AFL Round 5 Preview: Mixed fixtures and defining contests

The competition is still reeling after some mid-week blows. In the past few days alone, the fixture for the weekend has been changed and Australian state governments have threatened to block Victorian teams from travelling interstate for games. To top it off, COVID breaches are popping up like spot fires. It’s safe to say everyone needs the weekend of footy to kick off to distract us all from the administrative issues.


Carlton v St Kilda

Thursday 7.40PM

Marvel Stadium


Originally meant to be pushed back to the latter stages of the round, St Kilda and Carlton are now rewarded for their recent strong form. Both are coming off wins that bolster hopes for the season ahead; another win tonight will inspire long-suffering fans that greener pastures are on the horizon.


Will Carlton’s new bunch of improved players continue to flourish?


In the early stages of the 2020 season, it was the recruits in Jack Martin and Eddie Betts who were at the forefront of supporters’ minds. Fast forward a few rounds and it is a crop of established Blues who are leading David Teague’s men up the ladder.


David Cuningham, Mitch McGovern, Levi Casboult, Michael Gibbons and Jacob Weitering have all been key players in the club’s past two victories. Cuningham and Gibbons have warmed up in the midfield, becoming important contested ball winners and helping Patrick Cripps out in the centre. McGovern and Casboult have finally come good to create a tantalising attacking six, while Weitering is blossoming into one of the competition’s best key defenders. If the Blues are to make it three straight wins, this core group need to continue tracking upwards in their development.


Can someone stop Dan Butler?


Just a year ago Richmond were content to let Dan Butler walk out. Believing in their overwhelming stock of emerging small forwards, the new Saint has made his old club pay in 2020.


After booting bags of goals against both the Bulldogs and the Pies, Butler saved his best for his former side. Three goals and some magical touches up forward sparked the Saints’ upset win, and has him firmly sitting within the current All-Australian side. No small defender has been able to stop him yet – can Carlton finally be the side to curb his influence?


Tip: Expect this match to go down to the wire for Carlton’s third successive match. They will continue to improve, but St Kilda should be too good when it counts. Saints by 9.



Collingwood v Essendon

Friday 7.50PM



Collingwood and Essendon matches are always intense contests. Throw in some MRP trouble, a week of COVID controversy and two heartbreaking losses the previous round, and this should make for a cracker. Both sides will be going in undermanned but raring to win. It deserves a crowd of 90,000, as it doesn’t get any more important than this.


Can Collingwood plug the Howe hole?


The Magpies would have been shattered about stumbling in the final quarter against GWS last week, but the biggest loss from last Friday was the knee injury to Jeremy Howe. He was arguably Collingwood’s most in-form player, and filled an irreplaceable role intercepting across half-back. With Howe gone for the season, Nathan Buckley must find a suitable replacement.


It looks like Jack Madgen will be given first crack ahead of Matthew Scharenberg, Tom Langdon, Lynden Dunn and young Irish prospect Mark Keane. He has not been a great intercept player so far, so expect him (if selected) to free up Darcy Moore to play a more attacking game.


Will Essendon’s Merrett-less midfield hold their own?


Losing Zach Merrett was always going to hurt the Bombers. It stings a bit more that his absence occurs against a Collingwood midfield that sits as one of the league’s best. Although the Pies will be without star Steele Sidebottom, they still have enough firepower to scare Essendon.


John Worsfold will be looking to the likes of Jake Stringer, Darcy Parish, Andrew McGrath and Dylan Shiel to fill Merrett’s shoes. They will all need to be at their best if they are to shark Brodie Grundy’s taps and win enough of the ball in the middle to feed their forwards.


Tip: This could be a sloppy one, especially if the MCG is coated with dew and moisture. Essendon will always provide a contest, but they may struggle to go with the Pies for four quarters unless they pull out a blinder. Collingwood by 20.



West Coast v Sydney

Saturday 1.45PM

Metricon Stadium


The Eagles will feel a slight bit more confident after their crunch-clash with the Tigers was rescheduled due to COVID restrictions. Instead, they’ll face the travelling Swans in a must-win match if they are to climb back into finals contention. Sydney, after eight days of rest, should give a better showing then their dismal effort against the Bulldogs last round.


The spotlight is on Jack Darling and Tim Kelly


There have been many poor performers in West Coast’s stuttering start to 2020. The 2018 premiers began the year as one of the flag favourites. Now, they need a win this week to avoid being wiped out of finals contention.


Two stars who have played well under expectations are Jack Darling and Tim Kelly. The former has barely kicked a goal or influenced a contest up forward, while Kelly is yet to settle into his new club and become productive in the midfield. With established players in Luke Shuey and Josh Kennedy starting to improve, Darling and Kelly joining in on the party would go a long way towards West Coast rediscovering some form.


Will Papley be a consistent force in the race for the Coleman Medal?


Tom Papley has gotten off to a terrific start in 2020. After trade table talk centred around a potential move to Carlton failed to gain legs, the small forward has hit the ground running for the Swans.


His peak came last week, where his four clever goals kept his side in the contest. With Lance Franklin and Sam Reid still out injured, the Swans are relying on Papley to take one of the opposition’s best defenders and run them ragged. To kick a winning score, Papley needs to be at his dominant best. If he keeps slotting goals, he could be an outsider for the Coleman Medal too.


Tip: This could go either way. It’s an incredibly hard game to tip, as both teams are unpredictable. Sydney could pull one out of the box, but West Coast are overdue for a win. Eagles by 15.



Geelong v Gold Coast

Saturday 4.35PM

GMHBA Stadium


This is Gold Coast’s big test. After a barnstorming few weeks, Gold Coast’s young stars now must prove themselves against Geelong’s famous milestone men down at GMHBA Stadium. Far from Metricon Stadium, the Suns will need to be at their best if they are to cause an upset.


Can the Cats overcome their rustiness?


It’s a significant weekend for Geelong.


Both Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett Jnr celebrate massive games milestones. The premiership players will be looking for a memorable win. To do so, they must overcome their proteges.


Selwood and Ablett need Patrick Dangerfield, as well as emerging stars in Cam Guthrie, Sam Menegola and Brandan Parfitt to get busy in the centre. Harry Taylor could be a welcome inclusion down back to counter Ben King and Sam Day, while Tom Hawkins needs to kick a bag. Following a sloppy win over the Dees, it’s time for Geelong to make a statement.


Are Rowell and Anderson as good as they’ve been built up to be?


The Gold Coast recruits have gained a fair bit of media time. Matt Rowell could have the Rising Star in the bag by Round 10, and maybe a first season Brownlow Medal if he keeps performing at this level. He has been the Suns’ best player in the middle, and will be gunning for a fourth straight best on ground effort against the Cats.


Alongside his buddy Noah Anderson, the pair have created a deadly midfield combo. Experienced hands in Touk Miller, David Swallow, Hugh Greenwood and Brandon Ellis watch on ready to provide assistance, but Rowell and Anderson are the keys to unleashing the next generation on the ageing Cats.


Tip: This all depends on which Geelong rocks up. If they warm to their home ground and take control early, then they should win. If they are slightly off, then the Suns are in good enough form to pounce. Cats by 29.



Western Bulldogs v North Melbourne

Saturday 7.40PM

Marvel Stadium


Both sides will go into this match-up intent on a brutal win. The two teams base their games on crash-and-bash contested footy, and won’t hold back. The Bulldogs can move further up the ladder and towards finals footy if they secure a third straight win, while North Melbourne need to follow on from their amazing last quarter on Sunday to build momentum.


Who will step up in the Bulldogs’ forward line?


The Bulldogs have been hit by injury in their attacking six. Aaron Naughton won’t be back anytime soon, and Sam Lloyd could miss this game after hurting himself against Sydney. Luke Beveridge will need to find scoring options fast, and a few choices could arise from the midfield.


Marcus Bontempelli has the potential to wreak havoc while resting forward. Mitch Wallis and Josh Bruce are due to come good and snag a few majors. If Tim English gets a minute up forward he could take a few towering marks. If push comes to shove, Zaine Cordy may be thrown forward in an attempt to get the scoreboard going. It’ll be a tough slog, but the Dogs need some scorers to pop up.


It’s time for Brown and Zurhaar to come good


If the Roos had unleashed their burst of scintillating attacking footy earlier last Sunday, they would have beaten the Hawks in the final moments.


The spotlight is on Ben Brown, who didn’t touch the ball until three quarter time last week. He has had a poor start to 2020 – some goals are desperately needed to inspire some confidence in the power forward. Cam Zurhaar’s influence has been quelled after his strong showing against the Giants. After a few quiet weeks, he must come to the fore and unleash his inner pressure beast.


Tip: Both teams play a similar style, so it’ll all come down to who’s in better form. The Bulldogs will have a hard time scoring, but North’s forwards won’t win unless they improve. Dogs by 13.



Brisbane v Port Adelaide

Saturday 7.40PM

The Gabba


This could well be the game of the round.


The Power and the Lions are the top two teams so far this season. Port Adelaide are still undefeated, but their record will come under trouble when they play Brisbane on the Lions’ home deck.


Will the Lions rectify their waywardness?


Brisbane could have scampered away to a massive win against the Crows last week. They were all over the last-placed side, but unfortunately, they kept missing when it came to converting shots at goal.


Lachie Neale and Alex Witherden were the chief players to miscue their shots. With Brisbane generating many scoring attempts from their midfield, the pair must be on target if they are to put pressure on the Power early and snatch a win. They are good enough – it all comes down to execution.


Who wins – big Charlie or reliable Harris?


This is the biggest clash on the ground. Charlie Dixon is in serious form, and is the best tall forward this season. He comes off six goals and will now line up against Harris Andrews, who is one of the leading tall defenders.


Both are in good touch, meaning this match-up should be mesmerising. Whoever comes out on top in this battle will be instrumental in determining who wins.


Tip: Splitting hairs on this one. Port are good enough to continue their streak, especially if Dixon is on fire. But Brisbane at home is a more trustworthy tip, so I’ll play it safe. Lions by 9.



Adelaide v Fremantle

Sunday 1.05PM

Metricon Stadium


It may be a snooze-fest for the rest of the competition, but this game is vitally important for both teams. The loser will be confined to the bottom of the ladder and without any points – it’ll be a long way back from there. The winner can build some momentum and hit the rest of the season with a tad more confidence.


Was last week’s third quarter a sign of things to come for Adelaide?


The Crows were facing trouble at half time last week. A sparkling third term, headlined by Taylor Walker’s two goals and two assists, got them right back into the game against one of the league’s best teams.


Adelaide’s veterans are critical to correcting the ship. It’ll be intriguing to see whether Bryce Gibbs, Matt Crouch and Paul Seedsman will be recalled. If so, it could go either way – they may settle the younger players and lead the Crows over the line, or they may be too out of touch to perform. Walker and Tom Lynch need to produce up forward if the Crows are to turn the corner.


Will Freo finally get lucky?


The Dockers will be without their best player in dual Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe. His hamstring injury will rule him out – the Dockers must produce something special if they are to finally win without him.


Fremantle have been within striking distance in every game they’ve played – multiple losses have been by single-digit margins. They are on the precipice of winning and leaping up the ladder; they must win here if they are to improve.


Tip: With Fyfe out and Sloane under an injury cloud, this match is wildly unpredictable. It all depends on which out-of-form players turn up. The Crows are a big chance to break their drought, but the Dockers deserve a win. Freo by 10.



Melbourne v Richmond

Sunday 3.35PM



Sunday’s match is a season defining clash if ever 2020 has seen one. Richmond have to win at the ‘G or else they are in serious trouble of missing the finals. Melbourne need to get a victory to stay away from the bottom four and keep the pressure off Simon Goodwin.


Are Brayshaw and Viney back?


In Melbourne’s slide down the ladder following their 2018 finals run, Max Gawn, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver have been constantly handy. They have done a lot of heavy lifting – now Angus Brayshaw and Jack Viney are starting to join the party.


Richmond will bounce back with a vengeance – the Demons midfield needs to be at their best if they are to beat a desperate Tigers centre group. Brayshaw’s two goals nearly got his side over the line last week, while Viney is regaining his status as a bull at centre bounces. They must give a good showing for the Dees to get up. They’re certainly good enough to win, but they yearn for an even showing.


When will Dusty and Riewoldt arrest their slump?


Premiership heroes Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt have been key villains in Richmond’s horror start to 2020. The pair have struggled to get the ball and dominate games like they are so used to doing.


For the Tigers to rejuvenate their season, Dusty and Jack need to find their feet quickly. They are leaders who have climbed the premiership mountain – it’s simply not good enough if they underperform for another week.


Tip: Melbourne will have plenty to fight for and will continue to improve. But this week’s not their time – Tigers by 30.


GWS v Hawthorn

Sunday 6.10PM

Giants’ Stadium


An interesting match finishes off Round 5. GWS will be buoyed by last week’s gritty win over the Pies. Back at their home track, they have the chance to score a second win and fly up the ladder. Hawthorn were lucky to beat the Roos – a win here would convincingly set them up for 2020.


Is Toby Greene headed for a career-best season?


The notorious GWS star shot back into AFL stardom with a match-winning display against Collingwood. Toby Greene’s three goals were the difference, and he beat one of the league’s best defenders in Brayden Maynard.


His impact is required again. Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson will have plotted against the Giants to stem their running game. They’ll need star power to overcome the disciplined Hawks. Greene is the primary candidate to break out of Clarkson’s grip and win the Giants the match.


McEvoy and Sicily can claim a big scalp


Ben McEvoy may have had a slow start as a tall back, but he has now flourished at centre half-back. Combining with James Sicily, the pair have destroyed the likes of Ben Brown, Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch in the past weeks.


The Hawthorn pair have a big task ahead in nullifying Jeremy Cameron and Jeremy Finlayson. Cameron is just starting to find his Coleman Medal-winning touch, and Finlayson has been consistently good all season. McEvoy must perform well for a third straight week, and needs Sicily to help him out if the Hawks are to stop GWS’ main goal-scoring sources and leave New South Wales with a win.


Tip: GWS look in better touch and ready to win again at home. But something about Clarkson, even when his team is out of form, has the air of an upset. He did it twice last year against the Giants, and he might just do it again here. Who knows? Hawks by 19.


This piece is also published on Sean’s personal sports writing website ‘Stuck on the Bench’, which can be found here.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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