Sydney v Richmond, SCG, 5.50pm
The time is fast approaching where Sydney need to make a stand. The same applied to Richmond a month ago and they have since peeled off four straight wins, albeit against opponents unlikely to feature in finals.
The Swans have had their issues over the past month and unless they unearth an identity that serves them well in regards to a game plan, their slim premiership hopes will become non-existent.
A highlight of Richmond’s resurgence has been the form in attack of spearhead Tom Lynch. Sadly, a hamstring injury rules him out of this clash, placing greater responsibility on the shoulders of veteran Jack Riewoldt.
VERDICT: Sydney by 1-39 points
Brisbane v GWS, Gabba, 11.45am
There was a far more offensive slant to GWS last weekend than we have seen for much of 2022, with interim coach Mark McVeigh moving the magnets in a bid to stimulate his players.
It worked, although a wounded West Coast in western Sydney is a different kettle of fish to a Brisbane outfit on home soil at the Gabba. And the fact the Lions are coming off a shock loss to Hawthorn makes this an even more daunting assignment for GWS.
Even in the absence of the hamstrung Hugh McCluggage, the Lions boast enough midfield firepower to feed a forward line that is extremely difficult to negate.
VERDICT: Brisbane by 24+ points
Geelong v Adelaide, GMHBA Stadium, 11.45am
If Adelaide were to have any hope of causing an upset to get their season back on track, you suspect Taylor Walker would have had a large say in proceedings.
Unfortunately for Matthew Nicks, the ageing key forward has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, leaving the Crows missing an ace in their pack which is devoid of game-changers.
Equally, the Cats are unable to call on Patrick Dangerfield (calf), but they have more talent, depth and are a side with considerably more talent. Add those all up and everything points to the home side prevailing.
VERDICT: Geelong by 1-39 points
Melbourne v Fremantle, MCG, 2.35pm
It wasn’t a shock to hear Simon Goodwin say that this contest with Fremantle had been on the radar of the Demons for some time. The great sides love a challenge and even though the Dockers have come off a peg in the past fortnight, they remain in the top-four conversation.
We saw what Melbourne did to St Kilda earlier this month, producing a paralysing burst of football in the second quarter that effectively iced the game. Fremantle will be mindful of that, knowing full well that their best is going to be needed to inflict an upset result.
A feature of Fremantle’s rise up the ladder was their defence and desire to take the game on through the corridor. Both will be tested here.
VERDICT: Melbourne by 1-39 points
West Coast v Western Bulldogs, Optus Stadium, 5.30pm
The last time the Western Bulldogs were in Perth, they trudged from Optus Stadium with their tail between their legs. Barring a miracle, they will depart the arena this weekend with a spring in their step.
The Bulldogs welcome back Tim English, Cody Weightman and Taylor Duryea for this assignment against West Coast, who remain anchored at the foot of the table after a year from hell.
They have been boosted by Josh Kennedy’s recall, but the Eagles just so happen to be vulnerable in the one area of the ground where the Bulldogs are stacked — the midfield. That spells trouble.
VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 40+ points
Gold Coast v Hawthorn, TIO Stadium, 5.40pm
It’s hard to be critical of what Gold Coast have achieved this season. In saying that, they are 4-6 and still sit two games outside the top eight.
But a win here will leave them within touching distance of the upper echelon when you factor in two 6-4 sides — Sydney (7th) and Richmond (8th) — lock horns at the SCG tonight. Aiding the Suns in their pursuit of a vital victory is Jarrod Witts should be the dominant big man on the ground with Hawthorn ruckman Max Lynch missing through concussion.
We have seen the Suns, who love winning contested ball, adjust to slippery conditions well this year, while Hawthorn are a side that enjoys good weather and fast ball movement.
VERDICT: Gold Coast by 1-24 points
St Kilda v North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, 11.10am
It feels like North Melbourne have spent more time this week explaining life inside the four walls at Arden Street than preparing for a Sunday showdown with St Kilda.
And given where the Kangaroos sit on the ladder as opposed to the Saints, that doesn’t augur well for David Noble’s men. North had a dip against Melbourne, but their lack of class was ultimately exposed.
St Kilda aren’t at the level of the Demons, but have been super impressive for the most part and found a way to win ugly interstate against Adelaide. If Max King gets the supply most think, an old-fashioned bag is a real possibility.
VERDICT: St Kilda by 40+ points
Collingwood v Carlton, MCG, 1.20pm
There was a lot to like about Collingwood’s win over Fremantle last Sunday. Sadly for the Magpies, there was more to like about Carlton’s win over Sydney.
And we mustn’t forget that the Blues’ victory came two days before Collingwood’s and was achieved in Melbourne, enabling them extra time to recover while also having the added benefit of sleeping in their own beds.
Carlton’s effectiveness at the coalface has been the driver behind their revival, while Charlie Curnow’s return to full fitness in attack has him in the Coleman Medal conversation. The market here is closer than most thought.
VERDICT: Carlton by 1-39 points
Port Adelaide v Essendon, Adelaide Oval, 2.40pm
Much like Gold Coast, Port Adelaide are faced with a game they can ill afford to lose. Should they come up short against Essendon, the blowback will be intense.
It is why you sense Power coach Ken Hinkley was only too happy to welcome back spearhead Charlie Dixon for his first match of 2022. How will Port’s forward line function with another key marking target?
As for the Bombers, they journey interstate in desperate need of another win. Ben Rutten’s future at the helm may well depend on Essendon stringing together some victories, as fanciful as that appears right now.