Digby Beacham’s AFL Preview: Round 9


Carlton v Melbourne, MCG, 5.30pm

Nobody needed to tell Melbourne that Carlton were the masters of the close game in 2023, the Blues winning their last two encounters by narrow margins against the Demons last year, including that dramatic semi-final at the MCG.

But the tide has turned. Carlton have dropped three of their past four, all close ones at that, and now face up to a Melbourne side buoyant having inflicted Geelong’s first loss of 2024.

Melbourne skipper Max Gawn not only leads his side’s ruck, he leads from the front and if he is able to operate at the standard he has set for the bulk of the season, the Demons’ on-ball brigade should be able to hold its own against Carlton’s midfield. And that is critical.

VERDICT: Carlton to win


Geelong v Port Adelaide, GMHBA Stadium, 5.10pm

If ever there was a stage for Tom Hawkins to end a rare lean funk, this is it. The superstar spearhead, a three-time premiership hero, will equal good mate and living legend Joel Selwood’s games record of 355 matches. And fittingly, it will take place under the bright Friday night lights of GMHBA Stadium.

That spells trouble for Port Adelaide, who to be honest, have been in trouble for the best part of the past week. The Showdown defeat to Adelaide was compounded by the bizarre decision to risk skipper Connor Rozee less than a week after he nicked a hamstring.

Unsurprisingly, Rozee will be missing here and that leaves the Power short-changed in the midfield against a Cats line-up eager to honour Hawkins and bounce back from last weekend’s loss to Melbourne.

VERDICT: Geelong by 16 points or points

Fremantle v Sydney, Optus Stadium, 6.10pm

Fremantle will never knock back a Friday night match at home. Few sides would. But one has to wonder whether there could have been better fixturing here to allow the Dockers to perform at their optimum.

They not only face up to a five-day break, but do so after playing at the MCG last Sunday. It is a preparation that leaves them vulnerable, even more so when you consider this round’s opposition, Sydney, sit atop the ladder after a scintillating start to the year.

The Swans’ midfield controlled proceedings in the win over GWS and importantly for John Longmire’s men they looked adept when the rain fell in the second quarter. The forecast for Perth on Friday is quite bleak.

VERDICT: Sydney to win


Hawthorn v St Kilda, UTAS Stadium, 11.45am

From savage to satisfied. It’s fair to say Sam Mitchell well and truly subscribes to the saying “a week is a long time in football”. There was no hiding his disappointment after the mauling from Sydney. Equally, he was immensely proud after Hawthorn overcame the Western Bulldogs last weekend.

The big question is whether the Hawks can build on that as they venture south to their Launceston fortress without skipper James Sicily? St Kilda coach Ross Lyon will know full well that his troops must improve on what they produced against North Melbourne if they’re to win back-to-back games.

But the return of Liam Henry from injury comes at a key time and the spotlight that has shone brightly in the direction of Max King might well ignite a response from the big key forward.

VERDICT: St Kilda to win

Essendon v GWS, Marvel Stadium, 2.35pm

We watched with great interest last Saturday night when Essendon took on West Coast at Optus Stadium. If the Bombers were to be considered a genuine top-eight hopeful, they needed to get the job done against the improving Eagles.

That they did. Does that translate though into another win here against GWS? On what we have witnessed over the past month, it may well. But the Giants are in the premiership conversation for a reason and well and truly capable of rebounding from the loss to Sydney.

The suspension of Callum Brown doesn’t help, nor does the ankle injury suffered by Tom Green. But they still have class on all lines and are increasingly confident that Stephen Coniglio could be available for selection.


Richmond v Western Bulldogs, MCG, 5.30pm

The pressure is intensifying around Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge … and deservedly so. The loss to a youthful Hawthorn side inside Marvel Stadium last Sunday was simply unacceptable.

It has led to a week of unrelenting scrutiny and raised the stakes for this clash with Richmond. Given where Richmond sit, you’d think the Bulldogs would be just winning. We thought the same last weekend, just as we did late last year when they were toppled by West Coast.

Richmond’s inability to call on senior personnel is proving extremely problematic for rookie coach Adem Yze. Alarmingly, there were signs opposed to Fremantle late that the Tigers’ willingness to compete, which has been so good for 2024, started to wane.

VERDICT: Western Bulldogs by 1-39 points

Gold Coast v North Melbourne, TIO Stadium, 5.30pm

Travelling away from the Glitter Strip hasn’t been kind to Gold Coast under Damien Hardwick. Alastair Clarkson’s stint at North Melbourne, approaching a season and a half, has been less kind.

So what gives here? The Suns are chasing their first win away from home for the season and the Kangaroos their first win full stop. The Kangaroos might argue they showed glimpses against St Kilda, yet still lost by nearly 40 points.

Gold Coast have been kicking themselves all week for failing to take advantage of a wounded opponent in Brisbane. It was the type of performance on such a stage we thought we had seen the last of from a Gold Coast perspective. They won’t cough this one up.

VERDICT: Gold Coast by 1-39 points


Collingwood v West Coast, Marvel Stadium, 11am

Collingwood would have expected to enter round nine inside the top eight and approaching this contest against West Coast with a relatively healthy group. You don’t always get what you want.

The Magpies, despite some encouraging form over the past month, start the round in ninth spot and are missing a swag of first-choice players through injury and suspension. Their depth is being well and truly tested.

As for the Eagles, they venture east minus leading goalkicker Jake Waterman (concussion) and likely leader in the John Worsfold Medal in Elliot Yeo (groin). Even factoring in Collingwood’s personnel problems, they look too strong.

VERDICT: Collingwood by 24 points or more

Adelaide v Brisbane, Adelaide Oval, 2pm

Would Brisbane coach Chris Fagan happily concede the four points from last Sunday night’s win over Gold Coast if he had access to Lincoln McCarthy and Darcy Gardiner for the remainder of the year?

We’ll never know the answer to that hypothetical inquiry, but we are certain that McCarthy and Gardiner won’t be seen until 2025 after rupturing anterior cruciate ligaments in the win over the Suns. Naturally, they are missing this weekend, as is Noah Answerth (concussion) and Brandon Starcevich (calf).

Teammates did a lot of heavy lifting in their absence, leaving Brisbane vulnerable to a rested Crows outfit, up and about after dismissing fierce rivals Port Adelaide. The Crows will be disappointed if they don’t cash in here.

VERDICT: Adelaide to win

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