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Nine questions to come from Round 21

Jack Riewoldt of the Tigers celebrates kicking a goal during the 2017 AFL Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 30, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
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12th August, 2018
16

The can of worms is open. There are just two rounds still to play, and with every game there come more and more questions on which the 2018 outcome hinges.

While we all know Richmond and West Coast will most likely hold positions one and two, good luck trying to predict how places three to eight will fall.

As always, this was a massive week of questions. Will no finals in 2018 be deemed a failure for Geelong? Who is the most improved player in the competition over the past five years? Can a season end in a matter of minutes? Who is the most dangerous player in the competition? And what is the Demons’ biggest stumbling block?

1. Why there is nowhere left to hide for the Saints?
The heat has been on all year, but it would seem that there is now nowhere left to hide for both St Kilda and Alan Richardson. After the capitulation after half-time last week to the Bulldogs, a shocking performance on Friday night against the Bombers further compounded their woes.

Despite Essendon having no fit players on the bench in the last quarter, they were unable to make a significant dent to the damage that was done after half-time. With two weeks to play, Alan Richardson should be nervous, particularly if his team puts in more performances like that.

2. Will 2018 be deemed a failure if Geelong misses the finals?
Gary Ablett. Joel Selwood. Patrick Dangerfield. Mitch Duncan. Tom Hawkins. Any team dreams of having just one on their list. Geelong has all of them and are now are facing the prospect of having all this star power and missing the eight.

The Cats have had this great ability over the years to regenerate and rebuild on the run, and we have seen that again this year with the way they have included and filtered through many different young players in their team. But with the star power that they possess, if they miss the finals, will season 2018 be deemed a failure for this football club?

For what its worth, I think yes.

Dangerwoodblett

(Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

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3. Is Jack Riewoldt the most improved player of the last five years?
He is one of the big four at Richmond and has come to be one of the most improved players in the competition over the past five years. The maturation of Jack has coincided with Richmond becoming a juggernaut, and his ten-goal haul at the weekend showed just how far Jack has come and demonstrated why he is one of the most improved players in the tournament.

For the last eight years Riewoldt has averaged 59.78 goals per season. The only other players with such numbers are Lance Franklin (Hawthorn and Sydney) and Josh Kennedy (West Coast).

A passage of play half-way through the third quarter shows what type of player Jack has become – he already has five to his name running into an open goal and he puts out in front of Josh Caddy to kick his fourth. Jack has become the ultimate team player, whereas previously it would have been all about him, which makes him now such a joy to watch.

4. Can a season end in a matter of minutes?
It might have for Port Adelaide. Deja vu and the second straight capitulation aside, the injuries that the Power copped in the third quarter could have just derailed their season.

Charlie Dixon most likely has a broken ankle and Paddy Ryder, their most important player, didn’t finish the game with a hip problem. This is the third time that Ryder will spend time on the sidelines, and as we have seen in the past, Port Adelaide have looked extremely vulnerable without Ryder, reluctant as they are to play another ruckman.

They face Collingwood on Saturday at the MCG and the Magpies have injury worries of their own, but Brodie Grundy and the undermanned defence will breathe that bit easier knowing that Port’s two biggest threats probably won’t be there.

Ken Hinkley Port Adelaide Power AFL 2017

(Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

5. Which third-year Crow is a shining light in a disappointing year?
While there hasn’t been a great deal to celebrate at West Lakes this year, having their season officially end with the loss to the Giants, the Crows will be buoyed by a number of shining young players.

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Tom Dodee has been spoken about all year and is rightly in the conversation for the rising star, but Wayne Milera is starting to feel at home at AFL level. He has built a very nice year across half-back and midfield over 17 games this season. He’s one Crows fans can hang their hats on and be very excited about for the future.

6. Who is turning into the most dangerous player in the competition in full flight?
He is already a young star of the competition, but Jordan de Goey is becoming one of the most dangerous players in the competition. The strong and powerful Magpie stamped his authority on the game last on Saturday night and was determined to ensure that his contribution would be the difference in the game.

From being there as a neutral, you could feel the excitement and the fear every time he went near the ball, knowing that something was going to happen. As he builds his tank further, his influence is going to get even greater and he’ll become even more of a handful for opposition teams.

Jordan de Goey Collingwood Magpies AFL

(AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

7. An audition for Good Friday?
North Melbourne will kick themselves for not grabbing their chance to secure a finals berth. While they remain a live chance, destiny is out of their hands. The Bulldogs were equally sensational after half-time and gave their supporters much to cheer about.

Both of these clubs would be in the reckoning for Good Friday football in 2019 and did their claims absolutely no harm today – in fact their past four encounters have been decided by a combined 13 points, so it’s almost guaranteed to be a good contest. All it needs is the perfect stage.

8. What is Melbourne’s biggest stumbling block?
Football is beautiful and at the same time absolutely cruel. Alex Johnson goes down and everyone just feels yuck – how much bad luck does one person deserve? The Swans response after quarter time was one to be admired, but disappointing was the pedestrian Melbourne Football Club, who in this crazy season has gone from a game away from locking in a top-four place to now facing the prospect of missing out on finals altogether.

Melbourne play West Coast away and then the Giants at the MCG in their final two games. Their inability to win a game against a side above them on the ladder has been their Achilles heel all year, which shows that their biggest stumbling block is themselves.

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Their inefficiency going forward, particularly the connection between defence and attack, has been a problem all year, and it was again highlighted in the loss to the Swans. The Demons’ failure to stop an opposing team’s run-on is another trend that has consistently let them down and was again significant on Sunday.

With five losses by fewer than two goals this season, the Demons will be kicking themselves if things don’t go their way.

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9. Is the return of the big full forward imminent?
There were a number of exciting key-position forwards running around at Optus Stadium on Sunday. At one end you had Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow, while up the other end you had Matt Taberner, Cam McCarthy and Brennan Cox. All had a fair influence on the game, all kicked goals and all are still very much in the infancy of their careers.

If you look around the league, there are more and more of these young key forwards. There is Eric Hipwood, the McCartins, Jake Waterman, Josh Schache. and with the likes of Jack Lukocious and the King twins to come coupled with the AFL’s obsession to change the rules, the big forward could be coming back into vogue.