Just when Pies fans thought their preliminary final win over Richmond couldn’t get any sweeter…
The final three games of Round 16 featured five teams that – prior to the games – would have had ambitions to be part of the 2018 final series.
By the end of the round that ambition had been snuffed out for one team (Essendon) and severely dented for another (Greater Western Sydney).
Neither team gave up without a fight, and the dreamers among us will no doubt see a way that both teams can figure prominently in September. However, the likely composition of the final eight became a lot clearer by Sunday night.
Richmond will finish on top of the ladder and are very short-priced favourites to win the flag.
This will be helped by the likely main contenders all being from out of town, with three Victorian teams and Adelaide making up the eight.
North Melbourne did what it had to do in beating the Gold Coast Suns but still has its work cut out to make the eight.
Contributions by four of its all-time top 100 goalkickers showed the value of experience. Ben Brown’s four goals took him past the legend, Tom Fitzmaurice, and took brought his total goals at the Kangaroos to 200.
Consistent performer Jack Ziebell scored one goal to draw level with Aaron Edwards while ruckman Todd Goldstein also scored one taking him past Frank Goode and equalling Brent Crosswell.
Shaun Higgins, who featured in the footy record this week, is in his best form ever and also scored a goal.
This meant that he passed Maurie Wood and equalled the goal kicking exploits of Paul Feltham and John Holt.
Todd Goldstein and Jack Ziebell’s games were also important statistically as it meant that Goldstein equalled Lindsay Thomas (now at Port Adelaide) while Ziebell passed Jim Adamson.
For the Gold Coast, Rory Thompson logged his 100th game and Sean Lemmens equalled Luke Russell in total games played.
Steele Sidebottom celebrated his 200th game with Collingwood with two goals, the first of which was a gem, sidestepping the man on the mark outside the 50-metre arc and slotting the first goal of the game.
His second goal – courtesy of a 50-metre penalty from Brendon Goddard – was the sealer and elevated his goal kicking tally past David Norman and Thorold Merrett.
He now sits level with Scott Burns, Harry Curtis and Tarkyn Lockyer on the Magpies’ all-time goalkickers list.
Jordan de Goey started paying the club back for their faith and slotted three important goals. Apart from Sidebottom, no other goals from either side were kicked by top 100 players.
The name Rioli lit up the smiles of West Coast Eagle supporters as the latest Rioli wizard Willie showed that he and Richmond’s Daniel will keep the Rioli name to the front of the AFL show for many years to come, despite the retirement of Hawthorn’s Cyril last week.
It is players such as these that introduce the X-factor into the game and draws fans through the turnstiles each week.