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AFL 2021: Everything you need to know ahead of Round 8
AFL expert Josh Gabelich previews another action-packed weekend - with five games exclusively live on BT Sport.
Just when many started questioning Richmond’s chances of going back-to-back-to-back – and claiming a fourth premiership in the space of five seasons – last weekend settled that discussion down. And now, round eight centres around another blockbuster clash featuring the Tigers.
Damien Hardwick’s men roared back to life against the Western Bulldogs and will step back onto the Friday night stage as red-hot favourites in the Grand Final rematch against Geelong, with star key forward Tom Lynch back in form and Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin back in the team.
The Cats are just adrift of the top four but have been patchy across the first seven rounds of 2021. They can count themselves unlucky to drop points to Sydney last Saturday, given the umpires admitted a mistake in the aftermath of the one-kick loss at the SCG. But the shoe was on the other foot earlier in the year when another indecision went in their favour against Brisbane. No one will forget that any time soon.
A stacked Saturday of AFL starts in the harbour city with Greater Western Sydney hosting Essendon at Giants Stadium. A month ago, the Giants were staring down the barrel of a wooden-spoon battle after missing out on the finals last year.
Fast forward four weeks and they have won three of four – and in style – with maligned recruit Jesse Hogan firing in his first outing for Greater Western Sydney last weekend. If the Giants are going to play finals, this is a game they must win.
While most of the attention in the aftermath of Gold Coast’s first win over Collingwood at the MCG centred on the black and white ramifications, the Suns are starting to show why they are in the finals hunt this year. Stuart Dew’s side hosts St Kilda at Metricon Stadium in a game that has plenty on the line for both sides. The Saints smashed the Hawks by 69 points in round seven but can’t be trusted in 2021 (at least not yet).
If you thought things couldn’t get any worse at the Magpies right now, then just wait. Things could turn very, very ugly if they lose to the winless North Melbourne this weekend.
The Kangaroos have a percentage of 49.2 and are thought to be well and truly the worst team in the competition right now. But things have imploded at Collingwood, dating back to a disastrous trade period that ripped the heart and soul out of the club. Grab the popcorn.
Round 8: Channels & times
Check out all the broadcast details for the five matches being shown live on BT Sport.
Melbourne are the only undefeated team after seven rounds. Read that sentence again. It is real. Sydney travel south to the MCG to face the Demons on Saturday in one of the most anticipated games of the round. Simon Goodwin’s side were below their best against North Melbourne last weekend, but they overcome an off day to bank four premiership points, while the Swans beat Geelong in a thriller to reignite a season that had momentarily stalled. One to watch.
When it comes to rivalries in Australian sport, they don’t get too much bigger than this. The Showdown between Adelaide and Port Adelaide always delivers plenty of heat, and this should be no different. Crows skipper Rory Sloane is set to return from an eye injury, while Port Adelaide star Travis Boak is back after missing last week’s disappointing loss against Brisbane at the Gabba. Expect the Power to respond in emphatic fashion at Adelaide Oval.
The Hawks have fought outside their weight division in 2021, until last weekend when they were swept aside by St Kilda. Things won’t get any easier this Sunday when the West Coast Eagles arrive at the MCG. Adam Simpson’s men were embarrassed by Geelong during their last visit to Victoria, but this should be different after they smashed Fremantle in front of no one at Optus Stadium in last Sunday’s Western Derby.
At half-time of last Friday night’s blockbuster game against Richmond, the Western Bulldogs looked like premiership favourites. But the reigning premiers showed Luke Beveridge’s men exactly how it’s done in the second half, flexing their muscles in the process. The Dogs meet the unpredictable Navy Blues in an enthralling game on Sunday. Carlton are 3-4 but can’t be counted out of September just yet.
The Brisbane Lions are back in town. After starting the season 1-3, last year’s preliminary finalists have won three on the bounce and now face Fremantle at home on Sunday in a game that was moved from Perth due to the current COVID situation in Western Australia. The Dockers were one of the most disappointing sides of round seven, failing to show up against crosstown rivals the Eagles in a performance that shows they might not be ready to play finals in 2021.