It was a weekend for milestones in the AFL. Brent Harvey, Matthew Pavlich, Jimmy Bartel, Corey Enright – all players to have left quite an imprint on the game.
While only three of the four were carried off as winners, the celebrations were the highlight of the round.
In terms of how the finals race was reshaped, a bit more clarity came into play but there’s still a few good reasons to avoid locking things in just yet.
North Melbourne – who secured a needed win over St Kilda – are joined by West Coast and the Western Bulldogs on 12 wins, sharing a three-game edge over Port Adelaide in ninth and the Saints in 10th. Mathematically, Melbourne and Collingwood a game back are still a chance, though don’t hold your breath.
Looking at the draw, the Dogs should feel safest of the 12-win crew. Getting two wins out of the final four rounds locks in a finals spot and they face Essendon and Fremantle in the final two rounds, games they are likely to win even with a stumble or two in the next fortnight.
The Eagles and Kangas find themselves in intriguing positions.
Both teams have a horror run home in the final three rounds, with each match against sides from the formidable top five – a collection of teams locked into a struggle over home finals and second chances, rendering them unlikely to put the cue in the rack.
If we assume for a second the Eagles and Kangas lose those matches, there’s quite clearly an opening for a team outside the eight who can win three of their last four while making ground on percentage. Never mind if Port Adelaide or St Kilda can win all four.
Either outcome would require strong performances, given Port have two matches against the top five while the Saints have one.
But with a comparatively lighter run to the teams they’re chasing, it can’t be called over just yet.
No change // Ladder: 5th (13W, 5L)
A big win over Essendon has helped cut the percentage gap between the Crows and fourth spot. Their next two weeks offer more chances for similar results against Brisbane and Fremantle. Presumably wins over Port Adelaide and West Coast in the final two rounds will also be needed to secure a second chance, given the top five are only fixtured against weaker opposition for the remainder of the home and away season.
+1 // Ladder: 3rd (13W, 5L)
A 90-point win over Fremantle helped lift the Swans up to second, though the Hawks registering a below-par victory against the Blues may have also pushed things along. Dan Hannebery had 41 disposals and gained 850m against the Dockers. The Swans face Port Adelaide this week.
-1 // Ladder: 1st (15W, 3L)
The Hawks got it together eventually against Carlton but they’ll quickly move on from that performance. Alastair Clarkson will be looking for a stronger first half against Melbourne.
No change // Ladder: 4th (13W, 5L)
Rhys Stanley’s five goal haul in the win over the Bulldogs could prove important if he can continue that form. The Cats will have the chance to do what Adelaide did percentage-wise when they meet Essendon this week.
No change // Ladder: 2nd (13W, 5L)
The Giants were in dominant form against Richmond in Canberra and they seem in a good spot heading towards finals. It’s on to Gold Coast this week.
No change // Ladder: 5th (12W, 6L)
Before the tough run home, it’s Derby time against Fremantle. A big win could lock in the Eagles’ superior percentage. But boy is this team in need of some momentum. They’ve been poor for a few weeks and Collingwood were ready to make them pay. On current form, the Eagles aren’t a side that will have an impact come finals.
+2 // Ladder: 8th (12W, 6L)
A clash with the Western Bulldogs awaits this week and it’s basically a must-win given who follows (Hawthorn, Sydney and GWS). The win over St Kilda, special given the occasion, added to the impression North have steadied the ship after a tough run of losses.
-1 // Ladder: 9th (9W, 9L)
Port had their largest win of the season against the Brisbane Lions. In the process, John Butcher made a timely reemergence. There’s a big test coming up this week against Sydney at the SCG. A win could set up their season with Melbourne (at home), a Showdown and Gold Coast (away) to come.
+1 // Ladder: 12th (8W, 10L)
A good response after the North loss to kick away from West Coast, a worthy scalp. Taylor Adams had perhaps his best game of the season with 35 touches, eight inside 50s and 11 tackles.
-2 // Ladder: 7th (12W, 6L)
The Dogs have North Melbourne this week and it may be a tough ask given how much is on the line for their opponents. Their light final fortnight will provide reassurance if things go awry.
No change // Ladder: 10th (9W, 9L)
Losing to North Melbourne hurt the Saints’ chances and they’ll definitely need to return to the winners list against Carlton at the MCG this week. Sydney, Richmond and Brisbane – all in Melbourne – await in the final three rounds. They’ll start favourites in those last two.
No change // Ladder: 11th (8W, 10L)
That was very nearly two closes in a row, this time to the weaker Coast team. The Demons had six more inside 50s than the Suns in the final quarter yet were outscored three goals to two. But crisis was avoided and the turnaround in perception about Jack Watts continues to charge along.
No change // Ladder: 15th (6W, 12L)
With the scores at 1.8 to 2.8 at half time, the Blues were well and truly in the contest against Hawthorn in Launceston. Of course, kicking 1.8 to start a game against the reigning premiers and ladder leaders is likely to come back and cost you. Still, fair to say they’ll take confidence from the performance.
+1 // Ladder: 14th (6W, 12L)
The Suns were a kick after the siren away from victory against Melbourne, a commendable effort. Tom Lynch’s kick may have not quite made it, but he had a good afternoon with two goals and 20 disposals, which was enough to land himself in his side’s top three ball winners (a sign of how those midfield injuries are having an impact).
+1 // Ladder: 16th (3W, 15L)
It was a race to the bottom for struggling teams this weekend, so much so the Dockers somehow pulled off a +1 despite losing by 90 points. (Your weekly reminder that teams are affected by what happens to teams around them – in this case, Richmond kicking three goals for an entire match was more damning.)
-2 // Ladder: 13th (7W, 11L)
The heat on Damien Hardwick ramped up again after the 88-point loss to GWS, the second defeat by more than 10 goals in a fortnight. Now to be fair, they’ve been against quite good teams, and this is a fairly youthful side. Tigers players had an average of 20 fewer games’ experience against GWS. There was a staggering 59-game gap against Hawthorn. Still, two goalless quarters in a match is noncompetitive.
No change // Ladder: 17th (2W, 16L)
The loss to Port Adelaide was the Lions’ largest of the season, though tellingly it was their eighth by more than 10 goals. This is a season to forget.
No change // Ladder: 18th (1W, 17L)
Zac Merrett has had more than 30 touches four weeks in a row and has done it nine times this year while never having fewer than 20. Good year from the 20-year-old.