Patrick Cripps is tackled by Jack Bowes during Carlton's clash against Geelong in round seven, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

CARLTON and Geelong open round 15 on Friday night when they clash for a second time this season after taking different paths since their first encounter.

The Blues have won four from six since a defeat in that contest, while the Cats' seven-match winning streak was snapped the week after and they have only been victorious once more since.

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Port Adelaide and Brisbane meet the following day with both sides out to prove they are a finals contender rather than pretender, while the Sydney derby will have extra spice with the Swans in white-hot form and the Giants rediscovering their touch. 

Here is what to expect across the round and a tip for all six matches, as Adelaide, Collingwood, Hawthorn, Richmond, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs enjoy the last of the mid-season byes.


Carlton v Geelong, MCG
Friday, June 21, 7.40pm AEST

Last time: Geelong 18.10 (118) d Carlton 15.15 (105), R7 2024

What it means

Carlton (9-4) is looming as the main challenger to frontrunner Sydney after four victories from five matches while only losing to the ladder leader in that stretch before a bye. The Blues could further prove their credentials against the stumbling Cats that narrowly won their last clash even as Michael Voss' side dominated inside 50s, clearances and contested possessions.

Geelong (8-5) might well have been licking its wounds during the bye after suffering five defeats in its past six matches that has almost wiped out its fast start to the season. The Cats will be out to make a statement against the high-flying Blues while kicking off a testing period of five matches against fellow finals contenders.

Game shapers

Tom De Koning has been a ruck on the rise for a couple of years now but arguably played the best of his 73 matches in the Blues' win over the Bombers before their bye. The 24-year-old has hit a purple patch as he wins more of his own ball, with an average 14.7 contested possessions in the Blues' past three matches giving their already-powerful midfield another weapon.

Tom De Koning celebrates a goal during the match between Port Adelaide and Carlton at Adelaide Oval in round 12, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Sam De Koning has struggled to live up to all of the promise that he showed as the Cats surged to the 2022 premiership even while he remains a key to their defence. The 23-year-old defender is sure to be handed a critical role helping to contain the Blues twin towers Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay as the Cats search for a win to get their season back on track.

Early tip: Carlton by 11 points


Port Adelaide v Brisbane, Adelaide Oval
Saturday, June 22, 1.15pm ACST

Last time: Brisbane 19.9 (123) d Port Adelaide 11.9 (75), QF 2023

What it means

Port Adelaide (8-5) again had the large gap between its best and worst exposed with a defeat by Greater Western Sydney that knocked it down to seventh place when a top-two spot was all but within its grasp. The Power could return to boost their top-four hopes with a win over the gradually improving Lions, especially with a month facing sides currently sitting outside the finals positions to follow.

Brisbane (6-6-1) has got its win-loss record on level terms for the first time this season after back-to-back triumphs including when beating St Kilda last week. The Lions have shown signs of rediscovering something resembling their best with only one loss in their past six matches, while a win over the Power could take them to the brink of the top eight with a kind run of matches to come.  

Game shapers

Mitch Georgiades could be the key to unlocking the Power's forward line as they transition away from veteran Charlie Dixon. The 22-year-old missed most of last season after being sidelined with a torn ACL, but has returned to boot 19 goals in 10 matches to become the focal point of the attack. 

Mitch Georgiades is tackled by Matt Crouch during the round eight match between Adelaide and Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. Picture: Getty Images

Harris Andrews emerged as the talisman of the Lions' defence even before he was named co-captain, and can be trusted to again show the way against the Power in his 200th match. The 27-year-old leads the competition for intercept marks, which could prove to be a valuable weapon against the Power's under-siege attack.

Early tip: Brisbane by 14 points


Greater Western Sydney v Sydney, Engie Stadium
Saturday, June 22, 4.35pm AEST

Last time: Sydney 14.14 (98) d Greater Western Sydney 10.9 (69), R8 2024

What it means

Greater Western Sydney (8-5) showed signs of returning to some of its better early-season form as it overpowered Port Adelaide even if it took time to put them away. The pacesetting Swans will present a stiffer challenge but the Giants will hope to turn to a record where their past four victories over their arch-rivals have come by an average of 1.5 points.

Sydney (12-1) will want to kick the habit of giving up early leads after trailing at the first change in most of its matches this season even while surging to its best win-loss record since 1918. The Swans at their best look imperious with a new-found blend around the ball driving them to success, but will be wary of their noisy neighbours being motivated by an upset that would snap their dream run.

Game shapers

Josh Kelly made an immediate impact on his return for the Giants after being sidelined with a calf injury since round nine, as he gathered 27 disposals and booted the sealer in the win over the Power. The dual club champion is a key to the 'Orange Tsunami' and the way that the Giants want to play, with his power at stoppages as important as being a link between defence and attack.

Josh Kelly in action during Greater Western Sydney's clash against Port Adelaide in round 14, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Joel Amartey had been in career-best form even before his nine-goal haul against the Crows and now has 31 majors this season to emerge as a smoky for the Coleman Medal. The 24-year-old has booted at least one goal in every match since Opening Round including multiples in his last five games as he makes the most of a tank that is now allowing him to stay on the field longer as well as dominate in the air.  

Early tip: Sydney by 22 points


Melbourne v North Melbourne, MCG
Saturday, June 22, 7.30pm AEST

Last time: Melbourne 15.13 (103) d North Melbourne 10.11 (71), R21 2023

What it means

Melbourne (7-6) is now part of the chasing pack sitting outside the top eight after four defeats from its past five matches before a bye. The Demons have been able to brush aside the Roos in recent times with five consecutive victories by an average 51 points, but with injuries sidelining key players and their season teetering on the brink this now looms as more than just a danger game.

North Melbourne (1-12) might have suffered a heartbreaking defeat by the narrowest of margins to Collingwood but it won plenty of admirers for a sizzling opening half as it piled on the goals. The Kangaroos will still need to bounce back from giving up a 54-point lead to the Pies, but with their emerging midfield starting to fire they suddenly look primed to test the undermanned Demons.

Game shapers

It could be a case of the master and the apprentice as Clayton Oliver comes up against the rising Roos midfield while his own side are decimated by injury. The four-time club champion has failed to have his usual impact in recent weeks, perhaps as a lack of pre-season begins to take hold, but will need to rediscover something approaching his best with Christian Petracca sidelined.

Clayton Oliver kicks the ball during the R9 match between Melbourne and Carlton at the MCG on May 9, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

George Wardlaw was a key cog in the Kangaroos' midfield as they powered away from the Pies in the first half and went on to gather a career-best 30 disposals even as they were overrun. The second-year Roo will carry his tenacity and threat with the ball much later into games as he builds a tank suited to the top level, but for now we can sit back and enjoy the glimpses that his rapid growth reveals.

Early tip: Melbourne by nine points


Essendon v West Coast, Marvel Stadium
Sunday, June 23, 1pm AEST

Last time: Essendon 11.11 (77) d West Coast 11.5 (71), R8 2024

What it means

Essendon (8-4-1) has only edged past the lowly West Coast in their past two meetings, winning their most recent clash by a goal after a victory by the narrowest of margins last year. The Bombers will want to avoid a third scare against the Eagles turning into a shock loss to continue their charge towards finals, especially after hanging onto their top-four spot despite back-to-back defeats then a bye.

West Coast (3-10) would have been out to rediscover the best of its early-season form during the bye, after six defeats in seven matches before the break. The Eagles will be without Harley Reid following their prized draftee's suspension but will otherwise be nearing full strength in their midfield as they hunt a first win over the Bombers at Marvel Stadium since 2013.

Game shapers

Sam Durham has been a key to the Bombers' new-look midfield leading their resurgence into a top-four contender as his defensive nous and physical pressure becomes valuable to their mix. The 22-year-old is averaging career-highs for disposals, clearances, tackles and inside 50s, while Durham has also started to get forward more in recent weeks. 

Sam Durham in action during Essendon's clash against West Coast in round eight, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Jack Darling will overtake ruck great Dean Cox as the player to have lined up the second most times for West Coast when he runs out for his 291st match. The key forward looked to be limping to the milestone when starting the season with one goal in four matches, but has since bounced back to hit the scoreboard more while also setting the tone with defensive pressure in the Eagles' attack.

Early tip: Essendon by 28 points


Fremantle v Gold Coast, Optus Stadium
Sunday, June 23, 2pm AWST

Last time: Fremantle 15.10 (100) d Gold Coast 13.12 (90), R5 2023

What it means

Fremantle (7-5-1) continued its rollercoaster ride of a season with a listless defeat to the Western Bulldogs that followed a crushing victory over Melbourne with a bye in between. The Dockers remain a work in progress, especially in trying to find the right balance between defence and attack, but a dose of consistency now could be enough to hold onto their place in the top eight with a kind draw to come.

Gold Coast (7-6) will again be out to clinch their first win on the road this season to stay in touch with the top eight, after losses in all six matches away from their homes. The Suns should hold few fears of visiting Optus Stadium after victories in their past two visits, though they are yet to beat the Dockers at the venue with a pair of defeats.

Game shapers

Josh Treacy is enjoying a breakout season to answer any queries over the Dockers' tall forward options as he has booted at least a goal in every match this season to currently sit on 26. Treacy now looks more than comfortable at the elite level as he prepares to play his 50th match and even at 21 years of age is emerging as the Dockers' focal point in a three-pronged attack.

Josh Treacy kicks the ball during Fremantle's clash against Sydney in round nine, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Joel Jeffrey has been a slow burn while being a highly touted talent but only lining up in 21 matches since arriving at the Suns at the end of 2020. A move from the forward line to a role across half-back now looks like paying off as the 22-year-old starts to impact matches more, highlighted by a career-high 29 disposals while using his speed to break lines against the Saints.

Early tip: Fremantle by 17 points