The Fox Footy Blowtorch: Every AFL club’s burning question for Round 9

Leon Cameron’s journey out of the senior coaching role has been eerily similar to Nathan Buckley’s so far, but there’s one final aspect the former would be looking to replicate.

Plus, trade deals (both those done and not done) continue to have an impact heading into the week’s games.

Every club’s burning question ahead of Round 9, as well as the Fox Footy Podcast ‘Cups’, tips and commentators for every Fox Footy game in our ultimate weekly preview: The Blowtorch!

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NEW FOX FOOTY PODCAST – Is the eight locked, bottom two woes

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Friday May 13, 7:50pm at Marvel Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 7pm, hosted by Sarah Jones, Jason Dunstall, David King, Leigh Montagna, Brad Johnson and Jon Ralph, followed by Fox Footy Live with Drew Jones, Cameron Mooney and Nick Dal Santo.

Pies’ burning question: Will the club pay for playing a home game at Marvel Stadium?

Collingwood will host the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium – in a Magpies’ home game at the Dogs’ home venue. Given both sides are sitting on the cusp of the top eight (Collingwood in 9th and the Bulldogs in 10th), this win is crucial for both clubs’ finals hopes. Commentator Dwayne Russell has questioned whether the Pies have helped themselves by having a home game at Marvel.

“To me, if Collingwood is to be forced to play a home game at Marvel, it should at least be against an interstate team, or could we just have all of Collingwood’s home games at the MCG in future?” he said on SEN. “This happens quite regularly … this is a huge game. Making the eight or not making the eight could even hinge on this.”

Dogs’ burning question: Forget Naughton or nought – could it be Bontempelli or bust?

Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli has missed just eight AFL games since making his debut back in Round 5, 2014. And of those eight games, the Western Bulldogs have come away winners just twice. The average losing margin when Bontempelli is sidelined is almost 40 points in those six games, and the Dogs haven’t won a game without the star in more than four years. While Bontempelli told Fox Footy “I’ll be there” against Collingwood, his fitness is proving crucial to the Dogs battle for a spot in the top eight.


Saturday May 14, 1:45pm at MCG

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 1pm, hosted by Mark Howard, Garry Lyon, Nathan Buckley and Kath Loughnan.

Hawks’ burning question: Can veteran stars salvage any trade value?

Last year the Hawks were said to be open to trading the likes of Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara, Luke Breust and Chad Wingard before ultimately keeping them for 2022. As the side’s on-field fortunes begin to splutter after a promising start to the season, Mitchell and O’Meara in particular, the former who’s been managed this week, now face an uphill battle to re-establish their worth to rival clubs should they be keen for a crack at an elusive premiership elsewhere. Both are yet to turn 30, but both look to be struggling in a Hawks side that is giving young up-and-comers more exposure in the midfield. The Hawks would want a first-round selection for Mitchell and potentially O’Meara, but both need to play significantly better from hereon in to be any chance to drawing such a bid. Mitchell’s week off will hopefully freshen him up to allow the 2018 Brownlow medallist to get back to his best.

Tigers’ burning question: Now that Martin’s back… where do you play him?

Dustin Martin made a triumphant return to the AFL in last week’s win over Collingwood, with 23 disposals and 2.1. The victory ensured the Tigers sit in the top eight with a big clash to come against Hawthorn. With Richmond’s midfield holding up without the likes of Cotchin and Martin in recent weeks, is it now time to allow Martin to start forward? Fox Footy’s David King believes players who can play both midfield and half forward are the ones leading the Brownlow count.

“There’s no three voters or two voters going anywhere else but those centre-forward midfielders,” he said on First Crack. Martin has now kicked a goal in every game he has played since last May – with a run of nine straight games hitting the scoreboard.

Mitchell & O’Meara have lost their worth | 00:30


Saturday May 14, 2:10pm at Blundstone Arena

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 503 from 2pm, hosted by Dwayne Russell, Dermott Brereton and Nick Dal Santo.

Kangaroos’ burning question: Will David Noble’s ‘encouragement’ help North Melbourne bounce back?

The Roos are struggling once again this season, and now there’s leaks within the club about coach David Noble and his approach to players. Noble described the lack of confidentiality of his post-match address back in Round 3, for which he has since apologised for the way he spoke, as “disappointing”. But he said his group responds best to “encouragement”, and after last week’s loss to Fremantle, the coach found plenty of positives. Now the players need to show some improvement, even without key backman Ben McKay who has been sidelined by a knee injury.

Power’s burning question: When do we praise coach Ken Hinkley?

When Port Adelaide were 0-5, coach Ken Hinkley refused to concede the year was over. Many critics laughed at Hinkley’s statement that the Power could still make finals after their worst start in club history. But four rounds later and Port Adelaide sit one game and percentage outside the top eight. The demolition of West Coast in Round 6 has sparked the Power to life, with victory over St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs. Now facing a North Melbourne outfit struggling to find a win in 2022, Port Adelaide are suddenly staring at a golden opportunity to rectify their dismal start. “We’re righting a lot of our wrongs,” Xavier Duursma said on Sportsday Radio.


Saturday May 14, 4:35pm at Marvel Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 4:30pm, hosted by Anthony Hudson, Jonathan Brown, Jordan Lewis, Cameron Mooney and Sarah Jones

Saints’ burning question: Can St Kilda’s defence stand up to Geelong’s dynamic duo?

Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron are proving a handful for oppositions sides so far in 2022. And when one is quiet, the other finds a way to kick a bag. The Saints struggled to curb the influence of Port’s big bodied forwards in Todd Marshall, Jeremy Finlayson and Mitch Georgiades in their Round 7 loss – albeit the Power trio didn’t have the impact on the scoreboard. Melbourne’s big duo Ben Brown and Tom McDonald had five goals between them last weekend. Callum Wilkie, Josh Battle and Dougal Howard will need to step up if the Saints are to get the four points.

Cats’ burning question: Will the Geelong of old turn up at Marvel?

Geelong coach Chris Scott said the Cats were trying to play a fast-moving game style, with players encouraged to take the game on despite the risk involved. Early in the season, that was what we saw from the Cats – even though it resulted in turnover ball. But against the Giants in Canberra, it was the Geelong of 2021 that emerged, with the short chip kick game in place of that run and carry. It should be noted the Cats were missing a recognised ruckman for the Round 8 match, leaving just Mark Blicavs to work up and down the ground – which could be the reason behind the slower ball movement.


Saturday May 14, 7:25pm at SCG

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 7:15pm, hosted by the Best on Ground team of Mark Howard, Jonathan Brown, Nathan Buckley, Nick Riewoldt and Kath Loughnan.

Swans’ burning question: Will the Swans finally get off to a good start?

In all three of Sydney’s losses this year, they’ve managed just one goal in their opening term. They are ranked 17th in the AFL for contested possessions in those three dismal opening terms. Fox Footy’s Leigh Montagna said the slow starts were hurting the Swans competitive edge in 2022. “They are struggling to handle the heat and the intensity of the first quarter,” he said. Sydney hadn’t suffered back to back losses in 16 rounds until the shock 14 point defeat by Gold Coast.

Bombers’ burning question: Do you change a winning line up?

Essendon scored one of their most important wins in club history last weekend, with the ‘Miracle at Marvel’ comeback against Hawthorn. But like West Coast back in Round 5, the selectors are faced with a tough choice – sticking with the winning combination or stick with the incumbents? The Bombers were forced to make five late changes to the side that beat the Hawks after illness swept through the squad. But those five – Jordan Ridley, Jake Kelly, Sam Durham, Matt Guelfi and Alec Waterman – are all back training. The Eagles chose the path of the incumbents and haven’t won a game since.

Swans losing their ‘toughness’? | 03:30


Saturday May 14, 7:40pm at Adelaide Oval

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 503 from 7:30pm, hosted by Brenton Speed with Brad Johnson, Leigh Montagna and Mark Ricciuto.

Crows’ burning question: When does Adelaide give Riley Thilthorpe a chance?

The Crows prized draft pick was sent back to the SANFL after Round 1, and since then, he’s been sidelined by a knee injury and Covid protocols. But according to commentator Kane Cornes, Thilthorpe should be the man the Crows turn to break a two-game losing streak. “When he is fit and ready to go, he’s the absolute future of the club,” Cornes said on SEN. “He kicked five goals on debut, what are we waiting for?”

Thilthorpe has kicked 12 goals in four SANFL games in 2022, with the competition holding a bye this weekend for the State clash with WA.

Lions’ burning question: Is it risky to bring Eric Hipwood straight back in?

Eric Hipwood hasn’t played footy since last July after rupturing his ACL. But the 24-year-old appears likely to slot straight back into the Lions line-up for his first game back, given Brisbane are already without injured forward duo Joe Daniher (shoulder) and Dan McStay (ankle). Given a host of other returning players have come through the reserves first, the move to rush Hipwood back has been seen as a risky move. But teammate Dayne Zorko is confident the AFL environment is the best fit for Hipwood.

“He’s been training for over a month full contact … it seems a little bizarre you’d run him around in the reserves first. It’s probably safer and better conditions on the AFL decks potentially than it would be on a reserves deck. I can’t see why you wouldn’t bring him back through the AFL,” he said on SEN.


Sunday May 15, 1:40pm at Metricon Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 503 from 1:30pm, hosted by Dwayne Russell, David King, Alastair Lynch, Kath Loughnan and Jon Ralph.

Suns’ burning question: Are they about to be given the ultimate reminder of what they let go?

Returning to Queensland to face a side that refused to give him the senior opportunity he was desperate for, Will Brodie may well go out there with a point to prove against the Suns on Sunday. It’s hard to see how he could perform much better than what he has in this season already, but he could well find another gear to heap even more criticism on the Suns for not only letting him go but doing all they could to get him off their books. Stuart Dew was at pains this week to reject the claim his side has let far too many good players go for little reward, but the questions are only going to intensify if Brodie stars in a heavy Dockers win. Winning on the weekend will go a long way to avoiding the sting that a dominant Brodie performance could bring.

Dockers’ burning question: Can Fremantle maintain focus away from home?

Fremantle have proved themselves to be the real deal in season 2022, but lapses in form cost them dearly in 2021, and it’ll be something coach Justin Longmuir will be looking to avoid this season. Off the back of a nine-day break, where players were given two days away from the club, the Dockers will be hoping the time away hasn’t halted their momentum. Coach Justin Longmuir is confident after last week’s Covid chaos that the team is mentally ready to continue their finals charge.

“There was going to be some distractions and potential to lose the focus of our players to things that don’t help them play well, so we probably did a couple of extra reps of mental prep with our players (last week) … our leaders made sure our players were really locked in and preparing well,” Longmuir said.

Will Brodie was traded from the Suns at the end of last year (Photo by Chris Hyde/AFL Photos/via Getty Images).Source: Getty Images


Sunday May 15, 3:20pm at GIANTS Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 3pm, hosted by Kath Loughnan with Dermott Brereton, Eddie Betts and Jon Ralph

Giants’ burning question: Will Leon Cameron’s last game mirror Nathan Buckley’s?

So many comparisons have been drawn between Leon Cameron’s 2022 and Nathan Buckley’s 2021. Now that Cameron, like Buckley, will finish up with a farewell game before handing over the reigns to a caretaker coach, Cameron would be hopeful of a similar exit to Buckley’s, which saw the Pies upset Melbourne at the SCG before heartwarming post-game scenes involving Buckley and his children. Carlton certainly aren’t easybeats at the moment, so the test will be significant, but you can never truly over-estimate a side playing to send off its coach in uplifting fashion. If ever there was a time for the fast, attacking Giants to surface, it would be this Sunday.

Blues’ burning question: Will Carlton win without the forward combo of McKay/Curnow?

The Blues are sitting in fourth on the back of a 6-2 start to the season. And it’s been their big forward combo of Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow doing the damage on the scoreboard. Aside from the Round 1 win over Richmond (where they had just one goal between them), Carlton’s five wins have come off the back of McKay and Curnow combining for five or more goals. So far, the duo have kicked a combined nine goals in the wins over the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide, eight goals against Port Adelaide and seven against North Melbourne. When the big duo get going, so do the Blues in 2022. With McKay spending time on the bench struggling with a knee injury against Fremantle, Curnow was double teamed and finished with just one goal after McKay limped off.


Sunday May 15, 5:20pm at Optus Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 5pm, hosted by Adam Papalia with Kelli Underwood, Jordan Lewis, Matthew Pavlich and Jon Ralph, followed by Bounce and First Crack

Eagles’ burning question: Can West Coast get goals on the board before half-time?

The club may be ravaged by injury and struggling with Covid, but the forward line just isn’t firing before the match is already over. In the last four rounds, the Eagles haven’t more than 2.4 to the main change – alongside scores of 2.0, 1.4 and 1.1. Against Brisbane last weekend, the Eagles managed just one goal to half time in a match that was described as an improvement on the fortnight preceding. Fox Footy analyst Matthew Pavlich said it was a supply issue for the West Coast forwards.

“Josh Kennedy and Liam Ryan and Jack Darling and co. just aren’t getting enough of the ball. And what they are doing is chasing and tackling and pushing up to help defend more than they are looking to attack. When you are pushing up as a forward… you don’t have the zip or the pace or the energy to lead hard and be desperate in attack when you’ve been chasing backside all day,” he said on SEN.

Dees’ burning question: Will Melbourne head home with a healthy squad?

The Demons are returning to the scene of their most famous victory in more than half a decade. But they have plenty to lose heading west to take on an Eagles outfit currently in a “sad state of affairs”, according to Fox Footy’s Matthew Pavlich. Melbourne are expected to simply demolish West Coast. But will the four points be worth it if the Dees come away with a string of injuries? We’ve already seen the remarkable depth of the Melbourne squad in the opening rounds as injury and Covid played a part. But should skipper Max Gawn play and come out of the match worse for wear, it could really impact on a season where the Dees shape as the overwhelming premiership favourites.

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