AFL W2W4, Round 8: Crow's major test; Lions to lock in finals?

Two massive rivalry games, a classic 'eight point' clash and an opportunity for some teams to make a statement - here's What To Watch For in Round 8.

Can Crows ruck O'Brien pass his biggest test?

Reilly O'Brien has been flying under the radar somewhat since coming into the Adelaide side in Round 3 but his biggest challenge awaits in Saturday night's Showdown against the Power.

Like most back-up rucks, Reilly has had to bide his time behind Sam Jacobs but received his chance when the veteran Crows ruckman suffered a knee injury in Round 2.

The following week, O'Brien was called up for his first AFL game since 2016 and he's been growing in stature since, ranking ninth across the league in hitouts and contested marks per game in 2019.

The 23-year-old showcased his rising confidence in last Sunday's dour win against Freo, notching 22 disposals, five marks and 44 hitouts to be one of the best players on the ground. But a massive test awaits on Saturday night with O'Brien up against the tag team of Scott Lycett and Paddy Ryder.

The Power duo have worked over several solo-flying opponents this season, most notably Melbourne's Max Gawn in Round 1, and will look take advantage of O'Brien's inexperience. He'll need to stand up and give his midfielders a chance to be proactive against the hungry Power mids.

Another possible hurdle for O'Brien will be the finals-like intensity of the Showdown. With Saturday's clash a Port home game, he'll not only be under pressure from Lycett and Ryder, but a feverous black and teal supporter base.

If he continues to shine, it might not be a fait accompli for Jacobs to walk back into the team once fit.

Are the Lions the real deal in 2019?

The biggest game Brisbane play this home and away season might just be this weekend against the Western Bulldogs.

We're set to learn so much about these young Lions and whether or not they are a genuine finals contender in season 2019.

Full credit to Chris Fagan's side for responding from two disappointing losses and beating up on the Swans last week, but Saturday afternoon's test in Ballarat is much tougher. They are coming up against another young and exciting team that has rediscovered form with a crushing win over the Tigers in Round 7.

The Dogs also have the hottest teenage commodity in Aaron Naughton and all eyes will be on him to see if he can back up his remarkable breakout game in which he clunked nine contested marks and booted five goals.

If Brisbane really are a threat this year, they must win these 50-50 games. The tight nature of the competition means this is essentially an old eight-point game and if they do get up, and improve to 6-2, playing finals is very, very realistic.

A win at Mars Stadium, a venue the Lions have never visited, will also be a huge confidence booster, for the Lions enter the game having won three of their last four games on the road.

The Giant chance to put Hawthorn's finals hopes in peril

Hawthorn's season might already be at the crossroads. Following last week's (to some) shock loss to the Demons, Alastair Clarkson's men find themselves 13th on the ladder at 3-4.

On Sunday, the Hawks welcome to the MCG a Greater Western Sydney side they haven't beaten since 2014; the Giants have won three and drawn one to the Hawks since the brown and gold last tasted victory.

A further slip-up by the Hawks could put their September hopes on the ropes; there are three other 3-4 teams heading into this weekend's action (Essendon, Western Bulldogs, Gold Coast) and all three face winnable games (against the Swans, Lions in Ballarat and the Demons, respectively).

Recent form would suggest the Hawks are in danger of falling further behind the pack; they've won just one of their last four matches and that win was against lowly Carlton, while the Giants are on a roll having won four of their last five.

The saving grace for Hawthorn might be the Giants' form at the MCG. Leon Cameron's side has a terrible record at the home of footy, having won just two of 15 matches at the venue. Can the Hawks produce a backs-to-the-wall performance or will the Giants firm as a potential flag favourite?