Questions to ponder ahead of Round 8: Can the Crows win three straight Showdowns and will Max Gawn and his Dees tame the Cats?


Ahead of Round 8, we have got some absolutely cracking contests to look forward to.

So here are some of the intriguing questions that we have for each game ahead of what is going to be a fantastic set of matches this week.

Adelaide v Port Adelaide

Can the new-look Port defence quell the potent Crows forwards?

Over the off-season, Port made a deliberate ploy to boost their defensive stocks, recruiting Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and Esava Ratugolea to help add height to their backline.

The duo has been decent at their new club, but they will face a very tough test in the Showdown against a very dangerous Adelaide forward line.

Crows players celebrate with Jordan Dawson. (Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Last, year in the second showdown, Adelaide destroyed Port by 47 points with a staggering 20 marks inside 50 with Tex Walker the main star, kicking seven goals and highlighting Adelaide at their most attacking best.

This Showdown, the Crows forwards will have confidence after a belting of North with Tex Walker and Izak Rankine having six goals and 23 score involvements between them.

Port’s task in this Showdown will be made even tougher with the loss of Aliir Aliir with concussion meaning the onus will really be on their new defensive additions to vindicate their recruitment and prevent Adelaide’s forwards, particularly Walker, from scoring freely.

Carlton v Collingwood

Can the Blues find alternate avenues to goal?

Carlton is doing a lot right in their 5-2 start but one thing in their game that’s holding them back up is their overreliance on Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow.

Against a very stable Geelong defence, Carlton struggled to kick their way through even though they had 21 more inside 50s, frequently bombing the ball to their two big key forwards and finding it very difficult to find loose options inside their 50.

The Blues only average 80 uncontested marks a game, the fifth lowest in the league, underlining their overdependence on big, contested marks instead of methodical short kicks to get around opposition defences.

Whilst all the focus is deservedly on Curnow and McKay, the Blues do have a suite of smaller forwards such as Corey Durdin, Matthew Cottrell, Matthew Kennedy and Matthew Owies who are not getting many opportunities inside 50.

If the Blues can find a way to utilise the whole of their forward line through precise transition and uncontested marks inside 50, they’re going to be an even scarier team in the competition than they already are.

Sydney v GWS Giants

Who wins the ruck battle?

The Battle of the Bridge this week is set to be a mouth-watering contest with both the Swans and Giants 6-1, sitting at second and third on the ladder respectively.

There are so many intriguing matchups from this game and one that is of particular interest is the ruck battle between Brodie Grundy and Kieran Briggs.

Grundy has shown glimpses of his Collingwood All-Australian best in his start at the Swans and has played a major role in the Swans climb up the ladder this year.

On the other hand, Briggs may just be the most underrated ruckman in the game, averaging just under seven clearances a game and playing a huge role in giving the talented Giants midfield first use of the ball.

Both sides have superlative midfields with the likes of Isaac Heeney, James Rowbottom, Taylor Adams and Errol Gulden for the Swans and players such as Josh Kelly, Tom Green, Finn Callaghan, and Lachie Whitfield for GWS.

The key to this top four clash may just be which big man is able to assist his midfielders in asserting domination from the middle and provide good entries inside 50.

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St Kilda v North Melbourne

Can the Saints find the balance in their ball movement?

The Saints have had an almost year in their 2-5 start, losing 4 of their games by 10 points or less including a tight loss on the road against a very good Port side.

In such tight games, the Saints would be ruing their costly turnovers coming out of the back half that has directly led to opposition scores and this was evident last week.

Against Port, 3 of their back half players Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Dougal Howard and Jack Sinclair registered 20 clangers between them and there were many occasions where these players attempted the risky kick into the corridor but turned the footy over badly.

Whilst this more attacking style of play under Ross Lyon has led to some positive footy for the Saints, the coach would still want to maintain the Saints’ stability behind the ball and turning the ball over in dangerous positions gives no chance for the Saints’ backline.

For the Saints to get over the line in games with small margins, they need to play the percentages with their ball movement and stop making mistakes that have big consequences.

Melbourne v Geelong

How does Geelong quell the influence of Max Gawn?

The Cats are absolutely on fire this season with a 7-0 start and haven’t done much wrong in 2024.

However, one thing that may concern Chris Scott is their struggles in the middle, particularly with ruckman Rhys Stanley, given that Carlton ruckman Marc Pittonet had a day out last week, with 11 clearances and 19 disposals, leading the Blues to dominate out of the middle.

Whilst the Cats did show that they are able to defend clearances fairly well, they would want to stop the dominance that midfielders and ruckmen are having, putting their defence under much pressure.

Max Gawn and Mason Cox. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images).

They’d especially want to do that this week against the most seasoned ruckman in the competition Max Gawn.

One would imagine that if the Cats allow Gawn to have the freedom that Pittonet had, he will lead the Dees star midfield to absolutely pummel the Cats at the centre.

As such, coach Scott needs to find a way to at least break even in the clearance battle and prevent Gawn from having a major say in proceedings.

West Coast v Essendon

Can Essendon sustain this tall setup?

The big question for Essendon on ANZAC day was with Peter Wright returning back, if they could sustain their tall setup with two ruckmen in Sam Draper and Todd Goldstein as well as tall forwards in Peter Wright, Kyle Langford, and Harrison Jones.

However, they showcased against Collingwood that they can utilise their tall players effectively as they took 23 more marks than Collingwood showcasing their aerial prowess and the speed and agility of Langford and Jones at ground level, ensures they are still nimble when the ball is on the ground and not flat-footed.

However, it is just one game and Essendon will hope that this setup will work for them consistently and get the best out of their players.

The jury is still out on whether Draper and Goldstein work best in a dual ruck combo, given both are primarily ruckmen, not forwards, and given the skillset of both, Brad Scott would be a system that allows for both players to function effectively.

They have a chance this week against an improving Eagles side to showcase how the extra height of the Bombers can be a weapon that helps them, not a hindrance that curbs them.

Richmond v Fremantle

Have the Dockers finally found the best role for Nat Fyfe in this Freo side?

In the last few years, Fremantle have struggled to find a permanent role for Nat Fyfe given the supremacy of their young midfield and the fact that Fyfe is not a natural target up forward.

However, against the Bulldogs last week, Fyfe looked at his indomitable, dual Brownlow medal-winning best, leading the possession getters along Caleb Serong with 37 touches as well as having seven clearances and 10 score involvements.

this Nat Fyfe fella goes alright…


— Fremantle Dockers (@freodockers) April 29, 2024

Whilst he is likely to be unable to do this every week given his age, if he can provide glimpses of his absolute best in their midfield, Justin Longmuir will have the luxury of having an extra option in the middle.

He can also go with the superstar qualities of Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong and Hayden Young and ensuring that there are plenty of people to rotate through the middle.

Fyfe’s experience and leadership also provide a different edge to this young midfield by providing an extra level of composure and class.

After a patchy few years where his position has been changed frequently, it seems as though we finally know how the Dockers can get the best out of one of the best players in their history.

Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn

Who will Beveridge use to increase the rotations through the Dogs midfield?

Whilst their midfield is generally considered very strong, the onballers for the Bulldogs lowered their colours substantially against the Dockers, losing clearances by 17 and contested possessions by 12 last week.

A criticism that can be levelled at the Bulldogs is that they are too reliant on too few with the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Adam Treloar and Tom Liberatore always having to produce incredible performances for Luke Beveridge’s side to dominate from the middle.

Whilst Liberatore’s likely return this week after missing the past fortnight is a welcome addition, the Dogs need to increase their rotations through the midfield so that they are not always reliant on their stars.

We’ve seen Ed Richards have a go in the middle and he’s produced enough to suggest he should remain there.

Beveridge should perhaps toy with the idea of giving more midfield minutes to players such as Bailey Dale, James Harmes and Riley Garcia.

They definitely have the capability to make a difference.

For the Dogs to string together consistent form, they need to expand the roles of more players instead of relying on the same few every week.

Riley Garcia and Rhylee West celebrate a Bulldogs goal. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Brisbane v Gold Coast Suns

Can Gold Coast get it done away from home?

The Suns record at home versus their record away could not be more different.

Damien Hardwick’s men are 4-0 when playing in the familiar surroundings of Heritage Bank Stadium but are 0-3 whenever they’ve played away, highlighting the need for this side to showcase consistency on the road if they are to make a serious push for their finals appearance.

They have the perfect opportunity to correct their away record this week against the Lions who haven’t looked this vulnerable and fragile for more than 5 years.

Part of the Lions’ struggles this year has been their inability to defend their Gabba fortress as they 0-3 for games at the Gabba this year.

Without actually having to go interstate, this seems like the perfect opportunity for the young Suns to claim their first victory away from the Gold Coast this year with the QClash.

There has been so much to like about the Suns under Hardwick this year, headlined by their superstar young midfield and a win away from home against a side that could not be more vulnerable would enhance their finals credentials by a significant amount.

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