Sydney v Western Bulldogs, SCG, 5.40pm
Coach Luke Beveridge demanded something special from his players last week and they responded, upsetting a depleted Greater Western Sydney to kick-start their 2020 campaign.
Can they replicate that level of intent in their third game in 12 days against an opponent that is invariably hard to play against? They will need to given Josh Dunkley (ankle) and Lin Jong (Achilles) join fellow midfielder Lachie Hunter (suspension) on the sidelines.
Sydney rebounded in the manner we have come to expect against North Melbourne. The Swans spotted the Kangaroos the first two goals down in Victoria and then won an arm-wrestle, taking full advantage of Ben Cunnington’s absence. It could be a good marker for this contest.
VERDICT: Sydney by 11 points
GWS v Collingwood, Giants Stadium, 5.50pm
Trust or gut feel? That is what many tipsters will be weighing up when it comes to this contest between two sides who met as recently as last year’s preliminary final.
You can trust Collingwood, in particular their teamwork and defensive approach. It is why they are unbeaten in 2020. As for Greater Western Sydney, we are waiting for them to rediscover their feared best. It was meant to be last weekend, but they huffed and puffed … and then rolled over like a playful puppy against the Western Bulldogs.
The expectation both Josh Kelly and Toby Greene return from injury is telling for GWS, as is this game being staged at Giants Stadium, but the Magpies haven’t put a foot wrong yet.
VERDICT: Collingwood by 9 points
Port Adelaide v West Coast, Metricon Stadium, 11.45am
The same thought process as the game above may well apply here. Port Adelaide are airborne at present, whereas West Coast haven’t taken flight since touching down in south-east Queensland.
The Eagles were better however against Brisbane last Saturday night and if they are able to be harder for longer here than they were against Gold Coast and the Lions, it’s fair to assume Port will know they’re in a contest.
The Power have dined out on Adelaide and Fremantle in the past fortnight and are about to face their stiffest test to date. Having lost two night games in Queensland, the Eagles will enjoy the day match and Jeremy McGovern’s presence.
VERDICT: West Coast by 12 points
St Kilda v Richmond, Marvel Stadium, 2.35pm
Will the real Richmond please stand up? There are sides in more strife than the Tigers this season, but they remain the most intriguing watch, courtesy of last week’s humbling at the hands of Hawthorn.
Their lack of grunt midfield and ineptitude in attack has been noticeable in the first two games since the resumption … areas the Saints will look to exploit back in familiar surrounds as opposed to the MCG where they lost to Collingwood last weekend.
St Kilda’s best this year has been better than the premiers and Brett Ratten will look for his troops to bring the heat, much like they did a fortnight ago against the Western Bulldogs. The onus will then be on Richmond to push back.
VERDICT: Richmond by 16 points
Essendon v Carlton, MCG, 5.40pm
If there is a positive (please excuse the pun) out of the latest drama surrounding Essendon, it is many of their players have experienced some tough times as part of the flawed supplements saga.
That said, the Bombers would dearly like Conor McKenna streaming off half-back as opposed to watching the streaming service Netflix for the next fortnight while he quarantines as a result of a COVID-19 scare.
Carlton came ready to play for once in the first quarter last weekend, helping set up a narrow win over Geelong. The contribution of captain Patrick Cripps was telling, while Eddie Betts responded to a difficult week with trademark class and vibrancy.
VERDICT: Carlton by 7 points
Gold Coast v Fremantle, Metricon Stadium, 5.40pm
This is a game that many Fremantle fans would have pencilled in for a win. And so they should have. Gold Coast fell off the cliff after a bright start last season and their round one effort opposed to Port Adelaide was putrid.
Since the resumption however, the Suns are a different beast. Their demolition of West Coast was stunning, their dismissal of Adelaide ruthless. The Dockers haven’t been far away, but remain winless and desperately in need of getting something for their toil.
Nat Fyfe had the blowtorch applied to him this week for his his so-so defensive efforts against Port and a response will be forthcoming. On what we witnessed last Sunday night, Fremantle will be hoping the rain stays away.
VERDICT: Gold Coast by 18 points
Brisbane v Adelaide, Gabba, 11.05am
Most people will be fully expecting Brisbane to take care of business for the third successive week to entrench themselves in the top eight. But the Lions aren’t the reason why neutral fans will be tuning in to watch this.
Rather, to get a handle on how bad Adelaide actually are. The Crows were listless against Port Adelaide and didn’t give a yelp last weekend opposed to Gold Coast. It’s rare to see so many faults in a football team so early in a season.
Adelaide’s lack of spread and stilted ball movement leaves them at the mercy of the Lachie Neale-led Lions, who should be looking to bulk up their percentage in what is a season like no other.
VERDICT: Brisbane by 48 points
Melbourne v Geelong, MCG, 1.35pm
Geelong leave the comforts of GMHBA Stadium for the first time since the resumption of the season to tackle Melbourne, who are last-start winners — a fortnight ago.
The Demons had to make do with an intra-club hit-out at the MCG last weekend after their round three clash with Essendon was postponed because of Conor McKenna’s COVID-19 scare. How that leaves them prepared for this match is anyone’s guess.
The Cats could have easily pinched last Saturday night’s match against Carlton, but they would have been charged with theft. They didn’t meet the ferocity of the Blues early on and were then forced to play catch-up. It’s unlikely their midfield will be as tardy this week.
VERDICT: Geelong by 20 points
Hawthorn v North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, 4.10pm
Hawthorn’s topsy-turvy start to the season continued last weekend when they embarrassed Richmond. The Hawks retained possession of the ball, ensured the game was played at the tempo that best suited them and impacted the scoreboard.
The return of Jaeger O’Meara alongside Tom Mitchell in the midfield was particularly important. That pair are likely to find it harder to influence the stoppages this week should Ben Cunnington overcome his back complaint that sidelined for him for the Kangaroos’ shock loss to Sydney.
North had their pride pricked in last weekend’s defeat and will adopt a far more physical approach against the Hawks. That should suit Clarkson’s men, who have in the past struggled against sides with genuine outside speed.
VERDICT: Hawthorn by 17 pointsMarket Market