AFL Round 8 preview

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Cancel your Mother’s Day plans, because AFL takes priority this weekend as we prepare for what will be a thrilling few days of football.

With six top-eight teams vying off against one another and the fiercest inter-state rivalry in Hawthorn v Sydney set to reignite, Round 8 promises to be one of the most entertaining rounds so far this season.

Stoppage congestion and the score review system have been the focus of discussion over the last month and general opinion says it’s time for free-flowing footy to once again steal the spotlight.

Here is your preview for the three big games of Round 8.

Hawthorn v Sydney – MCG, 7:50pm Friday

Fixtures between Hawthorn and Sydney have become necessary viewing since their 2012 grand final epic. Add to this the return of former Hawk Lance Franklin from injury, and arguably the competition’s most in form player, former Swan Tom Mitchell, and you have a delicious contest.

Hawthorn have become one of the most improved teams in 2018, sporting a healthy 5-2 record under the watchful eye of the AFL’s master tactician Alastair Clarkson. Hawthorn boasts the oldest AFL roster in the competition, with an average age of 26 years and 299 days. Clarkson’s ability to coach this team to sustain the pressure and pace of modern AFL is a testament to him and his group.

Sydney’s seesawing season has led many to question their consistency. It’s hard to judge a team’s progress after they defeat Geelong at The Cattery, arguably the toughest away fixture, and then lose to North Melbourne at home. The Swans currently lead the competition in average clearances per game (40.9) and a continuation of this trend could help shut down a rampaging Tom Mitchell in the midfield.

Prediction: Hawthorn by 10.

Port Adelaide v Adelaide Crows – Adelaide Oval, 4:40pm Saturday

The battle of Adelaide is set to bring the City of Churches to a standstill on Saturday, as the Crows aim for a sixth straight win over Port.

Following an impressive start to the season, Port Adelaide have struggled to make further inroads in 2018. After a 42-point loss to West Coast last round, Port Adelaide now face a Crows unit who comprehensively defeated their intrastate rivals by 84 points in the last Adelaide showdown.

Ken Hinkley’s men will be glad to welcome back stars Chad Wingard, Sam Powell-Pepper and Tom Rockliff, who should bring a much needed spark to a struggling midfield. If recent history repeats itself, Adelaide Crows will win comfortably, as they seek to put pressure on top sides West Coast and Richmond.

Prediction: Crows by 22.

Collingwood v Geelong – MCG, 3:20pm Sunday. 

In one of the strongest Victorian clashes, Nathan Buckley’s Pies face a formidable Geelong side with much room to improve as the 2018 season continues.

Geelong boasts arguably three of the game’s biggest names in their midfield, Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett Jr. The combination between these three names is integral to Geelong’s hopes, providing much composure, tackle pressure and goal presence. The three have yet to fire in 2018, but with the return of Ablett this Sunday, a date with rivals Collingwood could be the ideal time to develop chemistry.

If you were to ask each AFL coach which young side they would prefer not to take-on, I’d predict many would say Collingwood. Their 2018 resume to date includes a 48-point win over the Crows in Adelaide and a 49-point win over Essendon on ANZAC Day. If the Pies can generate space for their young guns to run and open the game, I give them a fighting chance.

Prediction: Collingwood by 8.

Remaining games in Round 8:

GWS Giants v West Coast Eagles – Spotless Stadium, 1:45pm Saturday.

Carlton v Essendon – MCG, 2:10pm Saturday.

Gold Coast Suns v Melbourne – The Gabba, 4:35pm Saturday.

Fremantle v St Kilda – Optus Stadium, 6:10pm Saturday.

Western Bulldogs v Brisbane Lions – Etihad Stadium, 7:25pm Saturday.

North Melbourne v Richmond – Etihad Stadium, 1:10pm Sunday.

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