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AFL 2020 Round 8 Preview: Mouth-watering clashes outrank a Grand Final rematch

We’ve just found out we are on the verge of receiving a storm of games over 20 consecutive days. With teams now keeping an eye on the barrage of matches that are to come, Round 8 now becomes a massive weekend.

Gold Coast v Western Bulldogs

Thursday 7.40PM

Metricon Stadium

Finally, the Suns get a prime-time game. It may not be the traditional Friday night timeslot, but a Thursday match gives the Gold Coast’s young talent some airtime to showcase their talents against a seasoned Bulldogs line-up.

The Suns finally get to show their talent on a Thursday night (Image by Matt Roberts)

The battle of the big men

The ranking of AFL ruckmen is in a hierarchy. Brodie Grundy, Max Gawn, Todd Goldstein and Nic Naitanui sit atop the others, while Tim English and Jarrod Witts are budding youngsters beginning to catch the eyes of viewers.

English and Witts now get a prime slot to fight for supremacy. Witts has been underrated ever since moving to Gold Coast, where his tap work and skills around the ground have helped a midfield only just starting to blossom. English can be anything; his height and athleticism makes him the potential missing piece of the Bulldogs’ on-ball puzzle. It’ll be a ripping battle.

What matters more – experience or exuberance?

It’s a question that’ll be found out on Thursday night.

The Bulldogs take a hard-lined approach to contested footy; their midfield is chiselled with tough customers and their forward line has some strong mid-sized operators. Mitch Wallis has been in terrific form, and Tom Liberatore’s return to the side has sparked the on-ballers into action.

Mitch Wallis has been a solid contributor up forward for the Dogs (Image by Dave Hunt/ AAP)

On the other hand, Izak Rankine and his other youthful teammates are different. There’s a distinct lack of experience, but they have confidence and X-factor all over the board. If the Suns can break away from the Dogs’ vice-like grip, they may just surprise the hardened Bulldogs.

Tip: I could easily see Gold Coast winning this one, but I’m placing my trust in the Dogs. They’re more reliable and settled. Dogs by 16.

GWS v Richmond

Friday 7.50PM

Giants’ Stadium

With the two teams trending in differing ways in recent weeks, this Grand Final rematch is so important. The Giants need a strong home win to reignite their season, while the Tigers are looking to continue a gritty winning streak.

Can GWS’ midfield finally win?

For such a talent-laden centre brigade, the Giants’ midfielders have underperformed. Friday night is their golden chance to turn their fortunes around.

With the calibre of Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards and Dion Prestia all expected to miss for Richmond, Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly and Tim Taranto should feast at the stoppages.

Stephen Coniglio needs to lead his midfield to a win over Richmond (Image by Julian Smith/ AAP)

To do so, they’ll have to nullify the explosiveness of Shai Bolton, Dustin Martin and Marlion Pickett, who all shone against the Roos last week. It won’t be easy, but it’s a battle the Giants’ engine room must win.

When will Richmond’s talls come to the party?

Forward duo Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch are usually so reliable, but a form slump from the former and a broken finger to the latter has derailed their chemistry.

Coming up against seasoned defenders in Nick Haynes, Aidan Corr and Phil Davis, the yellow and black pair must be at their best if they are to fire Richmond to a massive victory. They have the talent and ability (as proven in last year’s Grand Final), but they’ll need to rediscover confidence quickly if they are to get one over the in-form Giants’ defence.

Tip: Richmond are always hard to tip against, and if it wasn’t at Giants’ Stadium then I would back them in. But GWS play best when their backs are against the wall – this bridge should be too far a jump for a depleted Richmond. GWS by 25.

Marlion Pickett is developing nicely after his whirlwind Grand Final debut (Image by Scott Barbour/ AAP)

North Melbourne v Carlton

Saturday 1.05PM

The Gabba

Both teams have reasons to come out firing on Saturday. The Roos must arrest their horrific patch of poor footy, and the Blues are looking to avenge a heartbreaking loss at the same ground last week.

What’s the problem – the midfielders or Ben Brown?

There’s been a lot of talk surrounding Ben Brown’s poor start to 2020.

With the Roos potentially shipping him around as trade bait, there is a seriously problem at Arden Street. But is Brown the one at fault?

Yes, the strong tall forward may not be kicking or marking as well as usual, but it’s difficult to do so when the players up the ground are struggling. Delivery inside forward 50 has been atrocious for the Roos; their slow build-up has cost them when it comes to finding moving targets up forward. This game is massive for the side – can the midfielders find their kicking boots and bring Brown into the contest?

Roo Ben Brown is hoping for better delivery this week (Image by AAP)

Are Carlton reliable?

This match-up is a huge test for the Blues. Last week they proved they can match it with the best, nearly pipping ladder leaders Port Adelaide at the post. Their team is gelling; their forward line is strong.

Now, the key to any good top eight side is the ability to perform consistently. Carlton have a golden chance to strike while the iron’s hot – can they swoop in for another win and show they are worthy of the hype?

Tip: North should give a better showing, but they’re playing Carlton at a bad time. Blues by 37.

Sydney v Hawthorn

Saturday 3.35PM


Another intriguing contest awaits on Saturday, as two out of form sides take each other on. Sydney are very depleted, yet have a chance to upset a Hawthorn side with plenty of pressure on them.

Can positive talents continue to perform for the Swans?

It may have been another disappointing loss last week for Sydney, but some stand-out performances should excite fans.

Will Hayward and Tom Papley controlled everything forward of centre, and could cause real headaches for the Hawthorn defence. Callum Mills is a great general in defence, while Hayden McLean is starting to clunk some big marks. If Sam Reid returns from injury, the Swans may be primed to win.

Will Hayward, if fit, should add to Sydney’s effort this round (Image by Paul Kane)

Hawthorn must look to their leaders

For such an aged side, Hawthorn need their experienced group to turn up on Saturday. If they are to get a much-needed win over the Swans, the likes of Jack Gunston, James Frawley, Ben McEvoy and Shaun Burgoyne must all play good games.

James Sicily has been superb intercepting in defence, but he can’t be the only player firing. In a massive game for the Hawks, Alastair Clarkson will be hoping his premiership stars can return to their glory days.

Tip: This game entirely depends on which Hawthorn turns up. Sydney are finding confidence, and the Hawks are bereft of it. I’ll go the Swans by 10, tentatively.

Shaun Burgoyne is one older Hawk who has to find his feet against the Swans

Port Adelaide v St Kilda

Saturday 7.40PM

Adelaide Oval

This should be a cracker. St Kilda managed to just fall over the line at the same venue last week, while the Power were lucky to escape the Gabba with the four points.

Charlie v Dougal

It’s no secret Charlie Dixon has been the best tall forward so far this season. His contested marking and heavy goal-scoring makes him a scary option for opposition defenders. Ex-teammate Dougal Howard will have the job of reining him in on Saturday night.

Darcy Byrne-Jones has been terrific down back – his delivery to Charlie Dixon is critical to the big forward’s success

This match-up could result in fireworks – both players are passionate and play with their hearts on their sleeves. If one gets on top early, it may turn out to be a decisive advantage.

Port’s small defenders have a tough job

Port Adelaide’s running defenders were crucial to their side’s win last week. Darcy Byrne-Jones, Kane Farrell and Ryan Burton (who is now under an injury cloud) all rebounded off half-back brilliantly. They will be held more accountable on Saturday night.

Dan Butler, Jade Gresham and Jack Lonie have all been brilliant at putting on harassing pressure when the ball spills to ground. Alongside Dean Kent, they have also hit the scoreboard consistently. The Saints will need to score plenty to post a winning total against the attacking Power, and the key to that is even contribution from their small forwards.

Jade Gresham is one quick Saint capable of slamming home goals (Image by Michael Willson/ Getty Images)

Tip: The Saints will be tough to beat, but the Power at home should get the job done. Port by 20.

Adelaide v Essendon

Sunday 1.05PM

Adelaide Oval

The Crows will be raring for a maiden 2020 win at their beloved home ground. After a dismal loss last week, the Bombers must attone.

Ex-Crow skipper Taylor Walker is starting to find form (Image by Daniel Kalisz/ Getty Images)

Can Adelaide finally convert?

If they had kicked straight, the Crows would have won at least two games by now. Poor kicking at goal killed their chances against both Fremantle and St Kilda.

Taylor Walker has been at the centre of this – his second half last week was terrific, but was spoiled by missed shots in crucial moments. He’s in good form; now is his chance to deliver.

Tom Lynch is an important conduit up forward, and he is a reliable set shot in front of goal. If Lynch can wreak havoc, it may bring out the best in Shane McAdam and Fischer McAsey.

Will Essendon’s forward line stop Doedee?

If the Bombers are to score consistently, they need to put time into temporary Crows captain Tom Doedee.

Jacob Townsend is one Bomber forward capable of taking Tom Doedee out of the game (Image by Michael Willson/ Getty Images)

He has been electric down back, taking many intercept marks and holding a weak Adelaide defence together. Shaun McKernan may spend some time on him when not in the ruck – his goal must be to bring the ball to ground at all costs so Will Snelling and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti can flourish. If Jacob Townsend lines up on him, expect the former Tiger to try and lead him away from contested situations to stop him from going third man up.

Tip: Essendon have to get the job done, but it won’t be easy with a desperate Crows side baying for a win at home. Bombers by 11, only just.

West Coast v Collingwood

Sunday 3.35PM

Optus Stadium

Although the Grand Final rematch is on Friday, this could well be the game of the round. Both teams are experienced, exciting and in-form.

Will West Coast finally break through the league’s best defence?

Much has been said about Collingwood stinginess down back. With Darcy Moore and Brayden Maynard in All-Australian form and Jack Crisp contributing well, the Pies are hard to score against.

Pie Darcy Moore has been superb in defence so far in season 2020

But West Coast have the tall options to trouble the black and white army; Josh Kennedy is in form, while Jack Darling, Oscar Allen and Jake Waterman can all capitalise on the void left by Jeremy Howe’s knee injury. Expect Collingwood to bring back Matthew Scharenberg if fit to counter this height advantage; either way, this should be a cracker. If you need any more reasons to look forward to it, Maynard will most likely man up on Liam Ryan.

Have Collingwood learnt their lesson?

For the past few seasons, West Coast defenders Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass have had a field day intercept marking Collingwood’s forays forward. Brody Mihocek is an experienced tall forward, and Mason Cox should know what to do if he returns for the potentially injured Jordan De Goey.

Eagles defender Tom Barrass is one player Collingwood must stop

The Pies must run the Eagles defenders off their feet to create space inside 50 for speedy forwards Jamie Elliott and Jaidyn Stephenson to capitalise. If they don’t, the Eagles midfield can dominate and thrive off their defensive superiority.

Tip: Eagles go in favourites, and understandably so. They are a strong team in decent form. But they aren’t convincing enough to sway me. Pies by 15.

Melbourne v Brisbane

Sunday 6.10PM

Metricon Stadium

A fortnight ago Brisbane would have pencilled this in as an easy win. But Melbourne’s return to form means this match is a firm test for the Lions.

Are the Demons back?

Last week’s rampant win over the Hawks suggested Melbourne’s running game had finally returned. Christian Petracca and Max Gawn were everywhere, while Jack Viney and Clayton Oliver controlled the midfield. Up forward, Sam Weideman, Bayley Fritsch and Luke Jackson all worked together wonderfully.

Bayley Fritsch (middle) is one Demon who is dangerous inside attacking 50 (Image by Brendon Thorne/ AAP)

The test for the Dees is to prove that wasn’t a one-week fling. They look confident and ready – to continue their momentum, a big performance against a great side is required.

The key is in Brisbane’s younger stars

The Lions may be filled with star power. Think Harris Andrews, Lachie Neale, Dayne Zorko and Charlie Cameron. But there are other contributors making Brisbane a better team from last year.

Jarrod Berry has been superb in 2020, crashing into packs and creating scoring opportunities through sheer desperation. Cam Rayner’s undeniable talent is only just starting to blossom – his X-factor role up forward is crucial for the Lions. With Hugh McCluggage also stringing together strong performances on the wing, the young trio need to be at their best to beat the Demons.

Young Cam Rayner is one Lion capable of winning his side the match (Image by AAP)

Tip: Melbourne may just sneak through for a win if they catch Brisbane off their guard. But the Lions were strong last week, and should win here. Lions by 23.

Fremantle v Geelong

Monday 8.10PM

Optus Stadium

Both teams need this one. Fremantle’s two game winning streak came to an end against their rivals last Sunday, while Geelong’s great form petered out against the Pies on Thursday.

Matt Taberner’s horrible moment on the goal line last week

Can Taberner lead the Freo forwards?

It’s a hard ask, but Matt Taberner has been deceptively good for the Dockers so far this season.

He may have had a Nick Riewoldt-esque moment in the derby, but on the whole he is a wonderful mark with a strong kick that can slam home goals from the arc.

With Jesse Hogan and Cam McCarthy on the sidelines, Taberner is vitally important in preventing Geelong’s defence from intercept marking.

Will someone go along with Danger?

For the past two games Patrick Dangerfield has been everywhere. He led the Cats to the upset win against the Lions while single-handedly keeping his side in the match last week.

Tom Hawkins needs a big outing this weekend (Image by Cameron Spencer/ Getty Images)

With Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett Jnr both likely to miss, Dangerfield needs some other players to stand up. All season Sam Menegola, Mitch Duncan and Cam Guthrie have all threatened to break out – now is the week they must perform if the Cats are to record a strong interstate win.

Tip: It’ll be tight, but the Cats should squeak home. Fremantle are a tough team to beat though. Geelong by 17.

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