Last week, the AFL returned to a nine-match round of action as all 18 teams took to the field for the first time in a month. This weekend, the Swans and Hawks go head-to-head in a top of the table clash on Thursday in what is a replay of the 2012 and 2014 grand finals. Then on Friday night, fellow heavyweights Geelong will look to get its season back on track when taking on Fremantle in Perth.
On Saturday the Tigers and Bombers clash at the MCG, North Melbourne hosts Port Adelaide, the Bulldogs and last start winner Gold Coast battle at Etihad Stadium and the Crows play an in-form Collingwood team that disposed of one of the title favourites, GWS last weekend.
Sunday afternoon sees the Blues and Eagles battle in Melbourne – a place West Coast had not won in since round 16 last year! The final two matches of the round pit St Kilda up against Melbourne, while the Giants host the hapless Brisbane Lions at Spotless Stadium.
Thursday, July 14, 7:50pm (AEST) @ SCG
The Swans produced their best win of the season when they dismantled the high-flying Cats last Friday night in Geelong. That win is one of, if not, the hardest road trips in the AFL and the fact Sydney managed to walk away from Simonds Stadium with the four points is testament to the team and culture coach John Longmire has built in the Harbour City.
Hawthorn remains in outright first position on top of the AFL ladder and they’re coming off a gutsy 22-point win over the Port Power in Adelaide last Thursday night. That win over Port Adelaide puts the Hawks one step closer to claiming the minor premiership and boosts the club’s chances of winning a fourth consecutive flag.
Ben McGlynn returns in place of Justin Rose for Sydney. Hawthorn has named Jonathan O'Rourke, Angus Litherland and Brendan Whitecross in its squad.
Friday, July 15, 8:10pm (AEST) @ Domain Stadium
Fremantle’s finals hopes are dead and buried and while Ross Lyon’s men have been accused of putting the cue in the rack, they have fought back to win a few games and get themselves off the bottom of the ladder. It’s a difficult position for the Dockers, considering the lofty heights they reached last season that reaped the proud Western Australian team the minor premiership. Injuries and poor form have ripped through Freo’s year from hell.
Geelong’s early season form seems to have deserted them in recent weeks with the once premiership favourites falling to the Swans at Simonds Stadium on Friday night. The Cats, headed by classy midfielders Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel and Patrick Dangerfield, were a class above the other 17 teams early in 2016 but the mid-season blues seem to have caught up with them. A win over Freo in Perth will go a long way to resurrecting their flag ambitions.
Tendai Mzungu and Michael Barlow are both in for Freo. Geelong has added Shane Kersten, Rhys Stanley and Josh Cowan to its squad.
Saturday, July 16, 1:40pm (AEST) @ MCG
Both of these teams are little to no chance of playing finals footy this season and not just because the top eight teams look to be locked down. The Tigers had a horrific start to the year after they opened the year with victory over the Blues. While Essendon’s year just seems to go from bad to worse; they regularly get pumped by massive score lines and they are severely understrength with 12 of their best players forced to sit out the season because of doping offences.
Despite both teams battling away in 2016, there is far too much pride on the line for it to have no meaning to either side. Richmond start as obvious favourites given Essendon’s losing pattern in 2016, plus the Tigers’ excellent recent record over the Dons will inject the club with some much needed confidence.
The Tigers have named Shaun Grigg for Reece Conca, while the Bombers welcome back David Zaharakis and Matthew Leuenberger.
Saturday, July 16, 4:35pm (AEST) @ Etihad Stadium
North Melbourne’s epic start to the season is little more than a memory after the proud Kangaroos’ recent results yielding four straight losses. Those losses have resulted in North going from first on the AFL ladder to eighth. The Kangaroos are in serious danger of missing out on the finals considering how congested the top 10 teams are; only a win could swat off the two teams challenging to make the top eight.
Port Adelaide is one of those teams in pursuit of the Kangaroos and currently sits in ninth position on the ladder, but that is still three wins shy of North. Despite the hefty buffer between eighth and ninth, the Kangaroos desperately need a win to pick up what started as an extremely promising season. Port’s recent form, that has featured three losses from its last four games, is very similar to that of the Roos.
North has added Nick Dal Santo, Jarrad Waite and Daniel Wells, while the Port has named Sam Gray, Paul Stewart and Brendon Ah Chee.
Saturday, July 16, 7:25pm (AEST) @ Cazaly’s Stadium
The Western Bulldogs have been in supreme touch in recent weeks, recording a 10-point win over Richmond and an epic four-point defeat of the Swans in Sydney a fortnight ago. The Doggies sit in fourth position and are considered by loads of UBET punters to be value for money to win the flag this year, and judging by their current form it is hard to disagree.
The Suns have not delivered on their early season promise. They won their first three games and have only just found some decent form in the last couple of weeks with wins over St Kilda and Brisbane. While the finals are off the radar for Gold Coast, they will still be as keen as ever to finish their season with pride by winning as many games as possible and setting up their 2017 premiership tilt.
Tom Boyd and Josh Dunkley are in for the Doggies, while the Suns will be without experienced duo Gary Ablett and Michael Rischitelli.
Saturday, July 16, 7:40pm (AEST) @ Adelaide Oval
Adelaide has resurrected its tentative season to currently sit in third position on the AFL ladder behind the defending premiers Hawthorn and in-form Swans. At home this year, the Crows have almost been unbeatable and despite Collingwood’s shock victory over GWS on the weekend, the Crows are heavily favoured to continue their climb up the ladder.
The Pies’ win over the Giants in Sydney last weekend was one of the biggest upsets of the season and the second massive underdog victory for Collingwood after they knocked off the Cats in May with a powerful first quarter. The Pies have not got a great recent record against the Crows and will be hoping to build on last weekend’s win with yet another boilover victory.
Adelaide has won its last three matches against Collingwood.
Prior to losing the last three against the Crows, the Magpies had won six clashes in a row.
Four of the last six matches between these teams have been decided by 25+ points.
The Pies have won two of their last three matches against the Crows in Adelaide including a last start loss.
Paul Seedsman is in for injured Crow Rory Laird. Collingwood has named Levi Greenwood in place of injured midfielder Alex Fasolo.
Sunday, July 17, 1:10pm (AEST) @ MCG
Carlton is not considered any chance of making the finals and for them to prove the doubters wrong they will need to win every remaining match and hope other results fall their way. The Blues don’t have a bad record against West Coast, and considering the Eagles’ form in Victoria over the last couple of seasons, Carlton has every right to be full of confidence in causing an upset win over the fifth-placed Perth club.
West Coast simply does not enjoy playing away from the comfort of Perth’s Domain Stadium. The Eagles have moved from eighth to fifth on the ladder after a couple of results landed in their favour last weekend. Only another victory will put the proud AFL club in contention of securing a home semi-final in September.
Carlton has brought in mass changes, naming Kristian Jaksch, Nick Graham, Dylan Buckley, Charlie Curnow, Mark Whiley, Jason Tutt and Liam Jones. The Eagles have named Jack Redden, Eric Mackenzie and Jackson Nelson to play in Brad Sheppard's 100th career game.
Sunday, July 17, 3:20pm (AEST) @ Etihad Stadium
Since St Kilda’s shock upset of competition heavyweights Geelong three weeks ago, they have not been at their best despite a last start 11-point win against the last-placed Bombers. The Saints even crumbled to the lowly Suns before their win against Essendon. Compounding that loss was the fact they were beaten by 40 points against a team that had not tasted victory in more than three months.
Melbourne is next to no chance of making the finals, as it looks like the teams currently in the top eight have all but booked their September appearances. Despite the likelihood of missing the finals yet again, the Demons would be boosted by how well they have performed this year. They are coming off a solid win against the battling Dockers and currently sit in 10th position on the ladder.
Shane Savage is out and the Saints have named Jack Billings, Eli Templeton, Cameron Shenton and Jack Sinclair on an extended bench. Angus Brayshaw, Tomas Bugg and Josh Wagner are in for the Demons.
Sunday, July 17, 4:40pm (AEST) @ Gabba
Brisbane has endured one of its worst seasons in the club’s history and if it wasn’t for the depleted Bombers’ awful displays in 2016, they would probably be stone cold last. Instead, the Lions are equal last while this week’s opponent GWS is enjoying its most successful season to sit in seventh position. Few things have gone right for the embattled Lions this year and injuries have not helped to ease pressure on under-fire coach Justin Leppitsch.
Before last week’s stunning loss to the Magpies, the Giants were travelling beautifully having flogged the top three sides in the competition in Hawthorn, Sydney and Geelong. After losing to Collingwood, GWS fell back into seventh spot but are still considered morals to play in the finals and are a decent shot with UBET at winning a maiden flag.
Daniel Merrett is out of the Lions' team through injury with Tom Cutler, Ben Keays, Josh Walker and Liam Dawson all added to this week's squad. The Giants have named Caleb Marchbank, Daniel Lloyd, Sam J. Reid and Harrison Himmelberg as cover for Rhys Palmer.