The race for finals places this year is looming as a tense one, thanks in no small part to a couple of surprise results last week.
Port Adelaide and Fremantle’s upset losses at the hands of the Western Bulldogs and Carlton respectively has thrown the race for eighth spot wide open. With two months left to play, here’s how contenders for that last finals spot are shaping up.
For simplicity’s sake, we’re assuming Adelaide and Richmond, who are both sitting on eight wins and six losses, are going to make it through. Both have three remaining fixtures you’d consider sure-fire wins – the Crows have Gold Coast, Carlton and St Kilda on their schedule, while the Tigers, in addition to the Suns and Blues, also have a match against Melbourne.
Thirteen wins would usually be the cut-off for finals, but with so many of the contenders playing each other, 12 will probably be enough. Even 11 might do the trick at a stretch, although percentage is going to play a part if that’s the case.
Current standing: 8th (7-7, 107.2%)
Remaining games: West Coast (A), Hawthorn (A), Sydney (H), Bulldogs (A), Geelong (H), St Kilda (A), Essendon (H), Port Adelaide (A)
Two weeks ago, you would have locked the Dockers into a finals spot. But two losses, including a stinker to a Patrick Cripps-less Blues side at home, have brought them right back to the pack.
You’d pencil Ross Lyon’s side in for two certain losses; against the Eagles this week and Geelong in a month. But none of their fixtures stand out as easy wins, with the exception of a trip to play the Saints. Playing Hawthorn in Tasmania doesn’t help their case.
In Freo’s favour is that they play five of the six other sides in the hunt for eighth – Sydney, the Bulldogs, St Kilda, Essendon and Port. Win those five and they’re through. Win four with a victory over the Hawks will also likely do the trick. They could even make the eight with four wins in their last eight games thanks to their good percentage, but they’ll need Essendon and Port to slip up.
Of course, that advantage could also work against the Dockers – dropping points in those games is going to be twice as harmful to their finals chances. It could all come down to their last two weeks, when they play the Bombers and then the Power to finish off the regular season.
The loss to Carlton was crucial. Rory Lobb coming back in a couple of weeks will be a big boost, but they might still fall short.
Current standing: 9th (7-7, 105.5%)
Remaining games: Adelaide (A), Brisbane (H), Richmond (A), GWS (H), Essendon (A), Sydney (H), North Melbourne (A), Fremantle (H)
Port Adelaide have comfortably the toughest run home of this bunch. While they don’t have Geelong or West Coast, they do play five sides currently in the eight, and the three remaining games are all against teams in the hunt for finals. None will be easy victories.
Last week’s loss to the Bulldogs has the Power precariously placed. Anything less than three wins during their four-week stretch against Essendon, Sydney, North Melbourne and Freo will kill their season, and they’ll likely need to win all four and pick up another victory beforehand.
Despite being maddingly inconsistent, Ken Hinkley’s have shown themselves capable of springing upset wins this season. They’ll need to produce a couple more before the year’s done to be playing footy in September.
A tough draw will prove too much for the Power.
Current standing: 10th (7-7, 101.3%)
Remaining games: Sydney (H), North Melbourne (H), Adelaide (A), Gold Coast (A), Port Adelaide (H), Bulldogs (H), Fremantle (A), Collingwood (H)
The Bombers should pick up wins against Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs. If they do that, splitting their remaining six games – particularly if they get those three wins against the Swans, Kangaroos and Power or Dockers – should see them into September.
With Collingwood currently out of form – although that cold streak could well snap as the finals approach – none of Essendon’s remaining fixtures appear too tough, although few are easy. They could also benefit if the Pies are locked into third or fourth spot heading into Round 23 and decide to rest players ahead of the finals.
Just as Fremantle and Port Adelaide’s last-round losses hurt them, the Bombers’ win over the Giants was a crucial result. Couple that with a decent draw and John Worsfold should sneak his side into the last finals spot.
Current standing: 11th (6-8, 96.6%)
Remaining games: St Kilda (H), Essendon (A), Brisbane (A), West Coast (A), Hawthorn (H), Geelong (A), Port Adelaide (H), Melbourne (H)
The Demons in the last round looks as easy a win as the Kangaroos will get for the rest of the season, but matches away to both West Coast and Geelong will be awfully tough.
Assuming they can’t get the win in either of those, North will need to sweep their remaining six fixtures to get to 12 wins. That task is made tricky by a trip to Brisbane to face the Lions.
Rhyce Shaw has North Melbourne playing excellent footy right now, but those matches against the Eagles and Cats will push finals just out of their reach.
Current standing: 12th (6-8, 96.2%)
Remaining games: Essendon (A), Carlton (H), Fremantle (A), Geelong (H), GWS (A), Port Adelaide (A), Melbourne (A), St Kilda (H)
Despite a horrid start to the year, the Swans have crept back into finals contention in recent weeks. They’ve got a decent draw – they face Carlton at the SCG in a couple of weeks and finish the season off with games against the Demons and Saints.
But there’s also a three-week period in the middle which could end their finals hopes; a trip to Optus Stadium to face the Dockers precedes matches against the Cats and Giants. Away games against the Bombers and Power are tough prospects, although the Swans have a good record at the Adelaide Oval.
Were the Fremantle game at home and a week later – when Lance Franklin is expected to be fit again – you’d give the Swans a chance of sneaking into eighth spot. With the draw as it is and Callum Sinclair facing a stint on the sidelines, I can’t see it happening.
Current standing: 13th (6-8, 92.3%)
Remaining games: Geelong (H), Melbourne (H), St Kilda (A), Fremantle (H), Brisbane (A), Essendon (A), GWS (A), Adelaide (H)
Hard to believe the Dogs are still in finals contention, but it’s even more of a stretch to see them making the eight from here. Still, they’ve been in decent form, with an honourable loss to the Pies followed by last week’s win over the Power.
With four remaining matches against teams in top-four contention (or, in Geelong’s case, premiership favouritism), the Bulldogs just don’t have enough winnable games left to make the eight.
The Bulldogs’ terrible April, when they went 0-4 and lost to the Suns, Blues and Dockers, means they’ve got too much to do with a tough draw in the final two months.
Current standing: 14th (6-8, 82.1%)
Remaining games: North Melbourne (A), Geelong (A), Bulldogs (H), Melbourne (H), Adelaide (A), Fremantle (H), Carlton (A), Sydney (A)
The last time the Saints beat a side which wasn’t Gold Coast or Carlton, it was April. Their solid start to the year has them on the same number of wins as the Bulldogs, Swans and Kangaroos, but there’s no way they’re winning six of their last eight games. The inverse is far more likely.
Prediction: 15th or 16th
We’ve included the Saints here only because their win-loss record is on par with the last three sides. They’ll likely slide further down the table.