Richmond v Carlton, MCG, 5.20pm
Carlton’s ascent in 2022 started very early. In fact, round one against Richmond at the MCG was when it became apparent their years of frustration would be no more following the arrival of Michael Voss.
As Carlton rejoiced, Richmond were forced to pick up the pieces and at 2-4, it seemed their reign was over. But the Tigers have got healthy, are defending with greater surety and in Tom Lynch, who returns from a hamstring injury, boast one of the most potent key forwards in the game.
The Blues also possess the twin towers of Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow, but with a little bit of weather around, their influence could be diminished slightly.
VERDICT: Richmond by 1-24 points
St Kilda v Essendon, Marvel Stadium, 5.50pm
From top-four contender to scrapping for a spot in the finals. That is the plight that confronts St Kilda, who are starting to have personnel issues at a time when Brett Ratten would dearly love to be building momentum.
On a positive note, the Saints return to their home ground for this clash against Essendon, whose struggles are real. Andrew McGrath will play, but Darcy Parish could not be considered because of a corked calf.
If the Saints bring the heat we know they are capable of and Max King is provided with sufficient supply, he could rip this match apart.
VERDICT: St Kilda by 24+ points
Port Adelaide v Sydney, Adelaide Oval, 11.45am
Sydney have mixed their form after a bright start to the season, but they hit their mid-season break on a high, having conquered Melbourne at the MCG without Lance Franklin.
The veteran spearhead returns from suspension and will ensure the Port defence, which stuck to its guns in last Thursday night’s narrow loss to Richmond, is asked question upon question.
At the other end of the ground, Charlie Dixon will continue to improve as he plays more football, but experienced goalsneak Robbie Gray, one of the best players to have pulled on a Port jumper at AFL level, is injured, while Travis Boak is in the league’s health and safety protocols
VERDICT: Sydney by 1-39 points
West Coast v Geelong, Optus Stadium, 2.35pm
The reinforcements are coming. It’s just whether they are in good enough form and/or have sufficient conditioning to be able to stand toe-to-toe with Geelong.
The Cats have started to purr in recent weeks, with a feature of their ladder climb being their renowned ability to stifle the opposition side’s forward line production. That is a major problem for West Coast, who have averaged just over 57 points a game this year.
At the other end of the ground, Jeremy Cameron, Tom Hawkins and Tyson Stengle have proved immensely damaging.
VERDICT: Geelong by 1-39 points
GWS v Western Bulldogs, 5.25pm, Giants Stadium
We often highlight the importance of taking your opportunities when they present in the AFL. It is harsh but fair to say GWS have not done that throughout their existence and now find themselves languishing in the bottom part of the ladder with an interim coach.
Yet under Mark McVeigh they are a dangerous team, running in waves and impacting the scoreboard more frequently. The Western Bulldogs will need to slow down the men in orange and that starts by winning the football at the source.
No Bailey Smith denies the Bulldogs outside run in a match they simply must win to have any designs on playing finals.
VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 1-24 points
Gold Coast v Adelaide, Metricon Stadium, 1.20pm
The form of sides above them on the ladder could ensure Gold Coast miss the finals again in 2022, however there is no denying this is the most accomplished and balanced Suns side we have seen.
It is a cohesive and disciplined group boasting a game plan and personnel that is exciting. Adelaide would love to be at that level. They might get there, but aren’t there yet.
Taylor Walker remains a trump card for the Crows, but Matthew Nicks needs the next wave of talent to step up and take the club forward.