Round 8 Preview
Updated: Jul 24
What the hell are we all going to do on July 28? That's the only day without footy for the next five rounds of football...amazing!
Spare a thought for websites who like doing reviews and previews for each game in each round, because this could get ugly. We will try our best to whip up a few thoughts on every game, and focus on the ones where we really have something to say.
It's definitely an interesting time where the fittest and strongest will survive, and the strategy of resting players or taking the foot off the pedal when the game is in your hands will be super important in the long run.
A quick word of advice for anyone still in their footy tipping competition: submit your selections up to Round 12 if you can, since that little insurance policy could ultimately help you out if you randomly forget to post your tips on a strange day like Monday (the start of Round 10) or even Saturday afternoon (the start of Round 11).
Let's take a look at tomorrow's game and then wait for team selection before tackling the rest - come back here on Friday for all our thoughts on Round 8.
Gold Coast v Western Bulldogs
Great to see the Suns hit prime time - remarkably it will mark the first time they've ever played a game away from a Saturday or Sunday.
Both teams come off a win here, having been disappointing the week before. Clearly the Bulldogs were more convincing in Round 7, but they did find a decimated Essendon side who were due to put in a shocker.
In theory the Bulldogs are just a step above the Suns across the board - their age profile is very similar if you look at the 22 from Round 7 (both averaged between 24 and 25 years of age last week) and the average games experience isn't far off either (85 vs 78), yet most would back the likes of English, Macrae, Liberatore, Bontempelli and Smith to get the job done against Witts, Greenwood, Miller, Swallow and Weller.
The key might be the Dogs' ability to mark the ball inside 50, and the Suns ability to stop them doing so. In three of the past four matches, the Bulldogs have managed double-digit forward 50 marks, and only 7 when they were well and truly beaten by Carlton in Round 6.
In contrast, the 4-3 Suns have conceded 38 marks inside 50 in their losses, and only 24 in their four wins. Telling.
As much as we traditionally see the Bulldogs as a small, quick running side, they still need their talls to pose a threat and the numbers back it up for both sides. This could be where the game is won or lost - we know the Suns have some marking power down back (#1 for intercept marks in their defensive half this season), but are they vulnerable when the opposition is a lot more careful in their delivery?
Keep an eye on the rain radar, though - looks like a wet weekend up in Queensland, making things difficult for anyone to have a high volume of marks up forward. Still, it puts a premium on decent ball movement regardless, so even with a slippery deck the offensive delivery remains critical.
If the Dogs are measured enough going inside 50, they should have the Suns covered in this one.
Pick: Bulldogs by 15 points
GWS v Richmond
The Grand Final rematch (where there is no such thing as "revenge", of course). Hugely important game though. Can GWS respond?
Just get the feeling it's now or never for the Giants, and they are likely to play that way. The Tigers will always be dangerous given the depth of their list and the quality still up forward, meaning they are still well and truly capable of posting a winning score.
But this is the chance for GWS to take advantage of a weakened Tigers outfit and get back on track.
Pick: Giants by 13
North Melbourne v Carlton
North need to respond here or risk becoming totally irrelevant this season (if they aren't already). Carlton might not have been as convincing as people may think last week judging by the expected score figures, so is this the chance for North Melbourne to somehow find a way?
The way the Blues are playing it's hard to see them dropping this one, but stranger things have happened...
Pick: Carlton by 17
Sydney v Hawthorn
Wow. Two teams who have become very hard to watch face off against each other. Surely Hawthorn have far too much class against a team who won't try to run them off their legs like Melbourne did last week.
Pick: Hawthorn by 22
Port Adelaide v St Kilda
Port will have the luxury of the crowd behind them as the Saints travel back to Adelaide from Queensland for the second week running.
This is a much harder test than the winless Crows, of course, but they do have some small forward weapons that could give the Power a bit of trouble. In saying that, Port should have them covered here.
Pick: Port Adelaide by 24
Adelaide v Essendon
The Crows get another chance to notch up their first win against the absolutely crippled Bombers. They showed some positive signs last week with a roaring crowd behind them, but they really need to get more value out of their midfielders when they have ball in hand.
In short, a Crows win wouldn't shock given how much the depth of the Bombers has been tested, particularly up forward.
The loss of Hooker probably won't be felt as much given the Crows don't have a lot of talls up forward, but it does deprive them of the chance to move him forward as we've been crying out for the last few weeks.
Bellchambers replaces Phillips, and we will watch with interest to see how he goes first up off a reasonable break. Francis is among the inclusions as well - does he land at full forward, or will we see Hurley move up the other end?
While it doesn't seem like it on the surface, this will be a fascinating game. The Bombers will find themselves very nervous if the Crows get off to a strong start and gain some confidence. Bomber fans around the country are holding their breath...
Pick: Essendon by 2
West Coast v Collingwood
Still backing in the Magpies until they give us a reason not to. The Eagles have had a dream draw and they are back at home, but Collingwood have enough weapons all over the field to take care of West Coast and put them back in their place.
Pick: Collingwood by 8
Melbourne v Brisbane
Do the Demons give Brisbane something a little different than they've faced so far?
When you look at it:
R1 v Hawthorn: The Lions probably didn't really come to play that day, but the Hawks are slow and methodical
R2 v Fremantle: Not a great deal of speed and fair to say in a rebuilding phase
R3 v West Coast: A team who feeds off their uncontested mark game
R4 v Adelaide: One of the slower teams in the competition, if not the slowest
R5 v Port Adelaide: Probably the closest to Melbourne in terms of their ability to run and carry from their defensive half to score. Rely more on their marking power up forward more than the Demons
R6 v Geelong: Clearly a team who likes to build slowly from their defensive half
R7 v GWS: Another side who favours their marking power up forward than their ground level game, generally.
So the Demons bring a different sort of flair and offence than the Lions have seen so far this season, one that could stretch them if Melbourne can manage to execute well enough. If they turn it over, however, the Lions are just as good at punishing teams from their back half as anyone.
The Lions won't get it all their own way here, so it may come down to which side can be slick enough with the ball and hit their targets (including taking their chances in front of the big sticks!)
Going out on a limb and picking the upset here. Could end up with egg on the face, but we can't be scared of monsters in the closet.
Pick: Melbourne by 3
Fremantle v Geelong
The Dockers showed a little bit last week (how good was Taberner!) but surely the Cats are a cut above a team that struggles to score. Remember that prior to their clash against Collingwood in Round 7, the Cats were the number 1 offensive team in the comp.
It's simply a case of no matter what score the Dockers manage, the Cats will find a way to post a bigger one.
Pick: Geelong by 28
Round 8 Burning Question:
What is the right strategy for a condensed fixture block?
As soon as the super-charged block of footy was announced, everyone started to think about how the teams would handle a condense fixture.
Are you better off playing the weaker sides off a four-day break or the stronger ones? Should you rest a whole chunk of players in a game you should still win, or balance team selection to ensure you've still got a strong enough lineup to compete no matter your opposition?
Now that there is a clear gap between the stronger and weaker teams (admittedly with a traffic jam of sides stuck in the middle), we will surely see a few games targeted for the stars to have a rest.
The upside is we should see plenty more debutants (we've been blessed with the debut games this year - think Rankine, Weightman, Frederick, etc) and a lot more enthusiastic depth players who are desperate for a game of footy.
And this is where the match committee will earn their dough - timing some rest for the stars whilst still maintaining team balance and competitiveness is an art in itself.
That's why they pay them the big bucks...