Sydney v Essendon, SCG, 5.20pm
A revival or a false dawn? It is a legitimate question regarding Essendon after their stirring win over St Kilda last weekend. It may have also applied to Sydney after crunching Brisbane in round one, but we all know they are now a genuine top-eight team.
A cornerstone behind the Swans’ resurgence has been their willingness to take the game on with slick ball movement and an ability to hit the scoreboard. Much credit must go to John Longmire for overseeing the transformation, although those in the know are also glowing in their praise of first-year assistant coach Don Pyke.
The Bombers are still not at full strength, but welcomed back some key personnel against the Saints and performed like a far more cohesive unit. Jake Stringer will again need to be influential if they are to back it up, while the return of skipper Dyson Heppell helps.
VERDICT: Sydney by 26 points
Port Adelaide v Richmond, Adelaide Oval, 5.50pm
In a perfect world, Port Adelaide and Richmond would have locked horns on the Friday night stage unbeaten and ready for a stoush of epic proportions. Sadly, it has been a long time since the world was perfect.
Putting that to one side, we get to see the improvement Port have made. Humbled by West Coast in Perth, the Power have an opportunity to avenge the heartbreaking preliminary final defeat at this very ground last year.
If Port are as good as we think they are, then their response will be telling. Given everything Richmond have achieved and the standard they have set over a prolonged period, it would be foolish to expect anything less than a ferocious mindset following their humbling at the hands of Sydney.
VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 12 points
Western Bulldogs v Brisbane, Mars Stadium, Ballarat, 11.35am
Every neutral football observer was thrilled to see Brisbane get the four points against Collingwood less than a week after being denied a shot on goal to win the match against Geelong because of an umpiring howler.
The result will give them enormous self-belief, but it might not be enough. The Lions now run headlong into the most talented and deepest midfield in the competition, spearheaded by Marcus Bontempelli, Bailey Smith, Jack Macrae, Tom Liberatore, Lachie Hunter and Adam Treloar.
Denying that crop amassing big numbers will be critical after Josh Bruce dined out against North Melbourne. But the Bulldogs will have their hands full at the other end curtailing Joe Daniher, Charlie Cameron and Eric Hipwood.
VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 20 points
St Kilda v West Coast, Marvel Stadium, 2.35pm
What presented as a danger game entering the season from West Coast’s perspective has now become extremely winnable. So much in fact that the Eagles will be filthy on themselves if they aren’t leaving Victoria on Sunday morning with four points.
The Saints were embarrassed by Essendon last weekend and while many will have been named and shamed by coach Brett Ratten at this week’s review, it is debatable if they are going well enough to stretch the necks of West Coast.
The Eagles will be happy they don’t have to concern themselves with Saints star Jade Gresham (Achilles) and have the added incentive of performing for milestone man Brad Sheppard (200 games).
VERDICT: West Coast by 24 points
Gold Coast v Carlton, Metricon Stadium, 5.25pm
Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew would have been well within his rights to enjoy a stiff drink either after the loss to Adelaide last Friday night or earlier this week when it was confirmed ruckman Jarrod Witts had sustained a season-ending knee injury.
The Suns held out hope in the aftermath of round three that it wasn’t the worst case possible, but it was not to be. Consequently, the finals aspirations of Gold Coast are tenuous at best when you factor in his absence on top of an extensive injury list.
Carlton have their own injury issues to worry about, but in Marc Pittonet have a capable big man capable of exposing Witts’ unavailability and providing Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh with first use.
VERDICT: Carlton by 8 points
Collingwood v GWS, MCG, 5.25pm
Collingwood haven’t got a great deal to show for what has been an acceptable start to their campaign. A 1-2 win-loss record is reflective of that.
If they have put the disappointment of the after-the-siren loss to Brisbane behind them, they should square away their ledger here. GWS are a shadow of the feared outfit that marched to the 2019 grand final, their most recent loss to Melbourne compounded by serious leg injuries to Stephen Coniglio, Phil Davis and Matt de Boer.
The Giants would love to slow this game down, normally an approach Magpies coach Nathan Buckley loves to adopt also. But he needs to make adjustments for this contest because if Collingwood are prepared to take the game on, they have the arsenal to obliterate GWS.
VERDICT: Collingwood by 32 points
North Melbourne v Adelaide, Marvel Stadium, 11.10am
At first glance when the 2021 fixtures were released, North Melbourne fans would have circled this game as one their side could win. A home match against a wooden spooner from the previous year lends itself to that school of thought.
It hasn’t taken long for the roles to be reversed. Adelaide are going along beautifully thanks to a healthy squad and some vintage form in attack from Taylor Walker, who has already booted 17 goals — two more than he did for all of 2020.
Conversely, the Kangaroos are struggling to score, turn the ball over repeatedly and cannot defend. Trouble!
VERDICT: Adelaide by 34 points
Melbourne v Geelong, MCG, 1.20pm
How long is it before we can safely declare that Melbourne are 100 per cent trustworthy? Some might already be there, others will view this clash as a proper football audit.
There has been a bit to like about Melbourne, who have wonderful accumulators midfield but are extremely well organised behind the ball thanks to key-position pair Steven May and Jake Lever.
Geelong are missing a few of their preferred personnel, namely Jeremy Cameron (hamstring), Patrick Dangerfield (suspension) and Shaun Higgins (hamstring). This is the Demons’ biggest test thus far. The whole football world is watching.
VERDICT: Melbourne by 11 points
Fremantle v Hawthorn, Optus Stadium, 2.40pm
Nat Fyfe. With those two words, Fremantle’s faithful can get genuinely excited about their side’s prospects against Hawthorn.
The Dockers were rudderless against Carlton in his absence — both in attack and also through the midfield — and should he return as expected, the hosts have the necessary pieces of the puzzle to win a second home game.
It won’t be easy. Hawthorn are travelling all right and though they have lost their past two fixtures, it must be remembered they were at the hands of Richmond and Geelong.
VERDICT: Fremantle by 28 pointsMarket Market