AFL 2021: Everything you need to know ahead of Round 15

AFL expert Josh Gabelich previews another action-packed weekend live on BT Sport.

Published: 23 June 2021 - 2.05pm

The AFL bye period is over and Thursday night footy is back!

Beyond this weekend the landscape is unclear, but right now, we have a weekend stacked full of games with serious ramifications on the top-four. The whips are starting to crack with the finish line in sight. 

Round 15 starts in Queensland on Thursday with Brisbane hosting Geelong at the Gabba, the scene of last year’s preliminary final where the Cats smashed the Lions to progress to the Grand Final.

This time around, both sides are trying to cement a spot in the top-four to secure a double chance in September. 

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Chris Scott’s men have won their past six matches – and eight of their past nine – including last Friday’s thriller against the Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium, courtesy of a goal after the siren by Gary Rohan.

Brisbane have lost only once since round four and have won 15 of their past 17 games at home. You won’t want to miss this one.

Crowds are back at Melbourne venues this weekend, albeit at a reduced capacity. It means up to 30,000 people are expected to attend Richmond’s Friday night game against St Kilda at the MCG, in a match that could put one last nail in the Saints’ dismal season.

The reigning premiers are languishing at the bottom of the eight and being chased by Greater Western Sydney and the vastly improved Essendon.

Damien Hardwick’s side doesn’t look capable of finishing in the top-four, but they are the one side who can go the long way in September.

We have four games to look forward to on Saturday, starting with Collingwood versus Fremantle at Marvel Stadium in what will be the first game without Nathan Buckley at the helm.

St Kilda great Robert Harvey has served a long apprenticeship as an assistant coach and will finally get an opportunity to press his claims for a senior coaching role when he starts as caretaker against the Dockers.

The Pies will be without star duo Darcy Moore and Jordan De Goey, but All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy is back.

The Gold Coast Suns may be off-Broadway, but the blowtorch is starting to burn brightly at Metricon Stadium. They are yet to play a single final in their 11-year existence, and they won’t again this year, after winning only four of 13 games so far this season.

Stuart Dew’s men face bottom-placed North Melbourne in a game between two of the biggest battlers in the AFL right now. If the Suns falter again, expect the heat to turn up a notch or two next week.

Port Adelaide has struggled to prove they are the real deal in 2021. They smash the average teams but fail to stand up on the big stage against the contenders. Saturday presents a big opportunity for Ken Hinkley’s side to prove their premiership credentials when they face Sydney at Adelaide Oval.

The Swans have been shaky in the past month and need a win to solidify their spot in the top-eight.

If Thursday night leaves you wanting more, then Saturday night could be just as good. Two Melbourne-based teams who haven’t enjoyed success for a long, long time, in form at the MCG.

Essendon has been one of the most surprising performers of 2021, while Melbourne are premiership favourites and are the biggest story of the season.

Sunday starts with Greater Western Sydney facing Hawthorn in a game that has been moved from Sydney to the MCG due to the current coronavirus outbreak in New South Wales.

The Giants are half a game outside the eight and nipping at the heels of Richmond. They produced a stellar performance against Carlton last weekend, courtesy of superstar Toby Greene who produced another All-Australian calibre effort to keep Leon Cameron’s men in the hunt for September action.

The Western Bulldogs have spent the week living in quarantine conditions in Perth after heading west following last Friday’s heartbreaking loss to Geelong.

The Dogs are still second on the ladder but could loosen their grip on a home qualifying final if they fall against West Coast, who have been boosted by returning stars in recent weeks and will get captain Luke Shuey back this week after he returned in the WAFL last weekend.

It has been all about Carlton this weekend. Another season down the toilet and another senior coach under the pump.

The Blues were embarrassed by Greater Western Sydney last round and continue to be underwhelming. If they fall to Adelaide at Marvel Stadium, the pressure will intensify on David Teague.