Matt Cottrell celebrates a goal during round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

GET set for four heavyweight clashes as the current top eight teams play another across round nine.

Melbourne has just handed Geelong its first defeat of the season but will face another tough challenge when it opens the round against a wounded Carlton on Thursday night. 

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The Cats host Port Adelaide under lights at GMHBA Stadium the following night, while new ladder leaders Sydney head to Perth to take on Fremantle in part two of a Friday double-header.

Here is what to look for across round nine, as well as a tip for each match.

Carlton v Melbourne, MCG
Thursday, May 9, 7.30pm AEST

Last time: Carlton 11.7 (73) d Melbourne 9.17 (71), SF 2023

What it means

Carlton (5-3) has lost its early momentum and the side has slumped to three defeats in the past four matches as injuries have mounted up. It doesn’t get any easier with the in-form Melbourne up next, while the Blues then have Sydney away, Gold Coast, Port Adelaide away and resurgent rivals Essendon to follow before a round 14 bye.

Melbourne (6-2) stamped its top-four credentials with an impressive victory over Geelong and could now set up its season with a win over Carlton with West Coast and St Kilda to follow. But the Demons won’t need any reminder of the danger that the Blues present after suffering a costly loss to them in round 22 last year then being knocked out in a semi-final thriller a few weeks later.



Nic Newman is looking more and more like a late bloomer as he backs up a career-best year with a stretch of consistent and classy performances to start this season. The reliable half-back is adding his usual dash from defence while also being able to restrict the oppositions and is sure to spend time on some of the Demons' most deadly finishers.

Ed Langdon continues to provide a critical link between defence and attack while racking up possessions on a wing. The 28-year-old is also providing a guiding light for the Demons' next generation of runners, with Caleb Windsor the latest young gun to follow in Langdon's footsteps and add to their midfield depth. 

Early tip: Melbourne by 11 points

Ed Langdon in action during round seven, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Geelong v Port Adelaide, GMHBA Stadium
Friday, May 10, 7.10pm AEST

Last time: Geelong 14.13 (97) d Port Adelaide 12.13 (85), R21 2023

What it means

Geelong (7-1) dropped its first match of the season to Melbourne by only eight points even with several stars fluffing their lines. The Cats can back guns like Jeremy Cameron not to have two bad performances in a row as they look to extend their nine-match winning streak on home turf against the Power which has been by an average 42 points and stretches back to 2008.

Port Adelaide (5-3) is at risk of tumbling out of the top eight after two losses in its past three matches including an alarming defeat in the Showdown last week. But if the Power can turn around their horror record at the Cats’ fortress, with only two wins in their 16 visits to the venue, they should be able to eye a return to the top four with the Hawks and Roos to follow.



Tom Hawkins might rue missing the Cats’ round five clash with the Kangaroos, after going goalless the week before against the Bulldogs and failing to boot a major in three matches since then. This is now Hawkins’ longest streak of goalless matches but the spotlight will be back on his achievements as the powerful forward equals Joel Selwood’s club record of 355 matches for the Cats.

Willem Drew is often able to fly under the radar as he locks down on the opposition’s main weapons while the rest of the Power’s star-studded midfield earns the plaudits. But the 25-year-old might have to step into the spotlight this week with captain Connor Rozee sidelined and the Cats boasting an even spread among their on-ball brigade.

Early tip: Geelong by 19 points

Willem Drew during the round eight match between Adelaide and Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, May 2, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Fremantle v Sydney, Optus Stadium
Friday, May 10, 6.30pm AWST

Last time: Sydney 16.9 (105) d Fremantle 12.4 (76), R19 2023

What it means

Fremantle (5-3) has settled into the top eight after bouncing back from its shock loss to West Coast to secure back-to-back victories against teams most would expect it to beat. The Dockers have been just as impressive when facing more fancied opponents, even if they fell short against the Blues and Power, and can look to make a statement against the high-flying Swans on home turf.

Sydney (7-1) has climbed to the top of the ladder for just the second time since 2016 after crushing crosstown rivals Greater Western Sydney in tricky conditions. The Swans are perhaps even more suited to a dry deck at Optus Stadium but their midfield will need to repeat their efforts at the coalface against the Giants to nullify a Dockers strength. 



Andrew Brayshaw has had to become more versatile as the Dockers add more depth to their midfield with more minutes handed to Hayden Young and the reintroduction of Nat Fyfe. But Brayshaw is also adding more strings to his bow while averaging career-highs for 4.5 clearances as well as 0.63 goal assists a game.

Logan McDonald has well and truly stepped out of Lance Franklin’s shadow but understandably found the going tougher under cloudy skies last week against the Giants. The out-of-contract spearhead has booted at least a goal a game this season and will be out to impress against the Dockers as he returns to his hometown. 

Early tip: Sydney by 17 points

Andrew Brayshaw in action during Fremantle's clash against the Western Bulldogs in round seven, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Hawthorn v St Kilda, UTAS Stadium
Saturday, May 11, 1.45pm AEST

Last time: St Kilda 19.8 (122) d Hawthorn 14.9 (93), R20 2023

What it means

Hawthorn (2-6) responded to a lacklustre loss to Sydney by stunning Western Bulldogs with arguably its best performance of the season. But the Hawks still need to prove that they can rise to a similar level from week to week, after bouncing between promising and pedestrian too often this season.

St Kilda (3-5) did what it needed to do against North Melbourne to breathe life into its campaign after three consecutive defeats. But the Saints still have little margin for error against the unpredictable Hawks, especially with a pair of current top-eight teams in the Dockers and Demons to follow.



James Sicily is never far from the spotlight but would have impressed even his harshest critics when overcoming a dislocated shoulder to play a critical role in the Hawks’ upset victory over the Bulldogs. The skipper even booted what proved to be the sealer and if declared fit enough to face the Saints in Launceston could be moved forward in a return to the role that he started in.

Max King is yet to get going this season after booting seven goals in five matches and even managing only one against the struggling Kangaroos. The tall forward won’t want to let another opportunity to find form slip as the Saints come up against a second undermanned defence in succession as they take on the Hawks.

Early tip: St Kilda by 29 points

Max King in action during St Kilda's clash against North Melbourne in round eight, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Essendon v Greater Western Sydney
Saturday, May 11, 4.35pm AEST

Last time: Greater Western Sydney 25.12 (162) d Essendon 5.6 (36), R23 2023

What it means

Essendon (5-2-1) has made its best start to a season after eight rounds since 2013 but will need little reminder of what occurred when these two teams met late last season. The Bombers appear to be a different outfit now, with several new faces and a bolder approach, though they are still to claim a big scalp like the Giants will present.

Greater Western Sydney (6-2) was outmuscled by arch rivals Sydney as too many of its top-liners failed to fire in the wet and an injured Tom Green watched three quarters from the bench. The Giants have now lost two of their past three matches but should be emboldened from handing the Bombers a 126-point thumping the last time they met.



Kyle Langford has already had an eventful season including a last-gasp opportunity to snatch victory in the Anzac Day clash with Collingwood that ended in a draw. The Bombers’ key forward is also well on the way to backing up his 51-goal haul last year with 20 majors in eight matches, but will play a crucial role against the Giants and their defence led by Sam Taylor. 

Few have shaped the Giants like Callan Ward and his teammates are sure to want to honour their former captain with four points as he celebrates his 300th game. Ward is asked to put fires out as much as spark the Giants these days while often handed a run-with role, but could be asked to return to his former glories as a ball-winning on-baller with Tom Green injuring an ankle last week.

Early tip: Greater Western Sydney by 13 points

Kyle Langford celebrates a goal during round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Richmond v Western Bulldogs
Saturday, May 11, 7.30pm AEST

Last time: Western Bulldogs 19.12 (126) d Richmond 10.11 (71), R21 2023

What it means

Richmond (1-7) is still stranded on one victory as the margins of its defeats have started to blow out, but can at least be heartened by being the only team to beat ladder leaders Sydney. The Tigers would have little to lose in taking the shackles off and trying to move the ball with more purpose especially after averaging only 55 points in their four losses on the trot.

The pressure is rising on the Western Bulldogs (3-5) after four defeats in the past five matches that have it losing touch with the top eight. The Bulldogs had at least been able to beat the other teams sitting around them until failing to overcome the Hawks, but will have to bounce back against the Tigers especially with the Giants, Swans, Pies, Lions and Dockers to come. 



Thomson Dow is gradually grasping his opportunity to spend more time around the ball while the Tigers' on-ball brigade has been decimated by injury. The 22-year-old has now played a career-high eight matches this season and impressed with his ability to gather possessions whether at the coalface or in space on the outside as the Tigers rebuild on the run.

Even while the Bulldogs are on the brink of unravelling they can at least rely on Liam Jones to hold up the defence. The 33-year-old veteran has the second most intercept marks in the League this season with 29 in eight matches and with the Tigers lacking in firepower Jones could enjoy a day out.

Early tip: Western Bulldogs by 22 points

Liam Jones rises for a mark during round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Gold Coast v North Melbourne
Saturday, May 11, 7pm ACST

Last time: North Melbourne 20.12 (132) d Gold Coast 14.13 (97), R24 2023

What it means

Gold Coast (4-4) has built a strong record at home this season with victory in all four matches at People First Stadium, while dropping just as many when on the road. The first of back-to-back home games at TIO Stadium will test the Suns’ travel credentials, though they have also won all four matches at the venue across the past two years.

North Melbourne (0-8) is gradually running out of chances to find a breakthrough victory this season as it is now even being outclassed by teams sitting outside the top eight. The young Roos might firstly look to take small steps and hold an opponent to fewer than 100 points even while coming up against the only team it has beaten in the past year.



Gold Coast co-vice-captain Sam Collins will lead a defence out to make amends for allowing the Lions to have 29 scoring shots last week. The Suns were fortunate the Lions were wayward near goal but won’t want to rely on the accurate Roos misfiring with Collins taking on a particularly critical role of containing the deadly Nick Larkey’s opportunities.

Colby McKercher had shown glimpses of his talents through the opening stages of the season but has made clearer why North Melbourne selected him with pick No.2 last year over the past two rounds. McKercher amassed 62 disposals against the Crows and Saints since returning to half-back, with his dash and sharp kicking already looming as a threat for the Roos.

Early tip: Gold Coast by 27 points

Colby McKercher handballs under pressure during round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Collingwood v West Coast
Sunday, May 12, 1pm AEST

Last time: Collingwood 18.12 (120) d West Coast 8.9 (57), R12 2023

What it means

Collingwood (4-3-1) confirmed its still the masters of the nailbiter when overcoming traditional rival Carlton by six points with a goal in the last minute. The Magpies are still paying the price for starting the season with three defeats to be sitting outside the top eight but could climb as high as fifth if round nine results go their way.

West Coast (2-6) almost snatched a third win on home turf as it chased down Essendon with veterans like Tim Kelly leading the way. But just as hope was continuing to build, the Eagles have been hit by injury and look set to take a younger team across the country to take on the reigning premier that is starting to look in ominous form.



Nick Daicos might have eased into the season but the third-year jet was at his brilliant best in the stirring victory over Carlton with 32 disposals and two goals including the match-winner. It is no coincidence that the Magpies are humming again with the-21-year-old in full flight and reaffirming that he is the player the Eagles will need to contain.

The Eagles have been more competitive again with Elliot Yeo returning to fitness and form but will need someone to fill the void now that the onballer has been sidelined again. Reuben Ginbey has the size and pedigree to make an impact at the stoppages, and even in just his second season seems primed for a more prominent role.

Early tip: Collingwood by 37 points


Adelaide v Brisbane
Sunday, May 12, 3.30pm ACST

Last time: Brisbane 15.9 (99) d Adelaide 13.15 (93), R22 2023

What it means

Adelaide (3-5) brushed aside heated rivals Port Adelaide in the Showdown to make it three wins from its past four matches and stay within touching distance of the top eight. The Crows now have an opportunity to prove their finals credentials in back-to-back clashes with last year’s grand finalists before a kinder run against the Eagles, Hawks and Tigers.

Brisbane (3-5) made light work of Gold Coast with a courageous display that included more than just glimpses of its best even as four key players were injured on the way to the win. The Lions’ depth looks set to be stretched over the coming weeks but a victory on the road over the resurgent Crows would remind the competition that last year’s runner’s-up remain a familiar threat.


Game shapers

Taylor Walker has been contributing without quite lighting up this season while booting 12 goals in seven matches. The veteran’s average of 1.71 majors a game is well below his career-high 3.45 last year, but the Crows could look to play Walker back into top form against the Lions’ injury-ravaged defence.

Brisbane co-captain Harris Andrews is set to lead a new-look backline into the encounter with the Crows after Darcy Gardiner, Noah Answerth and Brandon Starcevich joined a lengthy injury list. Andrews will be as important in marshalling the defence as trying to lock down on the Crows’ tall forwards, while he remains the leading intercept mark in the game with 35 this year. 

Early tip: Adelaide by four points

Harris Andrews and Tom Berry challenge for the ball during round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images