Questions to ponder ahead of Round 6: Can Green dethrone Cripps as AFL’s best big body?


Going into Round Six, some teams are absolutely flying, some look lost and the others, well we don’t really know what to make of them. To build up for another significant weekend, let’s ponder some of the questions that lay ahead.

St Kilda v Western Bulldogs

Can the Saints on-ballers take advantage of a weakened Dogs midfield?

If the Bulldogs didn’t already have enough problems heading into Thursday night, they will be without arguably their best player this year in Tom Liberatore, who is out following concussion protocols. The Bulldogs midfield got beaten badly by Essendon last week. The influence of 2023 All-Australians in Marcus Bontempelli and Tim English was negated and for the first time in years, teams are confident they can beat the Dogs around the ball.

The next team looking to do so is St Kilda, who are building strong form this season. Winger Bradley Hill had arguably his best game in St Kilda colours, recording 805 metres gained as they almost pulled off a miraculous comeback in a one-point loss. The engine room of the Dogs will want to quickly rediscover their best if they want to avoid being humbled for the second week in a row by a very impressive Saints setup.

Jeremy Cameron of the Cats and Tom Liberatore of the Bulldogs clash heads during round four at Adelaide Oval, on April 06, 2024. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Adelaide v Essendon

Can Essendon pull together some consistency?

It was a horror show two rounds back for Essendon at the Adelaide Oval as they looked powerless under the Friday night lights, losing by 69 points to Port Adelaide. Now, they return again on Friday night at the oval, this time against Adelaide, having somewhat redeemed themselves with a dominant second half performance against the Western Bulldogs. Over the first five rounds of the season, the Bombers have gone W-L-W-L-W, making it really difficult to get a read on what they could actually do in 2024.

Their clash against the Crows not only gives Brad Scotts team an opportunity to showcase their progress since the disaster against Port, but to build their credibility as a consistent side by playing interstate against a team that’s on their level. If they can rack up consecutive wins for the first time this year by putting up a professional showing interstate in front of a raucous crowd, the belief both externally and internally will only grow exponentially as to what the team could achieve.

Collingwood v Port Adelaide

Can Port clean up their entry inside 50?

Port Adelaide are 4-1 and are tracking along very nicely this year. However, one aspect of their game that will be concerning Ken Hinkley is lack of connection and conversion inside 50. This was most pertinent in their scrappy win against Fremantle where the Power had no mesh forward of the ball and frequently kept bombing inside 50 to Fremantle’s interceptors in Pearce and Ryan – who had 22 intercepts between.

The Power are first in the competition for inside 50s but they have struggled to translate their general dominance on the scoreboard as they are ranked 16th for their shot at goal accuracy which is compounded by their poor use of the ball down forward. This week, the Power will be up against Collingwood who, whilst patchy, boast incredible interceptors such as Moore, Maynard and Quaynor who you’d expect to have a field day if the Power can’t address their forward connection.

Carlton v GWS Giants

Has the apprentice overtaken the master?

Prior to the Giants pick up, during academy selection in the 2019 draft, many recruiters compared contested bull Tom Green to Patrick Cripps, who was and still is one of the leading contested players in the game. In 2024, even though Cripps’ form is still exemplary, it appears young gun Green may have surpassed him.

Green has polled coaches votes in three out of five games and is averaging 14 contested possessions and six tackles a game. Cripps has also started 2024 in fine form, averaging just under 14 contested possessions, and personifying the tough edge that will be critical in September.

Saturday’s mouthwatering clash will define the match-up of Green against his predecessor Cripps, to decide the title of the best big-bodied bull in the competition. Do we have a new contender for the Brownlow medal?

Brisbane v Geelong

How will the young Cats midfield compete against the Lions stars?

In the absence of captain Dangerfield, Chris Scott has entrusted some of his younger players such as Jack Bowes, Tom Atkins, and Tanner Bruhn. This youthful mix have been a big part of the Cats 5-0 start; however, they will face their sternest test yet against Brisbane at the Gabba.

As if the Lions didn’t already have enough midfield guns, you can add Cam Rayner to the picture who is coming off a career-best game with nine clearances against Melbourne, including a whopping six clearances in the 1st quarter alone. This was a massive part of why Brisbane were able to impressively knock-off an All Star Melbourne midfield.

Whilst Dangerfield is a great chance to return on Saturday night, it still poses a question if the Cats emerging on-ballers will be able to match the Lions at the contest, who have shown stellar form in the last two weeks after starting 0-3.

West Coast Eagles v Fremantle

Is Elliot Yeo finally back to his best?

It’s been a tough few years for Elliot Yeo, having only played 31 games from the start of 2021. It has been the first time since then, that the 30-year-old has opened the season having played all opening fixtures. Amidst all his injury struggles, it was easy to forget how valuable this tough midfielder actually was, selected as an All-Australian in 2017 and 2019 – plus winning best and fairest in the Eagles 2018 premiership year.

His role in the Eagles 39-point win against the Tigers showcased a glimpse of his best as the midfielder recorded 27 disposals, a staggering 15 clearances, plus two goals on his way to securing 10 coaches votes. Whilst the Eagles are rebuilding and setting up their future midfield with the likes of Harley Reid and Reuben Ginbey, the experience of Yeo will be invaluable for this on-ball group in their development.

Coming off this mega performance, it will be interesting to see if Yeo can discover his All-Australian best in the derby and smooth the Eagles current phase of transition.

Sydney v Gold Coast Suns

Can the Swans find alternate ways to move the ball?

An impressive feature throughout the Swans first three games was their precise ball movement. Their elite kickers such as Gulden, Blakey, Heeney, and Warner cut teams up by foot in centre field. However, in their last two games, the Swans have had the corridor blocked off, firstly by Richmond who registered an impressive five point win, and then by last years wooden spooners in the Eagles who did as much as lead the Swans at half time and were able to negate ball movement.

Nick Blakey of the Swans kicks the ball during the round four AFL match between West Coast Eagles and Sydney Swans at Adelaide Hills – Mt Barker, on April 6, 2024, in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by James Elsby/Getty Images)

This week, you would think Damien Hardwick has studied the vision of the Tigers and Eagles in how to stop the Swans and therefore John Longmire needs to find other ways to move the ball. With Taylor Adams debuting for the club against the Eagles, and Luke Parker not far off his return, the Swans inside grunt will receive a much-needed boost.

It will be interesting to see if they can diversify their ball movement as opposed to solely relying on precise kicking through the middle which teams are now carefully watching out for.

North Melbourne v Hawthorn

Will the Hawks midfield finally click together?

The most disappointing aspect of the Hawks 0-5 start has been their midfield inadequacy, ranking second last in the league for clearances. Last year, the young Hawthorn midfield of Will Day, Jai Newcombe and James Worpel showed many signs of being a top-class group in the coming years, but this season they have gone backwards.

Although missing last year’s best and fairest winner in Day, Sam Mitchell would be particularly concerned at how impotent the Hawks on-ballers have been, especially against the Suns where they had almost 100 less disposals in a humbling 53-point loss.

Whilst it may seem like the Hawks midfield will be able to regain form against fellow winless companions in North, it won’t be easy considering the talented midfield the Roos have with the likes of Davies-Uniacke, Scott and Powell as well as their suite of young draftees. If the Hawks are to register their first win of the season, their on-ballers simply have to regain some of their form and show signs of moving in the right direction.

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