AFL 2020 Round 6 Preview – A nation-wide weekend of season-defining contests

All sides are now out of Victoria. The national competition is truly seeping into the other states. The cut-and-thrust nature of the 2020 season means many teams have defining contests on the weekend. Footy fans will hopefully emerge out of Round 6 with more clarity as to who are the favourites and who are just pretenders.

Geelong v Brisbane

Thursday 7.40PM

SCG

Two in-form teams will face off at the neutral venue of the SCG. Brisbane now have premiership favouritism – this match-up against the Cats will truly determine whether they are worthy of the flag fancy label.

Who stops Charlie?

Last week it was Daniel McStay who found form for the Lions. It was a rare quiet night for star goal kicker Charlie Cameron – it is unlikely he will falter two games in a row.

Geelong’s defence is experienced and versatile. Mark Blicavs and Harry Taylor should cover the tall options, but they will have to scramble to find the right match-up for Cameron. Jed Bews is in form and should be given first crack on the speedster, but Jack Henry or Mark O’Connor could also be swung onto Cameron if the Lion gets away from them. If Bews can’t contain him, Charlie may become a massive headache for the Cats.

The Lions will be looking to stun the Cats again (Image: AAP)

Which midfield wins?

Thursday night will play host to the league’s best midfield on paper coming up against the competition’s in-form on-ball brigade.

Dayne Zorko returns to a group that consists of Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale and his able assistant in Jarryd Lyons. With Jarrod Berry, Hugh McCluggage and Mitch Robinson waiting on the wing to influence the contest, they will have to prove themselves again when they face the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett Jnr. The Cats now feature Brandan Parfitt, Cam Guthrie, Sam Menegola and Mitch Duncan to give them a balanced group who can severely challenge Brisbane’s hot form.

Tip: Expecting this one to go down to the wire considering both sides will take time to adjust to the SCG. Geelong’s experience will help lots, but if Brisbane follow their form then they should edge home. Lions by 12.

Geelong have elected to rest Jack Steven on Thursday (Triple M)

Collingwood v Hawthorn

Friday 7.50PM

Giants’ Stadium

The Collingwood and Hawthorn battle has been intriguing in recent years. While the Pies have risen up the ladder, the Hawks have dropped. Yet Alastair Clarkson’s men have managed to upset Collingwood often in the past two seasons. With the Magpies in disarray, this contest is season-defining.

Adam Treloar must be at his best to lead the Collingwood midfield forward (Zero Hanger)

Will a new inclusion change the Pies’ forward line?

In the past fortnight, Collingwood’s attacking group have stuttered and failed dismally. Mason Cox has struggled to find any form, while the likes of Jaidyn Stephenson, Jamie Elliott and Brody Mihocek have only performed in spurts.

To combat this, Nathan Buckley will introduce son-of-a-gun Will Kelly into the fold. Kelly is a wiry and athletic full forward who has enough pace and tricks to trouble Hawthorn’s forward line. If he can change the forward balance and take the pressure off the other struggling attackers then it could go a long way to Collingwood posting a winning score.

Can Jaeger do it again?

The Hawks had a dismal night last Sunday at the same ground. The Giants ran riot and made Hawthorn look slow.

Jaeger O’Meara was a lone hand in the losing cause, matching GWS’ strong midfield and keeping his side in the contest until the second half. Against a failing Collingwood midfield, he will have to be at his best again. If O’Meara can inspire Tom Mitchell and James Worpel into the game then the Hawks will have a chance of knocking off the Pies.

Hawthorn must rely on older hands like Jack Gunston on Friday (Image: Michael Klein/ News Corp Australia)

Tip: This could go either way. Hawthorn have the form to beat the Pies and slow them down. But in a season of upsets, Collingwood just may return to form and notch a much-needed win.

Fremantle v St Kilda

Saturday 12.35PM

Metricon Stadium

The Dockers are coming off their first win of the season and should be buoyed towards making it two on the trot. St Kilda are in great form, and need to win this clash if they are serious about playing finals footy.

Will Brayshaw continue to fill the hole?

Without Nat Fyfe, Fremantle needed a midfielder to emerge and step up.

In a topsy-turvy clash with the Crows, it was young Andrew Brayshaw who performed and led his side to victory.

No Nat Fyfe creates a gaping hole in Fremantle’s midfield

Coming up against a more confident team, Brayshaw and his Dockers must improve and be clean in the midfield if they are to consistently trouble the Saints’ defence. If Brayshaw can perform, star player Michael Walters can head forward more and create a forward line that is much more dangerous.

Marshall could have a field day

Dockers ruckmen Sean Darcy and Rory Lobb are both struggling at stoppages. St Kilda’s Rowan Marshall is in such good form that he is holding Patty Ryder out of the side. If he continues his dominant standard, he could destroy Fremantle’s ruck combo.

The thing about Marshall is that he is also a star goal kicker. When he drifts forward, Fremantle’s tall timber must stop his marking ability if they are to keep Marshall out of the game.

A new look St Kilda midfield could prove too much for the Dockers (Image: St Kilda FC)

Tip: Fremantle should give an improved performance, but they won’t match the Saints. St Kilda by 33.

West Coast v Adelaide

Saturday 3.05PM

The Gabba

The Eagles bounced back to form last week, while Adelaide let one slip away when they fell to the Dockers on Sunday.

Are the Eagles back?

It’s the question on everyone’s lips after last Saturday’s win.

The West Coast Eagles looked a changed team when they edged past the Swans. Many of their star players returned to form. But are they for real?

West Coast must prove they have awoken from their slumber. Against the bottom side, they simply must take the four points home. A loss here would send them spiralling back to square one – a win will set them up perfectly to return home.

Two clubs in need of a win will rely on their older players

Conversion is key for the Crows

Adelaide had every right to feel unlucky on Sunday.

Bad goal kicking meant bad football, and it ultimately cost the Crows during their third quarter surge. With the Crouch brothers finding form and Tom Doedee returning to his 2018 touch, Adelaide have the fire power to match good sides. But they must play perfectly and convert every chance they get if they are to topple the Eagles.

Tip: Adelaide may fight hard, but West Coast should win. Eagles by 40.

Melbourne v Gold Coast

Saturday 6.05PM

Giants’ Stadium

Both of these sides need a victory to get their season back on track.

Melbourne gave an improved effort when they fought hard against the Tigers, but they lacked the polish and commitment inside forward 50 when it mattered. Gold Coast are reeling after losing Matt Rowell, but their improvement should challenge the Demons.

Which forward can benefit from Petracca’s brilliance?

Melbourne simply need a decent attacker to capitalise on their midfield’s dominance.

While Max Gawn continues to control the ruck, and Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca rise in value, the Demons must convert.

Jake Melksham is one of many Melbourne players who must improve (AFL)

Bayley Fritsch teases as the most likely option to kick a bag of goals, as Tom McDonald’s time up forward is failing and Jayden Hunt has lost all form. Fritsch is an accurate kick and a versatile player – his presence up forward could trouble any mid-sized Gold Coast defenders.

Can Day and King beat May and Lever?

With Gold Coast’s midfield hampered after last week, the strength of their forward line is critical.

Ben King and Sam Day have both been in great form – they were very important in showing up Geelong’s defence last Saturday. If they are to lead the Suns to another great win, they must continue to pop up and kick a couple of goals each.

The pair will have to play well if they are to beat Steven May and Jake Lever, who are both beginning to gel as a defensive combo. It’ll be an eye-catching match-up; the winner of the clash could be determined by this little battle.

Matt Rowell’s injury cruels the Suns (Image: Daniel Pockett/ Getty Images)

Tip: Who knows. If Melbourne turn up then it’s game on. There’s no way to predict how Gold Coast will react, so it’s time for the Demons to win. Dees by 8.

Essendon v North Melbourne

Saturday 7.40PM

Metricon Stadium

The Dons are now looking towards finals after upsetting the Pies. North Melbourne need to bounce back hard before their season falls by the wayside. Whoever wins takes a giant step forward in 2020.

The Bombers and Roos will collide once again in a hot encounter (Image: Hamish Blair/ AAP)

How to replace Stringer?

Jake Stringer was critical to Essendon’s gritty win last Friday night. The midfield/ forward kicked three majors and was the game’s best player. Now, he is out injured.

It may be time for the improving Darcy Parish to receive more midfield minutes while he continues to blossom into a wonderful player. Andrew McGrath and Dylan Shiel will also shoulder more of the burden if the Dons are to win the midfield battle and then kick some vital goals up forward. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti must also become more consistent in Stringer’s absence.

Can North’s forwards find their fire?

The Roos are being barely held together by their defence. Robbie Tarrant has been in amazing form, but his midfield and forward compatriots have failed to fight with similar intensity.

With Ben Cunnington unlikely to play, Shaun Higgins and Jy Simpkin must display the Roos’ trademark toughness.

But the bigger issue is up forward. Ben Brown and Cameron Zurhaar must put pressure on – getting involved by doing the simple things will lead to goals and a win.

Tip: Expect North Melbourne to fight with renewed passion. But Essendon should hold on. Dons by 15.

Port Adelaide v GWS

Sunday 1.05PM

Metricon Stadium

This could well and truly be the match of the round.

Port Adelaide fell off their undefeated perch last week and need to make a statement. GWS are on a run and can solidify their top four aspirations with another big win on Sunday.

Port’s defence will be tested

Port Adelaide have an even array of performers across the board, but their pressing issue is down back.

Tom Jonas and Dan Houston are struggling to contain tall forwards, while Trent McKenzie’s fast start has petered out in recent weeks.

Against a star-studded GWS forward line, Tom Clurey must join them in giving an improved performance to nullify the Giants’ in-form players. Darcy Byrne-Jones and Hamish Hartlett must also stop the likes of Toby Greene from creating danger.

The Power must rebound from last week’s horror loss to the Lions (PAFC)

Haynes v Dixon

Last week, Charlie Dixon came up against the leading defender in the competition in Harris Andrews. He lost convincingly – now he faces Nick Haynes.

If Andrews is first, Haynes is second in the league. Dixon has a hard task ahead he is to stamp himself on the game and lead his Power to a needed victory. If he fails, Haynes has the ability to rebound and set up GWS attacks, which could prove too much for Port Adelaide’s weakened defence.

Tip: Port Adelaide will come out firing, but something about GWS looks settled. Giants by 21.

Richmond v Sydney

Sunday 3.35PM

The Gabba

After an injury-plagued win, Richmond leave their home state needing to improve without star personnel. Sydney fell away badly last week – both sides have motivation to win.

Is Balta the answer down back?

The Tigers have many star players out.

Dion Prestia, Tom Lynch, Toby Nankervis and Trent Cotchin should all miss. But Noah Balta’s return to the side last week changed the dynamic of their defence. He intercepted many forays forward and rebounded with pace and athleticism. In a team still missing Alex Rance’s influence, Balta could become a key pillar down back to inspiring the yellow and black to follow the Richmond way.

Kennedy and Parker or Dusty and Lambert?

Both midfields are not quite at their best.

Sydney’s on-ball assortment aged and relying on Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker to lead the way and reignite their old flames. Dustin Martin and Kane Lambert must have big games to replace Cotchin and Prestia’s influence.

Dusty has to bring the fire on Sunday to help his young Tigers (Image: Michael Klein/ News Corp Australia)

Whoever wins this skirmish can dictate the game’s momentum and set up attacks for their side. It looms as a defining aspect.

Tip: Sydney may enjoy lining up against Richmond, but they will have to step up the intensity to have a chance. Tigers by 30.

Carlton v Western Bulldogs

Sunday 6.45PM

Metricon Stadium

Carlton must prove last week’s first half against the Saints was an aberration. To do so, they need to upset an improving Bulldogs line up.

Will the Blues forwards fire?

Much was made of Levi Casboult and Mitch McGovern leading the Carlton fightback this season. Their Round 5 effort was insipid.

If Carlton are to trouble Alex Keath and Zaine Cordy, then their tall forwards must lead the charge. Jack Martin and Eddie Betts will be ready to crumb at their feet if they can bring the ball to ground, but their game plan is reliant on Casboult and McGovern performing.

Can the Blues stop the Bont? (Image: Quinn Rooney)

Was Bruce’s magic a one-time thing?

Josh Bruce destroyed the Roos last week.

His six goals lit up Marvel Stadium and changed the nature of their forward line. With Bruce firing in the absence of Aaron Naughton and Sam Lloyd, he makes the Bulldogs much more potent.

The key is consistency. If Bruce can find his feet and produce a season of constant brilliance, then the Dogs could keep shooting up the ladder.

Tip: Carlton will fight hard, but the Bulldogs should prove too strong. As usual, the Blues could surprise us all again though. Dogs by 17.

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