The Roar’s AFL expert tips and predictions, Gather Round: Footy heads to Adelaide – but who will leave victorious?


Gather ’round, kids, it’s time for the AFL to head to Adelaide for Season 2 of Gather Round!

After last year was a raging success with big crowds, great games and a festive atmosphere, South Australia has a big job to ensure 2024 is just as good, lest the league start to think that rotating it around the country might be a good idea once the current deal expires at the end of 2026.

On-field, it’s a huge week for both home teams, with Adelaide and Port Adelaide both coming off disappointing losses and chomping at the bit to make amends. They’ve got their work cut out for them, however, with a red-hot Melbourne and rejuvenated Essendon standing in their way.

From a tipping perspective, it’s also an intriguing week – and with a number of games probably slanting 66-34 in favour of the favourites, this could be a Gather Round that favours the boldest among us.

What do our experts think? Let’s find out.

Tim Miller

Last week: 4

Melbourne, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Sydney, Carlton, Geelong, GWS, St Kilda, Collingwood

Spoiler alert – eight of this weekend’s nine games have all four of our expert tippers on the same page, while the other – Geelong against the Western Bulldogs – has a 3/1 split (and I’m not the one tipping the Dogs).

It’s that sort of round – so let’s go ahead and rank each game in order of how likely an upset is.

Fremantle fans have every right to back their team despite their outsider status against Carlton – the Dockers’ defence is miserly and the Blues, while 3-0, haven’t had a proper test against an in-form opponent yet. I’m still backing the Blues, but not confidently.

Similarly, Essendon are in with a real chance against Port Adelaide, despite being one of the unlucky teams with an extra proper ‘away’ game for Gather Round – their midfield is strong, the backline beginning to look structurally sound, and the Power have recently been vulnerable at the Adelaide Oval, albeit against stiffer opposition than the Bombers seem to be. Port are still the safer bet.

I know I’m probably more optimistic about Hawthorn than anyone else in footy, even Hawks fans, but I give them more than just a sneaky chance to topple Collingwood. They famously did it last year, and with Finn Maginness again primed for a tagging job on Nick Daicos, and my uncertainty that the Pies are anywhere close to being ‘back’ despite beating Brisbane last week, they might be due a win. I’m not brave enough to pick them, though.

The bookies have the Bulldogs as the closest outsider in their clash with Geelong, but if I’m honest, I don’t see it. A vulnerable defence seems ripe to be ripped apart by Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron, the Dogs’ ploy of bombing aimlessly into their forward line explains Tom Stewart’s superb record against them, and while you’d think their midfield should dominate a Patrick Dangerfield-less Cats’, that wasn’t the case in their two clashes in 2023.

Tom Stewart!

He slots his first goal since round 7, 2018 ????#AFLDogsCats

— AFL (@AFL) June 3, 2023

The boost of Gather Round can’t be discounted on Adelaide – they massacred Carlton in this round last year, after all – but a Dees team with Steven May returning is an ugly opposition when your big problem has been scoring. Plus, Melbourne proved only last week the Adelaide Oval holds no fears for them.

Sydney’s loss last week has given GWS a nice rise in most of our premiership estimations despite not even playing: if Gold Coast bring their early-season form they might run them close, but the Giants are just too classy across the board.

Richmond have done nothing if not fight gamely against a mounting injury list, but with no Tom Lynch or Noah Balta on top of their undermanned backline and the in-form Liam Baker suspended, it’s hard to mount much of a case for them against a St Kilda outfit smarting from last week’s debilitating loss to Essendon.

While Brisbane’s start to the season has been much talked about for its horrendousness, that will just be the tip of the iceberg if they go down to North Melbourne. Rarely has a 0-3 side been as heavily favoured to win as the Lions are now – surely they don’t let this one slip?

And in the easiest game of the round to tip, if Sydney are serious they’ll do something to West Coast that I’m pretty sure would be classified a war crime under the Geneva Convention.

Max Michalanney during the 2023 Gather Round Footy Festival. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Dem Panopoulos

Last week: 6

Melbourne, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Sydney, Carlton, Western Bulldogs, GWS, St Kilda, Collingwood

How good is footy?

Sure, some of the skills have been questionable and the umpiring has been strange at times, but we’ve been blessed with quality games and fascinating results that have set the season up beautifully.

Gather Round has returned and I saw firsthand last year how big a success it was – add in some clubs wearing heritage jumpers and it may quickly become the best round of the season.

Tonight’s clash is just so vital for Adelaide. They’ve been terrible – playing uninspiring footy is worse than being cellar dwellers simply not being up to the level. Put simply, they must beat Melborne and play aggressively through the middle, otherwise this entire year is a waste of time.

The Crows need to slow Clayton Oliver’s impact through the middle; SuperCoach players may know that he averages (probably) 400 points a game against them at the Adelaide Oval. Do the Crows have what it takes to play a different style to save their season? I think they do, I’m just not sure they will.

It’s a pity that the Dockers-Blues game is tucked away in the Saturday twilight zone – not that it’ll stop me being glued to the TV.

Fremantle has been finding a way to win consistently and that defensive structure is holding up super well – Alex Pearce may well be in career-best form after struggling at times last season – but there’s no bigger challenge for a backline than that Carlton offence. They’re in their premiership window and are firing up at the right time.

The Blues should win here, particularly with Jacob Weitering slotting in beautifully last week, but how they handle a dour Freo team will be a fascinating watch. Similarly, the Dockers need to be switched on from the outset, which hasn’t always been the case this year. 

Finally, that Bulldogs-Cats clash seems like a whole lot of fun. It’s a quick turnaround for Geelong, especially from Easter Monday’s horrible conditions. They made a few changes to rest some players, but that’s a lot of heavy legs to play five days later.

I don’t trust the Bulldogs, but they won’t get a better chance to bully an opposition that’s in a similar echelon.

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

Cameron Rose

Last week: 5

Melbourne, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Sydney, Carlton, Geelong, GWS, St Kilda, Collingwood

We are coming off a round of upsets, but I’m not convinced there are too many cases to be made for the outsiders this week, so I’m playing it boring and safe.

Adelaide have had trouble scoring this year, and now meet the miserly Melbourne defence – this could get ugly for them.

That’s sublime stuff out of the middle!#AFLCrowsDees

— AFL (@AFL) July 2, 2022

Essendon could give Port a real fright on Friday night, while the Bulldogs taking on the Cats is probably the most interesting clash of the round.

Freo are winning, but without overly impressing, and could easily be touched up the Blues.

Liam Salter

Last week: 4

Melbourne, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Sydney, Carlton, Geelong, GWS, St Kilda, Collingwood

Gather Round is back and better than ever – All nine games, sold out!

What’s not better than ever is my tipping. Or, for that matter, the Crows. 

The under-fire Adelaide open the footy extravaganza with a challenging encounter against the Dees. Melbourne won here five days ago, and while this would be the ultimate ‘Hallelujah’ moment for the Crows, it ain’t happening. Especially not if they play as badly as they did against Freo.

Speaking of the Dockers, their superb defence faces a significant test against the Blues this weekend. As much as Freo’ have impressed me, Brisbane, North and the Crows aren’t on Carlton’s level – this screams hefty reality check for my boys. 

Cerra goes looong!#AFLFreoBlues

— AFL (@AFL) July 9, 2023

Friday should be routine with a side of massive danger. The Lions should – finally – clinch their first win of 2024 against the Kangaroos – Chris Fagan’s position edges from safe to decisively less so if they lose this – and while I’m giving the Bombers half a chance against the Power, I’m not brave enough to go against the Alberton club.

Speed-running the remainder: Sydney – off a loss – should pummel the Eagles; the Saints are slightly better than the Tigers; I trust the Cats significantly more than Tim’s Doggies outfit; I’m not expecting a surprise Suns upset over GWS; and the Pies should take care of business over the Hawks.

Nick Daicos. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)


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