Port Adelaide v Collinwood, Marvel Stadium, 5.10pm
In a perfect world, Travis Boak would be running out for his 300th appearance before a heaving Adelaide Oval. Sadly for the widely respected veteran, the milestone won’t even take place before family and friends.
Instead, it will be at an empty Marvel Stadium, the venue where the Power revived their top-four aspirations six days earlier with a plucky win over an in-form St Kilda. A similar display, especially at the coalface, will hold Port in good stead.
Collingwood flirted with back-to-back wins in their round-18 fixture against Carlton, but were powerless to halt the Blues’ surge in the final 70 minutes. They are a young side with flaws. Port aren’t exactly top shelf, but have plenty of experience.
VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 23 points
Carlton v North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, 11.45am
Those in clubland often tell you it isn’t the initial six-day break which gets you. Rather back-to-back six-day turnarounds between games. As a result, North Melbourne are vulnerable in this clash with Carlton.
That might sound silly given they occupy 18th spot on the ladder, but they are improving every week and had Ben Cunnington played last Sunday opposed to Essendon, the result could have been different.
He is expected back this week and that is just as well because his contested ball winning will be needed to quell Carlton’s young superstar Sam Walsh, who simply willed the Blues over the line against Collingwood.
VERDICT: Carlton by 21 points
Brisbane v Gold Coast, Gabba, 1.10pm
Now is not the time for Brisbane to press the panic button. But on what we have seen over the past fortnight, they should be extremely aware of its location.
The Lions have dropped games to St Kilda and Richmond, both in Queensland, and now encounter a plucky Gold Coast line-up with question marks surrounding the fitness of Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale (shoulder).
The Suns hung tough against the Western Bulldogs last Saturday and with Touk Miller in excellent nick, they remain a chance of winning sufficient football midfield to be competitive. This is non-negotiable for Brisbane.
VERDICT: Brisbane by 19 points
West Coast v St Kilda, Optus Stadium, 2.35pm
Sometimes a team needs a little bit of good luck to revive their season. West Coast experienced some last weekend when they ventured interstate to Adelaide Oval, a ground they enjoy playing at, to beat up on the Crows, currently the worst side in the competition.
And this week, before they attempt to snap an alarming losing streak on home soil, they received further food news when St Kilda big man Rowan Marshall was ruled out because of exposure to a Tier 1 site in Melbourne.
Without Marshall and Paddy Ryder in the same side, the Saints are modest. The Eagles would be well aware of that and the prospect of good weather, coupled with Josh Kennedy’s return, is also encouraging.
VERDICT: West Coast by 31 points
Melbourne v Western Bulldogs, MCG, 5.25pm
Since their blistering start to the season, Melbourne have given doubters ammunition to fire in their direction. Case in point was last Saturday night’s draw with Hawthorn.
It followed an authoritative performance the previous round against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. The one comfort that coach Simon Goodwin has is when his side is pitted against a genuine contender, it stands tall.
That was the case earlier in the year against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium. They now host the Bulldogs at their preferred venue, the MCG, and will be keen to again prove effective in contests and suffocate Luke Beveridge’s men forward of centre.
VERDICT: Melbourne by 10 points
Adelaide v Hawthorn, Marvel Stadium, 5.40pm
If nothing else, Hawthorn are consistently inconsistent. Humbled by Fremantle in Tasmania one week, drawing with premiership fancy Melbourne the next after climbing from the canvas.
With those two points locked away, the Hawks are entitled to be expecting double the fun here against a Crows side that is limping to the finish line. The expected return from concussion and a week’s rest of Tom Doedee and Riley Thilthorpe respectively will prove beneficial for Adelaide.
But unless they find more football at the clearances, the Crows defenders are going to be asked a heap of questions, regardless of the calibre of the opposition.
VERDICT: Hawthorn by 15 points
Sydney v Fremantle, Metricon Stadium, 10.30am
Sydney started the year hoping to climb the ladder and contend for a position in the top eight. With that very much accomplished, they have now set their sights on pushing for the top four and a prized double chance.
If that is to occur, they cannot afford to drop two games to Fremantle, who edged them in an Optus Stadium thriller earlier this year but are likely to miss finals once more. The Swans were gallant against GWS and can prepare for this game with a great deal more certainty than last weekend.
The Dockers will relish a 10-day break after their shocker against Geelong, but are clearly going to have to be far more clinical with ball in hand and chart a path to goal with considerably more competence.
VERDICT: Sydney by 28 points
Geelong v Richmond, MCG, 1.20pm
Few would have envisaged Richmond would be in a fight for their lives at this stage of their pursuit of a third successive premiership. That they are still in the fight is thanks to a stirring effort against Brisbane last week.
However, they will need to continue to defy the odds given the season-ending kidney injury suffered by Dustin Martin against the Lions. Without Martin, this Tigers side is extremely wobbly.
Geelong will know that and if they are able to retain possession and navigate their way through the Tigers’ defensive structure, which is impacted by injury, they should be winning.
VERDICT: Geelong by 27 points
Essendon v GWS, Metricon Stadium, 4.10pm
Prior to last weekend, Essendon had claims on being the best side outside the top eight. They are no longer in the conversation. A win over North Melbourne and other results going their way lifted them to eighth.
They can remain inside the eight and put a nail in the coffin of GWS should they continue their solid form here. Much will depend on Jake Stringer, who this week committed to a three-year extension after an excellent season.
The Giants started like a German band against Sydney before reality set in. No Toby Greene again this weekend leaves them at the mercy of the better sides.
VERDICT: Essendon by 16 pointsMarket Market