Caleb Serong tackles Jack Viney during the R11 match between Narrm (Melbourne) and Walyalup (Fremantle) at the MCG on May 27, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

PORT Adelaide and Carlton will open round 12 with a top-eight blockbuster on Thursday night, while Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs meet the following night with both sides hit hard by injury.

The mid-season byes have arrived, with Sydney and Greater Western Sydney taking winning form into their break, while Brisbane and North Melbourne can take the time to lick their wounds.

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

Here is who and what to look for across round 12, as well as a tip for each match.

Port Adelaide v Carlton, Adelaide Oval
Thursday, May 30, 7pm ACST

Last time: Carlton 18.14 (122) d Port Adelaide 10.12 (72), R18 2023

What it means

Port Adelaide (8-3) has climbed to third place on the ladder with three consecutive victories and could now entrench itself in the top four leading into its bye. The Power even have room for improvement after cruising against the Roos, where their midfield fine-tuned for what looms as a mouthwatering battle with the Blues at the coalface.

Carlton (7-4) surged back into the top eight with a much-needed victory over Gold Coast and now takes on a side that it thumped by 50 points late last season. The Blues are yet to beat the Power in all four clashes on their opponent's home deck but can be bolstered by breaking through for their first win in eight visits to the venue when facing the Dockers there earlier this year during Gather Round.

George Hewett and Jacob Weitering celebrate with fans after Carlton's win over Fremantle at Adelaide Oval in R4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos


Todd Marshall booted an equal career-high five goals against the Roos last week to lift his season tally to 17. The 198cm key forward is now the Power's leading goalkicker, along with Willie Rioli, though Darcy Byrne-Jones, Charlie Dixon and Mitch Georgiades are not far behind as the club builds on their variety in attack.

Zac Williams has faced yet another injury-interrupted season but the Blues dasher has returned to flourish in a new role. Williams has been switched from defence to attack, and last week booted a career-high four goals while adding his usual tenacity and pressure in what could turn into a magical move from the Blues.

Early tip: Port Adelaide by 11 points


Collingwood v Western Bulldogs, Marvel Stadium
Friday, May 31, 7.40pm AEST

Last time: Collingwood 13.11 (89) d Western Bulldogs 11.11 (77), R17 2023

What it means

Collingwood (6-3-2) could not quite hold off Fremantle when again hit hard by injury in their second draw of the season. The Magpies are doing well to stay inside the top eight despite the lack of personnel, but the tipping point could come at some stage especially with their forward line increasingly undermanned.

The Western Bulldogs (5-6) did almost all that it could against ladder-leader Sydney with several key players sidelined during the brave defeat. The Bulldogs will have no excuses against a Magpies outfit that has an even longer injury list, especially with last year's Grand Finalist Brisbane and then Fremantle to come next.

Aaron Naughton is helped off the field after hurting his knee during the Western Bulldogs' loss to Sydney in round 11, 2024. Picture: Getty Images


Darcy Cameron continues to stand up even with a host of the Magpies' other big men struck down with injury. The 204cm ruck has, for the most part, enjoyed an outstanding season and was at his best against the Dockers with 21 disposals and seven clearances last week, but the Pies need Cameron to stay fit and firing at least until reinforcements arrive.

Sam Darcy has added consistency to his obvious class with at least a goal in each of his 10 matches this season for a total 19. The Bulldogs will now look for the 208cm key forward to become even more of a focal point, as he was with a four-goal haul against the Tigers, at least while their forward group is tested without the injured Aaron Naughton.

Early tip: Collingwood by eight points


Hawthorn v Adelaide, MCG
Saturday, June 1, 1.45pm AEST

Last time: Adelaide 11.13 (79) d Hawthorn 11.10 (76), R6 2023

What it means

Hawthorn (4-7) has won four of its past six matches to leave its concerning early season form behind, and could now leapfrog Adelaide and move into 12th spot with victory this week. The Hawks have only won twice in 13 matches at the MCG since the start of last season, but are up against an opponent that has an even more dismal record at the venue.

Adelaide (4-6-1) returns with the pain of yet another heartbreaking loss at the venue still lingering after falling four points short of Collingwood two weeks ago. The Crows have now lost nine in a row at the MCG, starting with the 2017 Grand Final, but will bring plenty of momentum with them after thumping the Eagles last week.

Jordan Dawson leads his team off after Adelaide's win over West Coast at Adelaide Oval in round 11, 2024. Picture: Getty Images


Jack Gunston had made a lukewarm return to Hawthorn after spending one season with Brisbane until giving a firm reminder of his talents last week. The 32-year-old booted a season-high four majors to play a pivotal role in the Hawks' surprise win over the Lions and again looms as a goalkicking threat in his 250th match.

Lachlan Sholl has put together multiple 'breakout' games since making his debut in 2020 without then hitting those same heights regularly enough. The 24-year-old again showed the impact he can have with 34 disposals and a goal against the Eagles but now needs to take the next step and back it up week-to-week. 

Early tip: Hawthorn by four points


West Coast v St Kilda, Optus Stadium
Saturday, June 1, 2.35pm AWST

Last time: St Kilda 12.13 (85) d West Coast 12.5 (77), R16 2023

What it means

West Coast (3-8) will hope to leave a 99-point belting on the road against Adelaide behind when it returns in search of its stirring form on home soil. The Eagles have won three of their past four matches as hosts, with the only defeat in that time being by one goal to the high-flying Bombers, even if their dire away record is a growing concern.

St Kilda (3-8) is close to playing out the rest of the season for little more than pride after three consecutive defeats have left it four wins outside the top eight before the halfway mark of the season. The Saints could drop below the Eagles and to 16th spot with a loss to last year's wooden spooners, as they look a far cry from the side that clinched a finals berth last year.

Jack Darling celebrates during the round seven match between Gold Coast and West Coast at People First Stadium, April 28, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos


Jeremy McGovern is on the way to his first uninterrupted season in more than five years and must be enjoying the Eagles' surprise bounce. The key defender looks fit and fresh, especially when playing alongside Tom Barrass, and the pair are sure to play a pivotal role in the Eagles' hopes this week especially as the Saints target spearhead Max King. 

Jack Steele did his best to lead the way against the Demons with 33 disposals but was lacking enough followers as the Saints fell further away from finals contention. The skipper might see a change of role across the second half of the season as his side hands more opportunities to younger midfielders, but Steele's attack on the ball remains crucial to their hopes. 

Early tip: West Coast by nine points

Geelong v Richmond, GMHBA Stadium
Saturday, June 1, 7.30pm AEST

Last time: Richmond 16.6 (102) d Geelong 11.12 (78), R9 2023

What it means

Geelong (7-4) has hit the skids with four losses on the trot that now have it on the brink of falling out of the top eight after a blistering 7-0 start to the season. Three of those four defeats have been by eight points or less, but two have also come at the Cats' home venue which has been losing its lustre as a fortress over the past year.

Richmond (1-10) will visit the unfamiliar surroundings of GMHBA Stadium for the first time since 2017 as it hunts its first win at the venue in 18 years. The Tigers are likely to find the going tough amid an ongoing injury crisis that has largely dismantled their season, even against a Cats side with their backs to the wall.

Dustin Martin in action during the match between Richmond and Essendon at the MCG in round 11, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos


Max Holmes has continued to impress even as Geelong has slumped to four consecutive losses, being awarded coaches' votes in six of the Cats past seven matches. The dasher is averaging 25.6 disposals a game while having an impact in both the defence and the forward half and has become critical to the Cats' midfield balance.

Dion Prestia has answered the call for the injury-ravaged Tigers since returning from his own fitness issues three weeks ago. The 31-year-old has averaged 24.3 disposals in that time even as Tigers' midfield has been under siege at times, and now looks ready to turn back the clock.

Early tip: Geelong by 47 points


Melbourne v Fremantle, Traeger Park
Sunday, June 2, 12.30pm ACST

Last time: Fremantle 12.7 (79) d Melbourne 10.12 (72), R11 2023

What it means

Melbourne (7-4) brushed aside St Kilda with a comfortable victory that put it back into the top four, but now faces a tricky stretch with a trip to Alice Springs followed by the King's Birthday clash against Collingwood. The Demons would have been buoyed by reaching 100 points for just the second time this season, as their forward group found a better spread of goalkickers.

Fremantle (6-4-1) showed that it can match it with the leading contenders when it came within a straight kick of defeating the reigning premier in the dying stages of their clash. The Dockers might have expected even more against the injury-ravaged Pies, but could now climb back into the top eight by taking four points from the Demons ahead of their own mid-season bye.

Adam Tomlinson in action during the match between Narrm (Melbourne) and Euro-Yroke (St Kilda) at the MCG in round 11, 2024. Picture: Getty Images


Adam Tomlinson has become perhaps the best defensive pillar that money can't buy as he bides his time with Melbourne before making the most of any opportunities that fall his way. Tomlinson was one of the Demons' best against the Saints, gathering 25 disposals and a game-high 12 intercept possessions in just his second game of the season after being called in to replace the injured Jake Lever, in a reminder of his ability at the top level.

Jeremy Sharp might still be kicking himself for hooking a shot at goal in the dying stages against Collingwood that went through for a behind to level the scores. But the Dockers winger had more than made his mark before that, gathering 26 disposals with eight inside 50s, as he continues to build on his most productive season yet.

Early tip: Melbourne by 14 points


Gold Coast v Essendon, People First Stadium
Sunday, June 2, 4pm AEST

Last time: Essendon 16.12 (108) d Gold Coast 11.14 (80), R2 2023

What it means

Gold Coast (6-5) is still yet to pick up a win on the road but can be bolstered by returning to its home deck for the first time since round seven, where it has a perfect record this year. The Suns still need to close the gap between their best and worst but could boost their hopes of a debut finals appearance with a first win over the Bombers since 2016, especially with the struggling Saints up next. 

Essendon (8-2-1) has made the most of a favourable fixture that included facing the three bottom teams in the past four weeks, while also impressing with a rousing victory over Greater Western Sydney in that time. The Bombers now turn to a stretch of matches against top eight contenders, starting with a Suns outfit that has turned their home into a fortress, and with the Blues to follow before a bye.

Brayden Fiorini celebrates a goal during the match between Gold Coast and West Coast at People First Stadium in round seven, 2024. Picture: Getty Images


Ben Long has become a useful support act for the Suns' emerging talents, with his ferocious and fearless approach a key weapon whether lining up in defence or attack. Long will play his 100th match this week after a rollercoaster career so far, but might have found his calling as a pressure forward with seven goals and 15 tackles in 3.5 games since being subbed on against the Lions in round eight.

Jordan Ridley always loomed as the secret ingredient that could significantly boost the Bombers' prospects this season but few could have predicted the impact he would have in his first match since round 19 last year. The key defender was one of the best afield against Richmond, gathering 31 disposals after overcoming ongoing quadricep injuries, as his partnership with Ben McKay is now one to watch grow.

Early tip: Gold Coast by seven points