2013 AFL season: the race for eighth starts now
Carlton midfielder Chris Judd returns against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium this Sunday. (AFL Media)
As we prepare for Round 13 in the 2013 AFL Season, we have begun to establish a rough idea as to where most teams are going to approximately finish on the ladder by the end of the season.
One of the predictions of some AFL pundits is that the teams who are currently in the top eight will be the same teams that will be in the finals series.
But there are doubts whether that will be the case.
Providing Richmond do defeat the Western Bulldogs on Saturday Night, it is highly unlikely that Geelong, Hawthorn, Essendon, Sydney, Fremantle, Collingwood and subsequently, Richmond will miss the finals.
What about Carlton though?
Currently, the Blues are at 6-6 from 12 matches and they are no certainty to finish in the top eight at the moment.
Considering that Carlton’s next two matches are against Sydney away at the SCG and arch-rivals Collingwood at the MCG, the Blues really do have a difficult task to hold onto eighth.
The bigger question though is, who can challenge Carlton for eighth?
It is safe enough to say that Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne, St Kilda, Brisbane and the Western Bulldogs are probably not going to make the finals this season.
Whilst it has already been mentioned who will most likely make the finals, that leaves West Coast, Port Adelaide, Adelaide, Gold Coast and North Melbourne vying for the position that Carlton is holding on to most dearly – eighth.
The most likely out of those sides listed that could challenge Carlton for eighth would be West Coast; however, they have been less than convincing with their performances so far this year.
Tonight, they face Hawthorn at the MCG, a colossal task to say the least. However, with many key personnel returning to face the Hawks, the Eagles may just be able to spark into gear and cause an upset.
Apart from West Coast, the more likely contenders to challenge for eighth from that group would be Adelaide and North Melbourne.
Whilst Adelaide has the bye for this weekend, they will travel to Metricon Stadium next Saturday to take on Gold Coast in what is a must-win for Adelaide if they want to make the finals.
More pressure is on North Melbourne, though, to perform immediately as their season is starting to deteriorate with a 4-7 win/loss record and they have a very difficult task this Sunday afternoon in the form of facing Fremantle at Patersons Stadium.
The last time that North Melbourne played at Patersons Stadium, Nick Naitanui took a huge pack mark and scored a goal after the siren to give West Coast a thrilling victory.
Least to say, North Melbourne will be doing everything they can to ensure they do not let a game like that slip through their hands again this season, otherwise there will be no September action for the Kangaroos.
As for Port Adelaide, they have a difficult draw for their next four matches, with Sydney first up at AAMI Stadium followed up by Collingwood, Essendon and Hawthorn in consecutive weeks of each other.
Considering their draw and the fact that Port Adelaide has quite a young and developing player list, it is hard to see the Power making into September this year.
Perhaps the dark house to make the finals could be the Gold Coast Suns.
Although, like Port Adelaide, their player list is continuing to develop, the Suns have a favourable draw that could give them a chance of contending for the finals.
The Suns play at home in their next match against Adelaide followed by a Q-Clash against Brisbane and then a clash in Cairns against Richmond.
If Gold Coast can manage to win all of those 50-50 games, they would have an 8-7 win/loss record that could place them right on the cusp of the top eight.
The major issue for Gold Coast now will be whether they can consistently perform at a level good enough to win all of these tight matches and that is certainly going to be a difficult challenge for the Suns.
If you support Carlton, West Coast, Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Gold Coast or North Melbourne, strap yourself in for an entertaining period of football to come.
The race for eighth starts now.