There are more questions than answers lingering four rounds into the 2021 AFL season. The three undefeated sides – Sydney, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs – have stunned the competition with the way they have leapt out of the blocks, but can they sustain this pace?

One of the most important games of the round is first up at Marvel Stadium on Thursday, with St Kilda facing reigning premiers Richmond, who have lost their past two games and face a torrid month ahead. The pressure isn’t on the Tigers just yet, but if they drop a third game in a row, the jungle drums will start beating at Punt Road.


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Collingwood travels to Perth to meet West Coast at Optus Stadium on Friday in one of the toughest tasks in football. It has been a tumultuous week for the Magpies, after their underwhelming effort against Greater Western Sydney at the MCG last Saturday. The Eagles were overrun by St Kilda last weekend and are now missing three of their most important players, but they are a different side on their home deck. 

It is still hard to believe that Sydney is 4-0 right now, given they have finished in the bottom four in each of the past two years. But they are, and superstar spearhead Lance Franklin is back in attack. The Swans have some of the best kids in the AFL, but this Saturday’s ‘Battle of the Bridge’ against crosstown rivals Greater Western Sydney has some added spice after the Giants’ stunning upset over the Magpies last weekend. Factor in the form of box office superstar Toby Greene and this becomes a must-watch game.

Round 5: Channels & times

The Western Bulldogs are the team to beat after a dominant first month that seen them ease past Collingwood, West Coast, North Melbourne and Brisbane. Luke Beveridge’s men host Gold Coast at Marvel Stadium on Saturday in a game that shouldn’t cause them too much trouble.

Port Adelaide may have lost two of their brightest young stars after last Friday’s finals-like win over Richmond, but they are the real deal in 2021. Former captain Travis Boak has continued his over-30 renaissance, backing up a brilliant 2019 and 2020. The Power travel to Melbourne to face a Carlton side that levelled the ledger at 2-2 by beating the Suns at Metricon Stadium last Saturday. 

If you are looking for intrigue this weekend, it doesn’t get any more absorbing than Brisbane versus Essendon at the Gabba. Lions recruit Joe Daniher has red and black blood coursing through his veins and the wounds are still raw after he left the Bombers last year in search of a fresh start in Queensland. Brisbane is facing the dire situation of being 1-4 and must win this game if they are going to keep their top-four chances alive. It is not quite do-or-die in Brisbane yet, but it is heading that way.

Tom Sparrow and Demons head coach Simon Goodwin celebrate winning their round four AFL match against Geelong Cats

Fremantle travels to South Australia to face an in-form Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Sunday. The Dockers may have returned to the winner’s list last weekend, but the Crows have been a major surprise packet across the first four rounds. They only won three games last season and they have already reached that mark, courtesy of a dominant blitz from key forward Taylor Walker, who has booted 20 goals to lead the Coleman Medal race.

No one was under more pressure in the AFL than Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin on the eve of the season. A month on and the Demons are flying at 4-0. It can change that quick. They should move to 5-0 on Sunday when they face Hawthorn at the MCG. The Hawks have been in every game across the first four rounds, but only have one win on the board and thin forward stocks right now.

Round five ends on Sunday when North Melbourne travels down the highway to meet Geelong at GMHBA Stadium. The Cats have been less than impressive so far this season, but they regain Brownlow Medallist Patrick Dangerfield after his three-game suspension for a crude bump in round one. The Kangaroos have been pummelled in all four games. Don’t expect that to change this weekend.