In a week where a dark cloud has hovered over European football, an injury cloud lingers over the AFL, only five rounds into the 2021 season.

Patrick Dangerfield’s frustrating start to the year has gone from bad to worse, with the Geelong superstar set to miss the next two months after suffering an ankle injury in his first game back from a three-game suspension.

Sydney spearhead Lance Franklin is out again after injuring his knee against Greater Western Sydney on the weekend, while Collingwood spearhead Jeremy Howe is out for the next few weeks with a hamstring strain.


Watch TNT Sports' unbeatable line-up of world-class live sport for just £29.99 per month.

Buy Monthly Pass

And they are only the injuries from last weekend. Almost every club is wounded right now, and those who are healthy aren’t counting their blessings; they know their time will come in the next six months. 

Friday night football heads to Canberra this week with a game that didn’t look appealing a fortnight ago, but now promises to deliver plenty.

Round 6: Channels & times

The Giants and the Western Bulldogs don’t like each other. In fact, they hate each other. The rivalry stems from the 2019 elimination final and should produce some fireworks, with Greater Western Sydney antagonist Toby Greene one of the in-form forwards in the AFL right now.

Geelong entered 2021 as one of the premiership favourites after reaching last year’s Grand Final before acquiring three stars during the trade period. We are only five rounds into the new season, but the Cats are wobbly and are now without their best player.

West Coast haven’t won in Geelong since 2006 – and have only won once at GMHBA Stadium this millennium – but they are one of the most devastating teams in the AFL this season with a point to prove on the road.

Just when some were ready to stamp Sydney as premiership contenders, the undefeated Swans fell to the Giants at the SCG last Saturday and now look vulnerable without four-time Coleman Medallist Franklin. They travel north to face Gold Coast, who have been one of the most disappointing teams so far this season, despite being spared of the blowtorch due to being situated off Broadway in rugby heartland.

Speaking of disappointing teams, Carlton are firmly in the conversation as the most underwhelming of 2021. The Blues were poised to explode this year, but haven’t gotten out of first gear yet. The coach, the recruiters, the players and the administration have been in the gun this week. Enter the Brisbane Lions at Marvel Stadium in a game where we will find out plenty about the Navy Blues.

If Richmond’s trip to face Port Adelaide a fortnight ago was the game of the season so far, this might top it. Anzac Day Eve has become a permanent fixture on the calendar in recent years and this looms as a mouthwatering clash in front of a crowd of up to 85,000 people.

Yes, you read that right. Melbourne are 5-0 for the first time since 1994 and will celebrate the 300th appearance of long-suffering club great Nathan Jones at the MCG. Don’t miss this one.

This year was always going to be tough for North Melbourne, but they showed signs of promise in last Sunday’s loss to Geelong. They will head to Perth to face Fremantle with confidence – and with a few soldiers back – but don’t expect them to get the job done at Optus Stadium. The Dockers flexed their muscles against Adelaide last weekend, showing their blend of experience and youth around the ball, which might propel them back into September this year.

Five rounds into 2021 and we still don’t know exactly where the Hawks are at. Under the guidance of master coach Alastair Clarkson – the AFL’s equivalent of New England Patriots' legendary head coach Bill Belichick – the Hawks have been in every game, despite the state of their list. Star midfielders Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara have started the year on fire and will make them hard to beat for the Crows on Sunday.

This game usually stands alone, played on whatever day of the week Anzac Day falls. That has been the tradition since 1995, but this year the game lands on a Sunday, removing some of the reverence usually bestowed on this fixture. Collingwood and Essendon are both struggling at 1-4, but that never matters. They hate each other. Always have, always will. This game will deliver, even if neither club delivers this year.

Round six finishes in South Australia with the underperforming St Kilda heading to the city of churches to face premiership contenders Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. The Saints have copped it from everywhere this week following two disastrous performances in the space of three games. They look like a shadow of the side that reached the second week of the finals last year, ending a decade-long finals drought in the process. Expect them to respond on Sunday, but don’t expect them to win. The Power are a well-oiled machine who are purring right now.