Round eight of the AFL starts on Friday night with one of the biggest matches of the year; Paddy Dangerfield returns to Adelaide to play against his former club, the Crows in Geelong colours.
On Saturday afternoon, the Bombers will need the equivalent of a miracle to halt North Melbourne’s perfect start to the season. The Bombers have lost their last five, while the Kangaroos are seven from seven. In what will whet the appetite of AFL fans across the country, there are four more games on Saturday; The Hawks head west in a bid to add to the woes of Fremantle, the new kids on the block battle for bragging rights when the Giants face the Suns in Sydney. The two night matches include Brisbane up against Collingwood at the Gabba and Richmond at home to the Swans.
On Sunday, Carlton will look to add a fourth straight win when they take on Port Adelaide in Melbourne. The penultimate match of round eight sees the Dees at home to the Western Bulldogs. And concluding the action will be the West Coast up against St Kilda in the comfort of their own home – Domain Stadium.
Friday, May 13, 7:50 pm (AEST) @ Adelaide Oval
The Cats opened betting as slight outsiders to knock off the Crows in Adelaide. This clash would have been circled on Paddy Dangerfield’s calendar the moment he signed on to play with Geelong at the end of last season. The Brownlow Medal favourite has been in sparkling touch from the get go with the Cats and he is a major reason why the Hoops are sitting pretty in second position on the AFL ladder after seven rounds.
Like Dangerfield, the entire Crows team and supporter base would have highlighted this as almost as big a game as The Showdown. Adelaide has been one of the surprise packets in 2016; after the first seven weeks, they are in eighth spot and are coming off a narrow loss to the in-form Western Bulldogs.
For the Crows, Wayne Milera comes in for the injured David Mackay while the Cats have added Jed Bews and Cory Gregson for injured duo Lincoln McCarthy and Nakia Cockatoo.
Saturday, May 14, 1:45 pm (AEST) @ Etihad Stadium
The Kangaroos’ start to the season has been record breaking for all the right reasons, while the Bombers have, predictably, had a year to forget after the first seven rounds. North narrowly escaped defeat last week against St Kilda, eventually winning by seven points, but in the final couple of minutes they were given a genuine fright. In fact, the Saints had even found themselves level with the table-toppers late in the fourth quarter before the Roos’ experience shone through to post win number seven of 2016.
Essendon is obviously going through dark times thanks to the ASADA drama but it is obvious the very inexperienced group of players is trying hard each week. Unfortunately for Dons fans, there isn’t much they can do about their extremely thin roster; UBET started them out as $10 outsiders to beat North Melbourne.
Conor McKenna, Patrick Ambrose, Kyle Langford and Darcy Parish have been added to the Bombers' squad for injured quartet Courtenay Dempsey, Shaun McKernan, James Gwilt and Jonathan Simpkin. North has been strengthened by the returns of Lindsay Thomas, Brad McKenzie and Majak Daw.
Saturday, May 14, 2:10 pm (AEST) @ Aurora Stadium
The Premiers are expected to make light work of a winless Dockers team that has never won against the Hawks in Tasmania. Hawthorn copped an absolute hiding two weeks ago at the hands of the 2016 surprise packets, the Giants in Sydney where they were beaten by 75 points. Since that slip-up though, Alistair Clarkson’s men recovered to hand out a 46-point thrashing of their own to the Tigers.
Fremantle fans would love to forget their shocking 0-7 beginning to 2016 as would the players, coaches, officials and support staff. The reigning minor premiers have already lost two more games than they did in 2015 and life does not get any easier this week against the Hawks in Launceston. Freo showed some improvement in their 18-point loss to GWS but will need to be even better on Saturday afternoon to be any chance of breaking registering that elusive win.
The massive loss of Cyril Rioli (family illness) has been tempered by the return of Sam Mitchell for Hawthorn, while Fremantle welcomes the additions of Clancee Pearce, Zac Clarke and Ed Langdon to its squad.
Saturday, May 14, 4:35 pm (AEST) @ Spotless Stadium
The AFL’s two newest teams could barely have a more contrasting season to date. The Giants are flying high on the back of four consecutive wins, highlighted by their 75-point demolition of the defending premiers, the Hawks. Crucially for GWS, they backed up the shellacking of Hawthorn by registering their first ever win in Perth, beating Fremantle by 18 points.
The Suns enjoyed a strong start to the season, winning their first three before losing their last four matches. The really concerning thing for Rodney Eade’s troops is not the questionable form and fitness of captain Gary Ablett, but the manner in which they are losing. Their last two losses have been by 120 and 73 points against the Cats and Demons respectively.
The Giants have added Tim Mohr and Jacob Hopper in place of Toby Greene and Phil Davis. The struggling Suns have made a raft of changes, adding Jack Leslie, Callum Ah Chee, Matt Shaw, Brandon Matera, Keegan Brooksby and Tom Nicholl to their squad.
Saturday, May 14, 7:25 pm (AEST) @ Gabba
Brisbane managed to go with Port Adelaide in the first quarter of their last round match but the Power had too many weapons, eventually sinking the Lions by 77 points. In fact the Lions actually led by nine points at the first break and for a few minutes in the second term. Coach Justin Leppitsch expressed his disappointment at the performance of his experienced midfield and the manner of their loss would have made things worse, considering the brave fight they put up against the Swans a week earlier.
Collingwood received another reality check in their unexpected loss to Carlton. The week prior, they were belted in Perth but they did start as favourites against the Blues. That 15-point loss consigned the Pies to 14th position on the ladder and in dire need of a win.
The loss of Tom Rockliff has been tempered by the returns of Daniel Merrett and Lewis Taylor for Brisbane. The Pies have added Ben Sinclair, Travis Varcoe and Taylor Adams to their team.
Saturday, May 14, 7:25 pm (AEST) @ MCG
The Tigers have had the wood over the Swans over the last couple of seasons but their year is heading dramatically south. The Tigers are on a six match losing streak and there appears to be very little light at the end of the tunnel. Last week, the premiers towelled them up by 46 points while the five earlier losses came against the Power, Demons, Eagles, Crows and Pies.
The season the Swans are having makes for completely different reading; they’re sitting pretty in third position (just one win off ladder leaders, North Melbourne), they’ve won their last three matches and their marquee man Buddy Franklin is on fire, even kicking a monster 60 metre goal last week from a standing start!
Dylan Grimes returns for Richmond, while Alex Rance is back from injury. The Swans welcome back Ted Richards and Dean Towers.
Sunday, May 15, 1:10 pm (AEST) @ Etihad Stadium
Carlton has now won three on the trot for the first time in three years after defeating Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday last week. The other two victims of this winning streak were Fremantle in Perth and Essendon at the MCG. Despite their recent good form, the Blues are still outside the top eight due to their poor start to the year when they lost their first four matches.
Port Adelaide is building nicely after a disappointing first few rounds. Last week they crunched the Lions and as they prepare their list of injured stars to make their returns to top flight footy, the Power can only continue to improve.
Dylan Buckley,Nick Graham and Simon White have been added to an extended Blues squad. Port has also named an extended squad with the additions of Karl Amon, Dougal Howard and Sam Gray.
Sunday, May 15, 3:20 pm (AEST) @ MCG
The Demons have a rare opportunity to post back-to-back wins twice in a season. Last week they were playing like a team possessed, amassing 24 goals in their 73-point annihilation of the Suns on the Gold Coast. The Dees shared the goal scoring around with Jeff Garlett, James Harmes and Cameron Pedersen the pick of the bunch, all kicking three majors. More importantly for coach Paul Roos and his team is the opportunity to enter the top eight by beating the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs started the season strongly then plateaued a little bit before finding the form that saw them lead the AFL after a few rounds. The manner in which the grinded away at the Crows throughout the whole match proves Luke Beveridge’s chargers can win the tight contests.
Dean Kent is out with a back injury, with Christian Salem, Oscar McDonald, Alex Neal-Bullen and Jack Grimes added to the Demons' squad. The Bulldogs' Marcus Adams is out with a finger injury and have added Josh Dunkley, Mitch Honeychurch, Bailey Williams and Lin Jong to an extended squad.
Sunday, May 15, 4:40 pm (AEST) @ Domain Stadium
The West Coast woes continued on the weekend. So far in 2016, the Eagles have failed to win away from home. However, the flip side to that is their unbeaten record at Domain Stadium in 2016. Last week the second-placed Cats belted them by 44 points at Simonds Stadium in Geelong, which raises questions about the team’s premiership credentials. After all, winning on the road is essential if you want to raise the premiership trophy at the end of the season.
St Kilda’s standing on the ladder (13th) is not really an accurate gauge of how the team is playing. Even in their losses, they have been brave and gutsy. They were only just shaded by seven points against the undefeated, ladder-leading Kangaroos last weekend and even levelled the match in the frantic fourth quarter.
The Eagles have added Jamie Bennell, Sam Butler, Thomas Cole and Patrick McGinnity to its squad. The Saints have named Eli Templeton, Dylan Roberton, Brodie Murdoch, Jack Sinclair and Lewis Pierce to its extended squad.