For the third straight year, our game will be showcased in Shanghai, and for the first time, a Victorian team will be involved, which should boost the publicity and popularity of the contest in China.
With the Gold Coast Suns pulling out of the fixture after two heavy defeats, St Kilda happily agreed to replace them in facing Port Adelaide in China’s most populated city.
It means the Saints will become the first team in 161 years of VFL/AFL history to ever contest a match for premiership points in three separate countries, after having played in New Zealand on Anzac Day for three years earlier this decade.
Their foray across the ditch proved to be unsuccessful, losing all three matches they contested against the Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions and Carlton in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively.
They will therefore be hoping that their foray into the world’s most populous country is a more successful one, and there is no reason to believe it won’t be, despite having lost their past seven matches against the Power dating back to Round 1, 2012.
There had also been talk two years ago of the GWS Giants planning to contest a premiership match against Richmond in Mumbai, India, though that has since fallen through and is unlikely to proceed in the short term.
As far as on-field matters are concerned, this Sunday’s clash in Shanghai shapes as a crucial one for both the Saints and Power, who sit 11th and 10th on the ladder respectively with 5-5 win-loss records.
The Saints last week put an end to a four-match losing streak by beating Carlton by 13 points, and their chances of beating the Power for the first time since 2011 is set to be boosted by the return of captain Jarryn Geary.
His recovery from a sickening quad injury suffered in the Round 5 win over Melbourne, at which point the Saints were 4-1, has gone quicker than expected and Geary will travel to Shanghai and be given every chance to play in this historic fixture for the club.
In his absence, the Saints suffered four consecutive losses, albeit to quality opposition in the Adelaide Crows, GWS Giants, West Coast Eagles and Collingwood prior to the win over the Blues.
They were competitive in three of the four defeats, with the only real disappointing result being against the Giants in Canberra where they conceded eight first quarter goals, putting them on the back foot for the rest of the match.
Port, meantime, suffered a disappointing loss to Hawthorn in Launceston last week, being held scoreless in the opening quarter and eventually losing by 31 points.
Midfielder Tom Rockliff has been cleared of a serious hamstring injury and is set to join his teammates on the plane to Shanghai, which will mark their second of four consecutive weeks away from home, though they will have the luxury of having the bye the following round.
It was a far cry from their impressive win over the West Coast Eagles in Perth in Round 5, where they showed the rest of the competition the blueprint to beating the reigning premiers, which the Geelong Cats also applied in Round 6.
As this article goes to print, both the Saints and Power are preparing to fly out of Australia, bound for Shanghai, where the Saints will don a variant of its home guernsey, despite this being the second week of the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, where most other clubs will don their Indigenous guernseys.
After two mostly one-sided Shanghai matches in the past two years (both won by Port Adelaide over the Gold Coast Suns), the expectation is that this year’s clash will be much closer, especially with both sides next to each other on the ladder with the same 5-5 win-loss record.
Both the Saints and Power will have the bye in Round 12, allowing the players to enjoy some sufficient rest, but when they resume, they will again be on the road in Round 13 for matches against the Suns in Townsville and Dockers in Perth, respectively.
Their next home games will therefore not be until Round 14, when they host the Lions and Cats respectively. For the Power, after four consecutive weeks without a home game, they will then not have to leave Adelaide again until Round 18 when it plays Richmond at the MCG.
For the second straight year, the Shanghai Showdown will be a Fox Footy-produced match, though it will be shown live into Channel Seven in Adelaide at 1:30pm ACST.