TERRY Mallinder previews round 9 of the 2012 AFL season.
BULLDOGS v CATS
At Etihad Stadium, Melbourne 7.40pm
Recent record: Bulldogs 2 Geelong 8.
Last time: R11 2011 - Geelong 23.10 (148) def Bulldogs 13.9 (87).
How the mighty have fallen. Following two straight losses to Adelaide and Collingwood, the Cats (4-4) wouldn't have felt this much pressure so early in a season since 2006. They may get a reprieve here though. The Dogs have won four of their last five (against Melbourne, GWS, North and Gold Coast), but are still struggling to turn their fourth-ranked inside-50 count into goals. Matty Scarlett returning to the Cats' defence won't help their cause. At the other end, resurgent Dogs full-back Brian Lake can hold one of James Podsiadly and Tom Hawkins, but not both.
TIGERS v HAWKS
At the MCG, 1.45pm
Recent record: Richmond 3 Hawthorn 7.
Last time: R3 2011 - Hawthorn 17.13 (115) def Richmond 6.16 (52).
It could be the same old story for the promising Tigers, who have pushed Geelong, West Coast and Essendon in recent weeks, but ultimately fallen short each time. This week Hawk forwards Lance Franklin and a fit and firing Jarryd Roughead loom large against a Tigers defence now undermanned without in-form Dylan Grimes. In contrast, out-of-sorts Tiger spearhead Jack Riewoldt shouldn't worry the Hawks, who are on a roll following three impressive wins.
SUNS v POWER
At Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast, 2.10pm
Recent record: Gold Coast 1 Port 0.
Last time: R5 2011 - Gold Coast 15.14 (104) def Port 15.11 (101).
Buoyed by its come-from-home win over North, the Power heads to Queensland with payback on its mind after being the first team suffer defeat at the hands of the Suns last season. Key forward Jay Schulz is Port's trump card having kicked seven goals last week, including four in the last term - as many as Gold Coast kicked in its loss to the Bulldogs. The Suns won the disposal count (389-354) but lost the inside-50s (34-56). They need a target in attack. Two-foot tall Campbell Brown is not the answer.
SAINTS v SWANS
At Etihad Stadium, Melbourne 4.40pm.
Recent record: St Kilda 6 Sydney 4.
Last time: EF 2011 - Sydney Swans 12.10 (82) def St Kilda 8.9 (56).
The Swans will fancy their chances of knocking off the Saints after rolling them at Docklands in their cut-throat final last season - not to mention the home team coming back from a tough hit-out in Perth against the Eagles while they cruised through in a 101-point rout of Melbourne at home. The Saints also have their injury concerns with no specialist ruckman available, but they do get back key defender Sam Fisher - who's so important he might just give them the edge.
CROWS v MAGPIES
At AAMI Stadium, Adelaide, 7.40pm.
Recent record: Adelaide 3 Coll 7.
Last time: R9 2011 - Collingwood 20.15 (135) def Adelaide 14.8 (92).
The Magpies' last seven trips to Adelaide have resulted in seven wins, including three against the Crows. Eight in a row looks unlikely with Adelaide the form team having thrashed Sydney, Geelong and Carlton in consecutive weeks. Collingwood has won its past five, but has lost key backman Ben Reid (again) and Brownlow medallist Dane Swan, whose absence from the midfield could allow Crows Scott Thompson and Patrick Dangerfield to go from red hot to white hot.
GIANTS v BOMBERS
At Skoda Stadium, Sydney, 7.40pm.
Recent record: NA
Last time: NA
Roll out the red and black carpet. It will be an historic clash, and not just because the Giants are playing their first game at Blacktown. It will pit Kevin Sheedy against the side he coached for 27 years for the first time. The Giants were brought down with a thud by Brisbane last week after their breakthrough win over Gold Coast and aren't likely to put a dent in the Bombers' surge towards a top-four finish, no matter who the visitors leave at home.
KANGAROOS v LIONS
At Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, 1.10pm
Recent record: North 4 Brisbane 6.
Last time: R18 2011 - North 17.20 (122) d Brisbane 11.11 (77).
Having easily accounted for bottom three Melbourne, Gold Coast and now GWS, Brisbane is hungry for a scalp of some note - an out-of-form North in Melbourne will do for now. With Daniel Merrett (7 goals last week) and Jonathan Brown (5) firing, the Lions will be determined to exploit the Roos' suspect defence, which has leaked goals against battlers, the Suns (14), Bullldogs (15) and Power (14) in recent weeks.
BLUES v DEMONS
At the MCG, 3.15pm
Recent record: Carlton 7 Melbourne 3.
Last time: R20 2011 - Carlton 21.8 (134) def Melbourne 7.16 (58).
The Blues will be thankful the fixture gods have drawn them to play Melbourne, after their embarrassing display against Adelaide. They've lost two in a row, and also lost gun midfielder Marc Murphy. It will matter little this week, even though the Demons must surely put in an improved effort after sinking to new lows against Sydney last week, when beaten by 101 points.
EAGLES v DOCKERS
At Patersons Stadium, Perth, 4.40pm (AEST).
Recent record: West Coast 3 Fremantle 7.
Last time: West Coast 8.17 (65) def Fremantle 9.10 (64).
It's the WA derby and all eyes will be on the battle between Dockers' giant Aaron Sandilands and Eagles pair Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui, arguably the league's three best ruckmen. The Eagles bounced back from their first loss with a solid win over St Kilda but are still well below full-strength. The Dockers were thrashed by the Hawks (winning the taps 51-25, but losing the clearances 24-48) but derbies always bring out their best. The Dockers won seven in a row before the Eagles claimed both clashes in 2011.