Sydney v Melbourne, SCG, 5.20pm
The margins are getting tight for Melbourne. Tipped to challenge for this year’s premiership, they are likely to face a major battle to even be active in September if they slide to 0-4 with another defeat at the hands of Sydney.
The Swans would have been in the same predicament had they not overcome Carlton last weekend, a victory achieved on the back of Josh Kennedy’s brilliance midfield and the injection into the centre square of Zak Jones. However, the win did come at a cost, with young forward Will Hayward (fractured jaw) and veteran defender Jarrad McVeigh (quad) sustaining serious injuries.
Melbourne have vowed this week to defend with more purpose after coughing up 20 goals against Essendon last Friday night. The tight confines of the SCG might help them in their endeavours, but their shortcomings are greater than what Sydney are battling at present.
VERDICT: Sydney by 20 points
Collingwood v Western Bulldogs, MCG, 5.50pm
Nathan Buckley put it on his players this week, in particular his star-studded midfield group. Lauded for their depth on-ball, Collingwood were unable to capitalise on Brodie Grundy’s dominance over Nathan Vardy and Tom Hickey in the grand final rematch.
It is not an area they can afford to be tardy in again considering the Bulldogs boast genuine class in and around the ball through Marcus Bontempelli, Lachie Hunter, Jack Macrae, Tom Liberatore and Caleb Daniel. It is a given that Luke Beveridge’s side will be ferocious early after being stunned by Gold Coast in round three.
The inability of the Bulldogs to find their Suns opponents in the initial 30 minutes last Sunday proved telling, as did their inaccuracy in front of goal. A quick start here is vital against the Magpies, who have the ability to jump out of the blocks faster than most. They are also likely to appreciate the MCG surrounds more so than the Bulldogs.
VERDICT: Collingwood by 25 points
Geelong v GWS, GMHBA Stadium, 11.45am
Geelong supporters were entitled to shake their heads, or at least raise their eyebrows, when the AFL fixtures were released last November. No side had a tougher draw. Games against Collingwood, Melbourne, Adelaide (away), GWS and Hawthorn in the initial five weeks were expected to shape their season.
And they have … for the better. The Cats have risen to every challenge thrown at them. The midfield remains potent, they are defensively sound and the decision to bring in Gary Rohan and Luke Dahlhaus as pressure forwards has worked wonders. Chris Scott and his assistants’ ability to fast-track their young talent has been terrific also, with the likes of Jordan Clark, Gryan Miers and Charlie Constable making telling contributions.
GWS will ask plenty of questions in this match. Josh Kelly’s addition to a midfield already boasting Stephen Coniglio, Jacob Hopper, Tim Taranto and Lachie Whitfield gave Leon Cameron’s side a different look against Richmond, much to the delight of key forwards Jeremy Cameron, who amassed 30 disposals and seven goals in the demolition of Richmond, and Jeremy Finlayson (five goals).
VERDICT: Geelong by 16 points
Essendon v Brisbane, MCG, 12.10pm
The pressure around John Worsfold eased with the much-needed win over Melbourne last round. But make no mistake, it will return in a hurry if the Bombers are unable to back up that victory with another here against Brisbane.
The Bombers would have liked the look of this match prior to the season starting, but the Lion cubs of last year have grown up over summer and, thanks to the addition of Lachie Neale, represent far more daunting opposition. The Lions have scampered to a 3-0 start to the season, their ability to be powerful late in games proving too much for West Coast, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide.
Brisbane will look to Eric Hipwood to again prove a focal point in attack after his six-goal haul against the Power, while the Bombers will be without Shaun McKernan, who injured a hamstring in kicking four goals last weekend. His absence thrusts more responsibility upon the shoulders of Jake Stringer.
VERDICT: Brisbane by 19 points
Port Adelaide v Richmond, Adelaide Oval, 2.35pm
There are opportunities that are presented throughout the course of a season that simply must be taken. This match presents one such opportunity for Port Adelaide. To be able to get a Tigers side without premiership quintet Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Alex Rance, Jack Riewoldt and Shaun Grigg at home cannot be squandered.
And to be fair, the Power are well placed to fulfil their end of the bargain. They are coming off their first loss of the season, but they were in front of Brisbane at the Gabba midway through the last quarter, only to be run down late. It was a solid effort, highlighted by the five-goal haul from teenager Connor Rozee.
Scott Lycett has been a terrific addition to the Power and he only has to break even (he is capable of doing way more than that) against Toby Nankervis to give the home side’s midfield every chance of overpowering a depleted Tigers running division.
VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 39 points
North Melbourne v Adelaide, Marvel Stadium, 5.25pm
Adelaide coach Don Pyke’s prayers have been answered. Troubled by his side’s inability to move the ball with its customary precision in 2019, which in turn has impacted the forward line’s potency, Pyke confronts North Melbourne, who are incapable of sustaining an effort. Or defending for that matter.
That should enable the Crows to find their rhythm and flourish at a venue that has been kind to them over the years. Rory Sloane and Matt and Brad Crouch are in good form, but lack the outside run to finish much of their good work. Pushing Wayne Milera further afield could make the Crows a far more lethal combination.
The Kangaroos have had moments in their past two games against Brisbane and North Melbourne, but clearly have to be stronger for longer. Ben Brown hasn’t flourished as much as many expected under the new 6-6-6 rule. If he is able to receive some quality support, the Kangaroos become a more dangerous outfit.
VERDICT: Adelaide by 23 points
West Coast v Fremantle, Optus Stadium, 6.10pm
Unless you have been living on Mars and/or had no access to a newspaper or electronic device, you would be well aware in the build-up to western derby 49, that West Coast have won their past seven encounters with Fremantle. And on what we have seen in 2019, coupled with the unavailability of Nat Fyfe (concussion), something remarkable would need to occur for that sequence to be snapped.
There was denying the Dockers displayed great grit to get over the top of St Kilda last Sunday. As for their skill level, well that’s another story. And it is something that must improve and rapidly if they are to avoid being spanked by their big brothers.
West Coast have been impressive in dismissing GWS and Collingwood in successive weeks, with their ability to set up efficiently and quickly behind the ball when they lose possession a hallmark. The returns of Andrew Gaff (suspension) and Jamie Cripps (toe) last weekend only reinforced the quality at Adam Simpson’s disposal.
VERDICT: West Coast by 45 points
Glendinning-Allan Medal: Elliot Yeo
Gold Coast v Carlton, Metricon Stadium, 12.40pm
If you are chasing an entertaining, high-scoring match to round out your weekend of football, this might not be your cup of tea. But if you fancy a prolonged arm wrestle between two defence-minded coaches restricted in their offensive arsenal, then this clash is for you.
Stuart Dew (Gold Coast) and Brendon Bolton (Carlton) are happy to default to the defensive side of the game and for Dew, it has worked thus far in 2019. The 2-1 record Gold Coast have established has wildly exceeded expectations … from those outside the club. As for the Blues, they are still trying to get the balance right. It is as if Bolton is terrified to let his players express themselves in fear of being burnt at the defensive end.
What isn’t in dispute is the need for Carlton to snare four points. Having endured so much pain for so long, Blues supporters need their loyalty rewarded, even if it is only against the side widely tipped to finish last.
VERDICT: Gold Coast by 9 points
St Kilda v Hawthorn, Marvel Stadium, 1.20pm
If Gold Coast were meant to finish last in 2019, St Kilda were meant to finish only one place above them. But the Saints have made light of the unavailability of key personnel, chiefly Dylan Roberton, Paddy McCartin and Jake Carlisle, to start the season encouragingly.
With a bit more polish last Sunday against Fremantle, they would have been 3-0 and alongside Geelong and Brisbane as the only unbeaten teams in the competition. Their challenge now is to move on quickly and pick themselves up for their sternest test of the year to date.
Cruelled by injuries, Hawthorn were vulnerable early against North Melbourne before their professionalism, class and execution came to the fore. Chad Wingard warmed to his work to kick three goals in his Hawks debut, while midfielder Jaeger O’Meara was superb again. Hawthorn rarely beat themselves, putting the onus on the Saints to raise the bar.
VERDICT: Hawthorn by 31 pointsMarket Market