Port Adelaide v Geelong, Adelaide Oval, 5.40pm
For a perennial contender, Geelong are in unchartered territory. They enter this round in third spot on the ladder with an imposing 8-3 record, but remain on the fringes of those teams being widely discussed as premiership threats.
This represents a perfect opportunity to change the narrative. The Cats welcome back Patrick Dangerfield and Mitch Duncan to bolster a midfield, while the return of the versatile Mark Blicavs is critical against a Port Adelaide outfit that is talented, yet guilty of playing in fits and spurts.
Geelong’s record after a bye has been well documented. And so it should be. For a talented team, the Cats are entitled to be far more effective fresh. It is up to Port to sow the seeds of doubt early.
VERDICT: Geelong by 15 points
Sydney v Hawthorn, SCG, 5.50pm
Often elite coaches are a nightmare to come up against when they have had a week off to prepare. Hawthorn’s Alastair Clarkson has had a week off and is indeed elite. Importantly, however, his team is not.
Because of that, this is another game that Sydney should be winning to move a step closer towards securing a finals berth. The Swans aren’t firing on all cylinders at the moment, but it’s easy to mount an argument they don’t need to be to take care of the Hawks.
Hawthorn will be boosted by the presence of Jaeger O’Meara following a bout of concussion to partner former Swan Tom Mitchell. Their support cast will need to step up though if the Hawks are to notch a third win for the season.
VERDICT: Sydney by 31 points
Fremantle v Gold Coast, Optus Stadium, 2.15pm
This is a match that most in the football world would have been expecting Fremantle to win when the fixtures dropped. And it may still well be the case.
However, the injury devastation that claimed Nat Fyfe (shoulder), Brennan Cox (hamstring) and Sean Darcy (hamstring) late in last Sunday’s loss to the Western Bulldogs has left the Dockers teetering. Their available personnel is dwindling, even more so when you factor in Nathan Wilson’s suspension.
Gold Coast venture west after their mid-season bye and are expected to have access to star young midfielder Matt Rowell, who hasn’t played since sustaining a PCL injury against West Coast in round one. The Suns, when fresh, are always a tricky opponent.
VERDICT: Gold Coast by 12 points
St Kilda v Adelaide, Cazaly’s Stadium, 5.25pm
You know your injury list is extensive when you publicly declare that it could be difficult to consider any more than 26 players for a round of football. Welcome to the plight of St Kilda.
The Saints are banged up and will enter this game without Seb Ross and Tim Membrey, who have opted to be with their respective families. The absence of two proven performers gives Adelaide a real chance at bouncing back from last weekend’s shock defeat to Collingwood.
But the Crows have their own concerns. Spearhead Taylor Walker required scans this week because of a knee issue, although the club is confident he lines up. This is a genuine 50-50 contest.
VERDICT: St Kilda by 10 points
North Melbourne v GWS, Blundstone Arena, 1.20pm
It’s not exactly a fortress like the one Hawthorn enjoy at UTAS Stadium in Launceston, but North Melbourne can be a tricky rival down in Hobart.
Just ask Melbourne, who had to overcome a sizeable half-time deficit in the Apple Isle earlier this year to maintain their unbeaten status. GWS aren’t as proficient as the Demons, though they have shown a good level of form for a while now.
The Kangaroos welcome back key defender Robbie Tarrant after some health concerns. Expect him to see a fair bit of football being directed his way.
VERDICT: GWS by 25 points
West Coast v Richmond, Optus Stadium, 5.20pm
If the trend is your friend, you are well within your rights to select West Coast here to cause a minor upset. The Eagles have been trustworthy at home for a while, save for the blip against Essendon. Yet if you are going to settle on Richmond, fresh off their Dreamtime victory against the Bombers, then you’ll encounter very little resistance.
The Tigers delivered a timely reminder of their firepower against the Bombers, producing a withering burst after being headed in the final quarter. Their best is powerful and strikes fear into the hearts of every club in the competition.
The Eagles showed great intestinal fortitude to get over the top of Carlton and will be strengthened here by the availability of twin towers Josh Kennedy and Oscar Allen. Is that going to be enough?
VERDICT: Richmond by 18 points
Melbourne v Collingwood, SCG, 1.20pm
Nathan Buckley’s unwavering dedication to Collingwood ends in an occupational sense the moment the final siren sounds and he completes his round of media commitments following this match.
Arguably the biggest name in the club’s history, Buckley would dearly love to dial up something special, just as he did to engineer an upset of the Crows at Adelaide Oval last Saturday evening.
But taking down Adelaide is a considerably easier assignment than stopping the Melbourne machine, which got rolling after half-time to steamroll Brisbane, who were chasing an eighth straight win. The Demons mean business.
VERDICT: Melbourne by 30 pointsMarket Market