Here we go footy fans, the business end of the season and it’s a race to fit 10 teams into eight places.
In one of the most unpredictable years, we could see the Swans fall out of the top eight and the Giants make history by making their first finals campaign.
Sydney versus Collingwood
If Collingwood want to make it 11 teams into eight they have to win this match.
The return of two of the league’s power forwards should add a touch of glitter to a match that could very well be marred by booing.
Travis Cloke will give the Pies greater accuracy and much-needed drama through the forward 50.
Lance Franklin brings strutting and 71 per cent of Sydney’s salary cap to the table.
Sydney has everything to play for – a loss and they could actually be out of the eight by the end of the round if other results go against them.
Prediction: Collingwood by 14 points.
Essendon versus Adelaide
Another open letter by Paul Little and another week where Essendon will be smashed in every department. The bets are on as to when James Hird will cross his arms, throw his phone away and give up.
The Crows have a mission to make the finals in honour of their slain coach, Phil Walsh. Something to play for is always a good thing – I’m sure Melbourne and Carlton had one once.
Adelaide have won only twice against the bombers in Melbourne, both times at Etihad, and for Essendon to win they have to rely on the Crows getting lost in traffic on the way to the ground to have any chance.
Prediction: Adelaide 73 points.
North Melbourne versus St Kilda
The real North Melbourne stood up in the last quarter against the Demons, as opposed to the really real North Melbourne that played those first three quarters.
(I’m not sure who the real North Melbourne is any more.)
It will come down to how fit Brad Scott’s face is. The arm stretched, mouth wide-open look can only go so far. However Alan Richardson has yet to master more than one facial expression.
This should make it six on the trot for the Kangaroos before they start their finals run against three top-eight sides.
Then we should see the really, really real North Melbourne.
Kangaroos by 37 points.
Port Adelaide versus Greater Western Sydney
This is the match GWS need to win if they hope to make the finals.
Port on the other hand are like when you are a kid at christmas and grandma hands you a giant present that turns out to be a lame jigsaw. Paddy Ryder was meant to be the missing piece of that jigsaw but turned out to just be a missing piece for most of the year.
This will be closer than people think.
Port by 15 points.
Geelong versus Hawthorn
One of the biggest modern rivalries in the AFL is set to heat up a cold Melbourne day. 80,000 screaming fans willing their team on.
Will we see Cyril Rioli lighting up the forward line? The big tomahawk kicking a goal after the siren to win? ‘Chip’ Frawley going off yet again under the concussion rule?
This is another Geelong must win and after last week’s loss to the Tigers, the Hawks will start to flex their finals bound muscles.
Hawthorn will go through Geelong quicker than Alastair Clarkson goes through a drunk heckler. The Cats, on their day, can beat anyone but this won’t be their day. They are on their ninth life and this could prove damaging to their finals aspirations.
The Hawks will make it four wins in a row against the Cats.
Hawthorn by 21 points.
Brisbane Lions versus Carlton
Carlton by 17 points
Richmond versus Gold Coast
“Oh to be a Tigers fan.” Gerard Whateley’s second favourite team are playing to avoid ninth spot yet again.
Surely Richmond can’t lose this one?
Having Brett Deledio back will give Richmond something they missed in last week’s heavy loss to the Crows. If anyone knows what that is please let the Damien Hardwick know.
Tigers by 55 points.
Western Bulldogs versus Melbourne
The feel-good story of the year up against the feel-sorry side of the last decade.
Everyone is waiting for the Doggies to fall away but they’ll have to wait another week. The Dogs are a breath of fresh air – high on confidence and full of attacking run. It’s great to see a first-year coach back his game plan.
Reports suggest the Bulldogs bandwagon will be up and roadworthy after this week’s match. I’m not sure it’s as heavy as Richmond’s, but it may just win a race between them.
Melbourne are just, well, Melbourne. The ‘nothing to see here’ sign on the door is still there.
Dogs by 43 points.
Fremantle versus West Coast
The Derby is here, and it’s pronounced with an ‘err’ not an ‘arr’ – no pirates in the west, but the plundering will start early.
Nat Fyfe is back and he’s running out of time to make himself ineligible for the Brownlow. Ross Lyon was right in resting his star midfielder so he doesn’t stuff it up, but there’s still time.
This match of the round should be an epic encounter. The Dockers have won the last six matches against the Eagles but it’s hard to see them making it seven.
Freo have fallen away after their blistering start to the season and West Coast will take full advantage.
West Coast by 23 points.