After a fortnight of controversy off the ground, we finally have some great footy as a distraction.
Has there been a round as fascinating as this one in recent memory? If there has, I certainly can’t remember it. Top to bottom, every match means something.
There are the teams with their September hopes on a knife’s edge, like Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs, as well as the spoilers – those teams who probably can’t make finals but can still have a big impact on others in the run home, teams such as Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, Adelaide, Essendon and even West Coast.
Then there’s those right in the middle of a top eight battle and, on this Super Saturday, a number of those teams collide.
First it’s Carlton and Fremantle, and I’ll admit I’m a little worried about the Blues. For all their improvement this year, a loss against the Dockers and they become really vulnerable.
. While Jacob Weitering could be back next week, his return can’t come soon enough.
Due to all the key personnel missing in the Blues’ defence, it seems like the next few weeks are simply about hanging on.
With skipper Patrick Cripps leading the way, they must dominate play around the stoppages and then lock the footy in their front half.
A territory game the Blues can win. But if their team defence is exposed, look out.
The Dockers, on the other hand, are fresh, healthy and seem to be peaking at the right time.
So much about footy at this time of year is mental. When finals are within reach – particularly for clubs who haven’t made it for a long time – it’s often natural for some to tighten up.
But the Dockers seem to have the balance right between discipline and freedom.
I think their key backs – Alex Pearce, Brennan Cox, Luke Ryan and Griffin Logue – are underrated as a group and could match-up well on Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay.
Carlton were brave last weekend against Richmond, and if they can beat the Dockers I think it could arguably be their best win of the year given the circumstances.
But because of their defensive issues, I’m tipping Freo.
When analysing Richmond and Geelong at the start of the season, there were obvious question marks on both.
Did these two dominant, but ageing, teams have the hunger to reload for another shot at a flag? Right now the answer is clearly yes.
I’m not a subscriber to the theory that a season can only be a success if you win a flag.
In my eyes, making the top four is a success and, because of that, I continue to marvel at what the Cats have been able to do under Chris Scott.
This game could end up playing a big part in deciding if they can secure another double chance. Having a champion like Dustin Martin back only adds to the occasion.
While , the Cats boast a potent forward line led by Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron.
Right across the ground I have these teams as pretty even, but I think the Cats can get their opponents in that front half.
Noah Balta’s absence with a hamstring injury is huge, as I reckon he’s the perfect opponent for Hawkins.
With Robbie Tarrant also under a cloud, the Tigers could be gettable there.
At the other end, Sam De Koning has proved he’s capable of taking on the big jobs and I can’t wait to see his likely battle with Tom Lynch.
Claim another big scalp and it will go a long way to winning the game – and the Rising Star. For me, it’s a Geelong win, just.
It’s no less important on Saturday night when Sydney meets St Kilda. The two teams have showed their best is as good anyone’s, but they seem to have lost a bit of confidence.
I saw the Swans live against Melbourne only a fortnight ago, and they executed the perfect game plan. Against Port Adelaide, though, it was anything but.
The Saints were also incredibly disappointing against Essendon.
Jack Steele is only one player but strengthens that midfield massively, not just through his ball-winning ability but also his leadership.
If I’m the Swans, Callum Mills, who’s been in great form himself, gets the job. If Mills can get into Steele’s head in his first game back, I think it could deflate the Saints.
Ball use will be so important for Brett Ratten’s men, particularly going inside 50. They simply can’t afford to bomb it in long like they have been to Max King as the McCartin brothers will have a field day.
I’ve seen a few other concerning things creep into the Saints’ game.
While Jade Gresham was among their best against the Bombers with 28 disposals and three goals, I’d love to see him give the first option more.
The great teams that win premierships can go through weeks on end where you never question whether a player has made a team-first decision.
They can be little things that collectively have a big impact.
Overall, I think the SCG factor helps the Swans get over the line in a tight one. And a win – for any of these teams – could be just the injection of confidence that sets them up for the run home and the finals.
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