Brisbane v Western Bulldogs, Gabba, 5.20pm
Brisbane fluffed their lines in a heavyweight showdown against Melbourne, but get a wonderful opportunity to atone seven days later before their home fans against a Western Bulldogs outfit missing key personnel.
Whereas the Lions have been boosted by the return of Dayne Zorko (calf) and Zac Bailey (health and safety protocols), the Bulldogs travel north minus Tim English (concussion) and Caleb Daniels (knee). In a positive for the Bulldogs, Lachie Hunter has been included for the first time since taking personal leave back in April.
Despite their modest return of 7.11 (53) against the Demons, the Lions remain the most potent side in the competition. Bailey’s availability is significant, while the twin targets of Joe Daniher and Dan McStay loom as hurdles for the undersized Bulldogs backline.
VERDICT: Brisbane by 1-39 points
Carlton v St Kilda, Marvel Stadium, 5.50pm
St Kilda coach Brett Ratten said it best this week when asked how he viewed his side’s fortunes entering the business part of the season. “We need to get going, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.”
Having slipped outside the top eight and six days removed from a four-goal display in the loss to Sydney, it’s hard to argue. The issue for the Saints is now they encounter a red-hot Carlton side buoyed by an upset win over Fremantle and boosted by the return from injury of Adam Cerra.
His availability swells the options available to Michael Voss in the midfield and that could be even more beneficial to Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay inside Marvel Stadium.
VERDICT: Carlton by 1-39 points
Essendon v Sydney, MCG, 11.45am
One would hope Essendon coach Ben Rutten and his players are salivating at the prospect of this clash. And not just because they are seeking redemption for their defeat to West Coast last Friday night.
Rather, the manner in which they were embarrassed by Sydney earlier this year, with the taunting of Dylan Shiel from Luke Parker summing up their plight.
The Swans feasted on St Kilda last weekend and now get an opportunity to return to the MCG, a venue which seems to suit them better than their home surrounds in the eastern suburbs of the Harbour City.
VERDICT: Sydney by 1-39 points
Adelaide v Melbourne, Adelaide Oval, 2.35pm
Melbourne’s woes were put to one side against Brisbane, the efficient round-15 performance further proof that the Demons’ best remains the benchmark in the competition.
That it was achieved without skipper and premier big man Max Gawn is another feather in the cap of Simon Goodwin’s side, which is expected to meet the Crows here minus brilliant youngster Luke Jackson (knee). That places pressure on the Demons’ midfielders, but Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Jack Viney and Ed Langdon rise to the occasion more often than not.
As for Adelaide, they made a mess of North Melbourne in Hobart as expected. This is an entirely different proposition. We know the Crows upstaged Melbourne in the corresponding match last year, but it would be a major shock if lightning struck twice.
VERDICT: Melbourne by 1-24 points
Geelong v North Melbourne, GMHBA Stadium, 5.25pm
From the moment Tom Stewart clattered into Dion Prestia last Saturday evening, everyone knew the triple All-Australian would be missing this game and several others. That was confirmed on Tuesday night when Stewart was banned for four weeks.
It won’t have any impact though on the Cats’ chances of consolidating their spot inside the top four. They are one of the form sides in the competition and have gears North Melbourne coach David Noble can only dream about. Then there is the small factor of home-ground advantage.
This represents a wonderful chance for the Cats to boost their percentage. They won’t waste it.
VERDICT: Geelong by 60-79 points @ $3.60
Gold Coast v Collingwood, Metricon Stadium, 5.25pm
It is impossible to argue that Gold Coast’s formline in recent weeks is as strong as that of Collingwood. The Magpies are riding high, with three of their past five victories coming against Fremantle, Carlton and Melbourne.
But we do know the Suns’ game is in really good shape. And we are also well aware that they are very tough to topple at Metricon Stadium. Just ask the Dockers and Blues, who they beat on the Glitter Strip earlier this season, while also stretching the necks of Melbourne.
Jordan De Goey’s return is offset somewhat by the unavailability of Jeremy Howe (gastro). This may well be your trademark venue game.
VERDICT: Gold Coast by 1-24 points
Richmond v West Coast, MCG, 12.10pm
A great deal was revealed when these teams met at Optus Stadium earlier in the year. Richmond annihilated West Coast to suggest they could be a dangerous opponent, while the Eagles’ listless effort suggested a long season was in store.
Both have proven correct, with the Tigers moving inside the top eight following the Western Bulldogs’ loss to Brisbane. Some would claim they were stiff not to be in there at the start of the round after losing a thriller to Geelong.
That is without doubt a better form reference than beating Essendon, as West Coast did last Friday night. Now the Eagles have to leave Optus Stadium and find goals in the absence of rested spearhead Josh Kennedy.
VERDICT: Richmond by 40+ points
GWS v Hawthorn, Giants Stadium, 1.20pm
If Hawthorn could compete for an entire four quarters of football from week to week, they might be a more popular side with the tipsters. Unfortunately, they mix and match within the course of a match, leaving them vulnerable.
And it is that vulnerability which could well be pounced upon by GWS, who are a more trustworthy unit at present than they were in the final stages of the Leon Cameron era. The Giants were perhaps a little fortunate to only lose to Collingwood by 11 points last Sunday, but there was no quit in them.
If the Hawks’ defence is again leaky this weekend, it could be the perfect stage for Toby Greene to run amok, just as he did a fortnight ago when bagging seven goals opposed to the Western Bulldogs.
VERDICT: GWS by 1-39 points
Fremantle v Port Adelaide, Optus Stadium, 3.20pm
Fremantle have taken care of business more often than not in 2022. That is why they sit in the top four. Port Adelaide are doing it more now than they did when they started 0-5. And that is why they sit outside the top eight.
But the Power’s form has been hard to fault since their barren beginning and the visitors will ask several questions of the Dockers, who need to overcome the disappointment of last weekend’s loss to Carlton to zero in on a double chance in the finals.
Their inability to be effective around the contest proved an Achilles heel against Carlton and will need to be rectified quickly to ensure their forwards are afforded sufficient supply.