Your AFL team’s run home: Part II

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    Just seven rounds remain in what could go down as the craziest season yet.

    This week I am resting my weekly round previews to provide an analysis of your team’s run to September.

    As always, there will be two parts: part one looked at the teams currently in the eight, while this part will focus on the teams still in finals contention as well as the battle to avoid the wooden spoon.

    West Coast Eagles (currently ninth, eight wins, seven losses, 99.9%, 32 points)
    Matches to play: Fremantle (Domain Stadium), Collingwood (Etihad Stadium), Brisbane Lions (Domain Stadium), St Kilda (Etihad Stadium), Carlton (Domain Stadium), GWS Giants (Spotless Stadium), Adelaide Crows (Domain Stadium)

    To say the very least, the West Coast Eagles’ form has bordered on inconsistent all season.

    Last week, Adam Simpson’s men blew their best chance to consolidate their place in the eight when they went down to Port Adelaide by 22 points at home.

    Now they find themselves outside the eight ahead of a crucial Western Derby against Fremantle this Sunday, followed by a potentially tricky clash against Collingwood at Etihad Stadium.

    Their next two home games after that are against lowly opposition in the Brisbane Lions and Carlton, which should guarantee the Eagles eight out of eight premiership points.

    However, they must also travel for clashes against top eight sides St Kilda and the GWS Giants, before wrapping up Domain Stadium’s long history with a home clash against likely minor premiers the Adelaide Crows.

    The Eagles can consider themselves lucky that they caught the Crows on the hop in the corresponding clash last year, but the side they will face in Round 23 will be superior to the side they faced last August.

    I’ve got them winning all their remaining games in Perth, but can’t see them winning another match on the road.

    Predicted finish: eighth (12 wins, ten losses)

    Essendon (currently 10th, seven wins, eight losses, 104.4%, 28 points)
    Matches to play: St Kilda (Etihad Stadium), North Melbourne (Etihad Stadium), Western Bulldogs (Etihad Stadium), Carlton (MCG), Adelaide Crows (Etihad Stadium), Gold Coast Suns (Metricon Stadium), Fremantle (Etihad Stadium)

    While Essendon appears the biggest winner of the run home, with five of their last seven matches at Docklands and just one more interstate trip for the year, it won’t come easy as many think it will.

    Fresh off a 37-point win over Collingwood, the Bombers’ battle to stay alive in the finals race will begin in earnest when it takes on St Kilda at Etihad Stadium this Friday night.

    They will then start favourites against North Melbourne, Carlton and Fremantle, while they will fancy themselves against the struggling Western Bulldogs in Round 19.

    David Zaharakis Essendon Bombers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    However, they also have to face the Adelaide Crows for a second time in the season, while they will be no certainty to start favourites against the Suns on the Gold Coast given their poor interstate record in recent years.

    Should the Bombers remain alive by Round 23, then their first home game against the Dockers since round 2, 2010, will loom large as a win could see them competing in September for the first time since 2014.

    Regardless of whether John Worsfold’s men do qualify for the finals or not, this season will be a massive improvement given the events of last season which left half their best side suspended for the entire year.

    Predicted finish: 12th (10 wins, 12 losses)

    Western Bulldogs (currently 11th, seven wins, eight losses, 92.4%, 28 points)
    Matches to play: Carlton (MCG), Gold Coast Suns (Cazaly’s Stadium), Essendon (Etihad Stadium), Brisbane Lions (Gabba), GWS Giants (Etihad Stadium), Port Adelaide (Mars Stadium), Hawthorn (Etihad Stadium)

    After the fairytale premiership win last year, many are currently wondering where it has all gone wrong for the Western Bulldogs in 2017.

    With seven rounds remaining Luke Beveridge’s men find themselves in 11th place on the ladder with seven wins and a poor percentage of 92.4 per cent.

    This leaves them at risk of becoming the first reigning premier since Hawthorn in 2009 to miss the eight altogether.

    It would be a massive fall from grace for a side touted to further improve in 2017 after shocking all of Australia last September to break its 62-year premiership drought.

    While they will start favourites against Carlton at the MCG this Sunday, they’ll be aware that the Blues are no longer the beatable side they were a few years ago.

    The Bulldogs must also travel to both ends of Queensland, to face the Suns and Lions, on either side of a potentially tricky clash against Essendon at home in Round 19.

    A rematch against the Giants is also lined up, as is a historic first AFL premiership match in Ballarat against Port Adelaide before the premiers tackle Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium in Round 23.

    I have the Bulldogs winning five of their last six matches, but it won’t be enough to force their way back into the eight, missing out on percentage.

    Predicted finish: ninth (12 wins, ten losses)

    Fremantle (currently 12th, seven wins, eight losses, 81.7%, 28 points)
    Matches to play: West Coast Eagles (Domain Stadium), Hawthorn (Domain Stadium), GWS Giants (Spotless Stadium), Gold Coast Suns (Domain Stadium), Sydney Swans (SCG), Richmond (Domain Stadium), Essendon (Etihad Stadium)

    A poor percentage of 81.7 per cent means Fremantle will have to do just about everything in its power if they are to force their way back into the eight.

    Their low percentage has come about due to two embarrassing defeats at the Adelaide Oval by a combined total of 189 points.

    The Dockers’ run home travel wise won’t get harder than when they have to make two return trips to Sydney on either side of a winnable home game against the Gold Coast Suns.

    They will also face Essendon in what shapes as a Sunday mockbuster at Etihad Stadium in the final round.

    Other than the game against the Suns, Ross Lyon’s men will also play Hawthorn and Richmond at home, and will fancy their chances in both.

    Before all that, though, the Dockers will get their turn in hosting the Western Derby this Sunday, in a match they must win if they are to stay alive in the hunt for a finals berth.

    In the end, the Dockers’ poor percentage and overloaded travel will come back to bite them.

    Predicted finish: 13th (10 wins, 12 losses)

    Ryan Nyhuis Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    Hawthorn (currently 13th, six wins, eight losses, one draw, 83.6%, 26 points)
    Matches to play: Geelong Cats (MCG), Fremantle (Domain Stadium), Sydney Swans (MCG), Richmond (MCG), North Melbourne (University of Tasmania Stadium), Carlton (Etihad Stadium), Western Bulldogs (Etihad Stadium)

    Crunch time has arrived for Hawthorn, with three of their next four matches against sides currently in the eight.

    As always, the clash against the Cats looms large, but there is some significance added for the fact that club legend Luke Hodge will bring up his 300th game ahead of his impending retirement at the end of this year.

    Their only match against a non-top-eight side in the next four weeks will require them to travel to Perth to face a Fremantle side which is also fighting to remain alive in the hunt for a finals race.

    They will also face an equally desperate Western Bulldogs side at Etihad Stadium in the final round, which, due to a quirk in the fixture, is a Hawthorn home game (despite the fact the Bulldogs use the ground more regularly).

    Those aside, they should start favourites against North Melbourne and Carlton, while they should give the Sydney Swans and Richmond a good run for their money in rounds 19 and 20 respectively.

    After a poor first half of the season, I have them making a late-season charge, but it won’t be enough to prevent them sitting out September for the first time since 2009.

    Predicted finish: 11th (10 wins, 11 losses, one draw)

    Gold Coast Suns (currently 14th, six wins, nine losses, 85.5%, 24 points)
    Matches to play: Collingwood (Metricon Stadium), Western Bulldogs (Cazaly’s Stadium), Richmond (Metricon Stadium), Fremantle (Domain Stadium), Brisbane Lions (Gabba), Essendon (Metricon Stadium), Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval)

    While a maiden finals berth remains mathematically possible for the Gold Coast Suns, their poor percentage of 85.5 per cent means they will have to do everything in their power to stay alive in season 2017.

    This Saturday night they will face a Collingwood side that will be playing for pride at home, after which is followed by the trip north to Cairns to face the struggling Western Bulldogs.

    They will, however, fancy their chances against Richmond and Essendon at home, in between which they must make the always-difficult trip to Perth to face Fremantle as well as up the road to Brisbane to face the Lions.

    Rodney Eade’s men will also have to face a Port Adelaide side intent on a top-four finish at the Oval in the final round.

    Thus, the potential is there for an ugly finish to the season, after which it is likely Eade’s services will no longer be required after a disappointing three-year tenure at Metricon Stadium.

    While a finals berth is all but out of their reach, they can at least play a role in spoiling the September dreams of their remaining opponents, except for the Lions, who are last on the ladder.

    Predicted finish: 14th (9 wins, 13 losses)

    Michael Barlow Gold Coast Suns AFL 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    Collingwood (currently 15th, five wins, ten losses, 94.6%, 20 points)
    Matches to play: Gold Coast Suns (Metricon Stadium), West Coast Eagles (Etihad Stadium), Adelaide Crows (MCG), North Melbourne (Etihad Stadium), Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval), Geelong Cats (MCG), Melbourne (MCG)

    Last Saturday’s 37-point loss to Essendon has all but sentenced Collingwood to a fourth straight year without finals football.

    With only five wins for the year, the Pies will now be playing for pride in the final seven weeks and even if they can win most of their matches in that time period, it won’t be enough to save coach Nathan Buckley.

    The board have recently stated that Buckley’s future, which has become a constant topic of debate all year, will not be looked into until the end of the season.

    This Saturday night they face a tricky assignment against the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium, a ground which has become a haunted place for the club in recent years, thanks to a pair of narrow defeats in 2013 and 2014.

    They then have to face the West Coast Eagles, Adelaide Crows, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, the Geelong Cats and Melbourne in the run home, with three of those clashes at the G, two at Etihad Stadium and the other at the Oval.

    So, can the Pies salvage their season or will the pressure be too much for coach Nathan Buckley?

    Predicted finish: 15th (7 wins, 15 losses)

    Carlton (currently 16th, five wins, ten losses, 94.6%, 20 points)
    Matches to play: Western Bulldogs (MCG), Brisbane Lions (Gabba), Geelong Cats (Etihad Stadium), Essendon (MCG), West Coast Eagles (Domain Stadium), Hawthorn (Etihad Stadium), Sydney Swans (SCG)

    While Carlton have improved somewhat significantly in 2017, they are set for a testing end to the year with trips to Brisbane, Perth and Sydney scheduled in the final seven rounds of the season.

    This Sunday they get their best shot at the Western Bulldogs, who have struggled since the mid-season bye, winning just one match (by one point against North Melbourne in Round 14).

    They then fly north to face the Lions in a bottom-of-the-table clash, with the Lions keen to climb off the bottom of the ladder and add to their tally of three wins for the year.

    That, and the always-huge clash against Essendon at the MCG in Round 20, shape as the best chances that Brendon Bolton’s men have of winning another game for the season.

    Additionally, the Swans side they will face at the SCG in the final round will be a much different side to the one the Blues beat at the MCG in Round 6.

    But with onballer Patrick Cripps set to miss the rest of the season with a broken leg, I can’t see the Blues winning another game for the rest of the season.

    Predicted finish: 17th (5 wins, ten losses)

    North Melbourne (currently 17th, four wins, 11 losses, 92.7%, 16 points)
    Matches to play: Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval), Essendon (Etihad Stadium), Melbourne (Blundstone Arena), Collingwood (Etihad Stadium), Hawthorn (University of Tasmania Stadium), St Kilda (Etihad Stadium), Brisbane Lions (Gabba)

    While North Melbourne were expected to struggle this season after losing around a thousand games’ worth of experience at the end of last year, not many thought it would come in the brutal fashion it has.

    Brad Scott’s men will almost certainly start underdogs in each of their seven remaining matches as they battle to avoid its first wooden spoon since 1972.

    In fact, the final round clash against the Lions at the Gabba could not only decide who takes home the AFL’s most unwanted prize, but also which club takes possession of the coveted number one draft pick in November’s draft.

    Before that, they must travel to the Oval to face Port Adelaide and then make two trips south to the Apple Isle for clashes against Melbourne and Hawthorn on either side of its first home game against Collingwood since 2013.

    Sadly for Roos fans, the run home is looking bleak, and a first wooden spoon in 45 years looms as a possibility.

    Predicted finish: 18th (4 wins, 18 losses)

    Brad Scott North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    Brisbane Lions (currently 18th, three wins, 12 losses, 68.9%, 12 points)
    Matches to play: Richmond (Etihad Stadium), Carlton (Gabba), West Coast Eagles (Domain Stadium), Western Bulldogs (Gabba), Gold Coast Suns (Gabba), Melbourne (MCG), North Melbourne (Gabba)

    While the Brisbane Lions may be in last place on the ladder, the one thing fans should know is that their club is putting in more effort in most of their matches than they did last year.

    The foundations have been laid for the future with the re-signing of forward Josh Schache as well as the eye-catching performances of top draft picks Hugh McCluggage, Eric Hipwood and Alex Witherden, among many others.

    Before coach Chris Fagan can reshape his playing list further, the Lions will have plenty more chances to add to their tally of three wins, culminating in a possible wooden spoon showdown against North Melbourne in Round 23.

    The Lions will start as underdogs against Richmond at Etihad Stadium this Sunday but will fancy their chances against Carlton at home the following week, as well as in the QClash three weeks after that.

    They must, however, make the demanding trip to Perth for a date against the Eagles, while they will also face a Melbourne side that is a faint chance of having Tomas Bugg return from suspension in time for their MCG clash in Round 22.

    The question will be whether the Lions can win another match or two before the year is out, and whether it will be enough to avoid finishing last for the first time since 1998.

    Predicted finish: 16th (6 wins, 16 losses)

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