Patrick Cripps is tackled by John Noble during the match between Collingwood and Carlton at the MCG in round 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

A PAIR of top-four clashes, local derbies and traditional blockbusters are among the standout matches in a mouth-watering round eight.

Adelaide and Port Adelaide open the round with a Showdown on Thursday night, while old foes Carlton and Collingwood will face off the following night at the MCG.

>> Win $25,000 in the official AFL Tipping comp! Sign up NOW

The stakes will be sky high when heated rivals Sydney and Greater Western Sydney each take a 6-1 record into their encounter, as Geelong and Melbourne make it two heavyweight bouts on Saturday.

Here is what to watch out for – and which team to tip – across round eight.


Adelaide v Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval
Thursday, May 2, 7pm ACST

Last time: Adelaide 16.16 (112) d Port Adelaide 9.11 (65), R20 2023

What it means

Adelaide brushed aside a listless North Melbourne to breathe life into its campaign, but with a 2-5 record still has more than just bragging rights on the line against its crosstown rival. The Crows will be buoyed by winning both clashes with the Power convincingly last season, while the unpredictable nature of the Showdown means a third consecutive victory would hardly be an upset.

Port Adelaide (5-2) was able to hold St Kilda at arm's length for a victory that came at a cost with injuries to key players. The Power will have little time to lick their wounds with their rivals up next, followed by the high-flying Geelong, as Ken Hinkley's outfit looks to prove it can step up as the stakes rise.

Game shapers

Matt Crouch is unlikely to return to the heights that earned an All-Australian blazer and club champion award in 2017 but he continues to add valuable experience to Adelaide's midfield. Crouch has been in and out of the side in recent seasons but will run out for the 150th time during the Showdown with his ability to extract the ball at the coalface sure to get the Crows on their way.

Matt Crouch in action during Adelaide's clash against North Melbourne in round seven, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Travis Boak might be in the twilight of his career after 352 matches but has an opportunity to give Adelaide a firm reminder of his ability to step up on a grand stage. The former Port Adelaide skipper is likely to be called on to play a pivotal role for his injury-hit side as it looks to put a heavy dent in its rival's fading finals hopes.

Early tip: Port Adelaide by 11 points


Carlton v Collingwood, MCG
Friday, May 3, 7.40pm AEST

Last time: Carlton 14.9 (93) d Collingwood 10.16 (76), R20 2023

What it means

Carlton (5-2) went a long way to confirming its place among the contenders with a comfortable victory over Collingwood late last season. The tables have turned somewhat this year, and another Blues win over the Magpies would bolster their own hopes of a top-four finish while putting their rivals back on the ropes.

Collingwood (3-3-1) has shown signs of returning to the sort of form that propelled it to a premiership last season but could not quite get across the line in a draw with Essendon last week. The Magpies will have extra time to recover from the Anzac Day tension, while a win over the injury-ravaged Blues would take the reigning premiers to a positive win-loss record for the first time this season.

Darcy Cameron and Todd Goldstein shake hands after Collingwood's draw with Essendon on Anzac Day, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Game shapers

Marc Pittonet might have made a belated return to the Carlton line-up but has quickly made his presence felt across his three matches this season. The bustling ruck collected career-highs for disposals (19) and clearances (11) against the Cats, and will allow Tom De Koning to spend more time forward as the Blues look to stretch the Pies' undersized defence.

Brody Mihocek has lifted his impact near goal every year since 2021 and with 11 majors in his past four matches is now averaging a career-high two goals a game. While the Magpies are still searching for another key forward to join Mihocek as a consistent threat, the 32-year-old will have a dual role this week while also occupying Blues defender Jacob Weitering.

Early tip: Collingwood by nine points


Sydney v Greater Western Sydney, SCG
Saturday, May 4, 1.45pm AEST

Last time: Sydney 15.6 (96) d Greater Western Sydney 12.13 (85), R21 2023

What it means

Sydney (6-1) has continued to blow away its less threatening opponents with devastating ball movement but is set to face a sterner challenge against its crosstown rivals. The Swans have scored the second most points this season but will rely just as much on also having the second-best defence against the Giants' multi-pronged attack. 

Greater Western Sydney (6-1) made light work of Brisbane last week and is now set to be bolstered by the return of key players for its clash with Sydney. The Giants will hold few fears of visiting the SCG after winning four of the past five encounters with the Swans at the venue including a one-point thriller last season.

Game shapers

After spending the early part of his career as a versatile midfielder that could play onball or on a wing, Oliver Florent has now become a reliable member of the Swans' back six. Florent brings dash out of defence but is also durable and will line up for his 150th appearance this week while on a streak of consecutive matches that has now passed 100.

Oliver Florent in action during Sydney's clash against Essendon in round two, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Finn Callaghan is blossoming nicely in his third season for the Giants as the 21-year-old is gradually handed more responsibility along with a lift in midfield minutes. Callaghan gathered a career-high 32 disposals against Brisbane but can expect to come in for more attention under the heat of a derby as his kicking in particular looms as an emerging threat.

Early tip: Sydney by four points


St Kilda v North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium
Saturday, May 4, 4.35pm AEST

Last time: St Kilda 9.15 (69) d North Melbourne 9.7 (61), R19 2023

What it means

The blowtorch has turned onto St Kilda as it risks losing touch with the top eight after slumping to a 2-5 record that includes four defeats by less than two goals. But the Saints now have an opportunity to get their campaign back on track, while also fine tuning their form, against the struggling North Melbourne with Hawthorn to follow.

North Melbourne (0-7) will carry extra spice into its clash with St Kilda after co-captain Jy Simpkin was on the end of a high hit that was followed by a heated exchange during their pre-season meeting. It could be just the ingredient to shake up a Roos outfit that has only won four quarters across their opening seven matches.


Game shapers

Callum Wilkie has backed up his All-Australian season with another fine campaign even as St Kilda has often failed to fire. Wilkie will take on arguably the Saints' toughest assignment in their clash with the Roos as the defender looks to limit the opportunities given to sharpshooter Nick Larkey.

Charlie Comben has suffered a horrible run with injuries since being drafted in 2019, but finally appears to be on the verge of making the most of his talents. Comben has been called back to bolster the Roos' undermanned defence and quickly shown signs that it could be a move worth making permanent with his ability to read the ball in flight and use it well when it is in his hands.

Early tip: St Kilda by 33 points


Melbourne v Geelong, MCG
Saturday, May 4, 7.30pm AEST

Last time: Geelong 11.12 (78) d Melbourne 8.15 (63), R15 2023

What it means

Melbourne (5-2) has breezed past its less fancied opponents to edge into the top four but could still do with making a statement against a contender like Geelong. The Demons have fallen short against the Cats at GMHBA Stadium the last two times they have met, but will be boosted by facing the League leaders at the MCG for the first time in more than three years.

The all-conquering Geelong (7-0) could put more breathing space between itself and its most likely challengers with a third consecutive victory over a top-four hopeful. The Cats have shown that they can win in different ways and even when well below their best, but will now have to stand up without their injured captain to maintain an unbeaten start to the season.

Game shapers

Jake Lever is one of the best in the business at knowing when to attack or defend but can expect to do more of the latter against the Cats' in-form forward group. While Tom Hawkins has unusually gone goalless in three consecutive matches, Lever seems set to cross paths more regularly with Jeremy Cameron who is in rare form that needs to be contained.

Jake Lever gestures during Melbourne's clash against Adelaide in round four, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Gryan Miers put his days as a goalsneak behind him to become one of the most impactful players in the forward half in another way. Miers leads the League for hitting a target inside the forward 50, while also averaging a career-high 22 disposals a game as the Cats look to get the ball into his hands more in all parts of the ground.

Early tip: Geelong by eight points


West Coast v Essendon, Optus Stadium
Saturday, May 4, 6.10pm AWST

Last time: Essendon 10.13 (73) d West Coast 11.6 (72), R21 2023

What it means

West Coast (2-5) was starting to show signs of turning its fortunes around when pushing Essendon to within the barest of margins when the sides met late last season. The Eagles loom as a different prospect now, especially after winning the past two matches on their home deck, and are set to be bolstered by the return of Harley Reid after the young gun was rested last week.

Essendon (4-2-1) went within a stray shot at goal of clinching a stirring victory over the reigning premier that would have well and truly confirmed its place as a top-eight contender. But after an Anzac Day draw the Bombers must quickly lift themselves back up to make the most of a stretch of three matches against current bottom-four sides over the next month.

Game shapers

Elliot Yeo has been as crucial as anyone to West Coast's shock resurgence as the midfielder has averaged career-highs for disposals (25.1) and clearances (8.1) while also booting five goals. The 30-year-old has not played more than 12 matches in a season since 2019 but with his return to form and fitness appears to have much more to give ahead of his 200th match.

Elliot Yeo celebrates a goal during the R5 match between West Coast and Richmond at Optus Stadium on April 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Andrew McGrath has mostly returned to a familiar role across half-back where his composure and clean disposal can be a weapon for the Bombers. The former No.1 draft pick enjoyed one of his most impactful games in the Anzac Day clash against Collingwood but can now expect closer attention from West Coast and in the weeks to come.

Early tip: Essendon by 22 points


Richmond v Fremantle, MCG
Sunday, May 5, 1pm AEST

Last time: Richmond 12.13 (85) d Fremantle 10.10 (70), R13 2023

What it means

Richmond (1-6) has continued to battle hard without quite getting its just reward on the scoreboard, especially when on its home turf at the MCG. The injury-ravaged Tigers will have to call on yet more reinforcements as they look to prove that they can still compete with clubs hovering around the middle of the ladder even while gradually refreshing their own side.

Fremantle (4-3) might have suffered the wake up call it needed two rounds ago against West Coast. The Dockers released the shackles to bounce back from their Western Derby defeat with a victory over Western Bulldogs, but now need to show it was more than just a once off while taking on the Tigers at a venue where they have won three of their past five matches.

Game shapers

Dustin Martin has looked like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode this season as the triple Norm Smith medallist has averaged 18.6 disposals and only booted four goals in five matches. But with onball bull Jacob Hopper the latest addition to the Tigers' lengthy injury list, the time is now for Martin to return to his familiar role at the coalface and take a game by the scruff of the neck.

Nat Fyfe turned back the clock with 37 disposals, including 18 contested, against Western Bulldogs last week. The former Dockers skipper had been building towards having that sort of impact again, and gathered 13 clearances a week earlier against the Eagles, but now looms as a not-so-secret weapon in the midfield that can already turn to its strength around the stoppages.

Early tip: Fremantle by 17 points


Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn, Marvel Stadium
Sunday, May 5, 4pm AEST

Last time: Hawthorn 9.13 (67) d Western Bulldogs 9.10 (64), R22 2023

What it means

The Western Bulldogs (3-4) continued their rollercoaster ride of a season with a defeat on the road to Fremantle but can get their campaign back on track with consecutive matches against current bottom-four teams. The Bulldogs can even their win-loss record against Hawthorn, then will be out to claim another four points against Richmond with tougher challenges then to follow.

Hawthorn (1-6) has shown glimpses of what it produced during a promising campaign last year even as the heavy defeats start to mount up this time around. The Hawks paid the price for wayward kicking at goal in their loss to the Swans but will be just as concerned by their lack of intensity across matches while winning the tackle count only once this season.

Game shapers

Jack Macrae has had to do it the hard way after starting on the outer of the Bulldogs' side and being named as the sub in his second appearance of the season. But the three-time All-Australian has shown signs of returning to form in recent weeks and remains critical to the Bulldogs' hopes of getting their running game going against the Hawks.

Jack Macrae evades a tackles in the Western Bulldogs' win over St Kilda in R6, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Jack Ginnivan has achieved more than most in the first four years of his career with a premiership medal, a 40-goal season and arguably even a rule change in his pocket ahead of a 50th match this week. The livewire forward has made a reasonable start to life in brown and gold with eight majors in seven matches but will be out to make amends for booting four behinds last week.

Early tip: Western Bulldogs by 27 points


Brisbane v Gold Coast, Gabba
Sunday, May 5, 7.10pm AEST

Last time: Gold Coast 15.6 (96) d Brisbane 7.13 (55), R20 2023

What it means

Brisbane (2-5) is running out of time to turn its season around especially with a midfield that has been hit hard by injury failing to have its usual impact. But a QClash on the Lions' home deck is just the occasion to kickstart their season especially with a stretch of five matches against less fancied teams to follow.

Gold Coast (4-3) stunned Brisbane late last season to snap a nine-match losing streak against its arch-rival but now needs to show that it can do the same when on the road. The Suns have been thumped by an average of 49 points in their past five meetings with the Lions at the Gabba, while they are yet to win in all three matches away from home this year. 

Game shapers

Josh Dunkley has been a consistent performer for Brisbane even as his side has slumped to five early defeats. The tenacious onballer adds a balance to the Lions midfield and is averaging career-highs for tackles (7.1) and inside 50s (4.1), but could add goals to his game after failing to hit the scoreboard at all this year.

Josh Dunkley gets his kick away during the R5 match betwen Brisbane and Melbourne at the MCG on April 11, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Mac Andrew has been well on the way to living up to his raw but breath-taking potential since returning to the Gold Coast side from round four whether playing as an interceptor or more of a lockdown defender. The high-leaping 20-year-old might have a more defensive role against the Lions' tall timber that has struggled to fire for most of this season.

Early tip: Brisbane by 14 points