W2W4, Round 9: Can the Tigers stop Jack Darling's golden form?

Remember when the footy community was concerned that Gold Coast and GWS would be powerhouses, sure to win the next 10 premierships after coming into the competition? Well they're both on the ropes this week.

The Giants, who were handed access to the best young players in the country for multiple drafts after entering the competition, are suddenly out of the eight having won once in the past month. A worrying injury list seems to be lengthening by the week, and their once enviable forward line is struggling to hit the scoreboard (for context, Essendon have scored more points than the Giants this season).

Leon Cameron must find a way to get his team playing near its best before the season gets away from them, with Saturday's contest against a suddenly legitimate North Melbourne in Hobart another crucial clash.

The Suns have also only tasted victory once in the past month as their arduous early-season travel schedule catches up with them. And it only gets worse, with a trip not just to the other side of the country in store, but over to China to take on Port Adelaide.

It's a mental test as well as a physical one and Stuart Dew must find a way for his side to find a spark against the up-and-down Power.

Here's What To Watch For in Round 9.

Who can stop Jack Darling?

Top spot on the AFL ladder is up for grabs when West Coast host Richmond at Optus Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Both sides boast an enviable 7-1 record and while many expected the reigning premiers to be firmly entrenched in the top four after eight rounds, few had tipped the Eagles to be this impressive early on.

While there's plenty of questions heading into this blockbuster clash, one stands out: who will stop the competition's most in-form forward, Jack Darling?

Darling sits third in the race for the Coleman Medal with 22 goals but it's been his superb marking, particularly inside 50, which has been most impressive. The 25-year-old has clunked a competition-best 24 contested marks this season -- 11 of those coming in his past two games.

Tigers coach Damien Hardwick has a difficult job in deciding who plays on Darling and who goes to Josh Kennedy, although he does have plenty of options in Alex Rance, Dylan Grimes and Dave Astbury.

Richmond go into the match as slight favourites but if Darling continues his rich vein of form the Eagles are a huge chance of extending their winning streak to eight games.

A Giant dropoff?

Leon Cameron might want to do something about his Ferrari's 'check engine' light, because his 'luxury car' is missing a number of vital parts and is in serious trouble of falling out of the finals race.

The Giants have had the makings of a September-calibre side sitting on the sidelines in the early part of 2018, but their season doesn't get easier this week when they head down to Hobart to take on the impressive Kangaroos.

GWS were already missing some A-grade talent with Josh Kelly out with a groin injury, Brett Deledio out with a hamstring strain, Tom Scully out with an ankle injury and Toby Green out indefinitely with a foot complaint, but the problems were again exacerbated during last weekend's home defeat to West Coast when they lost co-skipper Phil Davis to a nasty concussion and the underrated Matt de Boer to a hamstring.

The Giants have won just one of their last four matches, and their injury list is getting bigger instead of smaller, meaning they could quickly fall further behind the chasing pack in the race to finish in the top eight.

In fact, a loss to the Roos and a Collingwood win over St Kilda would result in GWS falling to 11th on the ladder and up to 10 points behind whichever team sits in eighth come Sunday night.

Another Shanghai spanking for the Suns?

It hasn't been a good week for the Giants, but the other expansion team, the Suns, have also had a poor month.

After starting the season in buoyant fashion despite facing the prospect of not playing at home until Round 11, the Suns have lost three on the trot after and now face the mammoth task of taking on Port Adelaide in Shanghai.

China wasn't a happy hunting ground in the corresponding fixture from last year; the Suns went down to the Power by 72 points in what could only be described as a horror showing for an international audience. But it's not only the prospect of up to 16 hours on aeroplanes that should have the Suns worried.

Last week's 'home' crowd of 6,060 (albeit in Brisbane) was the lowest at the Gabba since the early 1990s, while there's not much to pick from in the reserves this week considering they could muster just four behinds in their NEAFL match despite playing 11 AFL-listed players, including Peter Wright, Will Brodie and Jack Scrimshaw.

The bye -- and a legitimate home game -- can't come quick enough for coach Stuart Dew and his struggling side.