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AFL 2021: Everything you need to know ahead of Round 10
AFL expert Josh Gabelich previews another action-packed weekend - with five games exclusively live on BT Sport.
Just when it looked like threat of the coronavirus pandemic had retreated in Australia, it's returned to disrupt the AFL season again.
Right now, round 11 will proceed as normal despite all 10 Victorian-based clubs being forced into stringent COVID protocols for the next seven days.
Three clubs have been forced to fly out of the state days ahead of schedule to ensure this weekend goes ahead as normal. But things can change – and change fast.
At this stage, fans can still go the footy this weekend, with Marvel Stadium set to keep its retractable roof open for Friday’s top-of-the-table clash between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs and Saturday’s game between St Kilda and North Melbourne.
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The Bulldogs leapt over Melbourne last weekend after the Demons fell narrowly short of making it ten from ten, partly due to some controversial decisions late in the game against Adelaide. The Western Bulldogs annihilated the Saints by triple figures and continue to look like the real deal in 2021.
Collingwood and Magpies coach Nathan Buckley have been the story for much of this season, but there was no disputing the players’ intent last weekend. The Pies lost by a point after leading all day against Port Adelaide, but they showed they can still compete to a decent standard.
Collingwood face one of the flag favourites Geelong at the MCG on Saturday in a game that looks much better than it did seven days earlier.
At 1-3, Brisbane looked in trouble. Fast forward six weeks and the Lions haven’t lost since they faced the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat in round four. It has been a stunning turnaround, almost done in stealth with most focusing on other clubs now that Brisbane are a regular finalist again.
They meet the Giants on Saturday, who have also turned their season around after dropping the first three games in nightmare fashion.
It is hard to believe this is the same St Kilda that ended a decade-long finals drought last year. How have they fallen so far? This team beat the Western Bulldogs in an elimination final six months ago, only to lose by more than 100 points to the same team last weekend.
Brett Ratten’s ensemble of players poached from other clubs faces the worst team in the competition this year, North Melbourne, on Saturday. If they lose, things will get very ugly at Moorabbin.
Football heads to Alice Springs on Saturday for a game between the Gold Coast Suns and Hawthorn at TIO Stadium.
Round 11 is known as Sir Doug Nicholls Round to pay tribute to the enormous contribution made by the indigenous community to Australian football, a special weekend in the AFL calendar that celebrates First Nations players and their culture.
Ten rounds into 2021 and a similar question surrounds the West Coast Eagles: why can’t they play the same brand of football away from home? They are a different team outside of Western Australia.
Last weekend it was Greater Western Sydney’s turn to put them to the sword, despite missing a handful of their best players. Now Essendon travels across to Perth to face one of the toughest tasks in the game. But the question will still linger, regardless of the result.
Sunday football starts at the MCG when Adelaide travel to Melbourne to face the reigning premiers, Richmond. The Tigers are out of form and now out of the top eight. No one is writing them off just yet, but they aren’t the same side they have been during this dynasty. They will now be without star key forward Tom Lynch for at least the next six weeks with a knee injury, making their task of finishing in the top four even more difficult.
Carlton kept its season alive last weekend by beating Hawthorn and now face Sydney at the SCG on Sunday. The Swans may be coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Dockers, but Lance Franklin showed why he is still one of the best in the business on his day, slotting six goals to move to 19 for the year from six games. One to watch this weekend, that’s for sure, especially in Sir Doug Nicholls Round.
Much like the West Coast Eagles, Port Adelaide are still difficult to read nearly three months into the 2021 season. One week they are brilliant, the next their depth is questionable.
One thing is for sure: if they can’t beat Fremantle in the final game of round 11, expect the pressure to rise on this club given how well they performed in 2020 and their premiership credentials.