Essendon must beat Sydney to stay in touch of the top eight. Picture: Getty Images
Essendon must beat Sydney to stay in touch of the top eight. Picture: Getty Images

Super round just what the game needs

IT'S the super round this season needed after an intensive week of rules talk.

Clearly, footy has a few creaks and groans right now, and the high-stakes debate will continue about the best ways to ratchet up scoring and sweeten the play.

Not only for next season, but for the next generation of players and fans.

But, for the next seven days, let's enjoy the seafood platter that's on our plates because the round of the season is upon us.

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There are nine genuinely even-looking match-ups this weekend with enormous finals ramifications and even an intriguing one between cellar dwellers Gold Coast and Carlton.

Naturally, all eyes will be on the biggest Richmond-Collingwood clash since the Tigers' 1980 Grand triumph on Saturday afternoon.

The MCG is currently forecasting a crowd of 81,000, but that number is expected to swell by several thousand in the next few days as anticipation builds.

And for all the speculation about Nathan Buckley's contract in recent seasons, the senior coach has engineered a brilliant turnaround with a quick and contested game plan which can take it right up to the premiership favourites.

They are the third-highest scoring team in the competition, the Pies.

Taylor Adams celebrates a goal in Collingwood’s big win over North Melbourne. Picture: Michael Klein
Taylor Adams celebrates a goal in Collingwood’s big win over North Melbourne. Picture: Michael Klein

Malcolm Blight might have joked last week that Buckley should join the unemployment queue if he doesn't like the proposed rule changes on the menu.

But, in truth, Bucks is closer to getting a pay rise than popping into Centrelink because the Pies will be genuine flag contenders if they roll Richmond.

On Friday night, things will be much more cut throat.

After a string of snooze fests in the prime time slot this season, it's do or die for the Bombers as they look to upset a flagging Sydney at Etihad Stadium.

The Bombers may have lost Shaun McKernan to a serious-looking hamstring injury but Orazio Fantasia showed why he should be considered the most damaging small forward in the league with five goals against Fremantle in his return from a groin complaint.

Lance Franklin had a shocker in the Swans' stunning loss to Gold Coast and rarely puts two bad ones together, although Steve Johnson said the champion spearhead is secretly battling some injuries.

So pass the popcorn when he goes to work on Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker on Friday night under the roof with everything on the line.

And things are looking dicey now, for the Dees.

After blowing a 29-point last term lead to Geelong on Saturday night, Melbourne's finals hopes will take a shattering blow if they cannot topple an improved Adelaide in their own backyard on Saturday night.

That brilliant comeback from the Cats got us in the mood despite some controversial crinkles regarding the ruck nomination and protected area face palms.

For Melbourne, we understand the heartbreak of missing percentage last year. The pain and all that.

Clayton Oliver’s Demons will be looking to bounce back against Adelaide after their after-the-siren loss to Geelong. Picture: Getty Images
Clayton Oliver’s Demons will be looking to bounce back against Adelaide after their after-the-siren loss to Geelong. Picture: Getty Images

But when you have the best ruckman in the league, the best young onballer in Clayton Oliver, goals galore from Jesse Hogan and Tom McDonald and some experience in Bernie Vince and Jordan Lewis down back, there are no excuses for missing the eight again this year.

It's the biggest game of Simon Goodwin's coaching career and the Crows are on the rise after an encouraging win against Brisbane on the road.

North Melbourne played its worst game of the year on Saturday, and have to bounce back over West Coast to make the eight.

Port is not invincible, either and the Western Bulldogs desperately need some late-season momentum.

Then there is Gold Coast v Carlton at Metricon Stadium where another loss for the Blues will virtually guarantee the Blues another No.1 draft pick.

The stakes are high, all the way down the ladder. Enjoy.

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