Melbourne v Brisbane, Giants Stadium, 5.50pm
We might have ticked over into winter, but there is nothing cool about the prospects of these two sides. In fact, they are white-hot and entitled to hit this match with unbridled belief.
The Demons are on top of the table with a 10-1 record, the best in the land, while the Lions head across the border and out to the west of Sydney on the back of a seven-match winning streak. A feature of the two teams in 2021 has been their no-nonsense attitude, efficiency and willingness to be selfless.
Melbourne boast an on-ball brigade loaded with talent and line breakers. Brisbane’s isn’t too shabby either and that is before you factor in the anticipated return of Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale.
VERDICT: Melbourne by 7 points
Sydney v St Kilda, SCG, 11.45am
Neither Sydney nor St Kilda were overly impressive in getting the four points last weekend. However, they occupy their respective positions on the ladder for a reason and when you throw in the SCG as the venue, it’s little wonder why Sydney have been installed favourites.
The Swans’ premier performers are in really good nick, notably Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills and Josh Kennedy. Heeney’s ability to win the football up the ground and also hit the scoreboard takes the pressure off Lance Franklin.
As for the Saints, they have still won five games this season, despite being well below their best. They prevailed in Sydney (against GWS) in round one, but it would be a shock if they departed the Harbour City this time with another victory.
VERDICT: Sydney by 23 points
Adelaide v Collingwood, 2.35pm
It seemed only the rusted-on Adelaide supporters could see light at the end of the tunnel for Adelaide in 2021. Make no mistake, the Crows aren’t going to be playing finals. But they are anything but fodder.
Indeed, they are 4-7 at the halfway mark and the only side to get the better of Melbourne. They stretched the necks of Richmond also last Sunday and now return home to tackle a Collingwood side bereft of form, confidence and Brodie Grundy (neck).
The Crows have the potency forward of centre to prove problematic for the Magpies, whose stilted ball movement makes it hard for them to apply sufficient scoreboard pressure.
VERDICT: Adelaide by 29 points
Essendon v Richmond, Optus Stadium, 5.40pm
First things first, congratulations to all West Australians who have purchased tickets to one of the most important home-and-away games of the AFL season. And secondly, good on Richmond and Essendon for embracing the build-up to this contest.
The Bombers were magnificent last Saturday night, rallying from 29 points down to upset West Coast. The dare, run and eagerness to bite off a difficult kick set up the win and will no doubt have captured the attention of Richmond.
As for the Tigers, the reinforcements are coming. We saw Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia and Shai Bolton return last weekend and there is an expectation that both Shane Edwards and Marlion Pickett will be available. The loss of Toby Nankervis (knee) will be felt, however.
VERDICT: Richmond by 16 points
Carlton v West Coast, SCG, 1.20pm
Mick Malthouse and 1999. Malthouse was the coach and that was the year the last time West Coast last tasted success at the SCG. There have been two premiership coaches at the Eagles since then, reinforcing that the drought has been way too long.
And the chances of Adam Simpson becoming a dual premiership coach later this year will diminish greatly if his side cannot take down Carlton at the saucer-shaped venue.
The Blues give their opposition a chance with the way they defend, but the big question mark surrounding the clash is whether the Eagles, minus skipper Luke Shuey and Tim Kelly, can generate enough supply.
VERDICT: Carlton by 15 points
Fremantle v Western Bulldogs, Optus Stadium, 4.40pm
It’s debatable whether there is a good time to run headlong into an opponent with a 9-2 record. But when that opponent has had its colours lowered on the Friday night stage the week prior, you just have to strap yourself in and do your best.
That is the scenario awaiting Fremantle, who were asleep at the wheel in the initial 30 minutes against Port Adelaide and paid the ultimate price. They cannot afford to be so lacklustre against the Bulldogs, who were also outgunned by Melbourne early last round.
The Bulldogs have the weaponry midfield to be awfully hard to counter from Fremantle’s perspective, but the biggest issue facing the hosts is their inaccuracy in front of goal. The old adage bad kicking is bad football applies to Justin Longmuir’s side at present.
VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 12 pointsMarket Market