The twilight fixture between Sydney and Brisbane may be the last match of the round but it’s the undoubted highlight of Round 7 as two top four sides square off.
Elsewhere, Saturday sees Fremantle head down to GMHBA Stadium in their toughest test to date against the Cats.
Later on Saturday, the Hawks will be hoping to do something no other side has managed to do so far this season – knock off the high-flying Dees.
See our tips and predictions for Round 7 below:
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West Coast v Richmond
Friday – 8:10pm – Optus Stadium
West Coast has an opportunity to get their season back on track taking on Richmond at Optus Stadium.
They backed up a heroic victory over Collingwood with two dire performances against Sydney and Port Adelaide, as the toll of their COVID-interrupted season grows.
They have quite a few of their key players back, but they are still finding their feet and one would hope they are now ready to go.
Richmond meanwhile has had a rollercoaster of a year, losing games you would expect them to win – Carlton and Adelaide – while putting in strong performances against last year’s Grand Finalists, beating the Western Bulldogs and taking it right up to the undefeated Melbourne.
The Tigers looked great against the Demons and until they were broken late in the second half, had their game pressure going.
Their three-pronged forward line of Tom Lynch, Jack Riewoldt and Noah Balta presents challenges for any team and the Eagles have had issues getting their best defensive line-up on the park.
Given what we have seen from West Coast in the last fortnight, it is very tough to tip them, though you would expect them to bounce back at home and given key players now have some run in their legs.
However, we’re still tipping Richmond to get over the line given how important these four points are for them in the context of their season.
Tip: Richmond by 9 points.
Geelong v Fremantle
Saturday – 1:45pm – GMHBA Stadium
Fremantle travel to Geelong to take on the Cats in what will be their biggest test this season so far.
The Dockers made it four wins on trot after defeating Carlton by 35 points at Optus Stadium – the club’s longest winning streak since 2015, which saw them improve to 5-1 after six rounds.
Justin Longmuir’s side are extremely well organized, conceding on average just under 74 points per game, making them the second stingiest defense in the competition only behind reigning premier Melbourne.
The Dockers were thrashed by 133 points in their last visit to Geelong in 2018 and haven’t tasted victory at the Cattery since a 44-point win in Round 2 of 2015.
Geelong have won six of the last seven meetings against Freo and enter Saturday’s match with a 4-2 win-loss record.
After a surprise loss at Hawthorn on Easter Monday, the Cats bounced back in emphatic fashion, belting North Melbourne by 60 points at Blundstone Arena.
Jeremy Cameron starred with seven goals to take his season goal tally to 19, meaning he’s just one major behind Cats teammate Tom Hawkins in the Coleman Medal race.
Geelong’s star forwards pose a huge threat to any defense in the competition, and they could prove the difference on the day.
The Dockers will be without key pair Sean Darcy (concussion) and Matthew Taberner (hamstring) for the trip to Geelong.
Tip: Geelong by 18 points.
Adelaide v GWS
Saturday – 2:10pm – Adelaide Oval
The Crows return to the Adelaide Oval following their stunning upset win over the Bulldogs and they’ll be keen to make it three in a row against the struggling Giants.
While the Crows are a respectable 3-3, they genuinely could’ve been 5-1 if it weren’t for losses by less than a goal to the Dockers and Bombers alike – proving that their recent run has been no fluke.
Conversely, the Giants look all at sea at 1-5, and that record reads true as they haven’t really gotten close in any of their defeats this year.
At the start of the year finals hopefuls GWS would’ve expected to head to the city of churches and pick up four points in this clash, but it’s the Crows who’ll now enter as favourites.
While the Crows have gone through a rebuild, their recent record against the Giants is a favorable one, winning four of their last seven head-to-head, and they’ll back themselves to improve that on Saturday.
If the Giants are to turn their season around, it has to start here, and they’ll hope their strong midfield can get control at the source and dictate terms from there.
While the Giants still have a lot of class on paper, Adelaide are shaping up nicely and they should go 4-3 for the season if they break even with this GWS side in the midfield.
Tip: Adelaide by 17 points.
Melbourne v Hawthorn
Saturday – 4:35pm – MCG
On paper and Round 6 results, this contest looks like one of the easiest tips of Round 7.
However, there’s plenty going on beneath the surface.
Melbourne will be without their premiership coach Simon Goodwin due to the league’s health and safety protocols this week, while best 22 members Luke Jackson, Kysaiah Pickett and Tom Sparrow will also miss for the same reason.
The Demons have comfortably cruised to their 6-0 record to start the season, but are yet to play a side currently in the top eight.
Goodwin’s side hasn’t got their front-half turnover game going to the extent that they’d like, and the absence of Sparrow and Pickett certainly won’t help the Demons turn that around this week.
Meanwhile, every time they’ve been written off in 2022, Hawthorn has responded.
After a slow start against Carlton, they charged home to almost pull off a stunning comeback, while they’ve toppled the Cats and played three strong quarters of football against a talented Sydney outfit, despite losing by 41 points.
It’s hard to be confident in a young side turning up week in, week out, but after two solid weeks of football, Hawthorn fans will be optimistic they can bring their best once again.
The Demons are yet to fully hit their straps in 2022, and if they can finally put it all together, it could be a blowout in favor of the 2021 premier.
However, it also presents an opportunity for the Hawks to cause an upset.
Tip: Melbourne by 13 points.
St Kilda v Port Adelaide
Saturday – 7:25pm – Cazalys Stadium
Football returns to North Queensland for a pivotal contest as St Kilda takes on Port Adelaide, who are finally on the board in 2022 after last weekend’s win over West Coast.
The Power were genuinely unlucky not to beat Carlton the week before after their mammoth comeback and Ken Hinkey would’ve been pleased by the manner in which they demolished their flailing opponents.
As for the Saints, they were on the Friday night stage in Round 6 and under all sorts of injury duress, managed to grind out a win over GWS to make it five consecutive victories.
Forward Jack Hayes went down with an ACL injury earlier in the match and without Patrick Ryder and Rowan Marshall spending large parts of the game off the field, the Saints were forced into a patchwork ruck set-up up against Braydon Preuss and Matthew Flynn.
Port Adelaide has shown signs of life in recent weeks despite their poor start to the season and should mount a challenge, something which the Saints should be well prepared for.
But with Ryder back this weekend following suspension, they are hot favorites to make it six wins in a row.
Tip: St Kilda by 21 points.
Carlton v North Melbourne
Saturday – 7:25pm – Marvel Stadium
You can mount an argument that North Melbourne is Carlton’s bogey side.
The Kangaroos are coming off 10-goal plus hidings to the Western Bulldogs and Geelong, but have won six of their past seven games against the Blues.
In last year’s corresponding fixture, Nick Larkey booted a career-high seven goals to spearhead the Roos to a 39-point win.
Larkey looms as a major threat once again in Saturday night’s meeting at Marvel Stadium.
As for Carlton, they were beaten by Fremantle in Perth last time out, with the 35-point loss further compounded by first-choice ruckman Marc Pitton, and suffering a PCL injury that is expected to sideline him for up to three months.
If the 4-2 Blues want to play finals come year’s end, these are the games they simply must win, with the Roos languishing at the bottom of the ladder with a 1-5 win-loss record.
The last time Carlton beat the Kangaroos in Melbourne was in Round 18, 2014. Their most recent victory came at the Gabba by seven points in Round 8, 2020.
It’s crucial the Blues respond, or their spot in the top eight could be at risk.
Tip: Carlton by 12 points.
Collingwood v Gold Coast
Sunday – 1:10pm – MCG
Collingwood enter this clash inside the top eight after their thrilling Anzac Day win over Essendon, while the Suns will hope to rebound after a disappointing Q-Clash loss to the Lions.
Last time out it was the Suns who earned one of their biggest wins in club history, taking care of a then-struggling Magpies side by 24 points exactly one year to the day of Sunday’s clash.
The Suns’ midfield held sway in that clash, with Touk Miller and Brandon Ellis dominating on the open expanses on the MCG, and they’ll be hoping to do so again.
While Collingwood look reinvigorated under new coach Craig McRae, they’ll face a new test without star ruckman Brodie Grundy at the stoppage – particularly against dominating Sun Jarrod Witts.
If the Suns are to win, they’ll hope to dominate clearance and stoppage via Witts and give their forwards ample opportunity, while the Pies will be hoping to capitalize on a strong front-half game.
Although the Suns look improved on 2021, Collingwood will back themselves to continue their good form in front of their home fans at the MCG and should be too strong for this Gold Coast outfit.
Tip: Collingwood by 23 points.
Western Bulldogs v Essendon
Sunday – 3:20pm – Marvel Stadium
The rematch of last year’s elimination final sees Western Bulldogs host Essendon at Marvel Stadium amid the backdrop of both sides struggling.
Both the Dogs and Dons lost matches last week they would’ve been eyeing off as wins before the start of the season.
These teams played twice last year – once in the finals after a memorable Round 21 outing where Peter Wright kicked a career-high seven goals.
Essendon as of late has struggled to contain deep midfields and it’s hard to see how they’ll be able to curtail the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Bailey Smith, Jack Macrae and Tom Liberatore.
The Bombers will need to expose the Dogs’ key position player woes but without Harry Jones for another week, they’ll need to find extra avenues to goal if they are to record their second win this season.
Tip: Western Bulldogs by 21 runs.
Sydney v Brisbane
Sunday – 4:40pm – SCG
The match of the round is saved for last when Swans take on the Lions at the SCG.
Both sides hold 5-1 records and are considered two legitimate contenders to knock off reigning premier Melbourne this year.
Sydney flexed their muscles in the second half of their Round 6 win over the Hawks, whilst Brisbane made light work of the Suns in the QClash.
The Swans’ recent record over the Lions is dominant, winning their last three matches by an average margin of 25 points.
Their duo of Issac Heeney and Callum Mills have had an outstanding start to the year, and if Brisbane are to win, they must restrict their influence.
Sydney will lose both Paddy McCartin and Logan McDonald for this clash with the pair failing concussion tests in that win over the Hawks – two integral talls in their line-up.
Brisbane’s forward line has been the feature of their game this year. Controlling Joe Daniher, Zac Bailey and Charlie Cameron isn’t easy, the trio have combined for 47 goals this season.
There’s very little separating these two sides other than Brisbane’s star-studded forward line and Sydney’s undermanned defence.
Tip: Brisbane by 19 points.