He’ll be facing a nervous wait at the very least…
Here are my big questions ahead of a huge Round 4!
Can the Pies stretch clear?
It may be only Round 4, but this already seems like an eight-point game between two top-four contenders. Many see Collingwood as the team to beat after three rounds, a view that will only strengthen with a victory on the road against the Giants. A loss would bring them back to the pack, with Richmond and Brisbane favoured to win their respective match-ups.
The Giants will receive a boost with the likely return of Toby Greene and Josh Kelly, while Lachie Whitfield is expected to play after sustaining concussion early last week. A win is imperative for GWS, with a 1-3 start sure to leave their top-four hopes hanging by a thread.
Can the Eagles leave Queensland with anything?
West Coast have been vocal in their displeasure of the Queensland hub, a feeling that seems to be reflected in their footy over the past two weeks. Although they’ll have many home games in Western Australia for the remainder of the season, they need to salvage at least one victory in their last two Queensland games to keep their top-four hopes alive.
The Eagles should provide a test for the Power, who have been mightily impressive, albeit against lesser opposition. An intriguing game awaits between two sides with premiership aspirations.
Can the Tigers rediscover their mojo?
Richmond have been kept to just five goals each of the past two games and seem a distance off their all-conquering best. Most pundits trust that the Tigers can recapture somewhere near their best form, but an unexpected loss to the Saints would have that trust waning considerably.
The Saints failed miserably in a stern test against the Pies last week. Can they provide a better output against another league heavyweight?
Will COVID-19 affect the Dons on-field?
After a tumultuous previous week, Essendon will get back to playing football on Saturday night against the Blues. Fortunately for them, only James Stewart (who hasn’t played this season) was classified as a close contact of Conor McKenna, who tested positive to COVID-19 last Saturday.
The whole situation won’t impact the Dons too much in regard to team selection, but will the media attention and long break between games affect their performance? Like a few other games this round, it seems almost impossible to predict the result between two storied rivals.
Are the Suns in for the long haul?
Gold Coast have been the surprise packet of the past two rounds, upsetting the Eagles in a comprehensive display before a dominant victory against the hapless Crows.
But haven’t we seen this before? Despite all their struggles in previous years, the Suns have regularly begun seasons well before falling off the cliff dramatically.
Things seem different this year, though. They’ve been dominant in a way we haven’t seen before. Their hard, tough brand under Stuart Dew belies the fact they’re still so young and inexperienced. A win against a competitive but winless Dockers will help convince those still questioning the validity of the Suns’ massive turnaround.
Can the Crows find anything positive?
Very little has gone right for Adelaide since the end of 2017. Players have left every year, off-field controversies have been frequent and their form has slipped to a point where they’re now considered the worst team in the league.
Although it would be easy to try and find positives through the development of younger players, the Crows might still be best served in trying to increase the trade value of those they may look to depart with at season’s end.
It will be interesting to analyse the management of the Crows for the remainder of the season. Can they find anything that their fans can hold onto for the future? The task doesn’t get any easier against the Lions on Sunday.
Can the Cats find consistency?
Since the middle of last season the Cats output seems to vary weekly and they’ve failed to string wins together. It’s hard to put a finger on why this has been the case, and it certainly won’t be answered in one game. They do, however, need to respond hard and regain confidence after a lacklustre, insipid display at home against the Blues last week.
Are either of these teams any threat?
With both teams sitting at 2-1, Sunday night’s clash between Hawthorn and North Melbourne shapes as a crucial clash for both teams’ finals hopes.
North’s tough, contested style under Rhyce Shaw will see them competitive in most games, but nothing has suggested thus far that they’re anything more than a side that will sit around the fringes of the eight.
Hawthorn have the trump card of arguably the greatest coach of the modern era. Despite an ageing list that’s been written off on occasions, some believe Alastair Clarkson could conjure a way to see the Hawks reach the pointy end of the season. A win against the Roos might convince others that the mastermind can make his side a real threat in 2020.