The Roar
The Roar


Questions to ponder ahead of Round 9: Can Hawkins reverse form, are Dons finals contenders and how will Harley go against Pies?

Tom Hawkins of the Cats competes with Jeremy Finlayson of the Power. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
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8th May, 2024

With the ladder starting to take shape and a bumper Round 9 where all the top 8 teams are slated to play against each other, we ask some of the big questions we have ahead of a massive round of footy.

Geelong v Port Adelaide

Can Hawkins regain some much-needed form?

For the first time in his career, it seems age may have caught up with Tom Hawkins.

The champion Geelong forward, who has been so impressive in the twilight of his career, has gone goalless in each of his last four games and has lacked the speed and agility that made him such an asset to this Geelong forward line.

The one saving grace for Hawkins is that he will return to the familiar surroundings of GMHBA Stadium on Friday night which may just be the tonic he needs to regain some of his confidence back.

He will be up against a Port backline that looked very shaky and vulnerable when defending transition in the Showdown last week and has typically struggled against the top teams.

Given the skill of Geelong’s onballers on quickly moving the ball with the likes of Gryan Miers, Jeremy Cameron and Tyson Stengle, Hawkins will surely get some very good looks on Friday night.


Coach Chris Scott and the Cats faithful will be hoping he can regain the forward dynamism and power that will be so important for the Cats if they are to go far in 2024.

Tom Hawkins of the Cats competes with Jeremy Finlayson of the Power.

Tom Hawkins of the Cats competes with Jeremy Finlayson. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Fremantle v Sydney

Are we underrating the value of Dane Rampe in this side?

The Swans are spoilt with fantastic game-changers across every line of the field but one man whose importance to this side is so significant is the experienced Dane Rampe.

After missing three weeks with a hamstring strain, Rampe returned to the Swans’ side for their massive clash with GWS and was one of the leading contributors in a big win that reaffirmed the Swans’ credentials.

Rampe finished the day with 24 disposals including a game-high 15 intercept possessions as he helped anchor and lead a defence, without Tom McCartin for much of the afternoon, to restrict the Giants to their lowest score of the year.


Given that McCartin will miss this Friday’s clash against the Dockers at the very least with concussion, the role of Rampe is even more crucial to not only prevent scoring but also kickstart the ball movement from the half-back.

This will be very difficult against a very solid Fremantle team defence.

There may be some big names in the Swans side, but none will be more important for their premiership chances than the former Swans co-captain.

Hawthorn v St Kilda

Where is Jack Sinclair’s best position?

A two-time All-Australian on the half-back line, Jack Sinclair has spent more time in the middle in the last few weeks due to injuries and has showcased that he has what it takes to be a permanent onballer.

Last week against North Melbourne, Sinclair had 33 disposals, eight clearances and kicked two goals to demonstrate his capability to be at the centre of the Saints engine room, instead of being a half-back flanker.


However, Ross Lyon will have a tough decision to make when the Saints regain players such as Liam Henry and Brad Crouch.

Sinclair is arguably the Saints’ best and most important player and if the club are to recover from their slow start to the season, he needs to be given more midfield minutes so he can use his run and ball use to create greater damage.

It’ll be interesting to see if Sinclair can maintain his midfield consistency this week and prove to his coach why he deserves to be a part of the Saints’ on-ball brigade.

Essendon v GWS Giants

Are Essendon the real deal?

There has been a lot to like about Essendon’s 2024 campaign with a record of 5-1-2 and the Bombers could not have responded in better fashion after the shellacking against Port a few weeks ago.

This Saturday afternoon, it’s time for them to show they can go toe to toe with the best in the competition when they come up against a top-four contender in the Giants.


Given the Giants will be without Callum Brown through suspension and potentially Tom Green, the game on Saturday is the perfect opportunity for the Bombers to showcase that they are a genuine threat in the competition who can show it on a consistent basis.

Whilst they didn’t get the win, their performance a couple of weeks ago against Collingwood demonstrated that they could match up against the best.

If they can beat the Giants at Marvel and go to six wins from nine games, questions about their consistency will be firmly put to rest and the competition should be incredibly wary of what they can produce in 2024.

Richmond v Western Bulldogs

Is there anyone else Richmond can swing forward?

Richmond has been absolutely decimated by injury in 2024, with their key forward stocks particularly being affected with both Tom Lynch and Noah Balta out of the side.


This has made the Tigers incredibly thin whenever they have looked to go inside 50 and severely hampering their ability to score, only kicking 11 goals combined in their last two matches due to the lack of a significant tall forward target.

Whilst Balta is a chance to return this week, the question does remain if there are any other levers Adam Yze can pull to just keep an aerial target up forward to help anchor the forward line which could thrive against a defensively vulnerable Dogs.

With two ruckmen, perhaps one of Sam Naismith or Toby Nankervis can play extended minutes forward in conjunction with Mykelti Lefau who has shown good signs in his short career so far.

Whilst a lot of their problems are out of their control, Yze needs to get creative and deal with the cards he’s got if the Tigers are to get their second win of the season against the Bulldogs who could not be under any more pressure.

Gold Coast Suns v North Melbourne

Can North Melbourne take a leaf out of the Gold Coast playbook?

Although things could not be worse for North Melbourne than right now, the fans can look at their opponents this week to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.


It was five years ago, that the Suns were almost in a worse predicament, losing 19 games in a row in 2019, with their very existence being questioned.

However, since then, the Suns have been able to assemble a very nice young core of high-end talent with Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson and Jack Lukosius as well as access talent from their academy, although they had a disappointing loss in the QClash.

They look like finally challenging for the finals, once they fix up a few small things in the game.

A similar young core is present in North Melbourne with recent draftees in Colby McKercher, Harry Sheezel and George Wardlaw showing impressive signs last week against St Kilda with each having at least 20 disposals.

Whilst, things will remain difficult in the short term, if these young players can bring the effort like they have been and continue to develop their game, the Roos fans can become hopeful that the tide will eventually turn.

Collingwood v West Coast


Is Reid coming for Daicos’ crown?

The Harley hype is real and last year’s number one draft pick has already shown very impressive signs in less than 10 games of footy.

However, last week against Carlton, Nick Daicos reminded everyone why he is still the best young gun in the competition with 32 disposals and two goals including the matchwinner in the final two minutes.

Therefore, we are set up for an absolute cracker of a contest between two players who may just be among the best first-year players we’ve seen as we all remember Daicos’ stellar 2022 debut year which he has just improved on since.

Sunday afternoon’s game marks Reid’s AFL debut at the home of footy in the MCG against the biggest team in the land in the reigning premiers Collingwood.

From what we’ve seen in his career so far, Reid will absolutely relish this increased spectacle and he will not be afraid to go toe to toe with Daicos.

Given Daicos’s achievements whilst only being in his third season of footy, we can expect an absolute treat between two confident young guns which will surely become the norm for the next decade.


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Adelaide v Brisbane

Can the Adelaide midfield match it with the seasoned Lions?

After a sluggish start to the year, the Crows are finally getting their season back on track and this has been due to them mixing up their midfield mix to add some speed and spark.

Jake Soligo has been one of the breakout stars for the Crows this year and Izak Rankine has also been getting more minutes in the centre to maximise the damage he can cause.

In addition to the tough seasoned onballers in Matt Crouch, Rory Laird and Jordan Dawson, the Crows are developing a diverse mix of bodies through the middle.


However, they will have a major challenge against the most seasoned of midfielders in the Lions who seemed to be back to their best last week.

The Lions were able to beat a very good Suns midfield at clearance with Lachie Neale, Hugh McCluggage and Josh Dunkley finding plenty of the ball in their QClash domination.

Whilst Matthew Nicks’ decision to change up his midfield mix has been vindicated; they will have a real test to see if they can match it up with the Lions’ onballers who are returning to their best.