Western Bulldogs v Geelong, Marvel Stadium, 5.50pm
How much speed can the Western Bulldogs put on the ball for this encounter? And how much system are they likely to need going forward in order not to play into the hands of Geelong?
Those are pertinent questions as you try to dissect the wave of money which is set to see the Bulldogs start pronounced favourites against the Cats, who sit above them on the ladder. We know Geelong defend extremely well and are masters of folding back to have a defender perform a “goalkeeper-type role”.
Luke Beveridge has been in enough battles with Chris Scott to know what to expect and his bid to engineer a season-changing result has been aided by the return of influential midfielder Bailey Smith.
VERDICT: Western Bulldogs to win
Adelaide v West Coast, Adelaide Oval, 11.45am
Over the years, Adelaide has been kind to the West Coast Eagles. But 2022 is not like any other year from an Eagles perspective. Even their home away from home proved inhospitable earlier this season when they were thumped by Port Adelaide.
They now return for this assignment against an under-pressure Crows outfit that needs to respond. The same can be said of Adam Simpson’s side, but on what we have witnessed this year, the Eagles are incapable of doing so.
Adelaide welcome back Taylor Walker and while he is not likely to kick a bag in conditions expected to be inclement, he gives the Crows’ forward line a focal point.
VERDICT: Adelaide by 1-39 points
Gold Coast v North Melbourne, TIO Stadium, 2.35pm
Big scores and Darwin haven’t always gone hand in hand. But Gold Coast showed that it was possible last weekend, running up a total of 18.13 (121) in a 67-point obliteration of Hawthorn.
Comfortable in the Top End and believing an historic finals appearance is within reach, the Suns will be desperate to again flex their muscles against a North Melbourne team that is yet to piece together four quarters of football in any match this year.
The Suns can get you at the coalface, boast genuine leg speed and have the ability to spread efficiently from congestion. Their progress is impressive.
VERDICT: Gold Coast by 40+ points
Melbourne v Sydney, MCG, 5.25pm
It was only one week and came against a Melbourne side missing some key personnel, but the football world sat up and took notice of Fremantle’s round-11 victory.
Now we sit and wait and wonder what Sydney coach John Longmire will pull from the performance and try to insert elements of it into this clash with the Demons. His task hasn’t been made any easier by Melbourne being able to recall Ed Langdon, Christian Salem, Tom McDonald, James Harmes and Adam Tomlinson.
No Steven May from Melbourne’s view is probably cancelled out by Lance Franklin’s suspension. It is potentially closer than what many think.
VERDICT: Melbourne to win
Hawthorn v Collingwood, MCG, 12.10pm
Liam Shiels and Luke Breust are two of the most popular players at Hawthorn and if there is not a response for their twin 250-game milestones, Sam Mitchell would be astonished. Not to mention furious.
Mitchell has shown in his first year at the helm that he is able to engineer an upset. He will need to work his magic again here because Craig McRae’s men are building nicely.
Are the Magpies able to go again like the very good sides do and win week after week after week despite the calibre of opponent? If they can knock over Fremantle, Carlton and Hawthorn in successive rounds, finals are most definitely on the agenda.
VERDICT: Hawthorn by 1-39 points
Fremantle v Brisbane, Optus Stadium, 3.20pm
If Fremantle are to finish top two, you would think they need to win this home match against Brisbane. An eight-point deficit in the back half of the home-and-away season would appear a bridge too far.
Their task of taming the Lions became a bit harder last night when Matt Taberner, Michael Walters and Heath Chapman all succumbed to injury and the visitors recalled Hugh McCluggage from a hamstring tweak.
What we do know is the system that Justin Longmuir and his coaches have employed throughout the year has been extremely effective.