PREVIEW OF ROUND 17 MATCHES (all times AEST)
FRIDAY, July 12
West Coast v Collingwood at Optus Stadium, 8.10pm
Head to head: Eagles 28 Magpies 24 Drawn 1
Last clash: Eagles 15.8 (98) bt Magpies 11.10 (76), R3 2019 MCG
Talk about an eight-point game. West Coast have won their past four meetings with the Magpies, including last year's grand final. Buoyed by the return of superstar ruckman Nic Naitanui, the premiers could go two wins clear in second place if other results fall their way. A third-straight loss would put a big dent in Collingwood's hopes of earning a home qualifying final.
Key: Mason Cox. In the Magpies' four-game losing streak against West Coast, they haven't kicked more than 11 goals. They badly need a big game from the big American.
Tip: Eagles by 20 points
SATURDAY, July 13
Sydney v Carlton at the SCG, 1.45pm
Head to head: Swans 94 Blues 128 Drawn 6
Last clash: Swans 14.9 (93) bt Blues 10.14 (74), R3 2019 Marvel Stadium
This is a danger game for Sydney, given the Blues are proving a better side under caretaker coach David Teague. The Swans blew a big chance against Essendon last week and must take care of Carlton to keep their outside chance of playing in the finals alive.
Key: Matthew Kreuzer. The Carlton star re-signed this week and can mark the occasion with a big game, especially given the Swans' main ruck options are out of action.
Tip: Swans by 10 points.
Hawthorn v Fremantle at University of Tasmania Stadium, Launceston, 2.10pm
Head to head: Hawks 27 Dockers 8
Last clash: Hawks 17.10 (112) by Dockers 7.11 (53), R19 2018 Optus Stadium
Losses to lowly Melbourne and Carlton and a 91-point derby drubbing from West Coast have left the Dockers' finals hopes hanging by a thread. The logjam for spots in the top eight means Fremantle must win. But their record in Launceston is atrocious: one win from 11 games.
Key: Mitch Lewis. In his ninth senior game, the key forward was one of the biggest highlights of the Hawks' upset win over Collingwood. Can he back it up?
Essendon v North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, 4.35pm
Head to head: Bombers 99 Kangaroos 57 Drawn 1.
Last clash: Bombers 17.14 (116) bt Kangaroos 7.16 (58) R5 2019 Marvel Stadium.
Rhyce Shaw's rejuvenated Kangaroos just keep winning and a finals berth is no longer out of the equation. The Bombers have also struck form over the past fortnight. Plenty at stake for these fierce rivals, who normally go well under the roof at Docklands.
Key: Ben Cunnington. He is on a tribunal hair trigger after this week's $5000 fine, but the Kangaroos midfielder is also enjoying a career year.
Tip: Kangaroos by 10 points
Gold Coast v Adelaide at Metricon Stadium, 7.25pm
Head to head: Suns 0 Crows 12
Last clash: Crows 18.11 (119) bt Suns 6.10 (46) R5, 2019 Adelaide Oval
The Crows are the only team with a perfect record against Gold Coast and that won't change now. While their Showdown shocker leaves Adelaide in eighth only on percentage, the Suns are in much worse shape.
Key: Eddie Betts. The maestro small forward is off the boil, with no goals in his last two games. How he'd love a repeat of his 300th game in round five, when he bagged a six and a goal of the year nomination against the Suns.
Tip: Crows by 60 points
Geelong v St Kilda at GMHBA Stadium, 7.25pm
Head to head: Cats 129 Saints 84 Drawn 1
Last clash: Cats 15.13 (103) bt Saints 7.14 (56) R4 2018 GMHBA Stadium
After losing two of their past three games, the Cats must reclaim some momentum. For St Kilda, the equation is simple: lose, and Alan Richardson's time is likely up, even if he coaches out the season.
Key: Geelong's attack. The Cats' last two losses are also their lowest scores for the season. Are opposition teams working out the revamped Geelong forward line?
Tip: Cats by 40 points
SUNDAY, July 14
Richmond v GWS at the MCG, 1.10pm
Head to head: Tigers 7 Giants 4
Last clash: Giants 19.11 (125) bt Tigers 10.16 (76) R3 2019 Giants Stadium
Are GWS genuine flag threats? Their patchy form and poor MCG record are big concerns. Beating Richmond on their home turf would send a statement. But the Tigers are building and will welcome back Jack Riewoldt as they mount their own top-four bid.
Key: Dustin Martin. The last time they played, Matt de Boer drove Martin to distraction and the Richmond ace ended up suspended. With de Boer injured, will Martin cut loose?
Tip: Tigers by 30 points
Western Bulldogs v Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, 3.20pm
Head to head: Bulldogs 76 Demons 88 Drawn 1
Last clash: Demons 18.11 (119) bt Bulldogs 10.9 (69) R17 2018 MCG
Three wins from their last four games have given the Bulldogs a sniff of the top eight. The disappointing Demons have lost resurgent forward Tom McDonald because of injury. But you fancy Melbourne have some spoiler potential in them before this season is out.
Key: Tim English. The young Bulldogs ruckman is newly-signed until 2022. He'll have his hands full, with Max Gawn back and partnering with Brayden Preuss.
Tip: Bulldogs by 10 points
Port Adelaide v Brisbane at Adelaide Oval, 4.40pm
Head to head: Power 18 Lions 16 Drawn 2
Last clash: Lions 16.11 (107) bt Power 13.12 (90) R3 2019 Gabba
No team is hotter now than the young Lions and no team is more maddening to their fans than the inconsistent Power. Brisbane continue to exceed expectations as they charge toward a top-four finish. Can they win on the road again? Depends which version of Port shows up.
Key: Lachie Neale. The Brisbane midfielder torched Port in their round-three win, racking up 43 possessions.
Tip: Lions by 15 points.