We were promised some good contests this round, some delivered, others disappointed as the Cats put themselves into the mix as the best sides in it this year. With the Lions having the week off, The Tigers and Cats have firmly cemented themselves in the top 3 sides at the moment, despite Port still maintaining top spot, who I see on the next rung with the Eagles.

Hawthorn 10.11.71 lost to Essendon 13.9.87
The Round started on Thursday evening at 4:40pm at Adelaide, though many would be forgiven for thinking Essendon weren’t aware it started that early. This was the classic ‘game of two halves’ as Hawthorn were simply dominant in the first half, as Essendon look as ordinary as any side this year. The Hawks moved the ball quickly and efficiently, but butchered their forward chances, being 7.10 at half time, to 2.4 and should have really had a 10 goals lead. As it stood, it’s what they needed, as the Essendon woke up after half time and, through centre square and clearance dominance, they simply out ran the Hawks in the second half to kicked 11 goals to 3 to register an impressive win. Joe Daniher in his return was superb and gave the Dons the forward impetus they needed, kicking 3 goals and showing impressive movement. It’s a great win for the Dons, keeping their finals hopes alive, whilst Hawthorn’s season can’t finish quick enough.

Richmond 14.4.88 defeated West Coast Eagles 9.7.61
If I was the Eagles, I would be petitioning their government to go as hard as humanly possible to get the Grand Final, because in my view, they can’t win it away from home. After an even first half, the Tigers put the foot down in the 3rd, kicking 6 goals to 4 and taking control of the game, then finished it off in the last with 3 goals to 1 as they ran away with the game in the end. What was noticeable here, was the ability of Richmond to put the foot down in the 3rd and West Coast struggle to keep up. Now Kennedy was lost early, but the Tigers also lost Grimes, so it cancelled each other out. Soldo was able to hold his own against Natanui, which impacted the Eagles mids ability to win around the contest. All is not lost for the Eagles, but their struggles away from home is noticeable. 9 wins for the year, with 8 of those at Optus. Can they win the premiership away from Perth?

Western Bulldogs 9.7.61 lost to Geelong 10.12.72
Whilst the Hawthorn capitulation was bad, at least they got two good quarters to enjoy. For Dogs fans, they got to see what their side is capable of, as they dominated this game from the opening bounce to quarter time, piling on 6 goals and hold the Cats goalless and they looked incredible. To then only kick another 3 goals for the game, and just 1 across the middle two quarters. It really puts their finals hopes in jeopardy, whilst for the Cats, it’s another example of their ability to adapt and change through a game and once they are able to get the game on their terms, then they are very hard to toss. Dangerfield was superb again, whilst Rohan was the hero late, with a strong last quarter helping the Cats get across the line. The Cats look superb again……but we’ve seen this script before for them, and it means nothing unless they can, at least, make the Grand Final.

Port Adelaide 11.7.73 defeated Sydney 7.5.47
This game was decided in the 2nd quarter, when the Power were able to blow the Swans away with a 4.0 to 0.0 quarter, which in the end of was pretty much the margin at the end of the game. Young side can have fades within game, but they lost complete control of a game they were in as Port simply flexed their muscles. The positive for the swans is they were able to wrest back momentum after half time, and actually win the second half, but it was all a little too late as the damage was done. Charlie Dixon was superb again with 4 goals and was a constant presence up forward, whilst Robbie Gray ran the show through the middle. Port has been ok over the last few weeks, but their form has dipped. They get a well-earned rest next round, so it might be just the tonic they need to get back to top form. For the Swans, it’s early draft picks and an early season finish is all that’s left.

Fremantle 8.5.53 lost to GWS Giants 14.7.91
They are a strange side the Giants. After a very average 6 straight quarters over the previous couple of weeks, they had a strong finish to the Eagles game last week and they flew out of the blocks and put this game out of reach early. They dominated the early going, and kicking the first 4 goals and completely dominating the first quarter. Fremantle were able to slow them slightly in the second, but the Giants were still well on top. The 3rd quarter was much of the same, with 5 goals to 3 their high-priced midfield running things. The ease of the win was surprising, as the Dockers have proven to be very difficult to break down this year, and have been in superb form. This looked to be a statement for the Giants, who were clearly keen to put their flag back in the ground noting they aren’t gone just yet.

Melbourne 8.4.52 defeated St Kilda 7.7.49
In a cracking game, the Demons were able to keep their finals hopes alive, and make St Kilda’s finish to the year a little bit dicier than they would have liked. It was a superb win for the Demons, a win built on strong defence, disciplined play through the middle and winners up forward. They were able to shut down the Saints run from defence, which has been a feature of their play this season. Whilst Hill and Steele were superb again for the Saints, it was Petracca who was the difference between the two side, with 4 goals from his 15 touches. He was superb again, as was May who seemed impassable at times. The Saints though had their chances, and some easy missed shots at goal will come back to haunt them. The controversial moment was a goal-line review on one of Petracca’s goal, which was ruled on the field as the only camera angles they had were from behind the goal, showing little, and one that seemed to be near the coaches’ box……basically, completely bloody useless. The AFL has now said that it will ensure goal-line technology for the rest of the season, bit it’s too little too late really. Whilst it looked a goal anyway, to not have the technology there is simply amateurish.

Carlton 7.6.48 lost to Collingwood 10.12.72
The Blues came in to this game needing a win to keep their slim finals hopes alive. And really, in the end, they only have themselves to blame here is they miss. Leading at 3qtr time, having played superbly to that stage, they had the win in their own hands. In the end, like they have done too often this year, they let a lead slip and were easily accounted for late by the Pies. The Pies, who seemed to find form in the last, were able to capitalize on the Blues many mistakes in the last quarter and as a result, the they ended winning fairly easily in the end. For the Blues, it’s another example of their inability to slow momentum and shoot themselves in the foot. They have made strides forward this year, but still plenty of work to do.

Gold Coast 12.19.91 defeated North Melbourne 4.4.28
The Suns needed this win, they have been consistently good over the past month and a half, without a win show for it. Today, against a really poor North Melbourne, they were able to get that result, and again showed the talent they have in this team. Stewie Dew has done a great job with this team, and yes, they have a truckload of talent, but they are playing good strong attacking brand of footy and are bloody good to watch. For the Kangas, it’s the complete opposite. Bullish that finals were a chance at the start of the year, they are anything but and look further from finals than they did at the start of the year. These teams were both in the lower reaches of the ladder last year, and their fortunes couldn’t be any further from one another now.

So, let’s have a look at the winners and the losers of the weekend
The Winners:
1: Richmond- Looked bloody impressive and with players coming back, they are starting to hit form at the right time of year……again. They have found some players off the back of their injuries, who will be hard to push out now, and we all know they play a brand of footy that stands up in finals. Made a statement here by easily accounting for West Coast.

2: Geelong – Gave up a 6 goal first quarter, against a side fighting for finals, and they still got the win. One they were able to get the game on their terms, they always looked the winner. Dangerfield, Hawkins, Duncan, Blicsavs, the names go on. And to think, that Ablett and Selwood are still to come back in to this side. Looking strong at the right time of the year.

3: Essendon – They were as bad as any side this year in the first half, yet they made the necessary adjustments at half time, their midfield got on top in the middle, and in Hooker and Joe Daniher, they had targets to kick long too as they went forward. It was a superb team effort and keeps their finals chances alive. Against better sides they won’t be able to do this, especially if they produce that first half again, but in Daniher they finally have the forward target they have lacked all year………now to keep him fit……then just keep him!

4: Gold Coast – haven’t had a win for 6 matches, yet were in winning positions in many only to concede them late. It’s a confidance booster they need heading into the final rounds of the year, and a chance to push for their highest ladder finish in their history. Played their attacking brand, and put North to the sword throughout. Great signs.

5: GWS Giants – The Dockers have been good over the last few years, have been strong defensively and the Giants have been poor. This was a strong statement from the Giants who needed to find form. They dominated the game for the full 4trs and with Greene and De Boer, they look so much better. This form sees them play finals……but they have to maintain this.

The Losers:
1: Western Bulldogs – 6 goals up, need to keep winning to play finals, and had a top 4 side on toast. Three goals after qtr time, beaten around the contest and an inability to stop the Cats momentum was really disappointing. Every chance to miss finals this year now.

2: West Coast – Have won 9 games this year, yet just once away from Optus Stadium. With the AFL still deciding on the Grand Final venue, they’ll be praying it’s in WA or their chances drop significantly

3: North Melbourne – The Kangaroos scored just 3pts in a half of footy, and again they have been completely non-competitive in a game this year. Rhyce Shaw vowed to bring back the shin-boner spirit to Arden St, well they are showing anything but at the moment. Polec on big cash in the twos, Hall another high-priced recruit battling, list a mess. Long road back at the moment for the Kangaroos

4: Hawthorn – Were brilliant in the first half, woeful in the second. Patton injured again, coughed up a 6-goal lead at half time, and were absolutely pantsed in the middle in the second half. Were exposed badly, and are carrying too many passengers. 7 players had 1 possession or less in the last, with many of them senior players. List needs work and it’s time to either expose the kids, or those that they are unsure of.

5: Carlton – Urrrggh. God it’d be annoying being a Blues supporter at the moment. Their first 3qtrs were really strong. They moved the ball fast, they were winning contests and looked dangerous going forward. In the last quarter, they did neither of those things and were soundly beaten in the end. No goal in the last quarter, giving up a lead at 3qtr time to a long-standing rival. Finals chances now gone too. Disappointing end to their trip to the GABBA