Friday Night Show: St Kilda Saints and Brisbane Lions Battle for Top-Four Glory at Marvel Stadium.
The St Kilda Saints and Brisbane Lions, two teams with impressive starts to the season and firmly positioned in the AFL's top five, are gearing up for a highly anticipated clash at Marvel Stadium on Friday night, June 23. However, both teams seek greater consistency as they vie for a crucial victory in their pursuit of a top-four finish.
Brisbane Lions have shown their prowess at Marvel Stadium, having won six of their last seven matches at the venue. On the other hand, the St Kilda Saints have been a rollercoaster team, experiencing ups and downs without consecutive wins or losses in their last 10 games. This matchup is significant for both sides as they strive to secure a coveted top-four spot.
In recent encounters, the Lions have had the upper hand, winning four of their last five matches against St Kilda, including a dominant record at Marvel Stadium, where they have emerged victorious in six of their previous seven outings. Surprisingly, this contest may feature a high-scoring affair, given Brisbane's potent offense, ranked third in the league, and St Kilda's trend of surpassing the total points line in their previous five matches.
For the Saints, the rapid pace at which they launch their attacks from the defensive line has been instrumental in their rise to fifth position on the ladder. Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, a versatile player who has transitioned from a winger to a half-back role, exemplifies this high-speed approach. His exceptional speed allows him to keep up with fast opponents but also helps him accumulate possessions, averaging an impressive 26 disposals in his last six games. Wanganeen-Milera's precise kicking, operating at 80% efficiency over the past month, makes him a vital asset for the Saints in exploiting the perfect conditions at Marvel Stadium.
Wanganeen-Milera also presents excellent betting value in AFL Fantasy markets, consistently amassing significant meters gained and an average of 94 points across his last seven games. His contributions on both ends of the field make him an exciting prospect for fantasy football enthusiasts.
Meanwhile, the Lions have found consistency in the performances of Zac Bailey, a half-forward who impacts games with his goal-scoring ability and midfield contributions. Bailey, averaging 16 disposals and over a goal per game, exhibits precise kicking accuracy, boasting a career success rate of 65%. His ability to link up with teammates and find the scoreboard at critical moments has made him a reliable betting option.
Another player to watch for the Lions is Will Ashcroft, the highly touted number-one draft pick. Ashcroft has steadily improved throughout his debut season, averaging 24 disposals in his last five games. Going up against St Kilda, the second-worst clearance team in the competition, Ashcroft's ability to burst out of packs and accumulate possessions should be on full display on Friday night.
In terms of goal-scoring, Max King has been a go-to target for the Saints. With his exceptional reach and the ability to take early marks, King has secured the first goal in four matches over the past year alone. His presence in the forward line poses a significant threat to the Lions' defense.
Considering the Lions' dominance in the midfield, led by stars like Josh Dunkley and Lachie Neale, they are expected to control the game and generate numerous forward entries. Brisbane's superior forward options and the Saints' smaller stature could prove challenging for St Kilda, who have only covered the betting line once in their last seven matches. Hence, the odds favor Brisbane Lions to cover the spread.
With Hugh McCluggage cleared to play after recovering from a concussion sustained in a sling tackle, his return is a massive boost for the Lions. In addition, defenders Jack Payne and Darcy Gardiner have been declared fit to play. Former captain Dayne Zorko's availability is yet to be determined. A victory against St Kilda would provide Brisbane with a crucial advantage in the top-four race.