This week, 19-year-old Sam Walsh – who is undergoing only his second pre-season in the AFL system – was elevated into the Blues’ now seven-man leadership group.
In Part 1, I previewed the teams currently in the eight. Here, I look at what chance the teams outside the eight have of reaching the finals, or even avoiding the wooden spoon.
Currently ninth (8 wins, 7 losses, 102.1 per cent)
Matches to play: North Melbourne (Marvel), Adelaide Crows (Oval), Gold Coast Suns (Metricon), Port Adelaide (Marvel), Western Bulldogs (Marvel), Fremantle (Optus), Collingwood (MCG)
Wins over the two Sydney clubs in the past fortnight have breathed life back into Essendon’s season ahead of a crucial clash against North Melbourne at home this Saturday night.
That is the first of what will be a mixed run home for the Bombers, who also have to make consecutive road trips to face the Adelaide Crows and Gold Coast Suns in the fortnight following before they return home to face Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs.
Another interstate trip follows straight after, to face Fremantle in Round 22 before they wrap up against Collingwood at the MCG in the final round.
If the Bombers can keep up their rich vein of form, then there is every chance they can sneak into the eight and possibly face Richmond in an elimination final at the MCG – which would be their first finals meeting since 2001.
Predicted finish: eighth
Currently tenth (7 wins, 8 losses, 99.8 per cent)
Matches to play: Essendon (Marvel), Brisbane Lions (Gabba), West Coast Eagles (Optus), Hawthorn (Marvel), Geelong Cats (GMHBA), Port Adelaide (Marvel), Melbourne (Blundstone)
Since Rhyce Shaw took over from Brad Scott as coach of the Kangaroos halfway through this season, the club’s form has lifted with Shaw overseeing four wins from five matches, including those over Richmond and Collingwood at Marvel Stadium.
Now Shaw will face the toughest test of his coaching career in the next three weeks when they come up against Essendon at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night, followed by consecutive interstate trips to Brisbane and Perth to face the Lions and West Coast Eagles.
Not only that, they’ll also have to face the Geelong Cats at their Kardinia Park fortress, while there are also matches against Hawthorn and Port Adelaide lined up before they finish with a fourth match in Hobart for the season when they host Melbourne.
It’s a tough draw, though I do have the Roos beating Hawthorn and Melbourne and that’s just about it.
Predicted finish: 12th
Currently 11th (7 wins, 8 losses, 98.4 per cent)
Matches to play: Hawthorn (UTAS), Sydney Swans (Optus), Western Bulldogs (Marvel), Geelong Cats (Optus), St Kilda (Marvel), Essendon (Optus), Port Adelaide (Oval)
Any chances Fremantle has of reaching the finals took a massive hit following a humiliating Western Derby loss last Saturday night.
The 91-point loss to the West Coast Eagles was the Dockers’ ninth straight defeat against their Western Australia neighbours, was their third straight overall and saw their percentage drop into the red.
On paper, you’d think that they’ll have an easy run home but in fact, it’s much tougher than that.
This Saturday they’ll face Hawthorn in Tasmania, where they’ve never won – sans the amended result of their match against St Kilda in 2006 – while they also have potentially tricky home matches against the Sydney Swans and Essendon on either side of hosting the Geelong Cats in Round 20.
There are also two more trips to Marvel Stadium for engagements with the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda, while they will finish off by facing Port Adelaide at the Oval where its record is horrific with just one win overall at the venue coming in 2015.
On the basis of their tough run home, I have the Dockers finishing 15th and out of the finals for a fourth straight year.
Predicted finish: 15th
Currently 12th (7 wins, 8 losses, 93.9 per cent)
Matches to play: Melbourne (Marvel), St Kilda (Marvel), Fremantle (Marvel), Brisbane Lions (Gabba), Essendon (Marvel), GWS Giants (Giants), Adelaide Crows (Mars)
Suddenly, there is a pulse in the Western Bulldogs’ season.
Three wins in their last four matches, including an upset win over the Geelong Cats last Saturday night, has revived the finals hopes of the 2016 premiers, and they’ll fancy their chances of putting their season back into the black over the next few weeks.
That is because four of their next five matches will be played at Marvel Stadium – including the next three in a row – with the next two against 16th-placed Melbourne and 15th-placed St Kilda.
They must also contend with two trips north of the Murray though, facing the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba and the GWS Giants at Giants Stadium in Rounds 20 and 22 respectively, on either side of facing Essendon in Round 21.
The trip to Giants Stadium will be the first for the Bulldogs since the epic 2016 preliminary final – which they won by six points – but they have since lost their last three against the Giants, including by 82 points in Canberra in Round 1 last year.
They then finish off against the Adelaide Crows – if they are knocked out of finals contention by then, they’ll instead get the chance to either deny the Crows a double chance or even a finals berth altogether.
Predicted finish: 11th
Currently 13th (6 wins, 9 losses, 97.4 per cent)
Matches to play: Fremantle (UTAS), Geelong Cats (MCG), Brisbane Lions (UTAS), North Melbourne (Marvel), GWS Giants (UNSW), Gold Coast Suns (Marvel), West Coast Eagles (Optus)
If this year has taught us anything, then it’s become very clear that the Hawks’ golden period has all but come to an end.
Alastair Clarkson’s side currently sit in 13th place on the ladder with six wins from 15 matches, and are all but resigned to missing the finals for just the third time since 2006.
Of their seven remainders, they’ll only start favourites once and that’ll be when they play the Gold Coast Suns at Marvel Stadium in what is expected to be one of the lowest attendances the ground has seen since it opened in 2000.
However, they’ll fancy their chances against Fremantle this Saturday at their secondary home of UTAS Stadium, where their record against the purple haze is unblemished.
In fact, they have not lost to the Dockers in either Melbourne or Tasmania since 2001, and have only lost against them twice since 2007.
They’ll also face rematches against the Geelong Cats, Brisbane Lions, North Melbourne and GWS before finishing up against the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium where it’s expected their finals flame will be all but extinguished.
Predicted finish: 14th
Currently 14th (6 wins, 9 losses, 95.6 per cent)
Matches to play: Carlton (SCG), Fremantle (Optus), Geelong Cats (SCG), GWS Giants (Giants), Port Adelaide (Oval), Melbourne (MCG), St Kilda (SCG)
Having won three straight matches going into last weekend, the Sydney Swans blew a huge chance to score a rare win at the MCG when they lost to Essendon by just ten points.
That leaves them in 14th place with just six wins from 15 outings, but there’s no doubting the side has been very competitive in most matches this year and that their time without finals football might be a brief one after all.
They’ll certainly start favourites against Carlton at the SCG this Saturday before they fly west to face an out-of-form Fremantle at Optus Stadium in Round 18.
Buddy Franklin is likely to return for what will be his 300th AFL game when they host the Geelong Cats in Round 19, and the Swans will surely want to toast their champion forward with a win.
Three straight matches away from the SCG follows, though they’ll only have to cross town to face the GWS Giants in Round 20 before they hit the road for clashes with Port Adelaide and Melbourne at the Oval and MCG respectively on either side of a six-day break.
They then finish up against St Kilda at the SCG in the annual Pride Game, in what could be Dan Hannebery’s return to Moore Park.
Depending on how other results go between now and then the Swans could be playing for a berth in September when they face the Saints, though it is likely they will miss the finals for just the second time since 2002.
Predicted finish: tenth
Currently 15th (6 wins, 9 losses, 80.7 per cent)
Matches to play: Geelong Cats (GMHBA), Western Bulldogs (Marvel), Melbourne (Marvel), Adelaide Crows (Oval), Fremantle (Marvel), Carlton (MCG), Sydney Swans (SCG)
The future of coach Alan Richardson has been a constant topic of discussion for most of this season and whether he survives beyond this year will depend on how strongly the Saints finish 2019.
The Saints’ tough run home starts with facing the Geelong Cats at Kardinia Park this Saturday night, while they must also travel for matches against the Adelaide Crows (Oval) in Round 20 and the Sydney Swans (SCG) in the final round.
However they’ll enjoy three matches at Marvel Stadium and will fancy their chances against Melbourne (16th) and Fremantle (11th), while the match against the Western Bulldogs could come down to the toss of a coin.
They’ll also get one more outing at the MCG for the season when they face Carlton in the penultimate round in a match which Saints fans can earmark for a win.
In the end, I have the Saints beating Melbourne, Fremantle and Carlton, but that’s just about it. Chances are the Saints will be on the lookout for a new coach in 2020.
Predicted finish: 13th
Currently 16th (5 wins, 10 losses, 79.9 per cent)
Matches to play: Western Bulldogs (Marvel), West Coast Eagles (TIO Traeger Park), St Kilda (Marvel), Richmond (MCG), Collingwood (MCG), Sydney Swans (MCG), North Melbourne (Blundstone)
It has been a bitterly disappointing season for Melbourne this year but you can put it down to several factors – injuries to key players, the departure of several others and the mental and psychological scars caused by last year’s preliminary final mauling by West Coast.
Last week they scored just their fifth win for the season when they defeated Carlton by five points at the MCG, but had to withstand a furious comeback from the Blues to do so.
Souring the win however, was a serious knee injury to forward Tom McDonald which will see him sidelined for the rest of the season.
As far as the run home is concerned, they’ll play their next three matches away from the MCG including travelling to Alice Springs for a rematch against the Eagles in between matches against the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda.
After that, they’ll enjoy a hat-trick of matches at the G against Richmond, Collingwood and the Sydney Swans before they finish off by facing North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena, where their record is two heartbreaking losses by less than a goal from as many matches.
Perhaps the tough season the Dees are enduring may be just what they need if they are to climb back up the ladder again in 2020, if the turnarounds Richmond and Collingwood conjured in 2016-17 and 2017-18 are anything to go by.
Predicted finish: 16th
Currently 17th (3 wins, 12 losses, 81.8 per cent)
Matches to play: Sydney Swans (SCG), Gold Coast Suns (Marvel), Adelaide Crows (MCG), West Coast Eagles (Marvel), Richmond (MCG), St Kilda (MCG), Geelong Cats (GMHBA)
Since the sacking of coach Brendon Bolton, the Blues’ form has lifted to a significant degree. They’ve scored victories over the Brisbane Lions and Fremantle and narrowly lost to the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, scoring 100 points in both defeats.
In both their victories over the Lions and Dockers, they’ve had to overcome at least a five-goal deficit while the latter was achieved without captain Patrick Cripps, who is pushing to return against the Sydney Swans this Saturday.
The trip to Sydney – their second for the season – kick-starts a crucial run for David Teague’s side, which will also face a potential wooden spoon decider against the Gold Coast Suns at home the following week.
They’ll also play three matches at the MCG – including against rivals Richmond – as well as hosting the West Coast Eagles at Marvel Stadium before they finish off with the tough trip down the highway to face certain minor premiers in the Geelong Cats.
The only match I can see the Blues winning is the aforementioned showdown for last place against the Suns in Round 18, which will have ramifications as far as the Blues’ first round draft pick is concerned, remembering they did a live trade with the Adelaide Crows last year.
Predicted finish: 17th
Gold Coast Suns
Currently 18th (3 wins, 12 losses, 67.1 per cent)
Matches to play: Adelaide Crows (Metricon), Carlton (Marvel), Essendon (Metricon), Collingwood (MCG), Brisbane Lions (Gabba), Hawthorn (Marvel), GWS Giants (Metricon)
All the way down at the bottom are the Gold Coast Suns who seem destined to claim its second wooden spoon, but first since its inaugural season in 2011.
As expected, 2019 has been a tough season for the Suns whose only three wins came inside the first four rounds of the season and have since lost eleven consecutive matches.
The worst of them came last week when they lost to Richmond by 92 points after only managing two goals in the first half, at the end of which they trailed by 87 points.
However they have proven to be competitive in a few matches, stretching the Geelong Cats at home in Round 10 and staying with the Sydney Swans in the first half at the SCG late last month as they attempted to repeat last year’s upset victory.
It’ll be hard seeing the Suns win any of their seven remainders, though they’ll give themselves a good chance of beating the Blues for a second time this season when they face them at Marvel Stadium in a potential wooden spoon decider next Saturday afternoon.
They will also look forward to a rare outing on the MCG when they face Collingwood at the venue for just the second time ever – and first since 2012 – and there’s also the QClash to look forward to up the highway at the Gabba.
They then finish off against the GWS Giants at home and with the fact that they’ll be at home for this one, means they can prevent the Giants from potentially building their percentage as their expansion rivals head towards a fourth consecutive finals series.
In the end, I can’t see the Suns winning another match in the home stretch which means they’ll finish the season with 18 straight losses.
Predicted finish: 18th