Which team has the easiest run in the white-hot race for September?

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Six rounds to go, and it’s time to put up or shut up.

    This round sees eight of the top nine teams on the ladder squaring off against each other.

    Geelong have the inside running on top spot at the moment, given three more games at Simonds Stadium, albeit against quality opposition, plus two matches against teams in the bottom six, and a trip this week to Adelaide against a Crows side they’ve had the wood on.

    Four wins on the run home may well be enough for top spot to be theirs, and five should do it.

    With three non-Victorian sides currently in the top four, the question for the AFL will be whether the Cats get a home final at Geelong if they earn one. My projections have them playing Port, and the answer should be yes.

    The Power have home games to come against St Kilda, Collingwood and Gold Coast, and will travel to face Melbourne and the Bulldogs. There is also a Showdown in there as well. They’ve quietly won four of their last five, but there is still a flakiness to them that we’d like to see put to bed.

    Still, they’d be disappointed not to tie up a top-four spot from this position with that draw.

    Adelaide has made the running for most of the year, and we know how potent their forward-line can be. They’ve got arguably the hardest run home of any contender this year, and might have to settle for a 3-3 split from here.

    Apart from the aforementioned Showdown, home games against Geelong and Sydney will not be easy, and away games against Collingwood, Essendon and West Coast will also demand much.

    The Crows’ high percentage won’t help them in their battle with the Cats for top spot, but it should keep them on top of Greater Western Sydney for a home qualifying final

    The Giants are faltering with only one win from their last five matches, and that against Brisbane, the clear worst team in the competition (but, it must be said, a decent ‘worst’ side to have).

    GWS have a number of matches against teams fighting for positions in the eight – hosting Melbourne and West Coast, while travelling to play Richmond and the Western Bulldogs. None of these games could be considered much outside the 50-50 range. They should beat Fremantle in the midst of those, but then have the Cats in Geelong to round out the season.

    Sydney are charging to the line in the best tradition of horses like Chautauqua and Makybe Diva, after standing in the gates once the barriers opened.

    Home games against St Kilda, Fremantle and Carlton look easy pickings for a Swans team that has found their mojo, a point underlined with a good win over GWS, who previously had them under the thumb.

    Sydney’s away games look difficult though, against Hawthorn, Geelong and Adelaide, and should put a top-four finish out of reach. Even one loss in the remaining six matches might prevent a fourth placed finish, given Port’s superior percentage.

    Lance Franklin Sydney Swans AFL 2017 tall

    AAP Image/David Moir

    The fortunes of Richmond and Melbourne have long been tied together as cellar-dwellers, and supporters of each club have almost obsessively kept an eye on the other, hoping the best for themselves while wishing the worst upon their counterparts.

    It’s a rivalry that’s one of the best kept secrets in the AFL, but only now is starting to have any relevance.

    The Tigers are shaping as a 13 or 14-win team, but still have to pick their way through a run home that will give them nothing. GWS and Geelong are the only top-eight sides they have to face, but interstate trips to play Gold Coast and Fremantle are tricky, while Hawthorn and St Kilda will cause problems too.

    The Demons have some softer opposition in North, Brisbane and Collingwood, but also host Port and St Kilda at the MCG, along with a road trip to Canberra to take on the Giants. If they can win three of their next four, finishing with the Lions and Pies gives them a real chance to take some momentum into September.

    West Coast are shaping as the likely eight-placed team, even with 13 wins when 12 would often do the trick.

    Home games against Brisbane and Carlton give them a chance to build percentage, while games against Collingwood and St Kilda at Etihad, where they play well, will be seen as opportunities. This four-week block gives them a chance to still push for home final in Week 1.

    Round 22 sees the Eagles head to Spotless for GWS and Round 23 has them hosting Adelaide in Perth, and both games will have plenty at stake for all sides. West Coast will be finals-ready after those matches.

    St Kilda, Essendon and the Western Bulldogs all have every chance of finishing on 12 wins and not making the eight. If that comes true, they can all consider themselves unlucky, but it also means we will be in for a hectic close to the season.

    Given the amount of close games we’ve seen this year, it’s almost assured that a spot in the finals and positions within the eight will come down to a single goal, a single kick, a single moment in that last round.

    The race to September, which has been cooking all year, has now reached the point where it is white-hot. The premiership race is at least as open as it was last year, and I’d argue even more so.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.