, enter Majak Daw, North Melbourne’s… savior?

A year ago Shinboner fans would have laughed at that statement, but the attacking spearhead has really come into his own. Daw replaced Zurrharr down forward last week, and it’s likely we see the 27-year old in the same spot against the Swans this weekend.

It’s a real catch twenty-two for the Roos though – Daw has developed as one of the best intercept markers in the league, but do you sacrifice that to take some of the pressure off Ben Brown?

The league’s leading goal-kicker has been smothered by defenders over the last fortnight, so it’s a gamble the Roos should be willing to take.

Would a Richmond Loss Say More About the Giants or Tigers?

Three losses, all on the road.

There’s been plenty of talk about the AFL’s scheduling in recent weeks, and a Tigers loss to the Giants at Spotless Stadium on Saturday night might just reignite the spark.

Richmond are genuine $2.75 flag favourites for a reason, but a loss to a half-strength Giants team away from home could really highlight how vulnerable the yellow and black are on the road.

At $2.50, bookies agree that the Giants could make this one interesting, and the 11.5 points line certainly makes GWS an interesting bet.

The Giants were unlucky not to get the points against West Coast last week, but they’ll feel good knowing Toby Greene is slated to make his return on Saturday. If GWS could somehow pull this one off with Jeremy Cameron and Jonathon Patton missing, you might as well lock them in for the finals.

Does a Win On Sunday Cement Bucks as Coach of the Year?

Collingwood can smell eight straight wins in the water, but when you look at where this club has come from, Nathan Buckley has to be in line for coaching’s most prestigious award.

There’s still seven weeks to go, but notching another victory this week against the Eagles might lock up coach of the year for Buckley. If you think back two months ago, Pies fans were calling for their coaches head, but that only makes Collingwood’s Top 4 season all the more remarkable, especially considering the number of injuries this club has faced.

West Coast hasn’t beaten the Pies at the G’ since 1995, and at $2.00 to win by 1-39, you have to like those odds. Collingwood welcome Travis Varcoe and Darcy Moore into the side, and with the chance to outright claim second spot on the ladder, it’s hard to see the Pies’ momentum letting them down.