MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 23: Brett Deledio of the Giants looks dejected after a loss in his 250th game against his former side to go through to the grand final during the 2017 AFL Second Preliminary Final match between the Richmond Tigers and the GWS Giants at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 23, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Adelaide vs Geelong

Adelaide, 7:20pm Thursday July 12

Team news: For the Crows, Eddie Betts, Riley Knight, Rory Atkins and Lachlan Murphy come in for Curly Hampton, Myles Poholke, Richard Douglas and Darcy Fogarty.

Daniel Menzel will come back in for the Cats, along with Wylie Buzza and first-gamer Sam Simpson, replacing Lachie Fogarty, Harry Taylor and Jordan Murdoch.

Injury Watch: Geelong’s Esava Ratugolea is set to start running in bid to return to footy late this year.

Prediction: Adelaide have locked in Rory Sloane for life and if that doesn’t get them up and about, I don’t know what will. Adelaide by 11 points

 

St Kilda vs Carlton              

Etihad Stadium, 7:50pm Friday July 13

Team news: The Saints are expecting to have Jake Carlisle back after suffering a punctured lung and Blake Acres should come back in from the VFL. Paddy McCartin will go out with a foot sprain.

The Blues are hopeful that Kade Simpson will come back in after being a late withdrawal last week due to a calf strain and Paddy Dow should return after being managed last week.

Injury Watch: McCartin (St Kilda) is set to only miss 2-3 weeks with the foot injury.

Prediction: The Friday night clash we have been dreading since about round five. The Saints have shown some improvement over the last few weeks and the Blues have shown anything but. St Kilda by 17 points.

 

Hawthorn vs Brisbane

UTAS Stadium, 1:45pm Saturday July 14

Team news: The Hawks have some problems with Ben McEvoy going down with a face injury and their backup ruckman Marc Pittonet hurting his ankle in the VFL.

Injury Watch: Brisbane’s vice-captain Harris Andrews will visit a neurosurgeon this week to find out if he has a chance at playing again this year.

Prediction: The Lions got the win over Hawthorn earlier in the year but down in Tasmania, the Hawks should be too good. Hawthorn by 32 points

 

Melbourne vs Western Bulldogs

MCG, 4:35pm Saturday July 14

Team news: Demons veteran Bernie Vince could come back into the side after spending some time in the VFL.

The Bulldogs could have their superstar midfielder Jack Macrae back in the team this week.

Injury Watch: Aaron Naughton (Bulldogs) is in some doubt with an ankle injury and will have to pass a fitness test before being names this week.

Prediction: The Bulldogs have been very brave over the last few weeks but they don’t have a great record at the MCG and Melbourne need to get some more wins on the board. Melbourne by 25 points

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Gold Coast vs Essendon

Metricon Stadium, 7:25pm Saturday July 14

Team news: The Bombers will lose Jake Stringer and Patrick Ambrose this week but have options to replace them with Aaron Francis and Darcy Parish knocking on the door in the VFL. Essendon are also hopeful to have Orazio Fantasia back but won’t push him in to face Gold Coast.

Injury Watch: Suns co-captain Stephen May is suffering from a slight hip problem but should be fine to play this weekend. Pearce Hanley could come back into the NEAFL this weekend too.

Prediction: Essendon’s finals chances seem to be as good as over but they are hoping to keep playing well to gain momentum into next year. Essendon by 37 points

 

GWS vs Richmond

Spotless Stadium, 7:25pm Saturday July 14

Team news: There is a slight chance that the Giants could bring Toby Greene and Brett Deledio in to face Richmond.

The Tigers will lose Jack Graham, Nathan Broad and Dan Butler but Nick Vlastuin will return from suspension.

Injury watch: Harry Perryman (GWS) will miss a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury.

Prediction: The inclusion of Greene and Deledio would be significant for the Giants but it is very hard to tip against the Tigers at the moment. Richmond by four points

 

Collingwood vs West Coast

MCG, 1:10pm Sunday July 15

Team news: Collingwood will have Travis Varcoe and possibly Darcy Moore back into the team this weekend but Flynn Appleby will go out with a hamstring injury and Will Hoskin-Elliot is a 50-50.

The Eagles are hoping to have Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling, Mark LeCras and Tom Barrass all back into the team this weekend.

Injury watch: Big watch for the Pies this week as Alex Fasolo, Jamie Elliot, James Aish and Jarryd Blair are all chances to play VFL this weekend.

Prediction: A season defining clash between the second and third teams on the ladder. West Coast could have some big ins but there are still questions around them at the MCG. Collingwood by 13 points.

 

North Melbourne vs Sydney

Etihad Stadium, 3:20pm Sunday July 15

Team news: North Melbourne lose Cameron Zurhaar who broke his ankle against Gold Coast last week.

Sydney lose Jarrad McVeigh, Dan Hannebery and possibly Kieran Jack but should gain Isaac Heeney, Tom Papley and Gary Rohan.

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Injury watch: Zurhaar is unlikely to play for the Kangaroos again this season but they are expecting to have Jarrad Waite back in a month.

Prediction: A massive danger game for Sydney that will be easier to predict once the teams come out. But if North can beat Sydney in Sydney, than they have every chance to do in Melbourne as well. North Melbourne by 8 points.

 

Fremantle vs Port Adelaide

Optus Stadium, 2:40pm Sunday July 15

Team news: The Power lose key defender Tom Jonas again but they could have Jasper Pittard back.

Injury watch: Troubled Docker Harley Bennell is edging closer each week to returning to AFL footy.

Port Adelaide will be without Jonas for four to six weeks.

Prediction: No Nat Fyfe and Aaron Sandilands make things very difficult for the Dockers. Port Adelaide by 34 points.

 

Point to prove:

Collingwood. Over the last month, people have started considering Collingwood as a threat to Richmond’s bid for back to back premierships but they are yet to beat any other top eight team apart from Melbourne.

This weekend they face West Coast who are also vying for the second spot on the ladder and have been fancied as a premiership contender, but they have been without their star forwards for the last month and are desperate for a big win.

Whoever wins this match will finish the round in the top two, and with  a tough run home, the Pies need to prove once and for all that they are genuinely a top four team.

 

Struggle street:

Essendon and umpires. The Bombers have had a shocking few weeks with free kick numbers and this week the club approached the umpires coach Hayden Kennedy for a discussion on the issue.

Over the last three weeks Essendon have beaten West Coast and North Melbourne and lost to Collingwood. The total free kicks in those three weeks sits at 80 to 45 in favour of the Bombers’ opposition.

You can’t argue that free kicks determine the winners and losers of games but you can argue that they swing momentum and momentum is a huge thing in sport, especially in tight matches.

 

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