The premiership race is wide open.
Some people may think that it’s Richmond’s to lose, however, it could be a team from outside the top four who wins this season’s premiership. The Western Bulldogs are in ominous form and they are seventh on the ladder.
There was something at stake for every team in Round 23, with players and coaches playing for contracts and 11 teams still in with a chance of making the top eight.
The round started off well with an intense game between Collingwood and Essendon. The Pies managed to sneak their way into the top four.
The game between North Melbourne and Melbourne was an indication that tanking is no longer up for debate in the AFL, as the final margin was under a goal. Hawthorn were incredibly good against the West Coast Eagles, while the Western Bulldogs were exceptional against Adelaide.
If Round 23 is anything to go by then it should be an entertaining final series as there were plenty of interesting storylines being brought about by the form certain teams displayed in Round 23.
Top five coaches of Round 23
1. Alastair Clarkson (Hawthorn Hawks)
2. Luke Beveridge (Western Bulldogs)
3. Damien Hardwick (Richmond Tigers)
4. Nathan Buckley (Collingwood Magpies)
5. John Worsfold (Essendon Bombers)
Coaches under the pump
David Teague (Carlton Blues)
Teague is fortunate that he signed a three-year contract prior to Carlton’s Round 23 clash with Geelong as they performed poorly.
Collingwood Magpies vs Essendon Bombers
Magpies survive tough battle
It was a finals-like atmosphere in what was a tight start to the game. The game was close for most of the night with the scores level at three-quarter time, with the Magpies just sneaking home in a challenging game by under two goals, which should hold them in good stead come finals time.
Magic moments: Mitch Brown kicked a brilliant snap around the corner in the first quarter. It was the Bombers’ third goal. Shaun McKernan kicked a remarkable goal to level the scores late in the third quarter.
Who stood out from the pack? Brodie Grundy was outstanding for Collingwood. Grundy put on an exhibition in the manner in which a ruckman should go about their craft, with not only great tap work, but elite work around the ground.
What went right? The game was played at a high intensity with the four points in the balance for most of the night. Essendon showed a lot of fight, when taking into consideration the fact that they were missing some players through injury.
What went wrong? Matthew Scharenberg’s horror luck with injury continued, while Michael Hurley also suffered an injury setback. Both players injured from their respective teams bad luck with injury continued. A mark to Mitch Brown was called play on in the final quarter.
Sydney Swans vs St Kilda Saints
Swans win for Bud, McVeigh and Jack
The game appeared over in the first quarter with Sydney playing inspired footy. They controlled the balance of play. In contrast, St Kilda clawed their way back into the game to make the scores level at half time. The second half was one-sided from a scoreboard perspective, with Sydney continually putting on scoreboard pressure.
Magic moments: Lance Franklin kicked Sydney’s sixth goal of the game in the first quarter from approximately 50 metres out. It was a set shot. Ben Long kicked a freakish goal from the boundary, almost 50 metres out in the second quarter, towards the end.
Who stood out from the pack? Josh Kennedy led from the front, winning plenty of the ball and kicking two goals.
What went right? It was great to see Lance Franklin play his 300th game at AFL level. Franklin finished with four goals. Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh put the icing on the cake so to speak, kicking a goal in their final game at AFL level.
(Photo by Tony Feder/AFL Media/Getty Images)
What went wrong? St Kilda conceded six goals in a row in the first quarter. The second quarter was sloppy from both teams as far as skills were concerned. St Kilda’s kicking for goal was deplorable. Remarkably, both teams had 24 scoring shots yet St Kilda lost comprehensively.
North Melbourne Kangaroos vs Melbourne Demons
Kangaroos win nail-biter
The scores were level at half time and there was just five points the difference at full time. It may have been a game between two teams that won’t feature in September, but both teams clearly wanted to finish the season off well with a win.
Magic moment: Shaun Higgins kicked what proved to be the winning goal with a minute level.
Who stood out from the pack? Max Gawn had a terrific game, sneaking forward for three goals and his work around the ground was also elite, accumulating plenty of the ball.
What went right? The game was close on the scoreboard for the majority of the game, which made for good viewing from a spectator perspective.
What went wrong? It’s a pity this game didn’t mean anything. Melbourne failed to send Jordan Lewis off on a high in what was Lewis’ last game at AFL level.
Geelong Cats vs Carlton Blues
Blues have a blue day
The game was one-sided in the first half with a margin of 51 points at half time in favour of Geelong. It was a decapitation. Carlton were competitive in one of the four quarters (the third), yet Carlton only kicked three goals from eight scoring shots. They only won the quarter by ten points, even though they controlled the tempo of the game.
Magic moment: Patrick Cripps kicked Carlton’s second goal of the game with a kick off the ground.
Who stood out from the pack? Patrick Dangerfield proved why he is a good chance of being selected in the All Australian squad. Dangerfield kicked four goals for Geelong.
What went right? Geelong’s first half was as good a half of footy that there has been this season.
What went wrong? Ed Curnow was injured in the third quarter of the game and played no further part in the game.
Gold Coast Suns vs Greater Western Sydney Giants
Giants back on the winners list
Greater Western Sydney took a step forward, albeit against a Gold Coast Suns team that has failed to be competitive for much of the season.
Magic moments: Josh Kelly kicked his second goal of the game in the third quarter with some brilliant work inside the forward 50. Jeremy Cameron kicked his seventh goal for the game, which gave him the Coleman Medal.
Who stood out from the pack? Jeremy Cameron was unstoppable.
What went right? Gold Coast Suns got within ten points of Greater West Sydney in the third quarter, which gave them a glimmer of hope that they could cause a major upset.
What went wrong? The game was played in front of a small crowd. Gold Coast Suns were uncompetitive for the majority of the game, which is a bad sign for their morale heading into the pre-season.
West Coast Eagles vs Hawthorn Hawks
Hawks ambush hapless Eagles
It was a fairly one-sided contest from start to finish. Adam Simpson was out-coached by Alastair Clarkson. It was a game that the West Coast were expected to win by most experts.
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)
Magic moment: Tim O’Brien kicked a great goal that happened to be the opening goal of the game. It was a set shot from near the 50-metre mark that set the scene for the rest of the game.
Who stood out from the pack? Luke Breust was probably best on ground. Breust showed how important a player he is to Hawthorn.
What went right? This game was like a final, with regards to the atmosphere and intensity. Hawthorn came to play. They played some outstanding footy and left West Coast stunned.
What went wrong? The West Coast Eagles didn’t kick accurately. They didn’t take their opportunities when they had the chance to arrest the momentum that Hawthorn had built up.
Western Bulldogs vs Adelaide Crows
Bulldogs cement finals spot
The Western Bulldogs played some exceptional footy in what was a must-win game for them. They had to claim victory in order to make finals and they did.
Magic moment: Brodie Smith kicked a freakish goal for Adelaide in the last quarter.
Who stood out from the pack? Jack Macrae showed why he warrants All Australian selection for this season with an outstanding game.
What went right? The majority of the first quarter was the best footy I have seen from any team this season, with the Bulldogs clinical and relentless. In fact, for the majority of the game they put on a clinic. The game was a great advertisement for the sport.
What went wrong? The Western Bulldogs had a far better system and structure in place than Adelaide, which indicates that Don Pyke was outcoached by Luke Beveridge. It’s not a personnel issue for Adelaide, but a system and game plan issue.
Richmond Tigers vs Brisbane Lions
Tigers secure top four finish
Richmond were in control of the game from start to finish. It was a good test for them on their home patch against another top four team in Brisbane, who they will play against in the first week of the finals away from home at the Gabba.
Magic moment: Dayne Zorko snapped a clever goal early in the third quarter.
Who stood out from the pack? Lachie Neale showed why he may well win the Brownlow Medal, accumulating over 50 possessions.
What went right? Richmond were exemplary from a defensive perspective, conceding just eight goals for the match.
What went wrong? Brisbane would be bitterly disappointed with the way they played.
Port Adelaide Power vs Fremantle Dockers
Fremantle put in a performance that wasn’t up to standard, which was an aberration. They were the only one out of four teams who sacked their coach this season, who lost the following week.
Magic moment: Connor Rozee kicked an amazing goal from the pocket, approximately 35 metres out in the last quarter.
Who stood out from the pack? Scott Lycett displayed the form that shows why he was recruited to Port Adelaide.
What went right? Port Adelaide performed adequately even though the game was a dead rubber.
What went wrong? Fremantle didn’t play to a level that is acceptable, particularly the first game after your coach is sacked when you expect a reaction. Lycett suffered a knee injury.