Round 8 of the AFL season looks set to be one of the best yet, with many close fixtures that are too close to call.
Here are five key storylines to keep your eye on this weekend ahead of the action.
Is Port Adelaide back in finals contention?
Following Port Adelaide’s shocking start to 2022, they have managed to string back-to-back victories placing them at 2-5 and in 13th position.
Their opponents, the Western Bulldogs have also been disappointing sitting three spots above the Power in 10th with three wins from their opening seven games.
Port Adelaide hosts the Bulldogs on Friday at the Adelaide Oval and is certainly capable of taking the four points. If they win, the Power could move to just one game outside the top 8 giving them a major opportunity to play in September.
Port Adelaide will celebrate Sam Powell-Pepper’s 100th game this weekend in front of what is expected to be a packed Adelaide Oval.
Powell-Pepper said “I am the happiest I’ve ever been” when asked about his time as a Port Adelaide player
The midfielder is having an impressive 2022 to date, having re-established himself in Ken Hinkley’s best team, averaging a goal and 17 disposals per game
“It feels a lot better being on the field contributing, and feels good to be cementing my spot in the forward line.”
Traditional rivals meet again for another blockbuster
Richmond and Collingwood will meet for the 214th time on Saturday when the rivals go head to head again at the MCG.
The Pies and Tigers sit 8th and 9th respectively on the ladder, with the winner to secure their place in the top 8 by the end of the week.
In fantastic news for Richmond, they will welcome back superstar Dustin Martin from personal leave, who by himself can change the outcome of any game.
Richmond’s midfield has been questioned so far this year. But Martin now joins Prestia, Short, Lambert, and Graham in the Tigers engine room. Despite the dominant 109-point victory over West Coast last week, the Tigers only won the clearances by 4 proving some midfield weakness
In his 17 previous encounters with Collingwood, Martin averages 25 disposals, 10 contested possessions and a goal
Richmond and Collingwood are both set to be teams fighting for the finals come September, and the result of this match could go a long way to establishing the pecking order of where these teams sit as we continue building into the season.
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Are GWS actually finals contenders?
The Giants were majorly impressive in their dominating upset win against Adelaide last weekend, breathing life back into their season and easing the pressure slightly on coach Leon Cameron. This time around they face the Cats in Canberra and are looking for back-to-back wins.
GWS have just two wins so far in 2022 and can certainly revive their finals aspirations with a win against the Cats on Saturday. A win will put the Giants are just one win out of the top 8
Their opponents Geelong are coming off a loss at home to the rising Fremantle and currently sit in 7th place with a 4-3 record but a very strong percentage.
The Giants have been more lively in recent weeks with the return of Toby Greene in the forward line. Last week Greene was unstoppable, slotting 4 majors to go with 17 disposals.
GWS has also seen major improvement from midfielders duo Stephen Coniglio and Tom Green. Co-Captain Coniglio had a disappointing 2021, but this season looks to be back in form. Tom Green has emerged as a future star of the competition. If not, he’s already established himself as one. Between the pairing, they average 49 possesions nine tackles, and two goals per game
The contest looms important for both sides, for the Giants to get back in the finals discussion and for the Cats, further breathing room in the top 8
Another rivalry, another huge matchup
A huge lineup of Saturday matches concludes with Essendon and Hawthorn locking horns at Marvel Stadium.
Since 2016, the Hawks and Bombers have met on eight occasions and they cannot be split, both winning four games.
Essendon has been one of the most disappointing teams in 2022, recording only one win against Adelaide through the opening seven rounds. They sit 16th only above West Coast and North Melbourne. Meanwhile, Hawthorn has so far exceeded pre-season expectations sitting 11th with three wins and four losses.
Two big names to look out for are Tom Mitchell and Zach Merrett. In the last five encounters, both players average over 30 disposals.
Mitchell is the centrepiece to the Hawks’ midfield, often feeding the handball out of the pack to send Hawthorn forward. On the other hand, Merrett has been highly influential in his two return games from a syndesmosis injury. He recorded 36 disposals on both occasions against Collingwood and the Bulldogs.
The Hawks will celebrate Chad Wingard’s 200th AFL game on Saturday night. The 28-year-old played 147 games for the Power and his 53rd with the Hawks this weekend
Can the Saints be the team to knock off Melbourne?
Melbourne remains the only undefeated team in 2022 and will be looking to make it eight from eight when they face St. Kilda at the MCG on Sunday afternoon. Although they are 7-0, the Demons have not played a team in the top 8 through that period.
The midfield matchup is one to look out for with the likes of Oliver, Petracca, and Viney for Melbourne against the Saints’ Steele, Sinclair, and Ross.
The Saints will likely welcome back much-needed Ruckman Rowan Marshall to the lineup against the probable All-Australian, Max Gawn. Aswell as possible returns for Jack Billings and Zak Jones which only adds to the Saints midfield.
St. Kilda will be heavily reliant on their forwards to kick more accurately than against Port Adelaide last week where they kick 4.18.
The focus goes to Max King who kicked 2.2 in that match and 1.7 the game prior. Attention also goes to Higgins, Gresham, Wanganeen-Milera, and Ryder who combined for a very inaccurate 1.10 against the Power.
Unfortunately for the Saints, the Demons’ defence is something that they pride themselves on. Melbourne has conceded the least amount of total points to date in 2022 making it tough for any of their opponents.
If victorious, Melbourne will move to 8-0 in back to back seasons for the second time in club history.
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