North Melbourne vs Carlton, Friday 7:40, Etihad Stadium
Both sides had emphatic victories last week, but it was perhaps Carlton who came away with the biggest gain following their 74-point demolition of Essendon. It left them two points and significant percentage ahead of West Coast in fifth.
North Melbourne is one of a number of sides battling to make the finals and can sneak in the eight if they are to win.
The Kangaroos would have been hoping for Chris Judd’s baby to be due on Friday but Oscar Dylan was born on Monday and he will line up. He, along with his many in-form cohorts, should see the Blues over the line.
Supercoach – Chris Judd (Carl), Brent Harvey (NM)
Carlton by 26
Geelong vs Melbourne, Saturday 2:10, Skilled Stadium
Melbourne travels down the highway Saturday afternoon for the clash between the game’s oldest rivals, and Geelong looked to have recovered some of their mojo with a big win over Richmond, though they let the foot off the gas in the last.
The Demons were disappointing in going down to Hawthorn last week, and it doesn’t get any easier for them facing another top-four side.
The Cats’ winning record at Kardinia Park now stands at 27 consecutive games, and in the four games there this year, no side has got within 50 points. Cam Mooney’s return will be of interest.
Geelong by 60
Supercoach – Brad Ottens (Geel), Jack Watts (Melb)
Western Bulldogs vs West Coast, Saturday 2:10, Etihad Stadium
After a few promising weeks the Bulldogs have slumped back to some ordinary form, losing their past two to North Melbourne and Sydney. Some Bulldogs fans will have trepidation heading into this game, given they were annihilated by 123 points.
Crucially, Josh Kennedy will miss this game after a mishap with a tennis ball, as will Nic Naitanui, but that will give their resident goalkicker Mark LeCras a chance to shine.
Hard to see the margin getting out to such heights as last time but the Eagles’ superior form should see them over the line.
West Coast by 13
Supercoach – Dale Morris (WB), Mark LeCras (WC)
Gold Coast vs St Kilda, Saturday 7:10, Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast were soundly beaten last week by Collingwood, but impressed many by keeping the margin relatively in check and were competitive in patches. St Kilda’s slow start to the season has been turned around and last week’s 103-point victory over Adelaide have set the wheels firmly in motion.
Hurting the Saints this week is Nick Riewoldt missing through suspension, but with most of their side up and flying – Stephen Milne and Adam Schneider kicked 13 between them last week – they are unlikely to be troubled by the Suns.
Metricon looks like it could become a happy hunting ground for Gold Coast – but not this week.
St Kilda by 48
Supercoach – Danny Stanley (GC), Sam Fisher (St K)
Fremantle vs Hawthorn, Saturday 7:40, Patersons Stadium
Fremantle almost pulled off a remarkable victory in the western derby last week, with Hayden Ballantyne’s (now deemed illegal) shot for goal after the siren fading to the right and hitting the post.
Up and down all season, the Dockers were in quality form before that match and their comeback showed a steely resolve that will hold them in good stead.
Luke McPharlin’s suspension does not help matters, as few sides can afford to be down a key defender against the likes of Lance Franklin. The midfield battle may ultimate decide the fate here.
Hawthorn by 12
Supercoach – Matt de Boer (Frem), Lance Franklin (Haw)
Collingwood vs Essendon, Sunday 2:10, MCG
The annual late-season return match following the heavily anticipated Anzac Day clash earlier in the year, and Essendon fans will be worried given their side’s second half fade-out last week.
Jobe Watson returns this week for the Bombers, which is a huge positive, but Tayte Pears and Michael Hurley will both miss, and Cale Hooker and Dustin Fletcher are already on the sidelines.
Travis Cloke came under a lot of fire in previous seasons but he has showed, both last season and this year, his absolute talent and will be hard to stop.
Collingwood by 60
Supercoach – Travis Cloke (Coll), Jobe Watson (Ess)
Adelaide vs Port Adelaide, Sunday 4:40, AAMI Stadium
Perhaps the least-anticipated showdown clash in South Australian football history. The biggest note of interest will be how Adelaide competes under caretaker coach Mark Bickley, with Neil Craig’s not altogether surprising resignation during the week.
Port Adelaide will head into this game with a lot of confidence; they have won four of the past five showdowns and will be hoping to elevate themselves off bottom place of the ladder with a win.
If Craig was the big issue at the Crows, Bickley’s arrival should stir something in the playing group and looking at their lists, it would appear Adelaide look the goods on paper.
Adelaide by 10
Supercoach – Graham Johncock (Adel), Dom Cassisi (PA)