Well, it all comes down to this. The Final round, and 2 spots to play before between 4 teams. The Saints and Dogs hold on to the coveted spots, so will go in as favorites to hold on to it, but as we’ve seen a lot this season, anything can happen.

The Giants (10th) play the Saints (7th), in what looms as a cracking contest. The Giants have been one of the biggest disappointments this year, and sit both a game and more than 10 percentage points behind the Saints. They coughed up a huge chance to be in pole position themselves last week in their loss to the Demons, and would not only need a win but a big win to see themselves play in the Finals. The Saints, well they have stuttering and spluttering towards finals, having lost 3 of their last 5, but they are in the box seat to hold on to their spot in the 8 as long as they don’t get flogged.

The Dogs, they have the plucky Dockers, and they would want to be at their best as the Dockers are certainly capable of producing the upset. Put simply, they just have to win. Win and they are in, lose there are in the lap of the gods, and would likely get knocked out if the Demons win, based on their percentage. They have their fate in their own hands, which is good at this time of the year.

Finally, the Demons. They have Essendon, a side that looks like they are just wanting to finish up, have put the queue in the rack the last couple of weeks and look done with season 2020. Of course, this is where the problem may lay. A side with nothing to lose, against a team who’s not shown they are always capable of stepping up and delivering when they need to win. There is absolutely no doubt, the Demons should win this, but there is absolutely no doubt they could blow this up. Still reliant on the Dogs or Saints to lose, but they get a chance to at least put the pressure on the Dogs as they play earlier. A win here is necessary, they need to show they can win when needed as it’s not something they have done well in the past.

St Kilda 6.14.50 lost to West Coast Eagles 9.11.65
The round started on Thursday night, in a cracking contest between two likely finalists. The Saints needed to win this game to ensure finals, and started well in this game getting out to a 15pt lead midway through the opening quarter, before being pulled back later in the quarter, having the majority of the play and not taking their chances up forward. In the second, they didn’t score and let the Eagles back in to the game, who kicked 3.5 and took a lead in to halftime. No goals in the 3rd qtr saw this game go into the last qtr in the balance, and when the Saints kicked the first 3 goals of the quarter, they bounced out to a 9pt lead and look the winner. But this is a proud Eagles team, a side missing 9 of their best 22 and had lost Jeremy McGovern midway through the second. They kicked the final 4 goals of the game and too the win out from under the Saints. Whilst it’s a great win for the Eagles, this was a bad loss for the Saints. Now they have a fight to stay in the finals hunt and it’s their own fault.

Geelong 4.7.31 lost to Richmond 7.15.57
This was meant to be the big game of the round, a possible grand final preview, and a battle between two legitimate contenders. What we got was a sign that Richmond are looking every bit as good as previous years, whilst the Cats still can’t hand the Tigers manic pressure. The Tigers held the Cats to just 1 goal to 3qtr time, and having kicked 5.13 themselves, should have had this one completely in the bag. As it was, the Cats produced a strong 5-minute burst and kicked 3 quick goals making the margin under 3 goals and it was game on. A rushed set shot snap miss from Hawkins, which resulted in a rebound goal for the Tigers and it was game over. What it showed is that the Tigers are up and about, Geelong’s precision game still struggles against the Tigers, yet when the Cats decided to role the dice and attack, they really took it up to the Tigers. In the end, it was a comfortable 26pt win for the Tigers, but both sides will take plenty out of this match. They’ll likely meet again, so the Cats need to find a way to handle the Richmond pressure.

North Melbourne 5.5.35 lost to Fremantle 15.9.99
I’d love to give the Kangaroos a clip, but will do so later. After an even start to the first quarter, the Dockers put their foot down as the quarter went on, then in the 2nd quarter they kicked away putting 4 goals to 1 to put this game to bed by half time. After half time, it was all one-way traffic and it looked like training ground stuff. The Roos just didn’t put up a fight after quarter time, and you have to question where they are really at. They are rebuilding no doubt, but look a long way from it, and the lack of competitive is the worry. The Dockers are the complete opposite, have a strong set of young guys, their senior players are playing well and they are really well coached. Highlight here was Jesse Hogan kicking 4 goals and reminding us all what he can do, Walters was again superb with 3 goals as was Taberner, whilst Fyfe, Acres, and Mundy were all in the best with 24 touches.

Port Adelaide11.13.79 defeated Essendon 4.5.29
The Power put their stamp on this game in the second quarter and from there the game was never in doubt. Essendon actual led at quarter time, but a 5 goal to just 2 behind quarter from Port Adelaide meant the game was over. The rain was heavy, which meant scoring got harder in the 2nd half, but the Dons look ready to finish out the year, whilst the Power just keep producing and retain their top spot. A 4-goal last qtr showed the ruthlessness from Port which is needed from good teams. Charlie Dixon was again superb, with 2 goals, whilst Rockliff and Wines keep winning the footy. They go in to the final round against the Pies with a home final assured. Essendon finish the season in no-mans land, with more questions than answers. Interesting offseason coming for the Bombers

GWS Giants 11.8.74 lost to Melbourne 12.7.79
In a game that was likely to decide each teams’ finals fate, this had plenty riding on it. The Giants dropped their captain Coniglio for the game based on form, but on watching this, he’ll have plenty of mates next week in the stands. The Dees flew out of the blocks, kicking the first 3 goals, before the Giants got the game on their terms to kick the next 2. The Demons though kicked the next two and took a strong lead in to qtr time. The second qtr was the exact opposition, with the Giants going well early, Demons steadying, then the Giants kicked the last 3 goals to take a slender lead at half time. The 3rd quarter was even, and the Giants held the lead at qtr time, before the Demons produced a strong last qtr to pinch the game from the Giants. It keeps the Demons finals hopes alive, and has probably cost the Giants their chance of finals in 2020. They need a lot to go right, and really, based on form, they simply don’t deserve it. They have lacked something all year, a hunger to fight hard, and you have to wonder if the grand final scars are still there. Another team with an interesting offseason ahead.

Carlton 8.8.56 lost to Adelaide 10.12.72
Speaking of disappointing…. Carlton. Their finals hopes were still alive, and whilst they were coming from a long way back, they still had a chance. That chance ended inside 25mins of footy, as the Crows bounced out of the blocks, kicking the Blues goalless in the first qtr and kicking 5 goals themselves. Add another 3 goals to just 1 in the second and the game was done right there. The Blues fought back, and made a game of it, kicking 7 goals to 2 in the second half, but the game was over by then. The Crows have been playing superb footy of late, making it 3 wins on the trot, but for Blues fans it’s just another ‘what-if’ and ‘WTF’! One shining light was 4 goals from Harry McKay, whilst the Crows has a host if winners, none more so than Lachie Sholl who had 24 touches, 2 goals and looks an absolute gem of a player. Weirdly, Bryce Gibbs was carried off in his final game for Adelaide by two Carlton players. Being that those two blokes were in his bridal party, it made sense….still looked odd.

Hawthorn 6.4.40 lost to Western Bulldogs 11.10.76
Another game that was over at half time, as the Hawks put in a spiritless display in the first half, whilst the Dogs piled on the pressure. 7 goals to 1 in the first half, meant the Dogs were not only headed to finals, they were potentially looking at a percentage-boosting win. Whilst the second half was better from the Hawks, the Dogs were always in control and got themselves the win they needed. Bontempelli, Macrae, Liberatore and Smith were all superb, but it was Caleb Daniel who was best on ground for mine. He carved up the Hawks in defence, and even managed to drift forward for a goal. For the Hawks, Will Day again showed plenty, Finn Maguiness finally debuted and Gunston showed why he’s the favorite to take over the Hawthorn captaincy after another strong display.

Sydney 6.5.41 lost to Brisbane 11.7.73
The Swans started off this game well, but a scoreless second qtr meant they were behind at half time and allowed the Lions to get back in to the game. The Swans were in this game still at 3qtr time, however the Lions were simply too strong and kicked 6 goals to 3 in the last to record a strong 5 goal win. Parker was superb for the Swans, as were Kennedy and Lloyd, whilst Cameron, Hipwood and Bailey were strong for the Lions.

Collingwood 10.8.68 defeated 6.10.46
Jordan De Goey……. he was the difference between the two teams, and showed every Collingwood fan, and all potential finalists, that this guy could be the difference between them winning a flag and not. Whilst he’s not their best player, nor their most important player, but if he plays like he did this weekend for the next month, then he can take them to premiership glory. Add to that Mason Cox had a decent game and their forward line looked dangerous. They needed these two to fire as well, as the Suns were leading at qtr time. However, they weren’t able to maintain the rage and Collingwood were able to get on top through the 2nd qtr and run out the game strongly. Treloar is back, De Goey is back and if Sidebottom can return, then they can make a decent fist of their finals tilt from here.

So, let’s have a look at the Winners and Losers from round 17
The Winners:
1: Western Bulldogs – Sure, they only beat Hawthorn, but they started the round outside of the 8, and end it inside the 8. They are playing good footy, have their stars up and running and if they can get Bruce to fire a shot up forward, their forward line takes on a whole new dimension.

2: Richmond – Coming up against the inform Cats, they took them apart from outset and have again showed the Cats they have their measure. Whilst they were poor in front of goal, they still won easily. Will again be the team to beat come finals

3: West Coast – This is a huge win for the club. Adam Simpson has called it one of the best wins he’s been involved with at the club, and with 9 best 22 players missing, plus losing McGovern midway through the game, it took a truckload of character to get this win. Likely means they’ll get a home final at worst now. With players to return, they have themselves in a good position come finals.

4: Melbourne – Huge win, a win that showed a heap of character and a much-needed win as it kept their finals hopes alive. The Giants looked to have the game in their hands, but a strong final quarter, and cool heads late, meant they got the win they needed. Beat Essendon, and they are a chance at finals.

5: Adelaide – didn’t win for 13 games, went more than 400 days without a win, then get 3 on the trot to finish the year. Their young kids are playing well, their senior group look energized again and they look to have confidence in their coaches plans now. They’ll go in to the preseason with confidence, this club looks a world away from where they were 3 weeks ago. Amazing what a few wins will do.

The Losers
1: St Kilda – a wounded opponent, the Saints just had to win to ensure finals. Instead, they fluffed their lines, gave up the last 4 goals of the game when they had all the momentum, and now go in to the last round needing a win to ensure finals for the first time since 2014.

2: Geelong – Big game against a likely final’s opponent, and they were comfortably beaten. Didn’t handle the pressure and old wounds would have been opened, as it was remarkably similar to their finals exits over the last few years.

3: GWS Giants – Dropped their captain for form for a game they needed to win to have a legitimate chance at finals. Lead going into the last qtr, and weren’t able to get across the line. Jeremy Cameron looked disinterested, their midfield was easily beaten, and late in the game when cool heads were required, it was Melbourne who stepped up. This list shouldn’t miss finals and there seems to be a lot of discontent at the club.

4: North Melbourne – another dis-spirited display. Beaten comfortably again, and their last 8 weeks have been terrible. Haven’t won since Round 9 and look a long way from it. Have got some good kids, need to stay faithful to their rebuild, and not waste money on big fish. One big name won’t change this club now.

5: Carlton – Still a chance for finals, cough up the first 6 goals of the game, only managed 1 to half time, and whilst they fought back in the second half, it was all too late. It’s a disappointing end to a strange season, and whilst they have shown some good signs, they have also showed they have much to learn. Lost too many games by under 10 points, which cost them their chance.