Richmond v Geelong, MCG, 5.50pm
We all know how the last meeting between these two sides played out. Full of drama and firsts, it ended in a predictable manner … Richmond proving that their best is at a level beyond any other side in the competition.
We witnessed that again last week when the Tigers stormed over the top of the previously unbeaten Western Bulldogs in an ominous sign for the Cats, whose possession-based game has been exposed by the manic approach of Damien Hardwick’s men.
The Cats did a lot right against Sydney, but still came up short in a remarkable quirk. If they’re to avenge their grand final defeat, they must take their chances and not blink. As we have witnessed, that is a very, very tall order.
VERDICT: Richmond by 20 points
GWS v Essendon, Giants Stadium, 11.45am
On the scrapheap after an uninspiring start to 2021, GWS find themselves now being spoken about as a top-eight contender. Three wins in four games, on the back of interim captain Toby Greene’s undeniable swagger and leadership, will do that.
Essendon suffered a reality check against Carlton last Sunday, failing to capitalise on a good start. Like the Blues, their defence was porous, an area that can be fixed in time. I’m just not sure six days is enough given the body of work we have witnessed in the opening seven rounds.
Greene will be an even better player (that is saying something) should Jesse Hogan build on what was an impressive four-goal club debut. Hogan is a hulking figure and will demand rivals pay him considerable respect if he keeps impacting the scoreboard.
VERDICT: GWS by 21 points
Gold Coast v St Kilda, Metricon Stadium, 12.10pm
Finals appear to be beyond Gold Coast again this season, but there is no getting away from the fact they have stepped up in the past fortnight. Big time. A home win over Sydney a fortnight ago preceded last Saturday’s methodical dismantling of Collingwood.
The Suns now get a look at squaring away their win-loss record at 4-4 when they host St Kilda, who remain a puzzling outfit. Their best is intoxicating. Last weekend’s pasting of Hawthorn, who admittedly aren’t much good, followed a woeful interstate effort against Port Adelaide.
The win over the Hawks showed that any time Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall are in the line-up, the Saints are to be reckoned with. Another St Kilda win here wouldn’t be a shock.
VERDICT: St Kilda by 9 points
North Melbourne v Collingwood, Marvel Stadium, 2.35pm
Imagine the pressure Collingwood players are under entering this clash. Now project forward and think about how they are going to be feeling should they be the first team to lose to North Melbourne.
It will no doubt weigh heavily on some Magpies players, many of whom looked disinterested last weekend in the loss to Gold Coast. Conversely, the Kangaroos held a sizeable lead over Melbourne at half-time in round seven, only for normal order to be restored after the break.
North are having a crack, but are lacking some quality. The Magpies still have plenty of quality and only need to have a crack to avoid the ignominy of going under to David Noble’s struggling side.
VERDICT: Collingwood by 31 points
Melbourne v Sydney, MCG, 5.25pm
Was the first half against North Melbourne an indication Melbourne are inching towards a loss? Or the wake-up call Simon Goodwin’s men needed to have ahead of this assignment?
We will learn more early in this encounter because if recent history is any guide, the Swans are entitled to feel they are an enormous hope of causing an upset. They have won nine of their past 10 opposed to Melbourne and already have the scalp of Richmond at the MCG.
The expectation Lance Franklin and Dane Rampe return is significant, but the reprieve of Bayley Fritsch at the tribunal during the week ensures the Swans’ defence will have a tough job stifling the scoreboard pressure Melbourne apply.
VERDICT: Melbourne by 15 points
Port Adelaide v Adelaide, 5.40pm
Two big interstate matches played. Two big interstate matches lost. Port Adelaide cannot escape the scrutiny they are under after following up an insipid effort against West Coast in Perth with a lacklustre performance at the Gabba against Brisbane.
Fortunately for Ken Hinkley’s charges, they return to the comforts of Adelaide Oval this weekend for a match-up with their crosstown rivals, who are now resembling the struggling side many forecast we would see in the pre-season predictions.
The Power’s attack on the football was mediocre against Brisbane. Expect a ferocious response and when that occurs, the Power’s forward line to have a myriad of chances to boot a really big total.
VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 49 points
Hawthorn v West Coast, MCG, 11.10am
Star West Coast defender Brad Sheppard baulked this week when asked whether the Eagles needed to make a statement against Hawthorn. That’s fair enough, but this presents as an opportunity that must be capitalised on.
The Eagles are 0-3 away from Optus Stadium and in desperate need of building on their success at home. Hawthorn are a perfect opponent, even though there is hope that Jaeger O’Meara and Chad Wingard could return after being absent in the flogging from St Kilda.
West Coast’s forward-line potency was on display against Fremantle, despite Oscar Allen being required in the back half. That is a real worry for Hawks mentor Alastair Clarkson.
VERDICT: West Coast by 29 points
Western Bulldogs v Carlton, Marvel Stadium, 1.20pm
There is something alluring when a high-flying athlete or sporting side comes crashing back to earth with an unexpected loss. It’s not tall poppy syndrome. Rather it adds to the interest levels at their next outing.
As far as the Western Bulldogs are concerned, this is it. In control against Richmond at half-time, they were humiliated in quarters three and four. There is no disgrace in that, but it proves there is serious work to be done if they’re to be contending later in the year.
Carlton have designs on being active in September. They need to take down a big banana, a side like the Bulldogs. Sam Walsh will do everything he can to help achieve that, while Harry McKay’s length and finishing is sure to ask many questions of the undersized Dogs defence.
VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 28 points
Brisbane v Fremantle, Gabba, 2.40pm
They’re not quite there yet, but Brisbane’s efforts over the past month would suggest Chris Fagan’s men are approaching peak form.
It is an alarming thought for Fremantle, who are banged up and facing up to the Lions after arriving on the Gold Coast this week after the decision to switch this match away from Optus Stadium because of COVID-19 concerns.
Even with Joe Daniher working up the ground and helping with the ruck duties, he is still hitting the scoreboard. As are Charlie Cameron, Lincoln McCarthy and Eric Hipwood. As for the Dockers’ back six, it will have a vastly different look to the one that started against West Coast because of an extensive injury list.
VERDICT: Brisbane by 46 pointsMarket Market