For the most part, the footy was highly entertaining this week, with several tight, frenetic encounters. The logjam of teams competing for spots in the eight is making the middle section of these rankings a nightmare to nail down.
Last week: 1
It took the Cats longer than expected to brush off a plucky Saints outfit. Given their wobbly form since the bye they’ll no doubt be content with a solid 27-point win. On paper, Geelong’s run home is one of the easiest of any contender. Does that help or hinder their flag chances? A tough encounter against Brisbane at the Gabba in Round 22 might give us the best indication of how the premiership favourites are truly travelling.
Last week: 2
The Eagles are developing an odd habit of inexplicably falling over in the middle of an otherwise strong run of form. In Round 5 it was a loss in the wet at home to Port Adelaide. In Round 12, they were thumped by the Swans, never looking like they would break their SCG hoodoo. And on Friday night, in Round 17, they squandered a three-goal lead in the third quarter, conceding the next ten scores to Collingwood. It’s not the end of the world, provided that it doesn’t happen in finals.
Last week: 3
It’s been a super-impressive fortnight from the Lions. A brace of away games against GWS and Port Adelaide presented as a hurdle that could knock them back down to the chasing pack. Instead, they’ve catapulted into the top four with resounding wins. Victories from their next four matches – on paper, a very achievable aim – can book them a double chance in September.
Last week: 6
Wow, what a way to right the ship. This team looked listless a week ago and seemed destined to tumble out of the top four, with a tough run ahead of them. Somehow, though, they recovered their hard edge for one of footy’s toughest assignments. Whenever the Eagles looked like they were starting to pull away, the Pies found a way to halt their momentum. Kudos.
Last week: 8
The Tigers launched their run of seven consecutive games at the MCG in style, with a commanding win over the Giants. It’s bizarre to think that they won’t even have to leave their own suburb until at least the first week of finals. Senior players returning, a gift of a fixture to finish the home-and-away season… are the stars aligning for Richmond?
Last week: 7
The Bombers still have some obvious deficiencies, including poor ball use in the forward half and a strange unwillingness to take the game on when their opponent is coming at them. The improvement is definitely there, though. The Crows in Adelaide will be a tough test, especially with both Paddy Ambrose and Michael Hurley absent from the defensive 50.
Last week: 4
Five weeks ago, the Giants looked near enough to a lock for a top-four berth. Four losses and an unconvincing victory later, they sit just one win and percentage clear of ninth. There’s no hiding from such a mediocre patch of footy in this even season. The resurgent Pies will be no easy-beats this week.
Last week: 5
The Kangaroos opted to attack the game, rather than lock the Bombers down. It was an admirable approach that heightened the threat posed by Ben Brown, but the lack of defensive pressure allowed the Bombers to kick ten goals to five from midway through the first term until three-quarter time. The margin at that point could have been significantly greater too, had the Dons not squandered some very gettable shots at goal. Dropping three spots is tough, given North’s decent form, but the four teams below them last week all won.
Last week: 9
It was all one-way traffic at Metricon Stadium. The Crows bounced back from a forgettable fortnight in style, although it should be a little concerning that they lost the clearance count to the bottom side. They’ll want to solidify their position in the top eight through the next few weeks because their last three matches will be tough.
Last week: 10
A few people suggested that Port should have been higher on this list after their Showdown smackdown of the Crows. This round’s effort against the Lions at the Adelaide Oval – a venue at which the Lions had never won – shows exactly why they weren’t. It’s not so much that Port Adelaide lost, it’s how bad the loss was. The Power conceded the first seven goals of the game. They also conceded the last three, despite registering the final seven scores of the match themselves. Jekyll, meet Hyde.
Last week: 12
The Hawks are starting to put together a solid body of work in the back end of the season. Against the Dockers they dominated proceedings early, weathered a mid-game assault and then pulled away again to record a comfortable win. Finals still look a bridge too far but things appear decidedly more positive for 2020 than they did just a month ago.
Last week: 13
The Dogs tried their hardest to lose this game with an appallingly wayward third quarter. They might well have done so, too, had they not been playing a side with an even worse habit of losing winnable games. It also helped that Josh Dunkley put together one of the season’s best individual performances – 39 touches with 24 contested, nine clearances, six marks, two goals and a staggering 15 tackles. What an afternoon’s work.
Last week: 11
Well, it was a slightly better effort than their last couple of weeks. The Dockers are just too reliant on their stars right now. Nat Fyfe, Michael Walters and Brad Hill need more of their team-mates to pick up the slack. As good as that trio is, they can’t drag their side over the line every week. At least Connor Blakely is starting to look like he will answer the call.
Last week: 15
It’s hard to be too critical of the Saints this week. Staying with the Cats in Geelong for three quarters – even getting on top of them in the second – was a fair effort. St Kilda’s defence in particular was exceptional, withstanding repeat forward-50 entries. Shane Savage and Hunter Clark provided great run out of the backline.
Last week: 14
Taking nothing away from the Blues’ effort, this has to rank as one of 2019’s most disappointing performances from the Swans. Sure, they played some poor games early in the season, but since Round 8 they have looked a much-improved side. Any good mood at the club stemming from Friday’s re-signing of coach John Longmire would have evaporated pretty quickly.
Last week: 17
No jokes this week. The Blues deserve nothing but praise for what was arguably their best win of the year. Former Swan Nic Newman ran riot against his old side, notching 32 touches at 88% efficiency, with 13 marks and nine rebound-50s. Perhaps the young Blues are genuinely learning what it takes to win tight games.
Last week: 16
The Dees had the opportunity to capitalise on their opponents’ wastefulness in front of goal but managed to squander their own chances late. In the end, weight of numbers won out, with Melbourne managing only 314 disposals to the Dogs’ 377. Jack Viney was enormous, just not quite as enormous as Dunkley.
Last week: 18
Another week, another morale-sapping loss. Stuart Dew did well to keep such a raw side competitive for so long this season but the flood gates look to be opening. In saying that, the re-signing of young gun Izak Rankine until 2022 is far more important than any scoreline in 2019 might be. It’s a big tick for the culture Dew and his team are striving to build.