Sydney have been accused of “falling asleep” in matches this season.
Plus can Richmond sort their tackling woes? And will North Melbourne end its “eyebrow raising” Ben McKay move?
Every club’s burning question ahead of Round 17, as well as the commentators for every Fox Footy game and Fox Footy Podcast Cups in our ultimate weekly preview: The Blowtorch!
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AFL ROUND 17 FIXTURE (All times AEST)
GEELONG v MELBOURNE (Tom Gillies Cup)
Thursday, July 7, 7:20pm at GMHBA Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 6.30pm, with Sarah Jones, Jason Dunstall, David King, Jordan Lewis, Brad Johnson and Jon Ralph.
Cats’ burning question: Does Geelong hold any mental scars from last year’s prelim thrashing?
Fox Footy’s Nick Riewoldt admits not much has changed for Geelong personnel-wise this season. But after the shock 83-point preliminary final defeat at the hands of eventual premiers Melbourne in Perth, Cats coach Chris Scott came up with a new game style that he is determined to stick to in 2022. And it’s a game plan that makes Geelong a completely different prospect in 2022, after “insulating” themselves from inside 50s in 2021, they are now standing tall in defence and able to absorb pressure. “We’ve seen home and away Geelong … there might be a feeling we’ve seen this movie before – but this ain’t that. Geelong have changed, fundamentally, both sides of the ball,” Riewoldt praised. “They are holding up much better than they have in previous years.” The Cats are now ranked third in the competition for opposition scores per inside 50 in 2022, after finishing 10th in 2021. Fox Footy’s Nathan Buckley praised three key players for the Cats’ change in fortunes – new recruit Tyson Stengle, the man in the “form of his career” Jeremy Cameron, and “exceptional” youngster Sam de Koning who has taken his game to a new level in defence.
Demons’ burning question: What to do with Oliver if Cats opt for tag?
Last weekend Melbourne opted to use star Christian Petracca as a floating forward at times, and he rewarded them with three goals – the first time he’s achieved the feat since Round 17, 2021. While Nathan Buckley believes Petracca has a higher “hurt factor” than teammate Clayton Oliver, the former Pies mentor says Oliver’s consistency makes him a very dangerous proposition for opposition teams. Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon questioned what teams did to count Oliver’s remarkable run of form. “Do you allow him to play on his own terms? Or do you send someone to him?” The last time a team employed a hard tag was the Giants back in Round 3, 2021. Matt de Boer held Oliver to 23 disposals, six clearances and five score involvements. The following week against the Cats, Mark O’Connor struggled to have the same lockdown effect, as Oliver racked up 34 touches, six clearances and 10 score involvements. “I think it’s worth a crack. He’s been so dominant and so consistent, and he sets them up,” Buckley lamented On The Couch. “Oliver just gets it done consistently.”
SYDNEY v WESTERN BULLDOGS (Ed Barlow Cup)
Friday, July 8, 7:50pm at SCG
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 7pm, with Garry Lyon, Jonathan Brown, Nick Riewoldt, Alastair Lynch and Jon Ralph, followed by Fox Footy Live with Ben Dixon, Gerard Healy and Nick Dal Santo.
Swans’ burning question: Can Sydney stop falling asleep in matches?
The Swans have been one of the best teams in patches in 2022. But they’ve also produced some horror runs where their effort has been questioned. In eight of their games this year, Sydney have completely fallen off the wagon, conceding massive goal runs. In Round 6, the Swans conceded the first five goals of the game to Hawthorn before a massive second half fightback. On Round 7, Brisbane put on seven goals to one to start the match. The Swans conceded nine goals to the Blues in the second term of their Round 10 loss. In rounds 11 and 14, the Swans coughed up seven-goal runs to opponents Port Adelaide and Richmond. Against Essendon last weekend, the Swans were accused of “falling asleep” by Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon on two separate occasions, which cost them victory. “They really struggled to get their hands on the ball and it just happened out of nowhere,” Nathan Buckley added. “The game was up for grabs, they looked like they had the game in hand. There’s concern because Sydney are such a good ball-use team, but when you take that away from them, the rest of their game is back in the pack,” Nick Riewoldt added.
Bulldogs’ burning question: Can the Dogs’ win if the match is low scoring?
The Western Bulldogs have shown they have the talent to kick big bags of goals, and really own matches that turn into shoot outs. Against the Giants in Round 14, there was a combined 35 goals kicked as the Dogs got home by 20 points. Statistics show the Dogs are taking the four points when they kick 14 goals or more in a match – winning 7/7 when they hit that goal tally. The only win that has come from below the 14-goal mark is the Round 3 clash with Sydney – where the Dogs finished 9.17 – so they had plenty of opportunity to put the goals on the board. When the Dogs’ attack line is firing, they get results. But against teams who prefer a low-scoring affair, the Bulldogs are sitting winless in 2022. In the seven losses so far this year, they are averaging just under 10 goals a game.
COLLINGWOOD v NORTH MELBOURNE (Ben Davies Cup)
Saturday, July 9, 1:45pm at MCG
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 1pm, with Sarah Jones, Mark Howard, Jonathan Brown, David King and Cameron Mooney.
Magpies’ burning question: Can Collingwood’s best match it with the contenders?
Collingwood head into the clash with last-placed North Melbourne on a stunning six-game winning streak. And their defensive end could be bolstered by both Jeremy Howe’s return and Darcy Moore’s potential remarkable recovery from an injury scare against the Gold Coast Suns. In those six wins, the Magpies have beaten Melbourne, Carlton and Fremantle – three of the teams fighting for a top four berth. But losses against Geelong, Brisbane and Richmond have still left question marks over whether their best can take them to a premiership in 2022. Fox Footy’s Nick Riewoldt believes Collingwood are a genuine contender this season, while praising their consistency. “Their level of performance has hardly waived,” he said. The Pies are just one win and percentage off second spot, and finish their home and away season against Melbourne, Sydney and Carlton.
Kangaroos’ burning question: Where to play Ben McKay?
The decision to send Ben McKay forward in recent weeks has certainly “raised an eyebrow”, according to Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon. Lyon wasn’t sure it was the right move, while Nathan Buckley said he believed “something was amiss”. “This is a man who, I think, took 20+ intercept marks prior to being injured. Against Taylor Walker and Tom Hawkins, they throw him forward,” Lyon mused. Statistics show in McKay’s previous 44 matches, he played forward for 1% of his game time. In the past fortnight, he’s played forward for 84%. “They’ve had 68 inside 50s in the past two weeks – just 25 this week (against Geelong),” Buckley said. “If you want to find out about your tall forwards, you’re not really going to find out a great deal when you’re not giving them the supply to go to work. You haven’t been finding out about what Ben McKay can do in the forward half. There’s got to be something amiss.” Nick Riewoldt called for the Roos to look to Callum Coleman-Jones if they wanted a new-look forward line, instead of shifting a key member of the backline.
GOLD COAST SUNS v RICHMOND (Corey Ellis Cup)
Saturday, July 9, 4:35pm at Metricon Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 4.30pm, with Anthony Hudson, Garry Lyon, Nick Riewoldt and Alastair Lynch.
Suns’ burning question: Is Gold Coast’s finals dream over?
The Suns are yet to break through for an inaugural finals appearance, since joining the competition back in 2011. But after last week’s heartbreaking loss to Collingwood, the Suns’ season could have set once again. Gold Coast are now two wins plus percentage out of the top eight with seven games to go. Back-to-back losses – two points to Port and five points to the Pies – has ensured they need to win at least five, potentially six, of their last seven games. In some good news, four of those games are against sides already out of contention. The remaining three include home games against Richmond this weekend and Geelong in Round 22, while they also face the Lions at the Gabba in Round 19. With Stuart Dew’s re-signing news this week, could it be enough to spark the Suns to a big finals run? After this weekend, it will all become clearer.
Tigers’ burning question: Will Richmond sort their tackling woes?
Teams are taking the Tigers on and getting away with it, in an issue that would be concerning for the club, Nathan Buckley said. Richmond currently sit at just 57% tackle efficiency – their second-worst ever recorded, and are ranked 17th in pre-clearance pressure. “I think it is (an issue), especially for a team that rates themselves as such a high pressure side,” Buckley said On The Couch. “Around the ground they are still putting perceived pressure or corralling pressure, but they aren’t sticking enough tackles.” Garry Lyon said the “broken tackle stuff” needed to be addressed. “Opposition sides have looked at them – they have their tackles broken more than any other team,” he said.
ST KILDA v FREMANTLE (Brett Peake Cup)
Saturday, July 9, 7:25pm at Marvel Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 7.20pm, with Mark Howard, Jonathan Brown, Eddie Betts, Nick Riewoldt and Kath Loughnan, followed by Best on Ground.
Saints’ burning question: Is Max King wasted as a ‘decoy’?
The Saints have been criticised for being too predictable with their entry to Max King, with many opponents able to double team the rising forward star. Last weekend against the Blues, King was spotted leading to the pockets, opening up space for fellow forwards Tim Membrey and Rowan Marshall. Of the first nine inside 50s, the Saints targeted King just once. “He’s happy to be the lower percentage option. He’s creating space for his teammates,” commentator Daisy Pearce praised. The move paid off, with King still able to hit the scoreboard late in the contest. But is the move of King, described as a “decoy” by commentators, the best use for his ability? It’s worth keeping in mind Fremantle’s defenders are the second best in the competition in terms of points conceded.
Dockers’ burning question: What happens if Matt Taberner can’t get his body right?
Fremantle have been crying out for a key forward since now-Australian Hall of Famer Matthew Pavlich retired in 2016 with 353 games to his name, and 700 goals. Taberner has been the man the club turned to, but he’s logged just one injury-free season since his debut in 2013. Already this year, he’s been restricted to just eight games, being substituted off in three of those. When asked directly if Taberner was becoming a “liability” if he couldn’t see out matches, coach Justin Longmuir conceded it was a possibility. “Maybe at some point, but we’re no there yet,” he said. Longmuir confirmed the club wouldn’t take “any risk” with the forward, who has kicked 18 goals in his eight games – including seven against Essendon in Round 5. “It is frustrating for everyone. Like we’ve said all along, we want him back to his best because he s a really important player for us. There’s some glimpses of that on the weekend, so hopefully we’ve dodged a bullet and he does play this week.”
PORT ADELAIDE v GWS GIANTS (Dean Brogan Cup)
Saturday, July 9, 7:30pm at Adelaide Oval
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 503 from 7.30pm, with Dwayne Russell, Dermott Brereton, Leigh Montagna and Mark Ricciuto.
Power’s burning question: When do Port play the kids?
Port Adelaide gallantly fought back from a club-worst 0-5 start to sit in right finals contention, until last week. They now sit two wins and percentage outside the top eight after the thrilling loss to Fremantle in the west. Sadly for Port in 2022, they’ve won just two of seven games where the margin has been less than 12 points. Jase Burgoyne, the son of club great Peter, made his debut last weekend. But will Port continue to roll out the kids, or play veterans like Travis Boak and Robbie Gray? Time will tell.
Giants’ burning question: Does the Clarkson talk become a distraction?
Reports this week that Alastair Clarkson has met with GWS powerbrokers turned into news that the four-time premiership coach was the club’s “number one pick” to get the job for next season. Leon Cameron stepped away from the role in May, with Mark McVeigh leading the Giants to three wins from six matches. But will the Clarkson speculation distract what is happening on the field? The coaching field narrowed this week with news Stuart Dew is staying on at the Gold Coast. The Clarkson chat will not go away, and there’s still seven games to go.
BRISBANE LIONS v ESSENDON (Damian Cupido Cup)
Sunday, July 10, 1:10pm at Gabba
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 1pm, with Anthony Hudson, Kelli Underwood, Jason Dunstall, Brad Johnson, Alastair Lynch and Jon Ralph.
Lions’ burning question: Can anyone stop Brisbane at home?
Excluding finals, the Lions have turned the Gabba into a fortress by winning a whopping 33 of their past 34 matches at home. Brisbane are currently on a 16-game winning streak at the Gabba, making it one of the toughest venues in the nation for visitors. Since Round 5 2019, the Lions have lost just once in the regular season at home – Round 1, 2021 versus Sydney. Finals are a completely different story, with Brisbane losing four of their past five at the Gabba. But with four matches still to come at home in the 2022 home and away season, the Lions are sitting pretty in the run home to the finals.
Bombers’ burning question: Will ‘less is best’ approach to Parish, Merrett roll on?
Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett have been racking up big numbers for the Bombers in season 2022, but they “weren’t getting it done”, according to Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon. Both players have missed in recent weeks due to injury, forcing youngers players like Ben Hobbs and Archie Perkins to step up and fill the void. In the win against the Swans last weekend, both Parish (21) and Merrett (24) had their second fewest disposal matches for the year – but the Bombers got the win. “(They are) two players who kill you with a thousands cuts, they’ve been getting high possessions but having low impact,” Nathan Buckley said. “Darcy Parish had one of this lowest possession games for the year … but he put his body on the line, he was making it happen.” Lyon praised the duo’s ability to “relinquish” a bit of control, with more responsibility given to Hobbs and Durham. “Sometimes we say, ‘why don’t you push young guys in there earlier?’ But in the end, you’ve got to be ready,” Buckley said. “Hobbs is now 15 or 16 games into his career – he’s probably more ready than he was eight games ago.”
HAWTHORN v ADELAIDE CROWS (Ricky Henderson Cup)
Sunday, July 10, 3:20pm at Marvel Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 503 from 3pm, with Kath Loughnan, Dermott Brereton, Nick Dal Santo and Jon Ralph.
Hawks’ burning question: Does the Hawthorn backline stand up?
Much has been made of Carlton’s injury crisis, with an entire backline of defenders going down, along with ruckman Marc Pittonet. But the Hawks are starting to chalk up their own injury issues, with James Worpel (shoulder) now joining Sam Frost (knee) on the injury list. Skipper Ben McEvoy is still sidelined with his neck injury while Max Lynch continues to battle concussion. The Hawks have been forced to play matches without a recognised ruckman this season, just as the Blues and Cats have done. But the Hawks haven’t been able to stop the goals during those matches like the top teams have, conceding the third-most points in 2022. Against the fourth-worst attack in the competition in Adelaide, the Hawthorn backline will need to hold firm if they are to get the four points.
Crows’ burning question: Can Adelaide find an avenue to goal that doesn’t involve Taylor Walker?
Taylor Walker has been involved in more than half of the Crows’ scores in 2022 since returning from his suspension at the start of the year. The big Tex is clearly a focal point for the Adelaide attack, given his experience. Last week against the reigning premiers, the Crows rolled out a forward line with an average age of just 21, removing Walker from that calculation. But Adelaide are starting to fall into the same trap as St Kilda with Max King, as opposition defences know they are the player their teammates target more often than not in attack. Fox Footy’s David King has warned that style of play is too “predictable”, but the Crows are yet to find another key target to take that pressure off Walker.
WEST COAST EAGLES v CARLTON (Callum Chambers Cup)
Sunday, July 10, 4:40pm at Optus Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 4pm, with Kath Loughnan, Adam Papalia, Dwayne Russell, Jordan Lewis, Matthew Pavlich, Will Schofield and Jon Ralph, followed by Bounce and First Crack with Ben Dixon, David King and Leigh Montagna.
Eagles’ burning question: How do West Coast handle the ruck situation?
Nic Naitanui’s return was a big boost for West Coast, but at 32 – the question remains just how long does the beloved Eagle have left in his AFL career? Naitanui has essentially missed two seasons with serious knee injuries but West Coast haven’t been able to lock in on a future replacement for the big ruckman. Callum Sinclair, Scott Lycett and Tom Hickey have all come and gone, while Bailey Williams continues to try in the role – but comes out of contract this year. Callum Jamieson has been used when the Eagles were down on numbers, but was omitted for the Tigers clash. With West Coast in a rebuild phase, attempts to lure a ruckman to WA has so far proved unsuccessful. Tim English is remaining with the Western Bulldogs while the Demons are confident young Luke Jackson will stay. Do West Coast turn to Jamieson in the final rounds as part of the rebuild? It’s a big call coming.
Blues’ burning question: Can Carlton win BACK the footy?
Blues coach Michael Voss wasn’t happy with questions about his side’s centre clearance slump, as he warned expectations they would win the count every week “reeks of arrogance”. Carlton have been one of the top ranked teams in the competition for centre clearances, even after ruckman Marc Pittonet went down with injury. The midfield of Sam Walsh, Adam Cerra and Patrick Cripps got on the front foot, and even when their backline lost its soldiers, the centre clearance dominance kept the wins ticking over as the forwards got first use. But in the past month, the Blues have lost the clearance count in three of the last four games. It’s an area of concern, according to Fox Footy’s Nick Riewoldt as the side closes in on a finals berth.