Questions to ponder ahead of Round 13: Which McKay brother will prevail, Can Pies bolster midfield and Can Tigers scare the Crows?


We’re halfway through the season and we have already learnt a lot.

However, ahead of Round 13, we ponder some of the big questions from this week’s cracking games.

Adelaide v Richmond

Can Richmond provide a scare?

On paper, this should be a straightforward clash with Adelaide back at home against a Tigers side that cannot catch a break on the injury front.

However, whilst Richmond is 1-11 and has had some horror losses, Adem Yze’s side has been more than competitive in the last two weeks; pushing a high-flying Essendon at Dreamtime before going down to Geelong and taking a first-half lead against the mighty Cats before eventually falling away.

Adelaide on the other hand is coming off an incredibly disappointing 27-point loss against Hawthorn and their finals hopes are hanging on by the slimmest of margins.

Therefore, the Tigers would be embracing Thursday night with the same nothing-to-lose attitude when they head to the Adelaide Oval to take on the Crows who are conversely, under immense pressure.

Amazingly, Richmond’s one win this year has come against the top of the ladder and indomitable Swans, underlining that they can pull the rabbit out of the hat.

Whilst, they may be lacking personnel, we should not be surprised if Richmond makes up for it with a display of heart and courage and cause an upset.

Western Bulldogs v Brisbane

Will the young Dogs continue their impressive midfield displays?

The Western Bulldogs have been admirable in the last two weeks in the face of a growing injury list, going down by 14 points to the top of the ladder Swans before beating the reigning premiers Collingwood in a dominant last-quarter performance.

Whilst the dominant seasoned duo of Marcus Bontempelli and Adam Treloar were exemplary in the Bulldogs’ win, credit also has to go to the lesser lights who have been getting increased on-ball minutes due to the Dogs injuries.

Players like Ryley Sanders, Riley Garcia and Harvey Gallagher all had their moments against Collingwood, as they were able to get on top of the Collingwood midfield in the clearance battle (+17).

A criticism of the Bulldogs this season has been their overreliance on their stars with Bontempelli, Treloar and Tom Liberatore (who is slated to return very soon) doing much of the heavy lifting.

Now, the Bulldogs’ injuries have had a silver lining in aiding the development of the younger players through the midfield.

It will be interesting to see whether these players can continue their impressive forms when they come up against an all-star Brisbane midfield on Friday night.

Hawthorn v GWS Giants

Do GWS put attention into the Hawks defenders?

In GWS’s impressive win against Geelong away two weeks ago, one of the key tactical decisions they made, in line with what teams did in previous weeks, was to send Xavier O’Halloran to Tom Stewart who was again limited in his influence to intercept entries and provide the drive for Geelong’s ball movement.

After their bye, it will be interesting to see if Adam Kingsley does something similar with the Hawks rebounders.

The obvious target would be Hawks captain and 2023 All-Australian James Sicily as we have already seen in the past that when teams put effort into him, he struggles to cope with the increased attention.

However, after his impressive performance against the Crows last week, particularly in the opening stages, the Giants may be inclined to go after Jack Scrimshaw who had a game-high 10 intercept possessions against Adelaide.

A big factor in the Hawks’ resurgence this year has been the stability of their back six, led by the quality of Scrimshaw and Sicily.

As such, it will be interesting to see if the Giants send O’Halloran or someone else to these rebounders in order to quell their influence.

West Coast v North Melbourne

How do West Coast deal with their absences?

After regaining an attractive brand of footy that has helped yield better results, the Eagles have lost their last two games, first an inexplicable 99-point hiding against Adelaide before falling to the mediocre Saints at Optus Stadium last week.

Compounding West Coast’s worries are the injuries to Jake Waterman and Tim Kelly as well as the suspension of young gun Harley Reid.

Harley Reid celebrates a goal. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The trio have been critical players for the Eagles advancement as a competitive team this year and one feels they are now increasingly vulnerable this week against the winless Roos.

If there was a game that North was to win this season to ensure they don’t go winless, this is a perfect chance given the Eagle’s absences.

However, the Eagles at home should still start favourites and it’ll be interesting to see their maturity in whether they can defeat the Roos at home despite their absences as it would prove to a lot of people that they have well and truly matured as a footy club and will rise up the ladder sooner rather than later.

St Kilda v Gold Coast Suns

Who will Windhager run with this week?

After Harley Reid had a scintillating second quarter against the Saints with 13 disposals and six clearances, Ross Lyon put the clamps on, sending Marcus Windhager as a tagger.

This had a major effect on Reid and the Eagles as the young gun only had three second-half disposals and looked like a frustrated player due to Windhager’s persistence in limiting Reid’s influence.

Utilising Windhager as a tagger played a big role in the Saints getting the job done so it will be interesting to see if Lyon uses Windhager again against Gold Coast and if so, who will he be sent to.

The midfield trio of Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson and Touk Miller have been stellar in the Suns’ wins this season, and that was evident last week when they had a combined 94 disposals and 22 clearances in the win against Essendon.

In the week prior, Carlton effectively stopped the Gold Coast midfield with Alex Cincotta clamping the breaks on Touk Miller who was held to just 21 disposals.

Whilst Miller is the likely target for a tag, it will be interesting to see who Windhager will resolutely run with this week.

Sydney v Geelong

How do Geelong free up Tom Stewart

One of the big signs from the Cats drop off from their early season success has been teams putting work into their key interceptor in Tom Stewart.

Tom Stewart tied up with Marcus Bontempelli. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Starting with Jed McEntee who played a huge role in Port Adelaide’s win at the Cattery, teams have now realised that if you can put a player that is accountable for Stewart, you go a long way to stopping the Cats’ ball movement and retaining the ball inside 50.

Chris Scott and Geelong shouldn’t expect anything different this week given the defensive application of the Sydney Swans who are likely to tag Stewart with James Jordon, a man who has already stopped some of the best half-backs in the competition this year.

It will be interesting to see how the Cats free up Stewart whether it be through sending him to another Swans forward, playing him more on the wing or midfield or using one of their smaller defenders to block Stewart’s opponent.

Either way, the Cats need to think of something quickly if they are to get back to the form at the start of the season and get out of this current slump.

Essendon v Carlton

Who will prevail in the McKay cup?

Barring any late hiccups, this will amazingly be the first time the McKay brothers will play against each other since they were both drafted back in 2015.

For one reason or another, Harry and Ben have been unable to play against each other however that is set to finally change for what will be a massive clash on King’s Birthday Eve.

Whilst Harry has rediscovered his best form this year for Carlton, coming fifth in the Coleman with 28 goals so far, Ben has been a revelation for the Bombers backline, strengthening Essendon’s team defence and being a major contributor to their rise up the ladder this year.

Whilst Ben will most likely line up against Charlie Curnow to start with, you’d imagine there would be a stage where the brothers tussle it out on the MCG as they would’ve as young kids.

Harry McKay celebrates the winning goal in Carlton’s one-point win over Brisbane. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The game itself is set to be a ripper with the two historically successful clubs in the Bombers and Blues sitting second and fifth on the ladder respectively and one would think that for either team to prevail, a McKay will be critical in the proceedings.

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Collingwood v Melbourne

Can Daicos get some help in the middle?

It’s no secret that Collingwood has been ravaged with injuries, particularly in the midfield with the experienced group of Jordan de Goey, Scott Pendlebury and Tom Mitchell all missing.

This has put huge responsibility on Nick Daicos and in the game against the Western Bulldogs he thrived, having nine clearances in the first half as he led the Pies to be dominant out of the middle.

However, as the game went on the Dogs onballers gained ascendancy as Daicos struggled to sustain the one-man show with his influence thoroughly curtailed in the fourth quarter as he lost steam.

Daicos is one of the best players in the game but he needs some help from his teammates if the Pies injury-ravaged team are to compete for four quarters.

Players like Crisp, McCreery and Lipinski all spent time in the middle and they need to increase their midfield load so that Collingwood’s midfield rotations aren’t short.

With experience out, this is an important game for Collingwood to build experience through the middle with their younger onballers so they can become a dynamic midfield group that can lessen the load on Daicos.

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