Richmond v Geelong, MCG, 5.50pm
Two games clear at the top of the ladder with a 10-1 win-loss record, Geelong have been ultra-impressive. Yet there are some who still question their authenticity. It is harsh, but that is the reality.
Taking down Richmond, themselves looking to gain traction in the top eight after last week’s shock loss to North Melbourne, would go a long way to silencing those doubters, who have obviously forgotten the Cats’ tough draw to open 2019 and their wins over last year’s grand finalists West Coast and Collingwood.
The Cats will be boosted here by the return from suspension of Gary Ablett. Sliding him into a white-hot midfield containing Tim Kelly, Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan will give Chris Scott’s side a clear edge in a crucial part of the ground.
VERDICT: Geelong by 11 points
Carlton v Brisbane, Marvel Stadium, 11.45am
Those who feel a change in coach leads to a victory, as we saw when North Melbourne saluted for Rhyce Shaw last Friday night against Richmond, will seriously consider tipping Carlton here.
But there is going to have to be a monumental form turnaround for the Blues to win. David Teague will fill Brendon Bolton’s chair for the remaining 11 rounds and freeing up his players, both mentally and in a game-style sense, needs to be his priority.
Brisbane coach Chris Fagan will have his players on red alert, but also encourage them to keep taking the game which has served them brilliantly. The Lions impact the scoreboard and pressure particularly well when they don’t have possession, with Harris Andrews a rock in the last line of defence.
VERDICT: Brisbane by 20 points
Gold Coast v North Melbourne, Metricon Stadium, 2.35pm
North Melbourne made the best possible start in the Rhyce Shaw era last round, but are now presented with a banana-skin game against Gold Coast, who are giving every indication the caper is starting to wear them down.
The Suns are light on for quality throughout their 22 each week and were absolutely humiliated by Greater Western Sydney last weekend. The return to Metricon Stadium will ensure they are more competitive, but they need to be stronger at the coalface.
The Kangaroos’ hunt around the contest against the Tigers was outstanding, with Ben Cunnington continuing his excellent season. Shaw was eager for his players to take the game on against Richmond and that approach could bother the Suns, who battle to kick big totals.
VERDICT: North Melbourne by 18 points
Adelaide v GWS, Adelaide Oval, 5.40pm
Adelaide’s top-eight aspirations were given a kiss of life last Saturday night in Darwin when Melbourne butchered numerous opportunities to prevail, with Sam Weideman’s last-gasp miss enabling the Crows to sneak home.
They will need to raise the bar here however if they are to overcome Greater Western Sydney. Even with Lachie Whitfield (broken collarbone) joining Callan Ward (knee) on the sidelines, the Giants’ midfield is of the highest quality, thanks in no small part to Stephen Coniglio and Josh Kelly.
The Crows must quell the influence of the Giants’ running division because if they don’t, Coleman Medal leader Jeremy Cameron, Jeremy Finlayson, Harry Himmelberg and Toby Greene will get to work and construct a total that might be beyond the hosts.
VERDICT: GWS by 10 points
Sydney v West Coast, SCG, 1.20pm
When sides are presented with a venue or opponent that has proven difficult to get a handle on, coaches want every piece of the puzzle available to them. Sadly for Adam Simpson, the hamstring injury to captain Shannon Hurn denies him that luxury.
However, the absence of Hurn won’t be felt as much if the Eagles’ midfielders can continue to find the football around the contest like they have. Luke Shuey, Jack Redden, Dom Sheed, Andrew Gaff and Elliot Yeo have been in excellent nick in the past month and should be a factor against a Swans midfield that is tough, but without proven extractor Josh Kennedy.
Lance Franklin has got through two games since returning from a hamstring injury and looms large here — as he does every week — but the defensive mechanisms of the Eagles are extremely sound. Bogy ground or not, the Eagles have enough class and form to chalk up an SCG victory.
VERDICT: West Coast by 20 points
Collingwood v Melbourne, MCG, 1.20pm
Collingwood had been winning for fun. Then came along Fremantle, who stunned the football world — and the Magpies — with their performance last Saturday at the MCG. Nathan Buckley would have much preferred a victory, but he now has an opportunity to reset and launch into the second half of the year.
And that spells trouble for Melbourne, whose efforts have improved in recent weeks, the display against GWS aside, but continue to shoot themselves in the foot with poor finishing in front of goal.
Despite the absence of Taylor Adams and Dayne Beams, the Magpies have a more potent midfield than the Demons and a forward line that invariably does take its chances. It would be a major shock if Collingwood dropped another one here.
VERDICT: Collingwood by 31 pointsMarket Market