AFL Round 20 – Five Burning Questions

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How quickly things can change.

If two minutes in the final quarter feels like a long time in footy, a week must feel like a lifetime. Ask the Sydney Swans, they find themselves out of the eight following their second straight loss, a harsh reminder for fans, players and punters that anything goes this season.

A month ago the Swans looked like they could challenge for the flag, but now your guess is as good as ours.

If one thing is for sure, Round 20 should clear things up, but that goes for just about every team fighting for a spot in this nail-biting finals race.

Are Sydney toast? And what do we make of the Showdown 45?

All that and more in this weeks Five Burning Questions.

Hawks – Top 4 and Beyond?

Suddenly two straight wins has the Hawks up and about, and as we said a month ago, Hawthorn’s run home might just play a big factor come finals time.

After piling on a combined 236-points against the Blues and Dockers, the Hawks’ percentage has skyrocketed to 122.7%, second to only Richmond on the ladder. Saturday’s game against the Bombers could be season-defining for Alastair Clarkson’s squad, but if Hawthorn were to pull off the win, they could find themselves inside the Top 4.

The Hawks have had the Dons’ number in recent years, winning eight of their last 10 encounters. This is a much different Essendon outfit to the one the Hawks thumped by 33-points earlier in the year, but if Hawthorn’s midfield can keep up the good work, this won’t be beyond them.

In particular, much of the Hawks’ chances rely on (surprise surprise), Tom Mitchell. The Brownlow favourite has cracked 40 or more disposals across the last three weeks, and after the Hawks smothered the Dockers in the opening term, that kind of pressure should prove no match for Essendon in front of a big crowd at the G’.

Crows – Done and Dusted?

Week after week we’ve speculated on Adelaide’s season, and somehow, the Crows still find themselves as a mathematical chance to play finals.

Last week’s game against the Demons was nothing short of a schmozzle, as Adelaide had every chance to win, but failed to withstand wave after wave of Melbourne’s pressure in the second half.

Now with Showdown 45 looming, this is it. Adelaide tasted bitter disappointment at the hands of the Power, (and the boot of Steven Motlop) when these two met earlier in the year.

Port are now looking to secure a top-two spot and a home qualifying final, and on the heels of a big win in Ballarat over the Bulldogs last week, the Power’s confidence is sky high.

At long $251.00 odds to win the premiership from here, the Crows need to rely on Sam Jacobs to win the midfield battle over Paddy Ryder, but the concerns don’t stop there.

Robbie Gray kicked six on Adelaide when these two met back in Round 8, spelling further bad news for the Crows’ bounce back chance.

Swans – Bloods To Stop the Bleeding?

The good: Dan Hannebery, Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh could all potentially return for the Swans this week.

The bad: the Swans are out of the eight, and they play the third placed Magpies… at the SCG.

What’s on the line for Sydney this week can’t be stressed enough. If the Swans were to miss the finals, it would be only the second time since 2000, and with games against the Demons, Giants and Hawks still to come, this is an extremely tough run home for the bloods.

Our bookies currently have the Swans at $1.75 to miss the Top 8 and $26.00 to win the flag – a drastic fall from grace after Sydney looked as though they could rival Richmond at one stage.

Things have really gone downhill ever since the loss of their three biggest stars, but with a hefty dose of leadership back in the squad, this is a team punters need to keep an eye on.

Normally a game at the SCG would place the Swans as heavy favourites, but again, even the bookies aren’t convinced. Sydney enter at $1.85 ahead of Saturday’s game, but fortunately, a battered and bruised Collingwood side missing Jordan de Goey, Adam Treloar, Lynden Dunn and now Matt Scharenberg, the door is still slightly ajar for Sydney to sneak back into the eight.

GWS – Cameron Cruise Control?

It’s been a big week not only for GWS, but also Jeremy Cameron.

After a gruesome hit on Lions defender Harris Andrews, Cameron insists he’s changed his ways, and having served his five-game suspension handed down by the AFL, the Giants star forward is a chance to return this week.

Despite sitting fifth on the ladder, the stakes are high for the Giants. It sounds funny saying Sunday’s game against Carlton is a must-win, but with three tough weeks ahead, GWS need to secure the points.

Games against Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne still remain, and obviously, Cameron’s inclusion into the side is huge. The Giants open as the $1.07 favourite ahead of the weekend, but the odds could firm even shorter if Cameron plays.

GWS’ main man has booted 18 career goals against the Blues, but the Giants’ have slipped all the way down to 11th in average goals kicked per game. Will the Giants Ferrari slip into cruise control behind Cameron’s return? We wait and see.

West Coast – Lucky Number 7?

Don’t look now, but the Eagles have won the last six Western Derbies. A win on Sunday would make it seven, and the bookies seem to think it’s close to a certainty with West Coast opening at $1.16.

Kicking just one goal in the second half, the Eagles were more than just unconvincing last week against North. West Coast’s second spot on the ladder is safe for now, but with Josh Kennedy expected to miss another handful of weeks, suddenly the Eagles aren’t exactly the premiership threat we thought they were.

Of course, Kennedy was missing when these two last met back in Round 6, a game that saw the Eagles storm back from 20-points down at quarter time to win by eight. If Jack Darling can fill Kennedy’s shoes once again with another three-goal bag, West Coast should bounce back to their best.

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