Every round of footy is becoming more important, and Round 18 is no exception.
It's looking to be one of the most exciting rounds that we've had for a while, with season-defining clashes galore. Swans vs Bulldogs, Carlton vs Port Adelaide, Melbourne vs Brisbane and Geelong vs Essendon will have big repercussions for the shape of the eight, whilst games such as Adelaide vs GWS will more than likely rule one of those sides out of finals contention.
There are so many talking points leading into this round: How will the Suns perform without Stuart Dew? Will Brisbane succumb to their MCG hoodoo? Do Carlton have a chance to break Port Adelaide's 13-game win streak?
As cliché as it sounds, it means it is time for other players to have their moment, particularly those in clubs where the selection squeeze is on ahead of finals.
Here are the five players we've named to focus on this weekend.
Collingwood coach Craig McRae has declared Daniel McStay will return this weekend for the first time since injuring his finger during Collingwood's Gather Round match in Round 5. McStay's comeback has been delayed by an infection to the injured finger and illness, but he is a welcome inclusion up forward against Fremantle this weekend.
Prior to injury, McStay had been used as a fill-in ruckman for Collingwood as Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox were out of the side with their own injury battles. However, McStay's marking ability up forward is what the Pies brought him in for. McStay's Round 3 game against Richmond saw him accumulate 16 disposals, five marks, three tackles, and a goal.
With Fremantle defender Brennan Cox to miss this weekend's clash, McStay should be able to capitalise and get himself into the game. Still, it could well be a slow start for him, particularly after he only managed five disposals, one mark, and a behind upon VFL return.
Last weekend, Gunston returned to the side and to form with a bang, a gruelling four-week training block appearing to be exactly what he needed. Gunston was everywhere against the Eagles, kicking six goals to help his side to an 81-point win.
This weekend, Gunston faces a harder test in Melbourne at the MCG, a perfect opportunity to play on the 'G leading into September. However, Brisbane does not have a pretty record at the venue, with a 19-1-64 ledger from 84 games there.
Intriguingly, the Lions play particularly poorly when facing Melbourne at the MCG, with a 4-15 win-loss record. However, they'll be looking to replicate their semi final efforts from last season, where they beat Melbourne by 13 points to advance to the prelim finals.
Gunston knows the MCG better than anyone in his team, having played 11 seasons for the Hawks. Yet, the premiership-winning forward has failed to perform against Melbourne in recent times, having been held goalless during his last two outings with the Redlegs.
This weekend as he continues his return to form, he'll be a pivotal cog if Brisbane is to have their 20th win at the 'G.
Essendon currently sit in fifth spot and a win over Geelong would see them in top-four contention. A loss, however, could see them outside of the eight by the end of the weekend, depending on the way other games go.
Merrett has been enjoying career-best form this season, averaging 29.3 disposals, 5.1 marks, and 5.3 tackles. Had he not been suspended for a dangerous tackle in Round 5, he would be well amongst the Brownlow Medal talk, with AFL Media's Brownlow Predictor currently placing him in seventh.
Essendon suffered a 28-point loss to Geelong in Round 7, in what was statistically ranked as Merrett's second-worst game for the season, finishing with 19 disposals, seven tackles, and a mark. Merett's last three weeks have been some of the best games he's played across his career and it would be expected that his strong form continues this weekend.
Former Adelaide captain Rory Sloane will play game 250 this weekend in front of a home crowd at the Adelaide Oval. Sloane only managed four games last season after suffering an ACL injury but has played every game this season as the Crows hunt for a place in the finals.
The former skipper has been averaging 19.8 disposals, five tackles, and 3.9 clearances this season, playing consistent footy week in, week out. Against North Melbourne in Round 16, Sloane notched up his best performance of the season with 30 disposals, seven marks, and five tackles to be named amongst the best and earn himself a coaches' vote.
The Crows' suffered a tough loss against Essendon last weekend and now sit precariously in ninth spot on the ladder. No doubt they will be hoping to return to winning ways against GWS on Saturday night and celebrate Sloane in style.
Carlton is seemingly back in the finals race, having won three in a row. However, they face one of footy's toughest challenges when they host Port Adelaide at Marvel on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues' form is tidy, though, with their 53-point victory over Fremantle in Perth last weekend was highly impressive, and nobody performed better than forward Harry McKay.
McKay's struggles this season have been well documented, however, the tides have turned recently, with McKay being ranked Carlton's best player the last two weeks. Against Fremantle, McKay had 3.2 but his ability to play defensively was lauded- having 20 disposals, eight marks and three tackles.
McKay will challenge the Power defenders in Aliir Aliir and Dan Houston this weekend, but if Carlton is any chance at breaking Port's 13-game win streak, then McKay must replicate the impressive performance that he put on last weekend. Carlton isn't as likely to lose this game as we may think, particularly with it being held at Marvel.