Saturday night's Dreamtime clash at the MCG highlights Sir Doug Nicholls Round but there's plenty more to keep an eye on this weekend. Here's What To Watch For in Round 10.
Will a big Bomber boost the Dons' finals dreams at Dreamtime?
You don't often pair the word 'matchwinner' with Essendon ruckman Tom Bellchambers but the big Bomber could prove the difference at Saturday night's Dreamtime clash at the MCG.
In his 122-game career, Bellchambers has always competed hard but even the most one-eyed Bombers supporter would admit the 29-year-old has never been one of the league's A-grade big men.
But he must take advantage of Richmond's ruck woes to keep the Dons -- one of five teams on 16 points, one win out of the eight -- on track for a September berth.
Richmond, despite a worrying injury list, have won five of their past six matches and boast an incredible recent record against Essendon, claiming 10 of their past 12 encounters.
But it's the ruck department that could hand Essendon a huge advantage. Against Hawthorn in Round 9, Richmond did look vulnerable at times when Jon Ceglar and Ben McEvoy (pre-injury) worked in tandem in the ruck, up forward and around the ground and they will now be missing Ivan Soldo (banned for one week after striking James Worpel) as well as first-choice ruck Toby Nankervis (adductor injury).
Damien Hardwick's ruck cupboard is as barren as a desert landscape, with his options for the Dreamtime game the enigmatic but undersized Noah Balta, uncapped youngster Callum Coleman-Jones and rookie Mabior Chol.
Bellchambers simply has to take advantage of this. He's enjoying a strong season, ranking ninth in total hitouts across the league, but the stage is set for him to dominate in the ruck to give his side best use at stoppages.
If he can, Essendon might be able to spring a surprise.
Can the Giants finally discover something at the MCG?
For the second time in 14 days, Greater Western Sydney will play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and all eyes will be on them to see if they can turn around a horrific run of form at the home of football.
The Giants have a shocking record at the MCG with just two wins from 16 games in the club's history. They must learn how to play this ground if they are to be taken seriously in 2019.
When they were there two weeks ago, GWS was embarrassed by an understrength Hawthorn. Leon Cameron's side tallied just 38 points, managed just one goal in a woeful second half, and ultimately went down by 33 points.
Throughout the game there was hardly any pressure applied by the Giants and at one point the Hawks were allowed to take 40 consecutive uncontested marks -- a new AFL record. This sort of performance is simply unacceptable for a team that is supposed to be challenging for a premiership.
📈 Does pressure really go up in finals? We ask @championdata— footytips (@footytips) September 29, 2020
🧐 Breaking down all four finals
⚡ Are the Power under the most pressure?
🏆 Our flag and Norm Smith picks
Stream the latest @ESPNAusNZ#AFL podcast here.https://t.co/nSAkKBUQ6J
The good news for the Giants is that Lachie Whitfield didn't play against Hawthorn and will be a welcomed addition for Sunday's game against Melbourne. Whitfield starred last weekend against the Blues with 40 disposals, 18 marks and three goals and will run all day long on the large expanses of the MCG.
Stephen Coniglio is also likely to return after a week off and there's certainly plenty of improvement in Coleman Medal leader Jeremy Cameron who remarkably hasn't kicked a goal in the past two weeks.
It won't be an easy task for the Giants. Melbourne were unlucky to lose against the Eagles in Perth last Friday night and will go into this clash knowing their season likely rides on the result.
How much do the Blues want Bolton at the helm?
In reality, there's not much Brendon Bolton will be able to do when his charges run out onto Marvel Stadium against the Saints on Sunday. It's up to the players to show the footy world that they want him leading the Blues into the back half of the year and into 2020.
The blowtorch is well and truly on the Carlton coach, who has won just four of his last 41 matches in charge. But following revelations of a scathing, player-led review after the Blues' 15-goal loss to the Giants, we're about to see just how much the playing group is backing Bolton.
The Saints have lost their last four since their hot start to 2019, and the Blues are as much of a chance in this contest as they have been all season. Put simply, if they're to finish off the bottom of the ladder (and avoid handing over pick No. 1 to the Crows), this is a must-win contest.
Patrick Cripps cannot have another 12-disposal game. Sam Walsh and Liam Stocker (last year's picks 1 and 19) cannot be the side's second and third-highest ball winners. Charlie Curnow cannot afford another goalless game, and the Blues, overall, cannot allow another spanking.
If Bolton is the man as the players have maintained over the past few week, their effort and intensity needs to be unrelenting. Whether or not this team has the requisite mongrel in it may decide whether Bolton is coach of the Old Dark Navy Blues next season.