It was way back, what seems almost half a season ago now, when I wrote about how four teams in the competition were looking so far ahead of the rest.
I felt – and judging by many of the comments back then – that despite us only being four rounds in, the other 14 teams were battling only for the last four spots in the final eight, and then they would really only be there making up the numbers.
At that time, the quartet sat in differing positions on the ladder. Fremantle were first, Sydney fourth and Hawthorn seventh. Port Adelaide – having already met and lost to the Dockers and the Swans in the opening rounds – had just beaten the Hawks that round to move into 13th spot on the ladder.
But as I said at the time, it was April and that by August the four would be fighting fiercely for the top-four spots, so clear was it that they were best four teams in the AFL.
Well … here we are, two-thirds through the halfway mark of the season with this past weekend, 12 of the 18 teams playing their 11th match of the season.
Over the next two coming weeks each of those 12 will get a bye, and Adelaide, Richmond, the Western Bulldogs, Brisbane, Carlton, and Hawthorn will catch up the game they missed out this weekend.
But as it sits right now, with Sydney, Fremantle and Port Adelaide all with 11 games under their respective belts, and the Hawks with one to make up, it’s a good time to reassess.
Fremantle – with a hiccup last week, a close call this week – are still steady, and with a 10-1 record, it would take major injuries to several key players for the Dockers to miss the four.
They have proven they are the measuring stick in 2015, and if they snare a top two finish, and face two home finals to reach the grand final, the Purple People will be heading east on that first Saturday in October (doesn’t sound quite right does it, but you won’t be caring too much if your team is one of the combatants that day).
The Swans, not many glitches there either. Freo beat them in Perth in a dogfight, then the next week after that torrid game, they lost a scrappy one in the wet to a plucky Bulldogs outfit. But since then, the train has been firmly back on the tracks with six straight wins, reaching the halfway mark in second spot with a 9-2 record.
The only other time in the club’s Sydney history that they have had such a good midway mark record was way back in 1986.
The Hawks sit in sixth with six wins and four losses, all their defeats by less than 10 points and interestingly Luke Hodge was missing in two of those losses – to the GWS Giants and Sydney – while key players Jordan Lewis missed one loss as did Sam Mitchell another.
The Hawks are going along very nicely and I’m still comfortable they’ll be in the four come September along with the Dockers and Swans.
And finally…Port, Port, Port. What is doing?
After tough losses to Sydney and Fremantle, they looked back on track with wins over North, Hawthorn and then the Crows in the Showdown.
But then, two home losses to West Coast and Richmond, plus a stunning loss to the Lions in Brisbane. Two wins against Melbourne and the Dogs followed, but when it was time to make a statement at home last Friday against Geelong, they were left in the Cats’ paw prints. Very, very disappointing.
At halfway they sit 10th, not too far adrift of the eight with five wins and six losses, but if they are seriously going to be a serious contender, we need to see a lot more consistency from the team as a whole, and a number of their stars.
And if you look at their draw they are going to need that consistency if they are any chance of climbing up into the four by the season’s end.
They have clearly winnable games against the likes of Carlton, St Kilda, Bulldogs, and the Gold Coast, tougher ones against Collingwood, GWS, Essendon and another Showdown. Then, there are three big ones – Sydney in a couple of weeks, and then Hawthorn and Fremantle in the last three weeks before the finals.
At this stage I’ve lost confidence. I just think the Eagles with eight wins already and six games in Perth to come, plus a couple of very winnable ones on the road, have a hand already on a top four berth.
The Pies too with eight wins are travelling, but they have a tough run home, and the next four matches will say a lot about their hopes of a top-four spot. They meet Fremantle, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and then West Coast – and for good measure they meet Sydney, Richmond and Geelong on the way home.
We’ll know a bit more about the Pies by mid-July.
Richmond is the other one eyeing that top-four spot which I originally had Port’s name on, as far as I see it. But, it is Richmond.
They beat Port in Adelaide, then end Fremantle’s unbeaten start to the season, in Perth. But have lost Melbourne.
They also have the Swans, Hawks, Dockers and Eagles on the way home.
So who would I put in the four if I had to make a choice?
Well, after much deliberation, I’ve decided I’m not going to jump ship. Carn the Power, I think you can still make it with 14 or 15 wins.
Buckle up for a big second half of the season.