The Blowtorch Round 12, every club’s burning question, preview, predictions, tips, match analysis

One of the favorites for the Brownlow Medal could face a huge test against his former club.

Plus Sydney must weather a huge blow if it’s to top Melbourne.

Every club’s burning question ahead of Round 12, 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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AFL ROUND 12 FIXTURE (All times AEST)

WESTERN BULLDOGS at GEELONG CATS

Friday, June 3, 7:50 pm at Marvel Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 7pm, with Garry Lyon, Jonathan Brown, Nick Riewoldt, Cameron Mooney Jon Ralph, followed by Fox Footy Live with Ben Dixon, Gerard Healy and Nick Dal Santo.

Bulldogs’ burning question: Can Dogs take the ‘bellwether’ to boost top four hopes?

After a slow start to the season, the Dogs have since won four of their last five games to climb back into the top eight and keep their campaign alive. But to make more inroads even higher and challenge for the top four, they’ll need to beat the teams ahead of them. The scramble for the double chance will be well and truly on the second half of the season, with Fremantle, St Kilda, Carlton, Geelong, Sydney and potentially the Bulldogs fighting for two spots. So far though, the Dogs have beaten just one fellow top eight side, making Friday night’s clash a defining game to see exactly where Luke Beveridge’s side is at. “I think the Dogs can pick off the teams ahead of them, I think the fourth is very much in play. But if that’s the case, they have to take the bellwether, and the bellwether is Geelong, ” AFL 360 co-host Gerard Whateley said.

Cats’ burning question: How does De Koning fare against biggest assignment yet?

Geelong young gun Sam De Koning has drawn huge praise this season, particularly in recent weeks after having tremendous impact as an intercept defender. It culminated in his best performance to date last week against the Crows to earn the Rising Star nomination. This week the promising key back will probably be charged with his biggest assignment yet as a matchup with Dogs star Aaron Naughton looms. So while expectations still need to be tempered with De Koning at just 21 years of age, he comes up against his first real test in what promises to be a thrilling contest. “He’s (Naughton) got a full package, but young De Koning has got a lot of tricks … I’m really looking forward to it,” AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson said. Fellow 360 co-host Gerard Whateley added: “It’ll be fantastic, the first installation of many I’m sure.”

Cats to welcome back Stanley & Rohan | 01:11

ADELAIDE CROWS at WEST COAST EAGLES

Saturday, June 4, 1:45 pm at Adelaide Oval

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 1pm, hosted by Sarah Jones with Mark Howard, Gerard Healy, Nick Dal Santo and Mark Ricciuto.

Crows’ burning question: Are their struggles flying under the radar?

North Melbourne and the Crows’ opponents this week West Coast are being battered from pillar to post – some would argue deservedly so – for their performances in 2022 so far, but it’s easy to forget the Crows have lost their last five matches, with four of them by at least six goals. They’ve had some horror stints in those matches and have been blown off the park. A loss to the West Coast will well and truly put the Crows’ struggles into the spotlight, but equally a huge win could be exactly what they need to kickstart their season. We’ve seen teams ‘fill their boots’ against the Eagles and carry that form into the following weeks. Either way, despite the opposition, this week will tell us a lot about where the Crows are at comparison to the absolute bottom of the ladder.

Eagles’ burning question: Can Jack Darling become the player he once was?

It’s a little solace after a triple-digit loss, but Jack Darling kicked four goals last week for the first time since round nine last year. Darling’s pre-season (or lack thereof) has been well-documented and he has looked a shadow of the player he once was in a team that’s a shadow of itself as well. There were also reports this week of disenchantment with Darling given the events of the pre-season. If he’s able to lift his game, he could well lift the team. Something will have to drive this group to put in better performances and perhaps the sight of a former star returning to his best could do just that.

Number one draft pick flying high! | 03:23

GOLD COAST SUNS in NORTH MELBOURNE

Saturday, June 4, 4:35 pm at TIO Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 4.30pm, hosted by Sarah Jones with Dwayne Russell, David King, Jordan Lewis and Dermott Brereton.

Suns’ burning question: Is Dew one win away from earning a contract extension?

The Suns are in arguably the best position they’ve been in their 11-year club history – and certainly under Stuart Dew .. Gold Coast has won three if its last four games including taking the huge scalps of Sydney and Fremantle to suddenly sit within striking distance of the top eight. Of course, if comes with the backdrop of Dew being out of contract and legendary coach Alastair Clarkson available for next season. But if the Suns, as expected, take care of the Kangaroos and improve to 6-6, could that be enough to force the hand of the administration to move to reward Dew with a new deal and make for more stability within the four walls? “Do it, get to 6-6, and then it becomes a really interesting question around timing. You can get a huge uplift from a re-signing announcement, or you let it run its course because you know that the Suns have collapsed from the back half of seasons historically, ” AFL 360 co-host Gerard Whateley said. Hawks legend Jordan Lewis later said the club “can’t possibly change” Dew given what its built during his time at the helm, while fellow AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson concurred despite Clarkson looming large as a coaching candidate.

Kangaroos’ burning question: Is there actually room for hope after last week’s signs?

It was yet another heavy loss for North Melbourne last week, this time to tune of 53 points against St Kilda, but there were still the slightest signs of improvement, or in the midfield at least. The Roos ended up winning the clearance count on the weekend – clearly an indicator of increased competitiveness around the ball. It also seems that despite the return of Tristan Xerri, coach David Noble has seen enough from Todd Goldstein to keep him in the number one ruck spot at least for the time being. Goldstein broke even with Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall on the weekend and it helped add to that clearance potency. It will be vital this week against the most in-form ruckman in the game – Jarrod Witts. If North Melbourne can bring that intent to this week’s game, perhaps they can maybe, just maybe avoid a 10th consecutive loss.

MELBOURNE v SYDNEY SWANS

Saturday, June 4, 7:25 pm at the MCG

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 7.20pm, with Mark Howard, Jonathan Brown, Nathan Buckley, Nick Riewoldt and Kath Loughnan followed by Best on Ground.

Demons’ burning question: How do they respond?

It’s a pretty simple question given we haven’t seen them have to respond to a loss for nearly a year. The Dees were blown off the park by Fremantle in the third quarter and now face a Sydney side desperate to re-establish their premiership credentials, even without Lance Franklin. How the side covers for the loss of Steven May this week will make for interesting viewing, while Christian Petracca is coming off the lowest-disposal game of his entire AFL career and will be eager to make amends. One loss is fine given how well the Dees have been going for so long. Two straight losses would raise more questions and leave the door open for rival clubs to leapfrog them on the ladder.

Swans’ burning question: How do they fare without Buddy?

The Swans tried to get Lance Franklin off his one-match suspension, but it was a long shot at best and now they have to figure out what next. Logan McDonald has a great game against Carlton with three goals and three behinds but was quiet in the loss to Richmond and faces an entirely different prospect as the number one targets up ahead. Sam Reid could play up ahead and rotate with Peter Ladhams, but whatever the case they’re lucky Steven May isn’t in the Dees’ side because it gives them a chance to try and exploit the reigning premiers without arguably their most important player.

Swans fail to overturn Buddy’s ban | 00:23

HAWTHORN in COLLINGWOOD

Sunday, June 5, 2:10 pm at the MCG

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 2pm, hosted by Sarah Jones with Dwayne Russell, Anthony Hudson, Garry Lyon, Nick Riewoldt, Ben Dixon and Jon Ralph

Hawks’ burning question: Is Jai Newcombe a lock for the Rising Star?

As David King put it on AFL 360 this week, “there’s no contest at the moment” when it comes to this year’s Rising Star. “He’s the number one clearance-to-score player in the competition,” King explained on AFL 360. “When he wins it, you score at 30-odd per cent of his clearances.” In a midfield that has been well below its best this year, Newcombe has been the saviour of sorts for the side’s ability to get bang for its buck with its forward entries. In a week that’s seen the latest iteration of the mid-season draft, it’s worth paying homage to just how good some prospects can be when given their chance at AFL level.

Magpies’ burning question: How does their defense stack up?

Collingwood’s defense has come along in leaps and bounds after an initially middling start to the season – in the last three weeks, the side has clamped down and played one-on-one in defense more often than giving opposition forwards too much leg rope. They’re the hardest team to score against inside 50 in the last three rounds and two of those resulted in wins against Carlton and Fremantle, two of the season’s contenders for a top-four spot. Collingwood now comes up against a side that has thrived on transition and taking the game on through the corridor, so even though the Hawks aren’t as high on the ladder they still pose a unique challenge to the Pies’ much-improved defense. It’ll be one of the main fascinations with this match.

FREMANTLE in BRISBANE LIONS

Sunday, June 5, 5:20 pm at Optus Stadium

How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 5pm, hosted by Kath Loughnan with Adam Papalia, Nathan Buckley, Jonathon Brown, Matthew Pavlich and Jon Ralph followed by Bounce and First Crack

Dockers’ burning question: Can ‘confidence’ of Dees win set up flag charge?

After stumbling against Gold Coast and Collingwood, Fremantle got its season back on track last week by making the biggest statement possible, defeating Melbourne at the MCG to end the reigning premiers ’17-game winning streak. Justin Longmuir’s side faces another huge test this week against the second-placed Lions. And as Hawks legend Jordan Lewis highlighted, the confidence the Dockers take from the win over the Demons could now really set up their season for a premiership tilt. “These are the wins that you remember …. this team gets to play at the MCG once, maybe twice a year. They are fully aware of where the grand final is played, they are fully aware that the side they played on the weekend will be there later on in September. The confidence they get from this game, it’s equal to two or three wins. “

Lions’ burning question: Do they need to prepare for Lachie Neale being tagged?

Lachie Neale is in some vintage form and is likely to play a key part in the result on Sunday against his old side, but could he be in for some very close attention? Fremantle has flagged it’s considering a hard tag, with James Aish in scintillating form after keeping Clayton Oliver to just 12 second-half disposals after he had a whopping 24 in the opening half. It will be a fascinating watch if it happens given what transpired the last time Neale received such attention. That was round 10, when he was closely guarded by Liam Shiels after 16 disposals in the opening half to go with a goal. Neale finished with 25 disposals but faded in the second half as the Hawks stormed to an upset win. It remains a bit bizarre seeing teams not go with a hard tag given how well it can work, but Fremantle look set to go all-in on stopping Neale and it will provide another test case for the art of the tag.

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