The bye rounds are finally over for another year and Round 16 is shaping up as a week that will have massive repercussions for the top eight. With critical clashes between Brisbane and Richmond, Sydney and Geelong, Essendon and Port Adelaide, and the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle, it's shaping up to be an exciting round.
Essendon vs Port Adelaide on Saturday night poses as an interesting one, with Essendon coming off a loss to Fremantle and Port Adelaide coming off the bye. Essendon have the advantage of playing at the MCG and with the Power coming off the bye, who knows what the result will be. Could this be the week that their winning streak is finally broken? Essendon will also be stirred on by the potential of landing a place within the top four.
There are no surprises that the September specialists in Geelong have started to mount a case for finals, sending a warning to the competition with their win over Melbourne last week despite not having Jeremy Cameron for most of the contest or Patrick Dangerfield. With key players to come back over the coming weeks, everyone should be watching out for Geelong.
It's going to be a big weekend of footy and these are the five players to focus on for this weekend.
Tanner Bruhn has been a revelation since Geelong picked him up from GWS at the end of last season, demonstrating that he is the future of Geelong's midfield. Bruhn played his best game for Geelong against Melbourne last week, showing that he is able to perform against one of the best midfields in the league. Bruhn finished the game with 19 disposals, four marks, six clearances and two goals to rank in Geelong's best.
Geelong will come up against the Swans at the SCG on Friday night, a venue which they have not won at since 2020. The Swans are coming off a historic win against West Coast and will have the home-ground advantage, but Geelong is quietly mounting a case for a spot in the top eight. Bruhn missed Geelong's 93-point victory over the Swans at GMHBA Stadium earlier this year but will add some extra power around the ball in the middle.
Whilst he is only 21, Bruhn's ability to stand up in the big moments has been showcased this season and will no doubt be required again on Friday night. With Sydney's defence still missing pivotal players, Bruhn will be able to pounce on the opportunity and kick a goal, particularly in Geelong's absence of Jeremy Cameron.
Nobody would've thought Jordan Dawson would've had the impact that he has at the Crows since crossing from the Sydney Swans at the end of the 2021 season. However, Dawson finds himself as Adelaide's captain in just his second year at the club. Whilst his leadership has been vital in the Crows' rise up the ladder this year to put forward a case for 2023's best captain, he continues to string together a career-best season.
Whilst he did not get to celebrate his 100th game last weekend, he put on a career-best performance to finish with 35 disposals, 12 tackles, and nine score involvements to be Adelaide's best and earn himself nine coaches votes.
The Crows will be back on home turf this weekend, hosting the struggling North Melbourne at Adelaide Oval. However, coach Matthew Nicks admitted during the week that the team was 'hurting' after a second heartbreaking loss to Collingwood this season. Dawson must ensure that his team is ready to go this weekend and move on from the loss otherwise they may find North Melbourne pull off one of the upsets of the season.
No surprises who got the votes this week 🤩#weflyasone
— Adelaide Crows (@Adelaide_FC) June 26, 2023
Hopper has not lived up to the standards that Richmond fans would have anticipated when he crossed from GWS at the end of last season. A calf injury has meant that he has only managed to play eight games for the season, having been out of Richmond's side since Round 9. Hopper will come into the side for Dion Prestia to face Brisbane on Thursday night and will have to be at his best against a midfield that includes the likes of Josh Dunkley, Will Ashcroft and Lachie Neale.
Hopper has shown glimpses of his best, particularly in Richmond's loss to Sydney in Round 5 where he finished the game with 32 disposals, five marks, and five tackles. In Richmond's win over West Coast, he produced another strong performance with 32 disposals, six tackles, and a goal.
Fingers crossed that Hopper gets through the game unscathed and gets back to playing his best footy after an injury-interrupted last two seasons.
Essendon finished the game last weekend without a multiple goalkicker, with their inability to find a source going inside 50 ultimately responsible for their 32-point loss to Fremantle. The Bombers face a tough opponent in Port Adelaide this weekend and will have to score if they are to win. Luckily for the Bombers, the Power are coming off the bye going into this game and given the way results have gone, the statistics would suggest Essendon is better placed to win this game.
If they are to do so, 'two-metre Peter' will have to have his kicking boots on. After a dominant return to AFL in Round 13, kicking a five-goal haul, Wright was nowhere to be seen last weekend, finishing the game with no score to his name following two shots on goal. Wright won't go goalless for long, only finishing a game without a goal four times last season. One of those goalless games was against Port Adelaide and Wright will no doubt be looking to make amends against them this weekend.
Wright performs well at the MCG, and Saturday night should be no exception.
Fremantle will come up against the Western Bulldogs and former teammate Rory Lobb for the second time this season. Hopefully, the Dockers will have learnt from the last encounter where they focused more on Lobb than the actual game, resulting in a 49-point loss.
Pearce was one of those players, starting a scuffle with Lobb before the game had even started. Players were so occupied with Lobb at one stage during that game that Adam Treloar was able to mark a missed set shot and convert a goal.
When the two sides meet on Saturday afternoon, Pearce will need to lead by example as captain and ensure his side focuses on the ball and the match at hand. Win this game, and Fremantle could sit inside the top eight depending on other results. Lose this game and it'll make it a lot harder to reach finals this season.
This matchup is potentially one we could see in an elimination final come September and with both teams producing mixed results each week, Pearce must get his team on the front foot.