With surprises being thrown up left and right, who knows what will happen this week?

Therefore, we ask some of the big questions ahead of a big weekend of games.

Port Adelaide v Carlton

Is Zac Williams the point of difference Carlton’s offence needs?

One of the more impressive features to come out of Carlton’s big win against Gold Coast last week was the emergence of Zac Williams as a genuine forward option.

Used to playing along the half-back line, Michael Voss utilised Williams in the forward line to be at the feet of tall targets Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay and he had a day out.

Williams had four goals and nine score involvements from 15 disposals and added a dynamic edge that Carlton’s forward line was crying out for.

Whilst they have arguably the best key forward duo in the competition, a criticism of Carlton has been their overreliance on their tall targets with the other smaller players not having the required effective impact if the talls can’t do the job inside 50.

If Williams can deliver more strong performances as a small forward for the rest of the season, starting off with a Thursday night away trip against Port, Carlton’s forward line will be a whole lot more multi-dimensional and potent.

Collingwood v Western Bulldogs

How will Jamarra Ugle-Hagan go as the main man up forward?

With the Dogs’ main key forward Aaron Naughton out for the foreseeable future, it offers the perfect chance for Jamarra Ugle-Hagan to show what he is truly capable of under the Friday night lights against the reigning premiers.

Now in his fourth season of footy, Ugle-Hagan has had his moments this year, kicking at least a goal in the nine games he’s played however he hasn’t kicked a bag and imposed himself yet on games.

Now that he’s the main man up forward, Ugle-Hagan may just have the clean air he needs to truly stamp his authority against a Pies side struggling badly with injuries.

Whilst the Dogs will be eager for Naughton to come back soon, if Ugle Hagan along with fellow young talent in Darcy can develop a greater presence up forward, it will give huge headaches for opposition defences.

As such, it will be interesting to see whether the 2020 Number 1 draft pick can produce a breakout game and send a stern warning to all other teams in the league.

Hawthorn v Adelaide

Can Hawthorn continue their sparkling form?

After a poor start to the season, Hawthorn is one of the form teams in the competition, winning four out of their last six games with one of their two losses being against Port where Hawthorn led away at the Adelaide Oval until the final 10 seconds.

They have just come off a really impressive 25-point win against last year’s grand finalists in Brisbane which has just further exemplified why the Hawks present a very tough challenge to anyone, despite their young list demographic.

If the Hawks can continue their form and knock over a more than decent Adelaide side this week, the whole league will be on firm notice about what Hawthorn can do not just this year but for the next five years.

However, we do know that with young teams such as Hawthorn, the form can fluctuate and be inconsistent.

That’s why it will be really interesting to see if the young Hawks can maintain their consistency and put on a professional performance against the Crows.

If the Hawks can continue this form, who knows how far up the ladder they could go this season.

West Coast v St Kilda

Has Max King turned the corner in 2024?

Whilst the Saints had another disappointing loss against Melbourne last week, one positive was Max King showcasing something reminiscent of his best form as King kicked three goals against the Demons and had a much more imposing presence.

It’s been a disappointing 2024 for King who prior to the Round 11 clash against Melbourne, had only kicked nine goals from seven games of footy.

Max King celebrates a goal.

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

The Saints’ struggles to kick a winning score are very well documented and King has very much been a part of that problem as he has struggled to impose himself as the big, tall contested forward that the Saints need for their offense.

However, his improved performance against Melbourne will hopefully give Saints fans some optimism that King can turn not just his form around but also lead the Saints to be more potent offensively.

They have a stern challenge this week against the Eagles who are quickly on their way to re-establishing their Optus Stadium fortress in 2024.

Therefore, the Saints are going to need to markedly improve their offence from what we have so far and they need King to be the main leader for the Saints goal scoring.

Geelong v Richmond

What does Geelong do about their rucks?

It’s no secret to the rest of the competition that Geelong has a huge problem in its ruck division which is affecting their very inexperienced and young midfield without Patrick Dangerfield.

After Rhys Stanley was dropped following poor performances, the Cats have looked to young ruckman Toby Conway in the last two games.

However, Conway is still very young and raw and last week against GWS, he was soundly beaten by Giants big man Kieren Briggs who had a game-high eight clearances.

In their last four losses, the Cats have lost the clearance count which has led to them being beaten badly at the coalface, putting their defence under immense pressure.

This week, the Cats’ ruck woes look to be even worse with Mark Blicavs suspended for a week as they come up against Richmond and Toby Nankervis.

Whilst Richmond has struggled with injury this year, they pushed Essendon all the way last week and would fancy their chances of doing the same this week, particularly if Chris Scott can’t devise an urgent solution to Geelong’s ruck issues

Melbourne v Fremantle

How do Fremantle make Darcy/Jackson work

Positioned just outside the eight, there are a few things that Fremantle would want to address if they are to take that next step up in 2024.

One thing that’s holding them back is the ruck combination of Sean Darcy and Luke Jackson which seems to be causing more harm than good.

With Darcy in the team, Jackson is far less dynamic as opposed to when he rucks solo and we have seen that when he is the only ruckman, Jackson is in arguably All-Australian form.

However, Darcy is too good a player to be left in the reserves and therefore it’ll be interesting to see what happens after the season if this duo doesn’t work.

However, Justin Longmuir would be keen to keep both of them and therefore would want to devise a strategy that allows both to play their best football.

Dual ruck combinations have worked in the past and Jackson and Darcy are both valuable players that give the Dockers much dominance aerially so it’ll be interesting to see how Fremantle can accommodate both players in the same side without hindering either of them.

Gold Coast Suns v Essendon

Is Langford, the Bombers’ most important forward?

One of the great revelations of the last couple of years has been the emergence of Kyle Langford as a genuine forward threat.

After kicking 51 goals last year, Langford has continued on in 2024, kicking 28 goals from 11 games and is currently in fifth place in the Coleman medal race.

In fact, it’s arguable that Langford has turned out to be Essendon’s most important forward ahead of their 2022 best and fairest in Peter Wright as his ground-level agility and scoring accuracy make him an important part of the Bombers’ ascent up the ladder this year.

As such, it will be interesting to see how he goes this week against the Gold Coast Suns.

There will no doubt be times when Langford goes up against arguably the most exciting young player in the competition in Mac Andrew and it’ll be interesting to see how that duel plays out during the game.

Therefore, expect Langford to again be prominent If the Bombers are to continue on their merry way and claim a crucial interstate win against a finals contender.

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