Carlton v Sydney, Marvel Stadium, 5.50pm
Over a long period of time under John Longmire, Sydney have shown they can beat you in a lot of ways. It is very early in the second coming of Michael Voss as a senior coach, but his Carlton outfit has shown it is effective in one area — contested football.
Can the Swans match the Blues around the football? Will Carlton show any fatigue off a five-day break? If so, what does that mean for their defence which can be a little leaky and is going into this clash minus Zac Williams after his serious leg injury?
Carlton courted Tom Papley a couple of seasons ago and it seemed they had him until he changed his mind and remained a Swan. The Friday night stage looks ideal for the chirpy little goalsneak in his fourth match back from a torn hamstring.
VERDICT: Sydney by 1-39 points
Geelong v Port Adelaide, GMHBA Stadium, 11.45am
For the first time in many seasons, the jury is deliberating over the authenticity of Geelong. Back-to-back losses to finals contenders Fremantle (at home) and St Kilda (after leading by 22 points midway through the third term) in the past three weeks will do that.
Most had ruled a line through Port Adelaide’s September prospects after their 0-5 start, but a greater commitment to the defensive side of the game has enabled them to peel off four wins. Having nearly flatlined, there is now a pulse.
What better way for the Power to prove they are well and truly worthy of a spot in the finals than taking down the Cats at their GMHBA fortress?
VERDICT: Geelong by 1-39 points
Western Bulldogs v Gold Coast, Mars Stadium, Ballarat, 11.45am
There is no respite for those with finals ambitions entering the season that make a tardy start to their campaign. A case in point are the Western Bulldogs, who have left themselves very little wriggle room approaching the halfway mark.
Fresh off an emphatic win over Collingwood, the Bulldogs will have questions asked of them by Gold Coast, who are understandably buoyant after eclipsing Sydney and Fremantle in the past fortnight.
The Suns’ contested-ball numbers against the Dockers were impressive. If they bring the same level of intensity here, this could go right down to the wire.
VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 1-24 points
North Melbourne v Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, 2.35pm
When and where does Melbourne’s winning streak come to an end? It is a question that has been asked many times recently. We can safely say it won’t be at Marvel Stadium against North Melbourne on the weekend.
The Demons will improve their winning sequence to 17 matches when they feast on a Kangaroos side that remains hopelessly outclassed and defensively inept.
Conversely, Melbourne are professional, clinical and seemingly hungry to cash in on a golden opportunity to win a premiership before their home fans at the MCG later in the year.
VERDICT: Melbourne by 60+ points
Adelaide v St Kilda, Adelaide Oval, 5.30pm
There were stages last Saturday night where Adelaide had Brisbane on the back foot. Then the overall class of the Lions, in particular their attacking prowess, proved just too much.
St Kilda present a similar threat for the Crows, even factoring in the unavailability of Jack Steele (AC joint) and Jack Higgins (concussion). The Saints have shown they can play “burst football”, a trait every opposition side fears. They flicked the switch against Geelong midway through the third term en route to a crucial victory.
Their one-two punch in the ruck featuring Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall gives them an advantage, while the return to the senior side of Zak Jones and Jack Billings is proving invaluable.
VERDICT: St Kilda by 1-39 points
Richmond v Essendon, MCG, 5.30pm
The highlight from a WA perspective last year was the historic grand final staged at Optus Stadium. This corresponding match on a spectacular Saturday night, also at the Burswood venue, was a close second.
The occasion and the brand of football turned on was outstanding and while Essendon continue to have their struggles this season, a forecast of a fine night in Melbourne and Richmond’s attacking mindset makes this compulsory viewing.
The firepower forward of midfield that Richmond possess, notably Tom Lynch, has enabled Damien Hardwick’s side to dismiss West Coast, Collingwood and Hawthorn comfortably. You can add Essendon to that list.
VERDICT: Richmond by 24+ points
GWS v West Coast, Giants Stadium, 12.10pm
It’s hard to fathom which of these two sides would feel more embarrassed by their performances throughout the season. If we go on their most recent efforts, it would surely be GWS for their inability to honour outgoing coach Leon Cameron in style.
The lacklustre, spasmodic display was a snapshot of the Giants’ campaign. West Coast had their own troubles against Melbourne, especially late, but the overall intent was a lot better.
However, the AFL is all about wins and losses and unless GWS slide further into the abyss, their access to proven performers, despite their form struggles, and top-end talent should see them home here.
VERDICT: GWS by 40+ points
Hawthorn v Brisbane, UTAS Stadium, 1.20pm
Nine rounds is a big enough body of work to get a handle on what a team’s ceiling is. Indeed, where it sits in regards to the AFL pecking order.
Brisbane started 2022 a bit clunky, but they have well and truly warmed to their work and are deserving of second spot on the table, with their offensive firepower proving problematic for opposition sides. The return of Eric Hipwood last round was both heartening and important given the absence of Joe Daniher and Dan McStay.
Hawthorn had periods of dominance against Richmond, but once the Tigers slipped themselves, the Hawks couldn’t go with them. It is a trend that would no doubt be consuming rookie coach Sam Mitchell ahead of this game.
VERDICT: Brisbane by 24+ points
Fremantle v Collingwood, Optus Stadium, 3.20pm
Fremantle fluffed their lines in wet conditions against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium last weekend. Off what we have seen this year under Justin Longmuir, you would be shocked if they made the same mistake again seven days later.
A wet afternoon is expected for this clash, but the type of surface likely to confront the players is going to be completely different to the saturated surface in Queensland. And that means the Magpies’ back six are going to be asked a fair few questions.
In fairness to the Collingwood backline, that has been the case for the most part in 2022 because the midfield isn’t doing its job and the overall inability to defend ball movement under Craig McRae has been questionable.