Izak Rankine and his teammates look dejected after the R4 match between Adelaide and Melbourne at Adelaide Oval on April 4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE and Brisbane have often met with the stakes sky-high in recent years but will approach their latest clash from different positions when they kick off round five on Thursday.

The Demons will be out to extend their four-match winning streak ahead of a bye, while the Lions need to back up a breakthrough victory with a strong performance against a top-four contender. 

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Four sides are still searching for a first win with Adelaide arguably under the most pressure to turn its season around when it faces Carlton away on Saturday.

Here is who and what to look out for across round five, as well as a tip for each match.


Melbourne v Brisbane, MCG
Thursday, April 11, 7.30pm AEST

Last time: Melbourne 16.9 (105) d Brisbane 16.8 (104), R18 2023

What it means

Melbourne (4-1) made a statement by defeating both South Australian sides on their home turf in the past two weeks and can now eye a fifth straight victory to be in a commanding position heading into a bye. The Demons' stars have been shining in their bright start to the season but they will need to be wary of the Lions, who still have their backs to the wall.

Brisbane (1-3) brushed aside North Melbourne to secure its first win of the season but will now face a tougher test against Melbourne while also confronting its own MCG hoodoo. The Lions have won only three of their past 28 matches at the venue, but two of those victories have at least come against the Demons, including a semi-final in 2022.

Eric Hipwood and Jake Lever compete for the ball during the R18 match between Brisbane and Melbourne at the MCG on July 14, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Game shapers

Steven May's remarkable powers of recovery were reaffirmed as he gathered 19 disposals and nine marks against Adelaide just 12 days after fracturing his ribs. The Demons defender can again be trusted not to take a backward step especially with the Lions' key forwards yet to fully fire this season against a top-line back six.

Dayne Zorko has been as adept at putting out fires as adding a spark while spending periods playing across half-back and much closer to goal. The versatile veteran gathered 28 disposals in the Lions' comfortable win over the Kangaroos, while still sneaking forward to soccer through a goal, but could be handed a more defensive role to contain one of the Demons' goal threats.

Early tip: Melbourne by 11 points


Western Bulldogs v Essendon, Marvel Stadium
Friday, April 12, 7.40pm AEST

Last time: Western Bulldogs 13.12 (90) d Essendon 7.7 (49), R19 2023

What it means

The Bulldogs (2-2) missed an opportunity to put themselves among the pacesetters when getting on top of Geelong in several areas but falling just short on the scoreboard. They should get a better idea of where they sit against an Essendon side with the same win-loss record, and can be buoyed by winning nine of the past 10 matches between the teams.

Essendon (2-2) has both shown promising signs and flattered to deceive this season but now needs to live up to the hype around its effort and 'edge' with a consistent four-quarter display. Much of that could come down to the Bombers' midfielders, who too often failed to match the prime movers but are set to take on the daunting in-form duo of Marcus Bontempelli and Tom Liberatore.

Marcus Bontempelli looks on after the R4 match between Western Bulldogs and Geelong at Adelaide Oval on April 6, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Game shapers

Tom Liberatore almost single-handedly carried the Bulldogs across the line against the Cats with 35 disposals that included the equal fourth-most contested possessions (28) and equal third-most clearances (19) ever in a match. The rugged midfielder can be expected to make a similar impact against a Bombers' onball brigade still searching for a better spread of contributors. 

It has been an interrupted start to the season for Darcy Parish but the midfielder should be ready to increase his influence with two games under his belt. The Bombers could do with Parish getting back to his best around stoppages, after averaging the most centre clearances last season with 3.6 a match but only gathering one so far this year.

Early tip: Western Bulldogs by eight points


Greater Western Sydney v St Kilda, Manuka Oval
Saturday, April 13, 1.45pm AEST 

Last time: GWS 15.11 (101) d St Kilda 11.11 (77), EF 2023

What it means

Greater Western Sydney (4-0) stared down a stern challenge from Gold Coast before powering away to victory while becoming the first side since 2017 to start a season with four scores over 100. The Giants were starting to surge when they ended St Kilda's campaign last year, and will now have extra motivation of turning their Canberra home into a fortress after one win in their past 10 matches at the venue.

St Kilda (2-2) had to chase down Richmond after only managing a single goal to five in the first half before turning up after the main break. The Saints won't want to give the red-hot Giants a similar head start especially with the Bulldogs and Power (away) their next opponents to come. 

Connor Idun and Jack Higgins fight for the ball during the elimination final between GWS and St Kilda at the MCG on September 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Game shapers

Stephen Coniglio has been a standout in the midfield without hitting the scoreboard this year until adding goals at vital times in the win over the Suns. Coniglio booted two majors in the third term to help shake off the Suns in a reminder that the high-scoring Giants could still find more avenues to goal.

When the Saints were struggling to pick their way through the Tigers and find ways to score it was Jack Sinclair who went to work at the stoppages and helped tidy up their transitions. Sinclair finished with 29 disposals and five clearances, and will need a similar output if the Saints are to match the Giants' deep and damaging midfield. 

Early tip: GWS by 19 points


Carlton v Adelaide, Marvel Stadium
Saturday, April 13, 4.35pm AEST

Last time: Adelaide 18.10 (118) d Carlton 9.8 (62), R5 2023

What it means

Carlton is 4-0 for the first time since its last premiership in 1995 but will need little reminder of the danger that Adelaide presents. This time last year the Blues had won three and drawn one, but were blown away by the Crows for the first of eight defeats in nine matches. The Blues look more stable this time but with a tough month to follow there is perhaps even more on the line.

Adelaide (0-4) might have burst Carlton's bubble a year ago but will now be purely focused on breathing life into its own campaign. The Crows are already losing touch with the top eight while their hopes of becoming just the second AFL/VFL team since 1975 to start a season with four defeats and still snatch a finals berth are teetering on the edge.


Game shapers

Jacob Weitering has quickly found his feet after missing the Blues' first two matches of the season due to a calf injury. The key defender has amassed 39 disposals and 21 marks in just two matches to be a pillar in the back half even as the spotlight is often turned onto the twin towers at the other end. 

Jake Soligo has been building his form since being recalled to the Crows' starting 22 for round two and produced arguably a career-best performance with 27 disposals and eight tackles against the Demons. While the Crows might have more talented midfielders, Soligo's effort and intensity is showing the way to escape from their early-season slump.

Early tip: Carlton by 23 points


Gold Coast v Hawthorn, People First Stadium
Saturday, April 13, 7:30pm AEST

Last time: Gold Coast 14.17 (101) d Hawthorn 5.4 (34), R15 2023

What it means

Gold Coast (2-2) made seven changes to its line-up last week in a bold move that looked like it might pay dividends when it kept pace with GWS until the final term. But the young Suns face a different sort of test this time when they come up against a Hawks outfit they will be broadly expected to beat. 

Hawthorn (0-4) surged home against Collingwood with seven of the last eight goals of the match but remains winless after falling five points short. The concern is that the Hawks have averaged one goal to five in their opening terms, and trailed at half-time in every match so far, in clear signs they need to switch on from the first bounce rather than relying on a late charge.


Game shapers

Jack Lukosius started his career in defence but had his greatest impact for the Suns when playing forward and booting 39 goals last year. Lukosius has continued to be used at both ends this season but on the brink of his 100th match looks set to again settle in the back half where the smooth mover can use his classy kicking skills to start the Suns' attacks.

Blake Hardwick has made his name as a defender but with the Hawks struggling to find goals was thrown forward against the Magpies with devastating effect. Hardwick booted four goals, including three in the third term, as his side mounted a belated challenge and with injuries lingering across the Hawks' forward group is likely to be asked to play a similar role.

Early tip: Gold Coast by 26 points


Port Adelaide v Fremantle, Adelaide Oval
Saturday, April 13, 7pm ACST

Last time: Port Adelaide 13.14 (92) d Fremantle 8.5 (53), R1 2023

What it means

Port Adelaide (3-1) could hardly have been more impressive in a resounding victory over Essendon but will still feel the heat of needing to make the most of three consecutive matches on home turf that started with a narrow defeat to Melbourne. The Power will be boosted by hosting the Dockers at Adelaide Oval after winning all six of the two teams' clashes at the venue.

Fremantle (3-1) will have a point to prove after a heartbreaking defeat to Carlton ended its unbeaten start to the season. The Dockers could still put themselves in a strong position with a victory over the Power, with a local derby then matches against the Bulldogs and Tigers to follow.

Aliir Aliir takes photos of his teammates after the R4 match between Port Adelaide and Essendon at Adelaide Oval on April 5, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Game shapers

Jason Horne-Francis has made an imperious start to his second season with the Power even as it has been disrupted by injury concerns. The powerful midfielder gathered a career-high 31 disposals with 10 clearances against the Bombers and is a key weapon in the Power's formidable on-ball brigade.

The Dockers have improved their midfield depth with the addition of Hayden Young while the former defender starts to do more damage in the forward half with his raking left foot. Young has previously shown off his penetrating kicking when rebounding out of defence and could now add goals to his game in his prominent midfield role.

Early tip: Port Adelaide by 10 points


Geelong v North Melbourne, GMHBA Stadium
Sunday, April 14, 1pm AEST

Last time: Geelong 19.11 (125) d North Melbourne 9.9 (63), R17 2023

What it means

Geelong (4-0) has returned to a familiar position with four wins on the trot but despite leading at every change this season it has sometimes only crept over the line. It is unlikely the Cats will face such fine margins against a Kangaroos side they have beaten the past 11 times they have met going back to 2015.

North Melbourne (0-4) has endured one of the tougher fixtures to start the season with three matches against last year's preliminary finalists and now another challenge against the in-form Geelong. While the Kangaroos might get a better idea of where they stand in the coming month, they first need to limit the damage against the Cats with a focus on protecting their own defence.


Game shapers

While Jeremy Cameron enjoys a fresh role roaming far and wide, Ollie Henry has been building on his breakout season that produced 41 goals last year. Henry has booted five bags of four majors in his 51 matches so far, but could eye a career-high haul against an undersized Kangaroos defence preoccupied with Cameron and Tom Hawkins.

The Kangaroos' midfield had been playing their part to claim first use of the ball more often than not, until coming up against an inspired Lions outfit. Luke Davies-Uniacke has been crucial to the Roos matching the opposition around the stoppages but will now need to find another gear to lead his young teammates against the more seasoned Cats.

Early tip: Geelong by 33 points


West Coast v Richmond, Optus Stadium
Sunday, April 14, 2pm AWST 

Last time: Richmond 14.14 (98) d West Coast 8.12 (60), R18 2023

What it means

West Coast has slumped to its first 0-4 start since 1989 but will at least be bolstered by an improved showing that helped it win a first quarter of the season and even gave Sydney a fright. Harley Reid took a huge leap towards justifying the hype while the Eagles also broke even for inside 50s for the second week in a row.

Richmond (1-4) was again more than competitive against a finals hopeful but was left with reason to rue a narrow defeat to St Kilda. The Tigers missed the opportunity to put the Saints away despite restricting them to one goal to the main break, and will want to make the most of their chances against the under-fire Eagles with a tough run to follow.

Dustin Martin and Jeremy McGovern compete for the ball during the R18 match between Richmond and West Coast at Optus Stadium on July 16, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Game shapers

Jack Darling has gone goalless in three consecutive matches for the first time since his debut season in 2011. With the Tigers' defence hit hard by injury, the time is right for the 281-match veteran to stand up and lead the Eagles' inexperienced attack.

Shai Bolton was electrifying and booted four goals against the Saints to move to 11 for the season, but can only add so much to the Tigers' injury-hit attack while also spending time in the midfield. The Tigers now need the likes of Maurice Rioli to grasp his opportunities, and after two goals against the Saints it could be the 21-year-old's time to shine.

Early tip: Richmond by 37 points