Can the Blues be a genuine premiership threat in 2023?
Plus are Sydney the competition’s sleeping giants and which young Hawk will eclipse Dustin Martin’s rare feat?
Every club’s burning question ahead of Round 22, as well as commentators for every Fox Footy game in our ultimate weekly preview: The Blowtorch!
Watch every match of every round of the 2023 Toyota AFL Premiership Season LIVE on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Daicos hopeful of playing again in 2023 | 02:08
FULL ROUND 22 FIXTURE (all times AEST)
GEELONG v COLLINGWOOD
Friday August 11, 7.50pm at the MCG
How to watch on Fox Footy: From 7pm on Channel 504, with Sarah Jones, Jason Dunstall, David King, Leigh Montagna, Cameron Mooney and Jon Ralph, followed by Fox Footy Live with Ben Dixon, Gerard Healy and Nick Dal Santo.
Cats’ burning question: Can Geelong return to their ‘bulletproof’ 2022 form?
The Cats are coming … but they’ll need to get the win over Collingwood to really leave their rivals shaking. Last season on their way to premiership success, the Cats spent the last six weeks of the season ranked 2nd with the footy, 1st without the footy, 7th in clearance and 9th in post-clearance contest. In the past six weeks – where they’ve lost just the two matches – the Cats are ranked 5th with the footy, 3rd without, 5th in clearance and 1st in post-clearance contest in worrying signs for those clinging to the bottom half of the top eight. “They are going better than what Collingwood are currently going,” Champion Data’s Daniel Hoyne said. They’ll need to put the win on the board with games still to come against top eight contenders St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs.
Magpies’ burning question: Is the Nick Daicos loss more than a ‘flesh wound’?
He’s the kid every AFL fan has talked about this season – remarkably a Brownlow Medal favourite in just his second year of footy. But Nick Daicos’ absence from the Magpies’ run to the finals is set to hurt the club in a big way, Fox Footy’s David King has warned, as he described the club as “in mourning” without their midfield asset. “He’s their number one trump card,” he said on First Crack. “This is more than a flesh wound. He’s their number one score involvement player, number one disposal player. Logic says to me, they’ll fight hard to finish top. I can’t see them winning it from here now. This is the most savage of blows.” Describing the Pies as “disarmed” without Daicos, rivals have had differing success in recent years when losing a key cog in the run to finals. West Coast went on to win the flag with Nic Naitanui in 2018, but the Cats couldn’t get the job done without Tom Stewart in 2021 – falling down before the big dance with the key defender sidelined.
Pies review after shock loss revealed | 02:16
NORTH MELBOURNE v ESSENDON
Saturday August 12, 1.45pm at Marvel Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: From 1pm on Channel 504, with Mark Howard, Jason Dunstall, Leigh Montagna, Kath Loughnan and David Zita.
Kangaroos’ burning question: Can North get the win for their inspirational champion?
The Kangaroos may have endured another horror season, but they’ll get the chance to farewell one of their most inspirational players this weekend – and no doubt be motivated to send him out on a high. While North weren’t able to get the win for caretaker coach Brett Ratten in his grudge match against the Saints or his farewell against West Coast, the side showed plenty of grit to take it up to one of the premiership favourites in Melbourne last weekend, opening up a five-goal lead. Now they’ll have to repeat that effort – for more than a half this time, if they want to send off retiring great Ben Cunnington a winner. Cunnington now ranks up in North folklore, after his inspirational return from cancer.
Bombers’ burning question: Is the Essendon of old coming back?
Last year the Bombers were savaged for their lacklustre defence, labelled as like “witches hats” in scathing criticism of their inability to stop a flow of goals. Fast forward 12 months and Essendon are still a mathematical chance of finals after a great escape against last-placed West Coast. But Fox Footy’s Leigh Montagna didn’t like what he saw from the Bombers defensively. “There’s bad habits creeping in – since about Round 14,” he warned on First Crack. “Real amateurish to just basically ball watch when it goes inside your forward 50 … really disappointing defensive effort by Essendon (and they were) lucky to get away with it.” Describing their style as “chasing your tail”, Montagna wanted to see a better back half effort against North Melbourne.
Bombers still hopeful of Finals berth | 01:57
SYDNEY SWANS v GOLD COAST SUNS
Saturday August 12, 1.45pm at the SCG
How to watch on Fox Footy: From 4.30pm on Channel 503, with Dwayne Russell, Brad Johnson, Dermott Brereton, Nick Dal Santo and David Zita.
Swans’ burning question: Are Sydney the sleeping giants?
The Swans looked dead and buried after the Round 17 loss to Richmond, sitting down in the bottom four in a worrying sign for coach John Longmire. But the spark came with the thrilling two-point win over finals contenders the Western Bulldogs, and since then, Sydney have found another gear to jump right back into the race with another three wins. “I think we are just sleeping on them slightly,” Leigh Montagna said on AFL 360. “Offensively and def they are just humming at the moment … they could be a team that make a little run.” Statistics show that in the past month, Sydney are ranked 1st in the AFL for scores against per entry inside 50 and 3rd for scores per entry. The Swans are currently sitting in 10th spot on the AFL ladder – just half win outside the top eight.
Suns’ burning question: Can Gold Coast find their QClash form?
There’s no doubt the very late loss of captain Touk Miller rattled the Suns in their loss to Adelaide last weekend. Gold Coast had found form in the stunning 41-point victory over rivals Brisbane the week prior. But the fallout from the Miller-Dayne Zorko incident lingered all week before the skipper was sensationally banned for one game – despite being cleared by the MRO initially. At the time, footy boss Wayne Campbell said the club was “extremely disappointed in the outcome” as they had to find a Miller replacement just two days out from their match. But with the skipper back – and an important part of their midfield machine – it’s now up to the Suns to find that QClash form once again.
Concussion protocols should be tweaked? | 02:03
BRISBANE LIONS v ADELAIDE CROWS
Saturday August 12, 4.35pm at the Gabba
How to watch on Fox Footy: From 4.30pm on Channel 504, with Anthony Hudson, David King, Jonathan Brown, Alastair Lynch and David Zita.
Lions’ burning question: Is Jack Gunston the man to take Brisbane the next step?
The Lions have been perennial bridesmaids the past four seasons – watching on as rivals take the premiership that Brisbane so desperately wanted. Top four in three of the past four seasons and twice preliminary final losers, the Lions have been within touching distance of the grand final but always fallen short. Enter Jack Gunston in season 2023. The former Hawk seemed an odd choice for a Lions outfit already bursting at the seams with forward line talent. But it’s the composure and his experience in big games that sets him apart – and could prove the difference this time around. “This is why they got this guy – for moments like this when they are in trouble,” David King praised of Gunston’s efforts against Fremantle. “They just need one goal – can you buy us one?” Leigh Montagna believes Brisbane will now “be ready” for the big finals tests they face.
Crows’ burning question: When does Adelaide’s prized pick ‘demand’ the ball?
Adelaide big man Taylor Walker may have wound back the clock in 2023, as he remains on track for his first ever All Australian honours. But it’s another Crows forward who has impressed Fox Footy’s David King – if only his teammates could see it. King highlighted young gun Riley Thilthorpe’s talents as a forward going to waste because he doesn’t “demand” the footy. “There’s one guy I think has all the talent in the world – if he can just start demanding the ball a bit more and moving with some vigour,” King said on First Crack. “Demand his teammates kick him the ball. The size you are … he can take the game by storm. When he’s out in clear, if he gets his hands out wide, calls for the ball, demands the ball … he’s capable of kicking big bags of goal and he’s free more often than not. This guy, he just needs to start demanding the footy.” Thilthorpe has gone goalless in his past three matches.
Simple stat proves likely premiers | 01:37
CARLTON v MELBOURNE
Saturday August 12, 7.30pm at the MCG
How to watch on Fox Footy: From 7.15pm on Channel 504, with Kath Loughnan, Brad Johnson, Eddie Betts, Ben Dixon and David Zita.
Blues’ burning question: Can they genuinely win the flag?
Last year the Cats built an infallible case as premiers; over the last six weeks of the season, they sat No.1 in the most critical defensive categories, plus No.1 without the footy in Champion Data’s key stats, and No.2 with the footy. This year the top team heading to the pointy end of the season is, remarkably, the Blues – who over the last six weeks rank No.2 with the footy, No.3 without the footy, and are even dominating clearances in a way Geelong wasn’t. It led Champion Data analyst Daniel Hoyne to proclaim “they’re clearly the most in-form team in the competition … they aren’t as bulletproof as what Geelong were this time last year, but they’re as close to it as any team”, and declare if they were inside the top four, he’d be tipping them to win the flag. Reaching the double chance seems very unlikely, but “they can comfortably make a prelim” from outside the top four, and Hoyne believes they can still get through to a Grand Final “given what’s happening with everyone else across the competition”. Careful, people around Ikon Park, a giant, wobbling lid might be about to land on your heads.
Demons’ burning question: Can the small brigade take Melbourne to a premiership?
There’s been question marks over Melbourne’s forward line all year, but in the past four rounds there’s been a stunning turnaround in points scored – and it’s thanks to their smalls. The likes of Kysaiah Pickett, Alex Neal-Bullen and Kade Chandler have all gotten involved to lift the Dees’ scoring. Statistics show Pickett went from being tanked 54th in the AFL between rounds 8-16 to sixth between rounds 17-21, Neal-Bullen from 35th to 15th and Chandler from 69th to 19th in great signs for coach Simon Goodwin. The Dees were ranked as the competition worst for forward 50 ground ball gets between rounds 8-16, but they’ve turned that around the past four games to sit in fourth. “We’ve just seen a difference with their small forwards,” Leigh Montagna praised on AFL 360. “(There was) no sort of zest to get front and square. Kysaiah Pickett went cold and only kicked 10 goals in that eight-week period. Kossie has kicked 10 goals in four weeks! They are just looking much more dangerous and lively at ground level. I think these smalls have got a big role to play in September. This is going to be the key for them – they’ve sparked their side back into action.”
Oliver looming for return against Blues? | 02:38
WEST COAST EAGLES v FREMANTLE
Saturday August 12, 8.10pm at Optus Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: From 8pm on Channel 503, with Adam Papalia, Jordan Lewis, Matthew Pavlich, Will Schofield and David Zita.
Eagles’ burning question: Is a lack of leadership to blame for their fade out loss?
Questions were asked of West Coast coach Adam Simpson and his final play tactics after opting against putting a man behind the ball as his side coughed up the lead in the dying seconds to Essendon. And while some critics were sceptical of the reasons why he wanted man on man coverage, Nathan Buckley believes a lack of leadership proved West Coast’s downfall in those dying seconds. “They haven’t trained their scenario, their play … they haven’t been in that situation all year. They’ve just been trying to make it work,” he said On the Couch. “There’s an over-reliance on Luke Shuey to be their on-field leader and they haven’t had enough leadership often enough due to their injury concerns.” The Eagles have been rotating through captains this season in Shuey’s injury absence, and will need to find a new skipper for 2024 and beyond following Shuey’s retirement announcement this week.
Dockers’ burning question: Which Freo are we going to get?
Will the real Fremantle please stand up? Fresh from embarrassing Geelong at the Cattery in Round 20, the Dockers went toe to toe with premiership in Brisbane and nearly came away with the points in a stunning performance. But as First Crack host Anthony Hudson said: “Where has this been all year?” It’s come too little, too late for last year’s semi-finalists with the 2023 season all but over. Six losses in seven weeks post-bye proved Fremantle’s downfall in a season that had held so much promise. Fox Footy’s Leigh Montagna said the Dockers were still one of the better sides in the competition when at their best. “When their contest and clearance game is at an elite level, they are competing with some of the very best teams,” he said. “They are a very good side Fremantle.” Consistency will be the key for Justin Longmuir’s men in 2024.
Shuey to hang up boots at seasons end | 01:51
HAWTHORN v WESTERN BULLDOGS
Sunday August 13, 1.10pm at UTAS Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: From 1pm on Channel 504, with Anthony Hudson, Kelli Underwood, Gerard Healy, Brad Johnson, Ben Dixon and Jon Ralph.
Hawks’ burning question: Can a young Hawk eclipse a rare Dusty feat?
Hawthorn may be in the process of a rebuild, but there’s been plenty of positives to come out of season 2023, including wins over top four sides Collingwood and Brisbane. But most pleasing is the form of young gun Jai Newcombe, who remans on track to eclipse Dustin Martin’s most-broken-tackle record in the AFL in a season. “Dusty has the record … Jai Newcombe is on track to break that record this year. He’s miles ahead,” Champion Data’s Daniel Hoyne said on SEN. “His willingness to win contest, take the tackler on and then breakaway … that’s why he comes up so high on our ratings.” Fox Footy’s David King labelled Newcombe one of the “most watchable players” in the AFL. “Newcombe has got an edge of brutality to him … he can still show his warehouse of skills,” he praised on First Crack. Newcombe has played in all 20 of Hawthorn’s games this season in just his third year in the AFL.
Bulldogs’ burning question: Is there a Bulldog more important than the Bont?
When you think of the Western Bulldogs’ key weapons, you think the Bont or Libba. Even forward Aaron Naughton. But Champion Data’s Daniel Hoyne says the key barometer for the Bulldogs’ success lies with ruckman Tim English. Statistics show English has featured a whopping 14 times in a Bulldogs’ top five rated pair in matches this season – five times with Bontempelli, five times with Treloar and four times with Liberatore. “We talk a lot about Bont, we talk about Libba – English is the one that can take the Dogs deep and deep into a prelim and potentially a grand final if he has a six, seven-week period to savour,” Hoyne said on Pure Footy. “It’s what he does around the ground. His ability to get behind the ball and intercept mark is up there with Max Gawn at his best. His ability to be a link up and get involved in scores separates him from a lot of ruckmen in the competition.”
Riewoldt challenged on playing future | 02:38
ST KILDA v RICHMOND
Sunday August 13, 3.20pm at Marvel Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: From 3pm on Channel 503, with Sarah Jones, Dermott Brereton, Nick Dal Santo and Jon Ralph.
Saints’ burning question: Can St Kilda stop the fade out?
The Saints fall from grace in 2022 saw coach Brett Ratten sacked – just months after signing a new deal – and the club miss finals, despite sitting in the top eight as deep as Round 20. But it was a post-bye fade out that cost the club dearly. Start 2023 under new coach Ross Lyon and again the Saints were flying. But just four wins since Round 11 has seen the club inch slowly towards that bottom half of the eight, where they now sit vulnerable for the overtaking. Fox Footy’s Leigh Montagna said the Saints clearly faded against the Blues last weekend – and when the heat came on, they had no answers. “They weren’t able to sustain it (their first half efforts),” he lamented on First Crack. “The longer the game went, Carlton got more powerful.” Commentator Brad Johnson said it could be another season of disappointment if St Kilda couldn’t turn the tide. “If I was a Saints supporter, I’d be so disappointed if they let this slip and don’t play finals,” he said on SEN. The Saints managed just 1.1 (7) from stoppage against the Blues in an area where they were “smacked”, David King warned.
Tigers’ burning question: Do Richmond deserve to play finals?
When Damien Hardwick walked away in May citing exhaustion, it appeared Richmond’s hopes of playing finals went with him. But the Tigers have rallied under interim coach Andrew McQualter and produced some great footy to have them half a win outside the top eight heading into last round. But against the Bulldogs, the Tigers didn’t fire a shot in the opening term, with the match essentially over at quarter time. Tigers star Jack Riewoldt conceded the loss – which now sees the six points and percentage adrift of the top eight – was “really, really disappointing“. “To have the outs that we had, you really want the team to step up,” he said on AFL 360. “Our own destiny isn’t in our own hands now. You still strive to play finals, but more importantly we strive to get back to the form we had five quarters ago.” But after the “soul-sapping” loss, do the Tigers deserve a shot?
Can Port bounce back against GWS? | 01:47
PORT ADELAIDE v GWS GIANTS
Sunday August 13, 4.10pm at Adelaide Oval
How to watch on Fox Footy: From 4pm on Channel 504, with Sarah Jones, Dwayne Russell, Jonathan Brown, Nathan Buckley, Mark Ricciuto and Jon Ralph.
Power’s burning question: Will Port Adelaide cost themselves the double chance?
It was an unfathomable thought just a month ago as the Power were flying on the back of 13-straight wins and sitting pretty in second spot. But four straight losses, and a host of key injuries now has the experts wondering if Port Adelaide will even finish top four with the run of matches they still have to come. First up is an in-form GWS who have a great record at Adelaide Oval. Then there’s a trip to Perth to face Fremantle before a final round test against Richmond. “Port Adelaide still need a win before finals … because of those four losses irrespective of talent, they still need a win to get that confidence,” Jordan Lewis said on AFL 360. Eddie Betts said Carlton were quickly gaining on the Power, putting more pressure on the side. “That’s were the doubt comes in. They cold potentially lose the double chance. They have to win at least one of those – four in a row (losses) coming up to five in a row – there’s doubts that play in your head.”
Giants’ burning question: Is GWS’ quiet achiever the team’s key weapon?
You think of the Giants’ weapons and immediately it’s the likes of Toby Greene and Sam Taylor that come to mind. But statistics show their young ruckman is not far off the pace in terms of star power as Kieran Briggs sits ranked seventh for the highest rated player in the AFL under the age of 23. He’s the highest ranked non-midfielder on the list in great signs for coach Adam Kingsley. “Every stat of yours he comes up right around the top, absolutely flying,” David King said on Pure Footy. “He only came into the team at round 10 this year and GWS haven’t looked back since he came into the team,” Champion Data’s Daniel Hoyne added. Kingsley said with veteran Braydon Preuss finally making his way back from injury to play VFL this weekend, it will help Briggs with support. “There is still time for him to break back into the side,” Kingsley said of Preuss. “We’re trying to support Kieran Briggs as best we can – it’s been a really long season now really as his first season as the number one ruckman, albeit coming in around nine or 10. He needs a little bit of relief and Braydon potentially is that person.” In is 11 games back with the side, Briggs has tasted defeat just three times as he averages career-high disposals, hit-outs, tackles, clearances and contested possessions.
#Blowtorch #preview #clubs #burning #question #Fox #Footy #commentators #broadcast #guide #fixture #latest #news