Collingwood v Western Bulldogs, Marvel Stadium, 5.50pm
This isn’t last-chance saloon for the Western Bulldogs. But it’s fair to say this clash is a close relation. A 3-5 start is problematic. If it turns into 3-6 with another loss, their plight could morph into downright trouble.
The ongoing absence of Tim English is a blow for the Bulldogs, but the return of skipper Marcus Bontempelli strengthens the midfield and also provides coach Luke Beveridge with another option in an attack short on goal-scoring power.
As for the Magpies, they weren’t disgraced against Richmond, but surrendered ground midfield and refused to be accountable in defence. Both areas need to be addressed.
VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 1-39 points
Hawthorn v Richmond, MCG, 11.45am
For extended periods last Saturday night, everything looked to be going swimmingly for Hawthorn and rookie coach Sam Mitchell. Not for the first time in 2022 though, they were unable to stop the bleeding and paid a high price.
Essendon’s ability to surge clear of the Hawks is a real worry for Mitchell considering Richmond are moving the ball with greater freedom now than we have seen since their premiership years. With Dustin Martin standing inside 50m alongside a dominant Tom Lynch, Hawthorn’s defence has every right to be nervous.
Expect the Tigers to add as much speed on the ball as they can, knowing full well that Hawthorn’s midfield is very one-paced. It’s also fair to expect plenty of goals here.
VERDICT: Richmond to win
North Melbourne v Port Adelaide, Blundstone Arena, 12.10pm
North Melbourne put on a united front off the field this week after the revelation David Noble apologised to the players for what was a searing assessment of their performance against Brisbane earlier in the season.
If only the Kangaroos showed as much intent within the course of a football match. The Kangaroos look clueless and broken (yes, they are separate issues) and now run headlong into a Port side riding a three-match winning streak and fresh off a win over last year’s grand finalists.
Power pair Travis Boak and Robbie Gray are very much in the twilight of their careers, yet their influence remains profound. If Ken Hinkley’s side has designs on sneaking into September, a win here is a must.
VERDICT: Port Adelaide by 1-39 points
St Kilda v Geelong, Marvel Stadium, 2.35pm
Having failed one football audit in the past week, St Kilda must now embrace another here against Geelong. Even though they came up short against Melbourne in round eight, the Saints weren’t embarrassed.
Indeed, the effort after half-time was a brand of football we associate with St Kilda and let’s hope Brett Ratten implores his players to adopt a similar positive attitude. If they do, the Cats will well and truly know they are in a contest.
Geelong strangled the life out of GWS in Canberra and have shown over a long period of time that they can stifle an opposition team better than most. And in attack, they have two key forward weapons in Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins who work so well together.
VERDICT: Geelong by 1-39 points
Sydney v Essendon, SCG, 5.25pm
Doesn’t the pendulum swing wildly in the AFL? Sydney were viewed as a top-two contender a fortnight ago, but have since coughed up home games to Brisbane and Gold Coast. Under intense heat after a shoddy start to their campaign, Essendon beat arch rivals Hawthorn last weekend and now all is good with the world at Tullamarine.
The Bombers have proven a funny side to get a handle on in recent times. When they are feeling good about themselves and focus on their strengths, most notably attack, they have the capacity to trouble anyone.
Conversely, it feels the Swans are still grappling with their identity, especially at home.
VERDICT: Sydney by 1-39 points
Adelaide v Brisbane, Adelaide Oval, 5.40pm
Given their standing on the ladder, this might not seem a timely match-up for Adelaide. But the Crows need to somehow find a way to reinstall belief in their supporters, who have winced often in the past two weeks.
A bad loss at home to GWS was followed by a Marvel Stadium blitz last Sunday evening at the hands of Carlton, the back-to-back defeats almost certainly guaranteeing Matthew Nicks’ side will again be confined to the role of spectator during the finals.
Conversely, the Lions are eyeing off a top-two position, although they are being challenged for the next few weeks without marking forwards Joe Daniher (shoulder) and Dan McStay (ankle).
VERDICT: Brisbane to win
Gold Coast v Fremantle, Metricon Stadium, 11.40am
Fremantle have been presented with bigger challenges than Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium already this season … and there are bigger ones on the horizon.
But those thinking the Dockers will rock up to the Glitter Strip and automatically take care of business, need to reconsider. The Suns have been competitive at home in 2022 and will view this game as a wonderful opportunity to improve to 4-5 after upsetting Sydney at the SCG.
One thing that could well work in Fremantle’s favour is Metricon Stadium may well be waterlogged after a week of rain. The Dockers have defended superbly in fine weather, therefore it’s hard to see them coughing up a heap of goals on a heavy surface.
VERDICT: Fremantle by 1-39 points
GWS v Carlton, Giants Stadium, 1.20pm
It’s hard to poke holes in the form of Carlton. They climbed into fourth position last weekend with a comprehensive win over Adelaide, a victory achieved on the back of a superb midfield display by Patrick Cripps and Charlie Curnow continuing his superb 2022.
But they have been a little shaky away from Victoria, with their two losses coming at the hands of Gold Coast (Metricon Stadium) and Fremantle (Optus Stadium). Now they have to encounter a GWS side that is chock-full of emotion following the decision by Leon Cameron to walk away from the coaching position.
The Giants players simply must respond to honour Cameron, who has moulded many of them as young men. I think they will.
VERDICT: GWS by 1-39 points
West Coast v Melbourne, Optus Stadium, 3.20pm
A grand total of 331 points. That is what West Coast have lost their past four matches by and if the current trend is very much your friend, it would be a massive shock if that figure doesn’t tick past 400 points by the completion of this game.
Melbourne boast a 15-game winning streak at the moment and continue to be brutally efficient in all areas on the ground, especially in defence. Factor in West Coast’s offensive woes and this has hazardous written all over it for the hosts.
Max Gawn’s availability will allow those on hand to witness a blue-chip midfield go about its business. Adam Simpson’s tactics to quell Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Ed Langdon will be interesting.