The Blowtorch Round 6 preview, every club’s burning question, Fox Footy commentators, TV, broadcast guide, analysis, fixture, news – TOTOCC
The AFL has a “new darling” — and they’re a genuine finals threat.
Plus the worrying signs for the Blues and Tigers — and what we’re getting wrong about the Hawks.
Every club’s burning question ahead of Round 6, as well as commentators and ‘Cups’ for every Fox Footy game, in our ultimate weekly preview: The Blowtorch!
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AFL ROUND 6 FIXTURE AND TEAMS (All times AEDT)
FREMANTLE v WESTERN BULLDOGS (Brad Wira Cup)
Friday April 21, 8:10pm at Optus Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 7pm, with Garry Lyon, Jonathan Brown, Jordan Lewis, Matthew Pavlich and Jon Ralph.
Dockers’ burning question: Can they stop the Bont?
The Dockers notched an incredible comeback victory against the Dogs in last year’s elimination final, but Marcus Bontempelli did his best to end their season with a 30-disposal, two-goal performance. He is also coming off a whopping 12 clearances against Port Adelaide, proving he is in ominous touch to start the season even though the Dogs are fluctuating. Justin Longmuir has indicated the Dockers will put time into the Dogs skipper, with the job presumably going to James Aish, who tried to nullify Rory Laird in Round 4. It’s also another brilliant opportunity for Caleb Serong to strut his stuff against the best and show just how much he has improved this season. Will Brodie could come into the starting 22 after a starring performance as sub, with the midfield battle crucial on Friday.
Bulldogs’ burning question: How does Rory Lobb perform?
Caleb Serong has warned Rory Lobb to expect jeers when he takes on his former side in a Friday crunch clash. The last time Lobb was at Optus Stadium, he booted two goals for the Dockers as they came back to defeat the Dogs in a seesawing elimination final. Now, he plays for the other side, so he’s sure to receive attention that he likely didn’t when coming up against GWS for the first time, given the vastly different membership base. Optus Stadium will be buzzing, so it’s a pressure Lobb hasn’t truly faced before and how he fares will be interesting. His role is crucial given the Dogs’ mix of talls and the reliance on them working together effectively. It’ll be the game within the game.
What is going on with the Bulldogs? | 03:36
PORT ADELAIDE v WEST COAST EAGLES (Jaxon Crabb Cup)
Saturday April 22, 1:45pm at Adelaide Oval
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 1.30pm, with Kelli Underwood, Leigh Montagna, Dermott Brereton, Mark Ricciuto and David Zita.
Power’s burning question: Are they the most under-the-radar side of the season so far?
Pressure was beginning to mount on Ken Hinkley after an inconsistent start to the year. Yes, they were helped considerably by Ollie Florent’s set-shot falling short after the siren. But Port Adelaide had arguably the hardest opening five rounds in the competition — and have come out of it 3-2. Losses to Collingwood and Adelaide are hardly cause for alarm given the form of both sides, although granted the loss to the Pies was heavy. Defeating the Swans and the Bulldogs in the last two rounds has put the Power in a good position heading into Round 6 against a depleted Eagles side. If the Power are a genuinely good side in 2023, which we’re beginning to think they are, they will demolish a team that can barely field a fit and firing 22 players. Hinkley may well have weathered the storm for now.
Eagles’ burning question: Could this get really ugly for them?
It would already hurt enough to see Junior Rioli wearing the opposition’s colours, let alone when the Eagles could desperately use a player like him given the breadth of injuries Adam Simpson’s side is trying to manage. Luke Shuey is set to return, but Shannon Hurn will miss, headlining a list of veterans that include Elliot Yeo, Dom Sheed and Liam Ryan. There are injuries virtually everywhere you look for the Eagles — 12 months after they were brutally exposed last season under similar duress. A Port Adelaide side growing in confidence at the Adelaide Oval is a nightmare match-up for them given their current state. It’s a matter of damage control for the Eagles come Saturday.
Power will not rush Hinkley negotiations | 01:18
GWS GIANTS V BRISBANE LIONS (Jake Barrett Cup)
Saturday April 22, 4:35pm at Manuka Oval
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 4.30pm, with Dwayne Russell, Garry Lyon, Jordan Lewis, Alastair Lynch and David Zita.
Giants’ burning question: How important is Tom Green’s loss?
He may only be 22, but Green has been in top form to start the season. So his one-match ban for a dangerous tackle comes at the worst time, with the star-studded Lions midfield awaiting. A lot of the onus will now fall to the likes of Stephen Coniglio and Josh Kelly, while youngster Finn Callaghan will get even more exposure in the engine room. It’s not an enviable task given the form the Lions are in, but winning contested possession is an absolute must if the Giants are any chance of causing a big, big upset.
Lions’ burning question: Has Joe Daniher finally figured it all out?
Joe Daniher may forever prove a rollercoaster ride for Lions fans, but the last two weeks surely make it clear he is best deployed as a second ruck. For whatever reason, it’s that role that seems to get the most out of Daniher, as he gets involved in the game up the field and pushes forward to do damage on the scoreboard. At first glance, the Giants may not be the ultimate test of how well he’s playing, but Sam Taylor is one of the most difficult opponents in the league, so Daniher will have his work cut out for him to have a similar impact to what he has had in the last fortnight. If he does, however, it should serve as a warning shot to the rest of the competition.
Longmire: ‘No one cares about your age’ | 00:53
GEELONG CATS v SYDNEY SWANS (Jason Mooney Cup)
Saturday April 22, 7:25pm at GMHBA Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 7.15pm, with Kath Loughnan, Brad Johnson, Cameron Mooney, Eddie Betts and David Zita.
Cats’ burning question: Are we giving Geelong too much credit?
The Cats only narrowly managed to avoid a 64-year low as the first premiers to start a season 0-4 when they clawed back from a nine-point half time deficit to smash the Hawks in Round 5. They followed up that win with a 47-point win over West Coast. But are the Cats really back? Or are critics giving them too much rope? It took one exceptional half of footy for the Cats to find their feet against the Hawks – as they kicked 15 goals as opposed to the four they had to half-time. And they enjoyed a brilliant 40-minute burst to hand the Eagles a massive loss last weekend. Figures showed during that time, the Cats kicked 12 goals and took 13 marks from 25 inside 50s. David King described it as “pure footy” – but will we see four quarters of pure footy from the Cats? Or will they stay hit and miss?
Swans’ burning question: Will there be scats from last year’s horror Grand Final loss?
No doubt it’s a sore spot for many Swans players that were part of the team that lost to Geelong by 81 points last September. But the reality is you can’t extract ‘revenge’ in a Grand Final rematch — only a little bit of vengeance. Triple All-Australian Eddie Betts on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 spoke about how Adelaide had “pencilled in” its second-round 2018 clash against Richmond after being thumped by Damien Hardwick’s men in the 2017 Grand Final. Betts said his Crows were “angry” and wanted to “bash them up a little bit to get some payback”, adding: “It was devastating being on the ground and watching Richmond sing the song and hold the cup up … It’ll be a tough road for Sydney, fly to Melbourne, get on the bus to Geelong — and they’re revealing the premiership flag.” The Swans have already had to face some serious adversity this year, with several key players currently sidelined through injury. But there’s an intangible spirit and energy this young Swans team plays with — and if they bring it to GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night, the Cats could be in for a tough night.
Impey ‘stands proud’ against abuse | 06:02
HAWTHORN v ADELAIDE CROWS (Ricky Henderson Cup)
Sunday April 23, 1:10pm at University of Tasmania Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 1pm, with Anthony Hudson, Jason Dunstall, David King, Nick Dal Santo and Jon Ralph.
Hawks’ burning question: Has there been a short-term silver lining to losing Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Mitchell?
Offloading two of their top ball-winners last year was seen as a move to gain long-term rewards. But you could argue it’s helped the Hawks earlier than that. With O’Meara and Mitchell in the side last year, the Hawks were ranked 18th in the competition for clearance differential. But after five rounds this season, the Hawks have jumped to first in the same category. James Worpel, numerically, has returned to the form that saw him win the Hawks’ best and fairest in 2019, while Will Day and Conor Nash are both thriving in their inside midfield roles alongside Jai Newcombe. Clearly Hawthorn’s clearance dominance isn’t translating onto the scoreboard considering its 1-4 start to the season, but you can’t simply blame O’Meara and Mitchell’s respective absences for the club’s win-loss record.
Crows’ burning question: Are they the real deal?
All the measures indicate they are. They’re among the best teams in the competition for ball movement and post-clearance contested possessions — two crucial categories when determining genuine flag contenders. While the Crows have been renowned for their intensity under coach Matthew Nicks, their improved skill level has been a particular highlight, ranking second in the competition for overall kick rating. Five-time All-Australian Garry Lyon labelled Adelaide “the new darlings” of the AFL, telling Fox Footy’s On The Couch: “Every single measurement right now is ticking over, the list profile looks good and the balance between forward, back and mid looks good.” Something would have to drastically go wrong for them to slip against Hawthorn this week.
Caminiti suspended for three matches | 01:34
CARLTON v ST KILDA (Sam Cranage Cup)
Sunday April 23, 3:20pm at Marvel Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 503 from 3pm, hosted by Sarah Jones with Dermott Brereton, Cameron Mooney and Jon Ralph.
Blues’ burning question: Will the Gather Round reality check spur them against a shock finals contender?
Carlton dropped its first game of the season last round thanks to a white-hot performance from the Adelaide Crows, who blitzed the Blues with eight of the first nine goals of the game. In a big concern for the Blues, Adelaide thumped them at the coalface, winning the contested possession count by +26 — an area widely seen as a strength of Carlton’s — while they also coughed up 18 goals – the most conceded by Carlton under coach Michael Voss. But there’s a sense Carlton’s DNA has been lost across the first month, with the Blues dropping from second in clearance differential last year to 12th this year and fourth for points from clearances last year to 15th this year. Garry Lyon told On The Couch: “What they had last year they don’t have anymore. Their point of difference last year was their ability to win clearance … Not only are they run of the mill, they’ve gone backwards.” Perhaps a loss like that against Adelaide had been coming, for the Blues hadn’t been breathtakingly convincing in their three wins and one draw to start the season. Coming off a 10-day break, Voss’ troops have an ideal opportunity to respond against a well-coached and well-oiled machine in St Kilda.
Saints’ burning question: Will Ross the Boss find a different role for Jade Gresham?
Jade Gresham drew criticism this week for his reaction to a teammate’s goal that wouldn’t have pleased coach Ross Lyon, according to Fox Footy’s On the Couch panellists. Then Champion Data’s Daniel Hoyne explained Gresham was in a rough patch in recent weeks. Hoyne told SEN: “I found him quite frustrating to watch on the weekend. His want to get out the back of the contest … it just didn’t work for him on the weekend.” Stats showed Gresham had the second fewest disposals of his career against Collingwood and has only kicked one goal in three weeks. Hoyne also highlighted how Gresham was only averaging five score involvements per game this season — ranked 36th in the competition for his position — adding: “I just don’t think St Kilda are getting bang for buck.” A big week for the star free agent.
Caminiti ‘lacks professionalism’ | 02:23
GOLD COAST SUNS v NORTH MELBOURNE (Daniel Currie Cup)
Sunday April 23, 4:40pm at Heritage Bank Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 4pm, with Dwayne Russell, Brad Johnson, Gerard Healy, Alastair Lynch, Sarah Jones and Jon Ralph, followed by Bounce and First Crack.
Suns’ burning question: What happens if they lose?
You sense the tide has slowly started to turn against coach Stuart Dew. But if his Suns lose on Sunday to the young Kangaroos, the heat will ramp up significantly. Gold Coast last weekend joined West Coast and Hawthorn as the only clubs with 1-4 records. Dew signed a new two-year deal last July to tie him at the club until at least the end of 2024. He’s Gold Coast’s longest serving coach in club history, but has never led the side to a finish higher than 12th in his five seasons at the helm. With club chairman Tony Cochrane — a fiercely loyal supporter of Dew — recently stepping down and replaced by Bob East, there are concerns Dew could be vulnerable if the Suns losses continue to stack up. Gold Coast will go into Sunday’s game against North Melbourne as favourites — but it’s the definition of a danger game.
Kangaroos’ burning question: Can the Roos backline stand tall?
North Melbourne was forced into a Good Friday blockbuster without a key tall backman – and for three quarters the Roo did enough to hold Carlton’s dynamic duo at bay using the likes of undersized duo Jack Ziebell and Luke McDonald. But when they got their bigger bodies back in Griffin Logue and Ben McKay, the defensive end fell apart against Brisbane. The Roos coughed up a whopping 33 marks inside 50 – the most of any team since 2007. Leigh Montagna said on First Crack: “They haven’t defended that badly in the first four games. It just fell apart, and when it did, it just fell apart badly.”
Papley powers Swans to win over Tigers | 03:02
MELBOURNE v RICHMOND (Addam Maric Cup)
Monday April 24, 7:25pm at the MCG
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 6.30pm, with Garry Lyon, Jonathan Brown, Jordan Lewis, Nathan Buckley, Kath Loughnan and Jon Ralph.
Demons’ burning question: Will Brodie Grundy respond to the criticism?
He’s Melbourne’s high-price recruit who arrived with plenty of hope of a premiership partnership forming with Demons skipper Max Gawn. But with Gawn sidelined, Brodie Grundy has been left to carry the ruck load solo – and he got found out against Essendon last weekend. Fox Footy’s David King said on First Crack that Grundy was “way off” defensively, adding: “Your job and your responsibility is to cover the opposing ruckman. When you get it wrong, you’ve got to be able to recover.” Brad Johnson was also critical of Grundy’s lack of “urgency” to get back in defence. The Bulldogs legend put it on Grundy to improve defensively over the next few weeks.
Tigers’ burning question: Can Richmond curtail their discipline woes?
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick wasn’t a fan of what he saw from his senior players in a match against a top team in Sydney that the Tigers were well in. The 50m penalties from Shai Bolton, Kamdyn McIntosh and Nick Vlastuin were all avoidable. Hardwick labelled his side’s discipline as “incredibly poor” and “ridiculous” in scathing post-match criticism. But stats show it shouldn’t just be last weekend that concerns Hardwick – the Tigers have already coughed up nine 50m penalties this year. And alarmingly since 2018, Richmond has conceded 55 50m penalties more than the rest of the competition in a worrying “theme” of bad behaviour.
Howe opens up on horrific broken arm | 01:47
COLLINGWOOD v ESSENDON (Richard Cole Cup)
Tuesday April 25, 3:20pm at the MCG
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 2pm, hosted by Sarah Jones with Jason Dunstall, David King, Leigh Montagna, Brad Johnson and Jon Ralph, followed by On the Couch and AFL 360.
Magpies’ burning question: Can Collingwood ‘hang in’ during tough injury run?
Collingwood’s ruck woes have gone from bad to worse on the back of Dan McStay’s finger injury. It now means the Pies are without Mason Cox, Darcy Cameron and Aiden Begg, as well as McStay, leaving them with no ruck option heading into Round 6. Nathan Kreuger was spotted doing ruck drills with coach Craig McRae at training on Wednesday. But he is yet to play a game this season due to injury and he’s managed just seven games in the past two years. Fox Footy’s David King said the club just needed to ride out its injury misfortune, telling First Crack: “You’ve just got to find a way to win, you’ve got to hang in until the troops return.” Given the dominance of Bombers ruck duo Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips against a Melbourne side missing Max Gawn, hanging in there might prove a tough ask for the Pies.
Bombers’ burning question: How do they cover the loss of the skipper?
The Bombers will head into the Anzac Day blockbuster without suspended captain Zach Merrett. Merrett is Essendon’s second-best player this season according to AFL rankings, behind only Will Setterfield, and is one of only eight Bombers to be ranked in the elite category so far in 2023. But his ban for a dangerous tackle has seen him sidelined for the massive clash with rivals Collingwood. While the loss of Merrett hurts, Champion Data’s Daniel Hoyne says Essendon’s improved defensive ability is what is holding the team together. Statistics show not since 2003 has Essendon been ranked top three for scores against — a great sign for coach Brad Scott. But the Bombers will have to find points from an avenue inside 50 with out Merrett – their second best at delivering the ball to the forwards.
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