Who wants 8th spot? That’s the question that we have leading in to the final two rounds of the season. Whilst Collingwood is still vulnerable in 7th, the teams below them don’t look like winning consistently enough to knock them out, though if the Pies lose to the Suns this weekend, it’ll shape as an interesting final round for them.
Whilst surprises happen every year, when you look at the form lines of those battling it out for those last two spots in the top 8, you can’t see any of them beating either Richmond or West Coast in the first week, so you have to wonder if it’s worth making it, or getting the chance to go on holidays 2 weeks early.
For mine, the Dogs look in the best shape of the teams vying for the that final top spot, with games against Richmond and Freo to come. Whilst both teams can be plucky, you’d certainly favour the Dogs on both and they should get the job done you’d think. The Giants have Melbourne and St Kilda in the run home, with Melbourne having the Giants and the Bombers. This Sunday’s clash looms as a huge one between the Giants, as unless a big upset or two happens, one of these teams will be out of the race by Sunday.
Crazily, the Blues can still make it, if a heap of results go their way, and of course they manage to win their next two games, which will be a challenge in itself
North Melbourne 6.6.42 lost to Port Adelaide 11.12.78
The round started with a fizzer, with the Roos taking on the Power in the strangely scheduled sole game on Saturday. With Father’s Day the next day, the AFL chose to schedule 3 games, and leave Saturday afternoon footy free. Just seemed off. The Power were on top all night, and whilst the Roos were able to keep them goalless in the 2nd qtr, they weren’t able to put any scoreboard pressure on themselves, and went into the half 15pts down. A 6 goal to 2 third qtr blew the game apart for the Power and whilst North again held them in the last, the damage was done. The goals were largely shared across the night on both teams, with only Dixon and wines with multiples to their names. Travis Boak was again superb with 34 touches, as were Wines (30) and Rockliff (30), but if you’re looking for a smokey for the Brownlow, Boak is a good chance, and good odds too.
For North, Jed Anderson and Luke Davies-Uniacke were their best, and look to be the long-term options for their midfield hopes

St Kilda 11.14.80 defeated Hawthorn 9.12.66
In the early game on Sunday, the Saints and the Hawks clashed at Metricon stadium. The Hawks took a slender 3pt lead in to qtr time, but we had 9 goals on the board and the ball was moving briskly up and down the park. From that, we only had 11 goals scored for the remainder of the game, with the second qtr becoming a bit of a snoozefest as the Saints largely played keepings off. Maybe, to improve scoring, we need to stop the teams talking to their coaches at the breaks, as the game was superb early, then dropped right off as a spectacle. The Hawks worked hard, and pushed the Saints all day, but in the end the Saints just had more talent and cleaner ball use around the ground, and eventually got themselves the win.
Rohan Marshall was good all day, providing an option up forward, kicking 2 goals, as did Jack Lonie, whilst Luke Bruest had in interesting day in front of the big sticks, kicking 2.2, burning two easy chances which, he’d normally convert.
Tom Mitchell was in the best for the Hawks with 27, whilst 2 of their younger brigade were strong with Cousins (22) and Day (21) winning their share of the footy. For the Saints, Ross, Jones and Hill were the key drivers for the Saints.

Geelong 17.6.108 defeated Essendon 5.12.42
In match two on Sunday, the Cats and Essendon clashed in a last-chance-saloon type clash for the Bombers. They’d had a difficult lead up to the game, with their bus getting delayed and only arriving an hour before play. In the end, maybe they should have not bother to get off the bus, as the Cats jumped them early, kicking the first 6 goals of the game and putting Essendon fairly and squarely on the back foot from the outset. Another 6 goal to 1 second qtr and this was over as a contest and it was only interesting to see whether the Cats would put the foot down, or if the Bombers would fight it out. The Bombers stemmed the flow in the second half, but the damage was done in what was a really poor performance and they were simply non-competitive when the heat was on early. The Cats, well they just look cheery ripe and are ready for finals to start now. They have form, depth and guys like Selwood and Ablett to come back in. Scary thought really.
Tom Hawkins has pretty much sealed his first Coleman with 4 goals, giving him a 9-goal lead over Kennedy with two to play. Miers with 3 and Menegola with 2 goals and 30 touches were the other standouts. Zach Merrett again played a lone hand for the Bombers, and it makes you wonder what he did to get dumped from the leadership group, as he’s one of the few that gives it his all every game. Sadly, Irving Mosquito did an ACL, further compounding the disappointment for the Dons.

Western Bulldogs 6.13.49 defeated West Coast 7.5.47
Someone needed to step up in their fight for the 8, and it was the Dogs who laid down the challenge. Going in against the Eagles as underdogs, they were poor early, giving up the first 4 goals, but from there were the best side clearly on the day. Whilst their final goal should have been ruled touched, at the end of the day they were the team that earned the victory more than West Coast, and had they actually kicked straight, this wouldn’t have been close. Again, the Eagles have lost away from Perth and I stand by my claim, the Eagles can’t win it this year as a result.
McCrae, Daniel and Bailey Smith were amongst the Dogs best, though that was shared with many, whilst Mitch Wallis continues to prove his value at a forward, kicking 2.2 and being a constant focal point for them. For the Eagles, Kennedy kicked 2, but their midfield was clearly beaten and there are plenty of questions around them at the moment for mine. Dogs, well the finals are there if they want it. Just got to take the opportunity now.

Melbourne 4.9.33 lost to Fremantle 6.11.47
Why would you be a Dees supporter? I mean seriously. They had the chance to stay in the finals race, taking on the Dockers in Cairns, but in what were terrible conditions, they were simply out worked, and out classed by a Dockers side that is showing plenty at the moment. For Demons fans, disappointment isn’t new, but how this club continues to burn its supporters is beyond me. They just can’t get out of the way of themselves when it comes to grasping opportunities, and with finals a real option, they fluffed their lines again. Adam Cerra was the clear best on ground, with 30 touches a goal and some real class in the conditions, with Walters joining him in the class stakes with 3 goals. For the Demons, were led by Viney, Oliver and Petracca as their best, but an inability to make the most of their forward entries stopped them from ever really threatening Fremantle in the end. They now rely on other teams to decide on their finals fate, and after a disappointing effort last year, this season looks to be a wasted one again.

Adelaide 8.11.59 defeated GWS Giants 7.5.47
Speaking on wasting chances, the Giants had the chance to just about seal their top 8 spot with a win here, having seen the Demons lose the night before. Instead, they put in a really poor performance, as the Crows got their second win on the trot in another spirited performance. Interesting stat, Adelaide have more September win this year than Essendon have since 2004!!!! Love it.
Questions will be asked, and should be asked, about the Giants. It’s never easy coming off a GF flogging, but this team has a look about them that it all seems too hard. They have the talent, clearly, but not the fight in them it seems. Last year in the finals they found it, but it was really just a 3-week rally before going back to type and we saw the result in the Grand Final. Similar to this year, when really challenged, they have folded. For the Crows, McAdam, and Himmelberg were their leading goal kickers with 2 apiece, whilst B Crouch and Laird racked up the footy with 31 & 28 respectively. Whitfield and Taranto tried hard for the Giants, but lacked support. With a contract extension on the table, Leon Cameron might want to sign it ASAP, as it could be removed very soon if they miss out on finals action this year

Carlton 8.9.57 defeated Sydney 8.4.52
This game had everything. It had scintillating footy, it had comebacks, it had ice cold finishes, and then missed opportunities as the Blues got the win at the death, though nearly had to share the points in the end. They Blues gave up the first 7 goals of this game, and didn’t have a goal on the board until midway through the 2nd. They kicked the last 4 goals of the 1st half, which gave them belief, and they took it and ran with it from there. 4 goals to 1 after half time, allowed them to pinch it late, as Matt Cottrell held his nerve to kick the game deciding goal late, before Lewis Taylor had a chance to tie it up with seconds remaining only to miss his shot at goal.
For the Blues, Sam Walsh was again superb, and is every chance to win the Blues B&F in his second season. People were doubting him earlier this year, but this kid is a jet. He’s added goal-kicking to his repertoire this season too, showing he’s got improvement still to come. Harry McKay was an ever-present target for them up forward, and got his 2 goals, whilst for the Swans, Florent got two goals, and Parker was strong throughout, but this was a wasted chance for a Sydney team that can show they can play attacking footy, but oddly go away from it when they have no need too.

Brisbane 13.10.88 defeated Gold Coast 6.7.43
It looks like a long season is starting to catch up with the Suns and their young players, as whilst the mind is willing, the body is starting to let them down. In the QClash, the Lions were able to fly out of the blocks, and took a 28pt lead in to qtr time, and you knew the game was over at that stage. 3 goals apiece in the second, and whilst the Suns had evened the game out slightly, the Lions still looked the more impressive. The Suns tired after half time, and the Lions kicked on, to record a strong 45pt win and take back 2nd spot from the Cats. Lachie Neale was again superb, as was Hugh McCluggage, whilst for the Suns it was two of their senior recruits in Brandon Ellis and Hugh Greenwood who led the way. Importantly for the Lions, both Cam Raynor and Charlie Cameron found some form, which will be crucial for them in the run to the finals and beyond.

Ok, so Let’s have a look at the winners and losers for this round;
The Winners
1: Geelong – Whilst Essendon are flakey, they were made to look second rate against a Geelong team is simply flying. Whilst Port are on top of the ladder, the Lions look good, no side is looking as good as the Cats are at the moment. Form, depth, and health. They’ve got it all at the moment. No excuses at this stage for them

2: Brisbane – Short turn around and with no Harris Andrews, this could have been a danger game. That was ended in the first quarter as they put 4 goals between them and the Suns and got the confidance up early. Move back to second, and if they can stay there, then home finals loom all the way the big one.

3: Western Bulldogs – Not only did they win, but those all around them fell over. A great weekend for them. They are playing good footy, and were easily the better side on Sunday night, despite the closeness of the scores in the end. Worryingly, they were easily beaten in the first quarter and in finals, I’m not sure they’ll be able to turn it around the way they did. They have too many lapses which they need to rectify. They have their concerns, but if they hold their nerve from here, it’s their finals spot to lose

4: Carlton – 7 goals down and the season looked shot. To turn that around showed a lot of courage, but crucially a steady hand from the players and the coaches to not lose belief. They are still a chance to play finals, and whilst they probably won’t, they have shown people their best stacks up. Just need to learn to not ruin 3 good quarters with 1 stinker.

5: Adelaide – 2 in a row, and are playing with a spirit that has been missing for much of the season. Beating Hawthorn is one thing, but beating a potential finalist in the Giants is another. Even better, Brad Crouch starred which can be good in two ways. 1) he might see enough to convince him to stay, or 2) he’s improving his future contract elsewhere, which improves Adelaide’s draft hand. Win/Win really.

The Losers
1: GWS Giants – this was a really poor effort, and as called out by their coach Leon Cameron, their midfield was well beaten. This team has more talent than probably any other side, yet their performances wane so much from week to week, and even quarter to quarter. Had the chance to all but confirm their finals spot, but now go in to two tough final weeks needing to win probably both to make it. It should never have gotten too this. Is it the coach? Is it their recruiting?

2: Melbourne – Having seen the Dogs win, would have known a win was needed to keep in the finals hunt. Instead, they lose to a young Freo side and the cracks again show when they have their backs to the wall. Have got GWS and Essendon in the next two weeks, and will have to win both to stand a chance. Really, who would back them to do it? Their best is good enough, but mentally, they just don’t seem to have it.

3: Essendon – Long shot at finals, trouble getting to the ground, but in the end, they’d turned up their heels within the first 15mins. Cats were largely untroubled through the first half, and after half time were seen laughing and carrying on. They aren’t Richmond, they need to try and find their own identity. Yes, try and enjoy footy, it is only a game, but you’ve got to pick your times. Lost Mosquito to a knee, so he’ll miss all of next year now too you’d think, then Connor McKenna ups and leaves back to Ireland. Overall, a stinker of a week

4: West Coast – 4 goals up, then are soundly beaten across the rest of the game and were lucky to be so close. Probably should have won as the ball was touched on the goal line late, but didn’t deserve it. Can’t win away from Optus stadium, so needs to finish top 2. Won’t happen. Similar to last year when they coughed up a crucial gam late, this looks like another game that’ll come back to bit them

5: Gold Coast – The Suns are 14th, with 5 wins, which is only a slight improvement on their record from last year, but with a bit of luck and more experience, they could have gotten that up to 8 wins and it would have looked a much better season. They lost Matt Rowell early which hurt them, meaning more of their younger guys had to play every game. In the end, it’s taking its toll as they slow down as the season finishes. But this season has been an improvement so there is that.