The crucial cogs of AFL’s Round 8: Which players need to be the difference makers?


It’s difficult to argue that season 2024 has been anything but intriguing and great to watch.

We have arrived at Round 8, where Geelong is still the only undefeated team and North Melbourne is the only team yet to win a game.

We’re taking a look at one player from each team that needs to make a difference for their team this week, starting with the Showdown.

Adelaide v Port Adelaide


Jordan Dawson won the Showdown Medal in Round 3 of season 2023. The Adelaide skipper has averaged six score involvements per game so far this season.

Dawson had a solid game against North Melbourne in Round 7, where he polled eight Coaches’ votes and will want to bring that form into the Showdown.

Port Adelaide

Jase Burgoyne had a breakout game against St Kilda in Round 7.

The youngster polled ten Coaches’ votes, which should hold him in good stead for the Showdown.

He has electric pace and should be looking to prove his Round 7 display wasn’t an aberration.

Carlton v Collingwood


Harry McKay is a player that has plenty of ability but needs to improve his goal-kicking.

The Carlton key forward may have kicked two goals from four scoring shots against Geelong in Round 7, but the 26-year-old was all at sea in front of the big sticks.

In a big game against Collingwood McKay will need to kick straight, as he will get his opportunities.

Harry McKay. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)


Jack Crisp must lift, as he had a disappointing game in Round 7 against Essendon.

Despite only amassing 11 disposals, Crisp had eight tackles, which showed that despite performing poorly, the endeavour was there.

It will be interesting to see what role Crisp plays, as he’ll be looking to improve on his Anzac Day display when Collingwood takes on Carlton.

Sydney v GWS


Errol Gulden, what a player he has become for Sydney: reliable, consistent and entertaining to watch.

Gulden has averaged the equal sixth most score involvements per game of any player in the AFL with an average of eight.

The Sydney winger will need to be at his best in the Sydney Derby if his team is to have a chance of winning the game against an equally in-form GWS.


Tom Green has been extremely consistent for the Giants, because he doesn’t only accumulate possessions; the GWS midfielder has averaged eight score involvements per game, which is impressive for a player who’s an inside midfielder.

If he gets tagged against Sydney then Josh Kelly could get off the leash.

St Kilda v North Melbourne

St Kilda

Jack Steele must lift, given that the St Kilda skipper only had 15 disposals against Port Adelaide in Round 7.

The team needs him to lead from the front, in a game that they should win against North Melbourne.

St Kilda must claim the four points if they’re to have any hope of playing finals and it starts with their leader.

Jack Steele. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

North Melbourne

Tristan Xerri needs to have a good game up against Rowan Marshall and win that battle so that North Melbourne can be competitive.

The Kangaroos ruckman has the capability of altering the momentum in this game against a Saints team that has only won two games.

Melbourne v Geelong


Jake Lever is a pivotal part of the Demons’ system, which the Melbourne key defender proved.

He polled nine Coaches’ votes in Round 7 against Richmond and the 28-year-old had 15 intercept possessions.

Melbourne will need him to be at his best, as he will face a tough task against an in-form Geelong forward line comprising Jeremy Cameron and Oliver Henry in particular.


Cameron Guthrie was a welcome addition to the Geelong lineup in Round 7 against Carlton.

The Geelong midfielder needs to tidy up his ball use, but should take plenty of belief out of the game, given he had 27 disposals.

There’s no disputing that Guthrie will be important against Melbourne, given Patrick Dangerfield is set to miss the clash due to injury.

Chad Warner of the Swans and Cameron Guthrie of the Cats. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

West Coast v Essendon

West Coast

Elliot Yeo needs to continue his good start to season 2023 in what will be a big challenge for him and one that he should relish against Essendon, with the West Coast midfielder back to his best.

It will be fascinating to see whether Adam Simpson chooses to play him head-to-head with Zach Merrett.

Yeo had averaged an impressive 7.29 score involvements per game this season and has been a key component of a competitive West Coast team in the opening seven games.


Kyle Langford should be a tough match-up against West Coast; he’s so good overhead.

The 27-year-old was outstanding against Collingwood in Round 7, with four goals and 11 score involvements.

Langford should want to make up for missing a goal that made it a draw in Round 7 against Collingwood; expect him to have plenty of fire in his belly in Round 8.

With Peter Wright and Jake Stringer up forward, it will be interesting which West Coast defender West Coast choose to restrict the influence of Langford.

Kyle Langford looks dejected after missing the chance to win the game for Essendon. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Richmond v Fremantle


Marlion Pickett did a great job in curtailing the influence of Christian Petracca in the first half when Richmond played against Melbourne in Round 7, which meant that Richmond led Melbourne by one point at halftime.

It will be interesting to see whether he gets the job of restricting the influence of Caleb Serong or Nat Fyfe against Fremantle, as they both registered 37 disposals in Round 7 when Fremantle took on the Western Bulldogs.


Bailey Banfield showed what a dangerous player he can be, as the Fremantle forward kicked an equal game-high three goals in Round 7 against Western Bulldogs.

To go with that, Banfield amassed 22 disposals and six score involvements.

It will be tough for Richmond to prevent him from having an impact on the contest if Banfield can replicate the same intensity he showed in Round 7.

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Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn

Western Bulldogs

Tim English is mobile; this season English has averaged 17.86 disposals per game and has averaged six score involvements per game.

The 26-year-old should get the better of Lloyd Meek when Western Bulldogs take on Hawthorn, as English is good around the ground.


Cam Mackenzie was one of the few Hawthorn players who could hold his head up high when Hawthorn was obliterated by Sydney in Round 7, as he amassed 21 disposals.

The 20-year-old will face a tough task against a Western Bulldogs midfield that should be looking to bounce back after their loss to Fremantle in Round 7.

Brisbane v Gold Coast


Hugh McCluggage must be at his best if Brisbane is to play at their optimum level.

Having averaged an impressive 6.14 score involvements per game is pretty impressive.

However, the Brisbane midfielder needs to work harder without the ball, given he has only averaged 2.71 tackles per game so far this season.

The 26-year-old faces a tough challenge against Gold Coast, but he should be up for the fight.

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Gold Coast

Sam Collins is a competitor who doesn’t shirk a contest. The Gold Coast vice-captain has averaged the fourth most intercepts per game so far this season, with 9.14.

It’s essential that the 29-year-old will be at his best, given Brisbane boasts a couple of talented key forwards in Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood.

They are two forwards who should be raring to go, after underperforming so far this season, given Brisbane need to win this game, to stay in the finals race.

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