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AFL Power Rankings: Round 22

Nic Naitanui of the West Coast Eagles is helped back to the dugout during the Round 22 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and Hawthorn at the Domain Stadium in Perth, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016.The Eagles won the match 92-67.(AAP Image/Tony McDonough)
Expert
21st August, 2016
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Don’t go marking in week one finals fixtures just yet. Though the AFL’s top eight is now settled, the jostling over home finals and double chances will continue.

If results in round 23 go as expected, Sydney will host Hawthorn and Adelaide will host Geelong in qualifying finals. GWS will host North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will host West Coast.

There’s some good match-ups there, but it just might not happen.

» The Roar’s comprehensive guide to the 2016 AFL Finals

Take the Eagles. They travel to face Adelaide this week. Now, the loss of Nic Naitanui to injury is a big blow, of course. But they’ve gotten results this past fortnight – first an away win to GWS, then a big home win against Hawthorn.

If that run of form continues, the Crows will need to be on their game. The Giants have them on percentage and, if they win their clash against North Melbourne, would be ready to overtake.

As for Geelong, with some of their up and down form against teams outside the eight, who can rule out a loss to Melbourne? For the Dees, it’s a farewell game for Paul Roos and you certainly can’t picture them dishing out the same as they did against Carlton on such an occasion.

Collingwood – Hawthorn’s opponent this week – have shown some decent form of late. They may feel like they can mix up the finals race this week. Perhaps Matthew Pavlich’s send-off will spur Fremantle to an upset win over the Western Bulldogs?

Let’s see how it all plays out. There may be one last shake-up to come.

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1.Sydney Swans

+1 // Ladder: 1st (16W, 5L)
They’ve been threatening to edge ahead of the Crows for a few weeks and the Swans finally stuck their noses in front in these rankings. North Melbourne played like a team needing a win to shore up its spot in finals, but the Swans held their advantage all afternoon. They would have breathed a sigh of relief when it emerged Lance Franklin’s injury wasn’t serious.

2.Adelaide

-1 // Ladder: 2nd (16W, 5L)
Though the night was marred by the disturbing actions of an individual, the Crows saw off Port Adelaide’s challenge to keep their momentum in tact. Eddie Betts was superb with five goals in his 250th. Matt Crouch earned the Showdown Medal with 33 disposals and nine score involvements.

3.Hawthorn

No change // Ladder: 4th (16W, 5L)
The Hawks had an unfortunate ruck injury of their own after Jonathon Ceglar was taken from the field. Perhaps not as devastating as the Eagles’ loss, but round 23 is a difficult time to have to readjust.

4.West Coast

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+1 // Ladder: 6th (15W, 6L)
The definition of a great win that came at a great cost. Following up an impressive road win over GWS by toppling Hawthorn was a huge endorsement at the right time of year. But Nic Naitanui sustaining an ACL injury that means he won’t feature in the Eagles’ finals campaign – and most of next year – is a massive, massive loss.

5.Geelong

-1 // Ladder: 3rd (16W, 5L)
The Cats did the expected against the Brisbane Lions and kicked away early. Breaking the ho-hum nature if the fixture was a noteworthy performance from fifth-game midfielder Sam Menegola, who had 33 disposals, eight clearances and 12 score involvements.

6.GWS Giants

+2 // Ladder: 5th (15W, 6L)
Jonathon Patton’s career-high six goal haul for the Giants in their 92-point win over Fremantle could be a timely showing of form ahead of finals.

7.Western Bulldogs

-1 // Ladder: 7th (15W, 6L)
What this club wouldn’t give to have a weekend without injury. Easton Wood’s ankle injury against Essendon the latest concern. Still, a home final is very much on the cards for the Dogs. A win this week against Fremantle would see them move up the ladder provided one of West Coast or GWS lose. If Hawthorn lose, they’ll be gunning for percentage against the Dockers.

8.North Melbourne

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+1 // Ladder: 8th (12W, 9L)
How stiff is Brent Harvey? A below-par game is all it takes for someone to put forward the retirement suggestion. Despite the fact we’ve been through this routine before and time and time again he’s shown he still has it. This time, Boomer’s response was heaped on the Sydney Swans with a season-high 32 disposals, six marks and 3.2 in front of goal.

9.Collingwood

+2 // Ladder: 12th (9W, 12L)
The Pies are in a decent patch of form and were dominant against Gold Coast. It was 12 goals to one at half time. Travis Cloke would be a decent chance return for a send-off game against Hawthorn after nine goals in the VFL the past fortnight.

10.Melbourne

-3 // Ladder: 10th (10W, 11L)
Given what was on the line, Melbourne’s performance against Carlton was embarrassing. When there’s finals to play for, you don’t get outplayed by a team on a nine-game losing streak.

11.St Kilda

-1 // Ladder: 9th (11W, 10L)
It wasn’t one for the archives, St Kilda’s win over Richmond. Don’t let the single-figure final margin fool you. The win was tinged with the disappointment of Paddy McCartin suffering a broken collarbone.

12.Port Adelaide

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No change // Ladder: 11th (9W, 12L)
Port Adelaide’s best footy this season has been pretty good, which makes it tough to watch them push a side like Adelaide after losing to Melbourne by 40 points just a week earlier.

13.Carlton

+2 // Ladder: 14th (7W, 14L)
The Blues produced a strong win over Melbourne, leading almost the entire game. Patrick Cripps had a game to savour with 30 touches, 12 clearances, 13 tackles and a goal to top it off.

14.Richmond

No change // Ladder: 13th (8W, 13L)
Neither the Tigers nor Saints would hang their hat on Saturday, but a positive for the future was Daniel Rioli having 16 touches and kicking two goals.

15.Gold Coast

-2 // Ladder: 15th (6W, 15L)
It now seems quite likely this will be another season in the bottom four for Gold Coast. Even if they beat Port Adelaide at home, they still need Carlton to lose to Essendon to avoid such a fate. The club’s history is set to read 17th, 17th, 14th, 12th, 16th and 15th. Meanwhile, that other expansion club is set for its debut final.

16.Fremantle

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No change // Ladder: 16th (3W, 18L)
The Dockers had a poor evening against GWS, producing their equal-lowest score of the season. The damning part of that stat is it means they’ve been kept to 37 points more than once.

17.Essendon

No change // Ladder: 18th (2W, 19L)
The Bombers were down by five goals at quarter time against the Western Bulldogs, so to keep the final margin to 40 points showed competitiveness. Zach Merrett had another strong showing with 35 disposals, eight tackles and a goal.

18.Brisbane Lions

No change // Ladder: 17th (3W, 18L)
You can apply similar thinking to the Lions. Given the margin was 36 points at quarter time against Geelong, the end result (a 60-point loss) was better than it could’ve been.