Round 8 sees the first meeting between the GWS Giants and Richmond Tigers since last year’s Grand Final where the Tigers were resounding 89-point winners.
The Giants are desperate for a win after two consecutive losses and will need to recapture their best form on the big stage of Friday night footy.
Other games to keep an eye on are the ladder-leading Port Adelaide Power back on their home deck against the St Kilda Saints, while the resurgent Melbourne Demons face a big challenge against the Brisbane Lions.
Gold Coast Suns (7th) vs Western Bulldogs (9th) Thursday 23 July 7.40pm @Metricon Stadium
The Suns have their first prime time game in the club’s history, and it is fully deserved after some impressive form this season.
They dominated the Swans last round with a strong pressure game causing the Swans to turn the ball over at will.
Their young brigade continues to improve and it will be exciting to watch how they perform on the big stage of Thursday night footy.
The Bulldogs are also coming off an impressive win after belting the Bombers by 42 points last Friday night.
They used a small forward line to good effect with Mitch Wallis kicking three goals and Cody Weightman looked dangerous in his first game.
The matchup of Tim English and Jarrod Witts in the ruck will be an interesting battle with Witts more of a physical player while English has an elite running capacity.
GWS Giants (13th) vs Richmond Tigers (4th) Friday 24 July 7.50pm @Giants Stadium
The Grand Final rematch is always a big game, but with the Giants struggling for form, the stakes are mighty high.
The Giants have lost their past two matches and find themselves 13th on the ladder and in need of a win against the side that belted them in last year’s Grand Final. They can never get that result back but I’m sure they would love just a sliver of revenge over the Tigers.
GWS have really struggled to get the ball inside 50 this season, and once they do, they either kick a goal or it just comes straight back the other way so they’re not locking the ball in their forward line enough.
With the number of star players they have on their list you would think it’s only a matter of time before they turn it around, but that time is quickly running out.
The Tigers were being written off three weeks ago but have pulled off three straight victories to be sitting in 4th spot on the ladder.
Their Richmond pressure was on full display in the first half against the Kangaroos last round and with several key players still missing, the Tigers may be a force again in season 2020.
North Melbourne Kangaroos (17th) vs Carlton Blues (11th) Saturday 25 July 1.05pm @Gabba
The Kangaroos started the year so well but have fallen off a cliff and put in a horrible effort against the Tigers last round.
They only managed two goals for the match and they also lost their captain Jack Ziebell to a hamstring injury, so it was just a shocking night for the club.
Ben Brown has come under fire for poor form this year, but the misfiring midfield must cop some of the blame for not getting enough ball to their star forward.
The Blues, on the other hand, have been in good form despite being on the end of a heartbreaking loss to the Power last round.
The Blues have become a fun team to watch with their fast ball movement and dangerous forward line.
Harry McKay was outstanding up forward booting three goals and will be up for the challenge against Robbie Tarrant.
If the Blues want to break their finals drought, this is simply a game they must win.
Sydney Swans (16th) vs Hawthorn Hawks (14th) Saturday 25 July 3.35pm @SCG
Five years ago this would have been a blockbuster matchup but both teams have struggled badly in recent weeks.
The Swans have looked rather pedestrian in recent weeks with some injuries to key players and their young players struggling to pick up the slack.
Sam Reid looks likely to come into the Swans side, and with Tom Papley playing a lone hand up forward recently, Reid could make a big difference to a young forward line.
They tried to play a more aggressive style of footy last round, which was more enjoyable to watch, and although it didn’t work, hopefully they maintain that attacking mindset.
The Hawks have been smashed the last three weeks and questions have even started to arise over the future of four-time premiership coach Alistair Clarkson, which is staggering.
Clarkson has earnt the right to walk away from the club when he sees fit and if he continues to believe he is the right man for the job, the Hawks should honour that feeling.
The Hawks have been belted in contested possessions the past three weeks with their midfield down on form, but they come up against another struggling club so it’s the perfect opportunity to get a win.
Port Adelaide Power (1st) vs St Kilda Saints (6th) Saturday 25 July 7.40pm @Adelaide Oval
The Power pulled off a remarkable victory last round thanks to Robbie Gray to remain a game clear on top of the ladder.
It’s been an incredible start to the year for the Power who have only played one match at Adelaide Oval so far and have set themselves up beautifully for an assault on the finals.
Charlie Dixon has had his best season, as he sits equal with Tom Papley on top of the Coleman Medal leaderboard with 15 goals.
The Power like to play an aggressive style of footy and so do the Saints who are in some good form of their own.
The Saints have won three of their past four matches and were convincing winners over the Crows last round.
Jack Steele is playing the best football of his career and surely the Giants would be kicking themselves for letting him go.
While the Power are certainly favourites back on their home deck, the Saints’ best is good enough to push them all the way.
Adelaide Crows (18th) vs Essendon Bombers (10th) Sunday 26 July 1.05pm @Adelaide Oval
The Crows put in a better effort at home last round, but it still wasn’t enough to get their first win of the season.
Their intensity around the ball was much better last round but they just lacked the polish to be able to hit the scoreboard enough to win the game.
If they continue to play with that effort, a win must be just around the corner.
The Bombers put in a stinker against the Bulldogs last week, but that was their first poor performance of the season.
Their backline had been in good form but were exposed by a small Bulldogs lineup and some quick ball movement, so perhaps the Crows can take advantage of that.
Despite their poor performance against the Bulldogs, the Bombers should be beating the Crows if they want to play finals this year.
West Coast Eagles (8th) vs Collingwood Magpies (3rd) Sunday 26 July 3.35pm @Optus Stadium
The two Grand Finalists from 2018 face off in what should be a beauty.
The Eagles enjoyed being back at Optus Stadium last round and should get an extra boost with 30,000 fans there to cheer them on.
Josh Kennedy returned to form booting four goals last round, and their star-studded midfield is finally delivering on their talent.
The Eagles have won three straight games against poor opposition, but the Pies are a much tougher proposition.
The Pies easily took care of the Cats last Friday night, but the win was soured with a serious finger injury to Jordan De Goey.
De Goey kicked five goals last week so the Magpies will need to find a way to fill that void and perhaps it will be Mason Cox who was left out last week.
Both sides are premiership fancies so this contest should give us an indication of how good these teams really are.
Melbourne Demons (12th) vs Brisbane Lions (2nd) Sunday 26 July 6.10pm @Metricon Stadium
The Demons were impressive against the Hawks last round, but the Lions present a vastly greater challenge.
Their forward line has looked more dangerous the past two weeks and they have managed their two biggest scores of the season.
Max Gawn versus Stefan Martin in the ruck should be a great contest and if Gawn can get on top, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver could cause the Lions midfield some problems.
The Lions showed plenty of grit to stave off a Giants comeback last week with their small forwards doing plenty of damage.
Zac Bailey, Charlie Cameron, Lincoln McCarthy and Cam Rayner all bagged two goals each so the Demons will have to be wary of their impact.
The Lions might be the premiership favourites, but with the Demons in some good form, they won’t die wondering in this one.
Fremantle Dockers (15th) vs Geelong Cats (5th) Monday 27 July 8.10pm @Optus Stadium
The Dockers were disappointing in front of 30,000 of their fans in the Derby last week but get another chance at home to compete against a good side.
Their midfield was well beaten and with Nat Fyfe still on the sidelines, they need some of their youngsters to step up.
Adam Cerra and Andy Brayshaw were high draft picks and have shown glimpses of their talent, but they need to consistently be at their best for the Dockers to win games.
The Cats were well beaten last round and, to rub salt into their wounds, lost their captain Joel Selwood to a hamstring injury.
Gary Ablett will also be unavailable due to flying back to Melbourne for personal reasons so the Cats will be relying on some of their young talent to fill their large voids.
They have played over 650 games between them so that’s a lot of experience the Cats will be without so expect Patrick Dangerfield and Tom Hawkins to really lead from the front.
The Cats are away from home and down on players, so the Dockers should consider themselves a chance of causing an upset.
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