Can the Tigers jump into the eight? (Image: Richmond FC)

With just three weeks remaining until September, Round 21 is set to have many top eight and top four defining contests as well as major headlines surrounding key players.

Here are five key storylines to keep your eye on this weekend ahead of the action.

Top four blockbuster on Friday night

On the back of 10 consecutive wins, Collingwood faces a real tough challenge against Melbourne, who sit one place above them on the ladder.

The Magpies will unfortunately be without star ruckman Brodie Grundy for another game following an ankle injury setback. It comes at a poor time for the Pies given how well Max Gawn and Luke Jackson have been combining in previous weeks.

Brodie Grundy won’t be facing Max Gawn on Friday night. (Image :Collingwood FC)

As for the Demons, they welcome back spearhead forward Ben Brown to bolster their chances at taking the four points.

Sam Weideman has made way for the incoming key forward. Meanwhile, James Harmes will likely make his return as the medi-sub, named in the emergencies.

Melbourne will be looking for revenge given when the sides last met on Queen’s Birthday earlier this year, Collingwood showed it up.

The winner will move to joint top with a win and the loser will have their top four hopes placed under pressure.

Can GWS bounce back from coach’s fierce comments?

After a poor performance last week against cross town rivals Sydney, GWS interim Coach Mark McVeigh highlighted how some players have already “checked out” of the club, which could definitely damage the chemistry within the four walls.

He also mentioned how only eight of 22 gave their all through to the final siren, leaving the footy world questioning about the other 14.

Tim Taranto appears to be one of the players who have ‘checked out’. (Image: GWS Giants)

The attention then turns to this week, when GWS hosts a rising Essendon line-up who have found some late season form. We will sure see how impactful the interim coach’s comments were last week.

GWS has not recorded a victory in over a month, while its opposition has won four of its last five, with that one loss being after the siren. These records prove even more so the mounting pressure on the GWS Giants.

The Giants currently sit in 16th position, which would be the lowest they have finished a season since their third year in the league back in 2014.

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Son of a gun makes his debut

Its been a long wait, but finally Sam Darcy will take to the field for the Western Bulldogs senior side.

Standing at 210cm (and counting!), Darcy is expected to play in defence on the weekend and then transition into a ruck/forward role. The Bulldogs will look to use the number two pick’s diverse play style, giving him the ability to play anywhere.

In the VFL, Darcy has been getting better and better each week, to a point where last week he had 20 disposals and took 14 marks from the backline.

From a team perspective, this fixture and the two that follow are all critically important games for the Bulldogs if they wish to play finals this season.

Can the Bulldogs find their way into the eight? (Image: Western Bulldogs FC)

They will need to win two if not all three to play in September, and it starts this weekend against the Fremantle Dockers.

Winner still in the fight, loser’s finals hopes dashed

In what acts almost as an early elimination final on Saturday, the Power and Tigers both still have finals aspirations. While Richmond’s are more realistic, a win for Port Adelaide really sees it back in the hunt.

The Power will need almost every result to go their way to scrape in, but given they started at 0-5, anything is possible. As for Richmond, a win and a St Kilda loss would see it jump back into the top eight for the end of the week.

Dylan Grimes is in an injury race to return this season. (Image: Richmond FC)

On the injury front, Richmond will be without star defender Dylan Grimes for potentially the rest of the season after he sustained a hamstring injury. Josh Gibcus comes in as his replacement.

As for host Port Adelaide, it is set to welcome back multiple key players for the must win contest.

The Power have a healthy Riley Bonner, Dan Houston and Orazio Fantasia at their disposal, but only Houston returns this weekend. Mid-season draftee Brynn Teakle will replace Todd Marshall, who enters health and safety protocols

Will Carlton’s Gabba woes continue?

The Blues face a tough run ahead of September, beginning with the Lions on their home turf on Sunday afternoon.

Carlton hasn’t beaten Brisbane at the Gabba in nearly a decade, and unfortunately for the Blues there are no players taking to the field Sunday that were playing on that day in 2013.

In a positive light for the Blues, Adam Saad takes to the field for the 150th time. Saad has found himself in All-Australian discussions this season, averaging a career high 21.8 disposals from half-back.

The Lions are looking to bounce back into the top four with a win. Any win is vitally important for the in these last three weeks, with the Saints and Demons to follow.

Brisbane sits just percentage outside the top four, with a win almost securing its place by the end of the round given the difficulty of rival teams fixtures.

Daniel Rich returns to the line-up after missing a week under the concussion protocol alongside Brandon Starcevich. Meanwhile, Carlton is set to regain Caleb Marchbank, who only managed one game before re-injuring himself eariler this year.

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