Home » ‘Flicker’ of hope for fallen AFL side’s revival; time to back up ‘smug’ sledge: Blowtorch

‘Flicker’ of hope for fallen AFL side’s revival; time to back up ‘smug’ sledge: Blowtorch

A round jam-packed with rivalry games is just as full of intrigue.

From Adelaide and Brisbane bidding to revive their seasons, to the likes of Sydney and Melbourne trying to prove their credentials, there’s plenty at stake.

Every club’s burning question ahead of Round 8, as well as the commentators for every Fox Footy game in our ultimate weekly preview: The Blowtorch!

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Can Crows still save their season? | 03:04

ROUND 8 FIXTURE AND BURNING QUESTIONS (All times AEST)

ADELAIDE CROWS v PORT ADELAIDE

Thursday May 2, 7:30pm at Adelaide Oval

How to watch on Fox Footy: From 6:30pm on Channel 504 with Sarah Jones, Jason Dunstall, David King, Leigh Montagna, Mark Ricciuto and Jon Ralph

Crows’ burning question: Are they sneakily getting back to last year’s form?

Adelaide’s improvement may be flying under the radar. After a 0-4 start which had almost everyone counting them out as factors in the 2024 season, they have shown clear signs of reverting to near their 2023 best.

It goes without saying their best two performances have come over the last few weeks, beating Carlton away and then smashing North Melbourne. But as Leigh Montagna explained on Wednesday night’s AFL 360 their changes are making a real impact.

In the first three rounds Adelaide was No. 3 in the AFL for kick-to-handball ratio – that is, they were one of the most heavy users of kicking in the AFL. Since then, they rank 14th, favouring ball movement via handball to break the lines and then find more dangerous targets inside 50.

And it’s working. Comparing the Crows from Rounds 0 to 3 and Rounds 4 to 7, they have dramatically improved in points for (17th to 6th), scores per inside 50 (18th to 4th), points from turnover differential (14th to 6th) and defensive half to score percentage (18th to 6th).

Montagna said there’s “a tiny little flicker” that Adelaide’s season is alive, telling AFL 360: “I’m just seeing some signs over the last month that are really starting to catch the eye.”

The question is just whether the improvements have come too late. They’ll want to beat at least one or two of Port Adelaide, Brisbane (home) and/or Collingwood (away) over the next three weeks to revive their finals hopes, but then things open up with West Coast (home), Hawthorn (away) and Richmond (home).

Power’s burning question: Will their exposed defence cope?

While much has been made of captain Connor Rozee’s recovery from a hamstring niggle, the loss of Aliir Aliir due to concussion can’t be underestimated.

Aliir will miss Thursday night’s Showdown due to concussion after being on the end of a Jack Higgins sling tackle that cost the Saint a three-week ban.

The defender is Port Adelaide’s best intercept mark and one-on-one player this season, while he’s also ranked second for intercept possessions.

With the Crows naming all of Taylor Walker, Darcy Fogarty and Elliott Himmelberg, it’ll be up to Ryan Burton to play above his height on Thursday night.

Charlie’s due to kick a bag against Pies | 00:49

CARLTON v COLLINGWOOD

Friday May 3, 7:40pm at the MCG

How to watch on Fox Footy: From 6:30pm on Channel 504 with Garry Lyon, Jonathan Brown, Nathan Buckley, Jordan Lewis, Brad Johnson and Jon Ralph

Blues’ burning question: Can Charlie Curnow catch fire under the Friday night lights?

According to dual All-Australian Leigh Montagna, yes!

Speaking on Fox Footy’s Give Me Something, Montagna pointed out Curnow has kicked 15.9 from his past four games against the Magpies.

And while Curnow hasn’t kicked five goals in a game so far this season, he’s kicked between two and four goals in every match

“I just think he is ready to unleash — and when I say unleash, I say five goals-plus,” Montagna told Give Me Something.

“He’s yet to take a game by the scruff of the neck, but I think he’s due … I think he’ll cash in.”

Magpies’ burning question: Can they match the Blues on the inside?

It’ll be tough without Tom Mitchell and Jordan De Goey, who’ve both been ruled out of the blockbuster due to injury.

The premiership duo are two of Collingwood’s top-four players for contested possessions, clearances and disposals, meaning they’ll leave a significant chasm.

Mature-age recruit Lachie Sullivan will come in to debut, while Fin Macrae and Harvey Harrison could be other young players that could step up.

But there’s a big opportunity for the likes of Pat Lipinski and Jack Crisp to have a say against the Blues, who are the AFL’s No. 1 contested possession side.

‘Smug’ Swans not fazed by GWS snipes | 00:45

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SYDNEY SWANS v GWS GIANTS

Saturday May 4, 1:45pm at the SCG

How to watch on Fox Footy: From 1:30pm on Channel 504 with Mark Howard, David King, Leigh Montagna, Alastair Lynch and David Zita

Swans’ burning question: How good do they look in their first real test in ages?

The dirty little secret of Sydney’s 6-1 start is they haven’t played anybody since mid-March.

Certainly nobody is complaining about their best start to a season since 2016, but it’s fair to note since the first fortnight of the season, the Swans have gotten past Essendon (with some difficulty), lost to Richmond, struggled before beating West Coast, and then out of their bye taken care of business against Gold Coast and Hawthorn.

They may not have beaten a 2024 finalist in that bunch. You have to go back to Round 1 against Collingwood – when the premiers just didn’t look right – or Opening Round against Melbourne – which was a weirdly slippery night and hardly felt reflective of the Demons’ true talent level – for the last time Sydney passed a proper test.

And what we know about the Swans is the quality of their ball movement. Well, the AFL’s worst teams can’t stop that like the AFL’s best ones, and the likes of GWS, Fremantle (Round 9), Carlton (Round 10) and Geelong (Round 13) will prove much tougher tests defensively.

There would be no shame in losing a couple of those fixtures but at the very least we need to see how these Swans look against a like type.

Giants’ burning question: After ‘win of the year’, can they follow-up war of words?

GWS demoralised Brisbane in the second half last Thursday. They suffocated the Lions when they tried to go forward, and then they went for the jugular on the rebound. “This was the win of the year to make you sit up and say: ‘This is as good as they can play’,” Fox Footy’s David King told The First Crack after their Lions beating.

“Without Sam Taylor, Toby Greene and Stephen Coniglio, and they were able to do this. They gave the Brisbane Lions windburn — it was frightening how quick they were able to go from one end of the ground to the other … They are going to be a handful for every team they play going forward … I don’t know how you stop it or curtail it. They’re going to make life difficult for a lot of teams at the top. I can’t wait for the weekend when they play the Swans and we get a greater guide on both of them.”

We can’t wait either, especially after Taylor delivered digs at the “smug” Swans, who might’ve been a bit over-excited during a pre-season contest. Regardless, John Longmire and his men aren’t the least bit bothered by the comments — setting the scene for a captivating affair to kick off Super Saturday. The Giants have had quite the rest, too, compared to the Bloods, who played last Sunday.

Stage all set for Sydney Derby XXVII | 00:44

ST KILDA v NORTH MELBOURNE

Saturday May 4, 4:35pm at Marvel Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: From 4:30pm on Channel 504 with Anthony Hudson, Dwayne Russell, Jason Dunstall, Nathan Buckley, Nick Dal Santo and David Zita

Saints’ burning question: Are we missing a Saints rebuild in plain sight?

Given they hosted a final last year St Kilda’s 2-5 start isn’t ideal, but it would be even worse if it was a mature group failing to contend for the eight.

The good news is they’re getting plenty of minutes into a promising group of youngsters. Last Friday night against the Power, Ross Lyon sent out four teenagers – Darcy Wilson, Angus Hastie, Hugo Garcia and Mattaes Phillipou – plus three 20-year-olds (Marcus Windhager, Mitch Owens and Anthony Caminiti) and another trio under the age of 24 (Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Ryan Byrnes and Cooper Sharman).

Only North Melbourne, Hawthorn and West Coast have given more gametime to players 22 and under, and they’re three clubs actually rebuilding. The Saints are trying to strike the balance between reloading and contending, which is always tough.

The difference is Lyon is still relying on a group of veterans, with eight players 28 or older – many of whom are underperforming quite visibly. The middle age bracket, where players are entering or in their primes, is almost totally absent at the Saints which is a serious problem.

But, again, at least they’re playing the kids. That will serve them well long-term.

Kangaroos’ burning question: Is this the week they claim their scalp?

The murmurs about the Roos potentially not winning a game for the season have started to grow, but the Saints could be ripe for the picking this Saturday.

“They’ll get a win somewhere,” Hawthorn great Dermott Brereton told Fox Footy after North’s Round 7 loss to Adelaide. “I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but they’re going to get somebody who has four or five injuries on the day. They’ll get a win somewhere. It might not be one of the other two bottom teams like the Eagles or the Hawks, it might be somebody else — or it could be (one of) them — but it’ll come unexpectedly … But it’ll need to be a perfect storm for them to win.”

St Kilda isn’t in fine form either, and Ross Lyon has returned to his prickly ways at post-match pressers. Jack Higgins (suspension) is an understated loss, and Max King (knee) is no certainty to be back at full health.

Meanwhile, ‘Clarko’ is preaching patience as his side “stays the course” after yet another loss littered with defensive lapses. Back under the familiar Marvel Stadium roof, will patience pay off? And can they conjure the ‘perfect storm’ Derm speaks of?

Saints to offer $13-15m deals?! | 03:48

MELBOURNE v GEELONG

Saturday May 4, 7:30pm at the MCG

How to watch on Fox Footy: From 7:20pm on Channel 504 with Ben Dixon, Jack Riewoldt, Eddie Betts, Dermott Brereton, Cameron Mooney and David Zita

Demons’ burning question: Can they claim a genuine ‘scalp’ to strengthen their credentials?

In footy parlance, Melbourne is ‘just going’ at the moment.

The Dees produced close wins over the Crows and Power, before an upset 22-point loss to Brisbane and the most unconvincing 42-point win over Richmond on Anzac Eve.

Simon Goodwin’s side sits fourth on the ladder with a 5-2 record, but don’t seem to be in the same conversation as the Cats, Blues, Giants and maybe even the Swans at this stage of the season.

Speaking on Fox Footy’s AFL 360, four-time premiership Hawk Jordan Lewis said the Dees “need a scalp” to strengthen their credentials.

“As players and supporters, you love to see a team who we think will be a top-four side really solidify themselves with a big win against a big opposition and do it in emphatic style – and I think Melbourne get their chance this week (against Geelong),” Lewis told AFL 360.

Triple premiership Tiger Jack Riewoldt added: “This is their moment to grab it and go real hunter mode.”

Cats’ burning question: Are Geelong the best coached team in the competition?

For so long, the Cats have been told they’re too old and too slow.

But that is absolutely not the case for the 2024 version of Geelong.

“The Cats have shown a different sort of plan, their speed, their execution of this plan, of just getting forward as quick as you can,” North Melbourne champion David King said on Fox Footy’s First Crack.

King highlighted how Geelong scored 21 points from defensive 50 transition, a stat that they’ve only bettered three times in the past three years.

“Have a look at how quick they go, when they make the decision that they’ve got the footy and they’re off, look at the speed,” King said.

“They (the Blues) could not go with them, they put 10, 15, 20 metres on them regularly.

“It happened all day, there’s clearly a plan for their half forwards to pinch forward.

“It’s a genuine head down, I’m charging.”

Geelong’s ability to keep in touch with the top half of the ladder and remain competitive after such a successful era is the envy of their rivals and that is largely due to their recruitment and coaching staff.

“This plan was terrific and difficult to stop. If you’re not ready for this you’ll get whacked between the eyes, this is why they’ve been, in my opinion, the best coached team this year,” King said.

“You can mount a case that they’ve been the best coached team for a long time.

“It’s become a feature of their play; their speed is something now that is challenging the competition.”

Chris Scott faces another tough test this week against Melbourne on Saturday night and will have to do so without star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield.

Is Jeremy Cameron best in the AFL? | 04:52

WEST COAST EAGLES v ESSENDON

Saturday May 4, 8:10pm at Optus Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: From 8pm on Channel 503 with Adam Papalia, Matthew Pavlich, Will Schofield and Kath Loughnan

Eagles’ burning question: Can they keep the momentum building?

The six-goal loss to the Suns was admirable, given how hard it is to beat Gold Coast on the Gold Coast, and came after two epic wins over Richmond and Fremantle respectively.

Now back at home, and against an Essendon side that hasn’t typically enjoyed the trip west, surely they’re a genuine upset chance?

Tom Barrass, Harley Reid and Noah Long all look set to be available and Elliot Yeo is in some of the best form we’ve seen from him in years; that’s important because this is an underrated midfield battle. The Bombers’ improvement, especially from centre bounces, has been well-discussed in the east but the Eagles are right up there with them.

The last time Adam Simpson’s men won three of four games was May 2021 – when they were still considered a contender. That’s a long time ago in footy terms, and must feel like an eternity to the passionate Eagles fans who’ve sat through a lot of awful footy in the ensuing three years.

The Derby will be hard to top as their best win of the year, no matter how the rest of 2024 goes, but beating the Bombers – who are building some momentum and hype as a finals fancy – would be pretty sweet.

Bombers’ burning question: Can ‘The Package’ deliver in the west?

Jake Stringer is almost back to the form that saw him make the All-Australian squad in 2021.

And according to dual premiership Kangaroo David King, the Bombers star could have a big night against the Eagles.

Speaking on Fox Footy’s Give Me Something, King said Stringer was developing into a full-time midfielder, adding he was in 21 centre bounces in the draw against Collingwood last round.

King said Stringer against West Coast could replicate what Marcus Bontempelli produced against the Eagles in Round 3 when the Bulldogs captain kicked three goals from 16 disposals and 11 contested possessions.

“I think Stringer could go crazy – and I mean a huge night,” King told Give Me Something.

“He’s become a clearance machine. I can see him bursting out of the middle.

“It’ll come down to ruck dominance and I feel like Stringer on the move might be able to cause some trauma.”

Stringer will overshadow the Harley show | 01:12

RICHMOND v FREMANTLE

Sunday May 5, 1pm at the MCG

How to watch on Fox Footy: From 12:30pm on Channel 504 with Anthony Hudson, Kelli Underwood, Garry Lyon, Brad Johnson, Cameron Mooney and Jon Ralph

Tigers’ burning question: Is their vice-captain getting an up-close look at his future club?

Speculation continues to circle Liam Baker as he ponders his future at the football club he won two premierships with. The West Australian-born hard nut seems increasingly likely to depart Punt Road at year’s end. So could he get an up-close-and-personal introduction to his new teammates this Sunday?

While West Coast is just as likely to lure Baker back to his home state, Fremantle’s ‘win now’ position might be more appealing to the 26-year-old Subiaco product — especially since Richmond’s contending status was reportedly a key factor in Baker’s re-signing at Tigerland two years ago. The Dockers’ three first-rounders at this year’s draft will be causing the Tigers’ list committee to salivate.

Baker recorded a team-high 25 disposals and a goal in his Eagles audition in Round 5. What does he have in store for Justin Longmuir’s men this Sunday?

Dockers’ burning question: Can they bring attacking flair to the MCG?

The Dockers don’t venture to the MCG much, but this is an ideal opportunity for them on Sunday to strengthen their credentials as a genuine finals contender … and play with some dare and dash that helped them beat the Bulldogs last weekend.

They kicked 14.11 – their second-best score of the season – and generated a season-best 52 inside 50s for the game.

Leigh Montagna on First Crack said it was because the Dockers moved the ball quickly out of the back-half against the Dogs, adding: “There was just a bit more intent, just by simply giving more handball and breaking a line to give themselves a much better opportunity.”

Freo heads to the MCG for the first time this season to face a banged-up Richmond. No excuses to drop this one.

Only three teams in the flag race | 01:58

WESTERN BULLDOGS v HAWTHORN

Sunday May 5, 4pm at Marvel Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: From 4pm on Channel 504 with Matt Hill, Jack Riewoldt, Jordan Lewis, Sarah Jones and Jon Ralph

Bulldogs’ burning question: How will they cope without Cody Weightman?

In a team with a glut of key forwards, the last player the Dogs could afford to lose was Weightman, who’ll spend eight to 10 weeks on the sidelines after injuring his elbow in the loss to Fremantle last weekend in Perth.

Weightman has kicked an equal club-high 14 goals this year, with Aaron Naughton (14), Sam Darcy (11) and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (9) doing the damage as tall targets.

Small forward Rhylee West (8) has been solid, but doesn’t have the flair and same goal nous as what Weightman possesses – and his suspension rules him out.

Charlie Clarke has been named for his AFL debut and will attempt to fill the role.

Hawks’ burning question: How the heck are they going to score?

The 76-point margin oversold how bad the Hawks were against Sydney, but it’s very worth noting that outside of their win over North Melbourne – the only team worse than them – Sam Mitchell’s men are really struggling to hit the scoreboard, averaging just 60 points with the Kangaroos game excluded.

Now add Mabior Chol’s one-week striking suspension, which the club surprisingly did not challenge, into the continued absence of Mitch Lewis and they simply don’t have any good options inside 50 to kick it to.

Dylan Moore has been excellent at times, but his 12 goals is the equal-lowest for current team-leading goalkickers across the AFL – weirdly tied with Brisbane’s Joe Daniher (which sums up their issues) plus Port Adelaide’s Charlie Dixon, who has played one fewer game.

He’s followed by Chol (nine goals), Jack Ginnivan (eight) and Blake Hardwick (six, four of them in the space of 35 minutes against Collingwood) – we’re not exactly talking the Buddy and Roughy forward line here.

The Hawks sure aren’t going to stop anybody from scoring so they have to go goal-for-goal – and that’s just getting harder and harder.

Mitchell discusses Chol’s striking ban | 01:26

BRISBANE LIONS v GOLD COAST SUNS

Sunday May 5, 7:10pm at the Gabba

How to watch on Fox Footy: From 7pm on Channel 504 with Dwayne Russell, Jonathan Brown, Gerard Healy, Alastair Lynch and Jon Ralph, followed by Bounce and First Crack

Lions’ burning question: Was Harris Andrews found out against the Giants?

Harris Andrews has long been considered one of the game’s best key defenders.

He’s the captain of the Brisbane Lions and two-time All-Australian.

But have teams worked him out?

“He doesn’t have the athleticism when teams move the ball quickly,” St Kilda champion Leigh Montagna told Fox Footy’s First Crack.

“He likes to guard and play in front, which is one of his greatest strengths, but when there is speed on the ball, he can’t make up that gap and he got found out a few times.”

Montagna identified that Andrews doesn’t have the same physical attributes as the likes of Darcy Moore or Sam Taylor, who can afford to give their opponents more space due to their elite athletic ability.

“Sometimes he switches off momentarily,” Montagna said.

“He’s having a really good year, he had a pretty good game, when the ball is kicked in his vicinity, he is hard to stop, he takes a lot of intercept marks, and he does a good job.

“But there’s too many times when he gives his opponent too much leg rope and he doesn’t have the athleticism or leg speed to close the gap.”

Andrews will likely come up against Ben King or Jed Walter in the Q-Clash this weekend as the Lions look to find a spark in what has been a poor start to their 2024 campaign.

Suns’ burning question: Is Jake Rogers the next Gryan Miers?

It seems that the Gold Coast Suns have unearthed yet another young gem.

Academy product Jake Rogers was electric against the Eagles in what was just his second AFL match, joining the likes of Will Graham, Jed Walter and Ethan Read as Suns youngsters to have already made an impact at the top level.

“We couldn’t stop watching him, he was just brilliant,” North Melbourne champion David King said on Fox Footy’s First Crack.

“He does things a bit different, he’s clever, short ball user, darting kicks.

“That’s when you can catch and kill your own.”

Rogers had 22 disposals, 13 contested possessions and eight score involvements.

“We marvelled at his ability to set himself for front and squares and get separation from his opponent by his own doing.

“It didn’t happen by just tap and stands or luck, he pulled back at the right times, he exploded at the right times, his finishing was a treat.”

Rogers also had an astonishing four goal assists in addition to his one goal.

“Gryan Miers has some competition for the best goal assist man … watch out Gryan!” St Kilda champion Leigh Montagna said.

“He’s got some tips and tricks and serious talent.

“These young players are going to take them a long way going forward.”

Lions will get Rowell-ed in QClash? | 01:34