AFL previews for round 23
HAWKS v BULLDOGS
Etihad Stadium, 7.50pm
Recent record: Haw 8 WB 2
Last time: SF 2016: WB 16.11 (107) d Haw 12.12 (84) at the MCG
IT'S all about the farewells tonight. Farewell to the Hawks and Dogs for season 2017 and their greats Luke Hodge and Robert Murphy, respectively, for good. Only a miracle will spare the Dogs from becoming the first premiership team since Hawthorn in 2009 to miss the finals the following year. Win and the Dogs (11-10) will be in the eight, but will then need to rely on not one, not two, but three teams - Essendon, West Coast and St Kilda - all losing to stay there. It may not matter. Hawks win.
MAGPIES V DEMONS
Recent record: Coll 5 Melb 1 Drawn 1
Last time: R12 2017: Melb 15.14 (104) d Coll 15.10 (100) at the MCG
MELBOURNE (12-10) should finally clinch a long-awaited finals berth in the sweetest fashion - beating Collingwood ... for a fifth straight time. Though co-captain Jack Viney (foot) remains a "week-to-week" proposition, spearhead Jesse Hogan (six goals last week) is back in a big way. Lose here, however, and the seventh-placed Demons will face an anxious wait to see if they're overrun at the death by both Essendon and West Coast on percentage.
LIONS V ROOS
Recent record: BL 3 NM 7
Last time: R2 2016: NM 17.15 (117) d BL 11.17 (83) at the Gabba
WHILE teams are jostling for positions higher up the ladder, these two (at 5-16) will battle it out to avoid finishing bottom. Forget tanking, there's no clear-cut No.1 draft pick this year anyway. That said, you get the feeling the Dayne Beams-led Lions will be going at it harder, especially on their home deck, in front of fans they need to impress. The Roos have won their past two in Brisbane by a combined 106 points but seem assured of completing their worst season since 1972.
SWANS V BLUES
Recent record: Syd 7 Carl 3
Last time: R6 2017: Carl 15.7 (97) d Syd 11.12 (78) at the MCG
HAWTHORN has beaten Sydney twice. Carlton has now beaten Hawthorn. So that means the Blues will knock over the Swans, right? Not quite. They did do it in round six, but sixth-placed Sydney (13-8) has only lost twice since (to the Hawks), and is almost at full strength, back on its home ground, and needing a win to stitch up a home elimination final - if not a top-four berth if Richmond and Port Adelaide were to lose. Lance Franklin looms especially large having booted 22 goals in his past five against the Blues.
CATS V GIANTS
Simonds Stadium, 7.25pm
Recent record: Geel 5 GWS 1 Drawn 1
Last time: R15 2017: GWS 10.8 (68) drew Geel 10.8 (68) in Sydney
IT'S another mini-final, with a top-two finish - and with it an all-important home qualifying final - up for grabs. Sitting second and third, you can expect GWS (60 points) and Geelong (58) to meet again in a fortnight, it's just a matter of where. It'll be tight. Just 23 points have separated them in their past three encounters. While big Tom Hawkins returns for the hosts, retiring ex-Cat Steve Johnson may be a key inclusion for the Giants in his last game at Sleepy Hollow.
POWER V SUNS
Adelaide Oval, 7.40pm (AEST)
Recent record: PA 7 GC 1
Last time: R8 2017: PA 16.14 (110) d GC 4.14 (38) in China
PORT hasn't bowed to the Gold Coast since that first meeting in 2011. And the fifth-placed Power (13-8) isn't about to start now, knowing it can be guaranteed a home elimination final with another victory. It could be a result similar to the one in China. Of interest will be the one-on-ones in the Port attack, where big Charlie Dixon (four goals last week) confronts former Gold Coast teammate Steven May. Sidenote: could this be Gary Ablett's last game for the Suns (if he plays)?
BOMBERS V DOCKERS
Etihad Stadium, 1.10pm
Recent record: Ess 3 Frem 7
Last time: R7 2017: Frem 17.14 (116) d Ess 11.13 (79) in Perth
ESSENDON, leading a host of teams at 11-10 on percentage, will make an emotional return to the finals following its supplements scandal ... as long as it wins a home match against a side that has suffered back-to-back 104-point floggings. It seems a safe bet, despite the fact the Dockers (8-13) are aiming for a fifth straight win over the Bombers. This will be their first meeting in Melbourne since 2010. The retiring Jobe Watson returns for the hosts. Teammates won't want it to be his last appearance.
SAINTS V TIGERS
Recent record: Rich 6 StK3 Drawn 1
Last time: R16 2017: StK 21.12 (138) d Rich 10.11 (71) at Docklands
WOULDN'T St Kilda love to inflict another thrashing on Richmond. The Saints, who led by 82 at half-time last time, sit 11-10 with a fair chunk of percentage behind Essendon and West Coast. Regardless of whether they claim a miraculous 11th-hour finals berth, they will want to send Nick Riewoldt out on a high. His cousin Jack and the rest of the Tigers (14-7), playing for a top-four finish and the double chance, will have other ideas.
EAGLES V CROWS
Domain Stadium, 4.40pm (AEST)
Recent record: WC 6 Adel 4
Last time: R23 2016: WC 14.16 (100) d Adel 10.11 (71) in Adelaide
IT COULD all come down to the last home and away game. Should Collingwood upset Melbourne - or even Freo down Essendon - the Eagles (11-10) could be playing to extend their season. Taking on the ladder leaders, they do have the home-ground advantage and will take inspiration from their final-round win in Adelaide 12 months ago. Meanwhile, the Crows (15-1-5) can claim the minor premiership with victory, and Eagles spearhead Josh Kennedy a third consecutive Coleman Medal.