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Opinion

The run home: Who'll be in the eight when it matters?

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Editor
24th August, 2020
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With this weekend seeing another ‘festival of footy’ get underway, it’ll be hard to do this kind of article later as the information will be out-of-date in a day.

So, with five rounds to go, I’ll be looking at every club’s run home to see how things will look when the finals get underway. At the bottom, I’ll have my predicted ladder for the end of the season.

The staggered byes this season add the fun layer of games in hand to this year’s equation, so there’s more to it than just looking at the ladder.

1st – Port Adelaide

10-3, 126.6%

Remaining fixture: Swans (Adelaide), Kangaroos (Metricon), Bombers (Adelaide), Magpies (TBA)

The fact those three losses were ‘uppercuts’ against Brisbane, St Kilda and Geelong will be a worry until the finals get underway, but Port have done the hard yards and have one hand on the minor premiership. Neither Sydney, North Melbourne nor Essendon should have any business troubling the Power over the last month, although Collingwood could be tricky in the final round if they’re battling for a spot and/or the match is away from Adelaide.

Depending on how other results go, however, they’re almost certainly going to be up against Geelong, Richmond or West Coast in a qualifying final – I suspect they’d much prefer the Lions. The Eagles do have a game in hand and similar percentage, however, so a good run from them could see Port still go 4-0 and fall to second, which I don’t reckon they’d mind at all.

Ollie Wines of the Power kicks on goal

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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2nd – Brisbane Lions

10-3, 117.4%

Remaining fixture: Magpies (Gabba), Suns (Gabba), Swans (Cairns), Blues (TBA)

The minor premiership is still in reach but, as above, it’d be a surprise to see Port Adelaide drop a match over their last four. Playing at The Gabba swings the pendulum hugely in their favour against Collingwood, while they should have the class to see off Gold Coast, Sydney and Carlton after that.

Very hard to see them dropping out of the top four, but West Coast’s last five matches could see them lose a home final. Given it’s likely to be Port and West Coast above them in that scenario, they won’t get the luxury of an away game at The Gabba or Metricon.

Charlie Cameron of the Lions celebrates a goal

(Photo by Jono Searle/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

3rd – Geelong Cats

9-4, 140.6%

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Remaining fixture: Bulldogs (Metricon), Bombers (Gabba), Tigers (Metricon), Swans (TBA)

Geelong’s league-best percentage works in their favour for an assault on top spot, but a tricky final month also puts them at risk of falling out of the top four. Pencil in wins over the Bombers and Swans and they’ll start favourites against the Bulldogs, but Round 17’s date with Richmond will prove pivotal.

If the Tigers beat West Coast this week and then knock off the Cats, likely results elsewhere will see Chris Scott’s side dumped to fifth. Geelong’s best shot at a ‘home’ final (whatever it’s worth) is for Richmond to end West Coast’s winning streak, but then to knock them off themselves later in September.

Joel Selwood of the Cats leads his team out onto the field

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

4th – West Coast Eagles

9-3, 121.3%

Remaining fixture: Tigers (Metricon), Bombers (Gabba), Bulldogs (Metricon), Saints (Gabba), Kangaroos (TBA)

They still need to prove they’ll handle Queensland hub life better the second time around (which they most likely will), but West Coast’s game in hand on the rest of the top four is a big wildcard here.

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Richmond and the Bulldogs (on their day) will push them all the way, but another five Eagles wins will put them level with the Power and Lions on points. They’re ahead of Brisbane on percentage and within striking distance of the Power too, making them a team to watch very closely over the home stretch.

Tom Barrass of the Eagles looks happy after his team's win

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images via Getty Images)

5th – Richmond

8-4-1, 119%

Remaining fixture: Eagles (Metricon), Dockers (Metricon), Cats (Metricon), Crows (TBA)

Two straightforward wins and two genuine blockbusters to finish things off for Richmond. Needless to say, they won’t secure the double chance without knocking off both the Eagles and Cats above them – barring upsets.

The two points they earned from their draw against Collingwood means percentage likely won’t come into it; going 4-0 will be enough for them to unseat Geelong. That said, they’d need serious boilovers to finish any higher than fourth – meaning they’ll be hoping for a Brisbane minor premiership, or at least a qualifying final at The Gabba.

Jason Castagna of the Tigers celebrates after scoring a goal

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

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6th – St Kilda

8-5, 114.5%

Remaining fixture: Demons (Alice), Hawks (Metricon), Eagles (Gabba), Giants (TBA)

St Kilda’s percentage is far from bad, but it’s too far back of their rivals for them to sneak into the top four – a feat that would require them upsetting West Coast anyway. It’s very hard to see them falling to Melbourne, Hawthorn or GWS on current form – so a top eight spot is all but assured – but they’d need to win all four of their remaining matches by ten goals to score a double chance – ain’t gonna happen.

Dan Butler of the Saints celebrates a goal

Dan Butler of the Saints celebrates a goal. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

7th – Collingwood

7-5-1, 109.1%

Remaining fixture: Blues (Gabba), Lions (Gabba), Suns (Gabba), Power (TBA)

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Did themselves an almighty favour last night in downing the Roos and now control their own destiny. The ladder says they have a six-point lead on the chasing pack but, having played 13 games to Melbourne, Carlton and GWS’ 12, it’s really only two – and their run home is tough.

That makes their next clash against the Blues the most important match in this rivalry since Carlton killed off Collingwood’s top four chances in 1994. On current form, I can’t back the Pies against Brisbane or Port so, if they fall to the Blues, even going 1-3 with a win against the Suns would leave them at 8-8-1 – highly unlikely to make the eight.

Knocking off Carlton puts their arch-rivals well behind the eight ball and, even if they lose to the Lions and Power, gives them enough on the board to see off the others. If they lose? Game on.

Taylor Adams of the Magpies is congratulated by teammates

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

8th – Western Bulldogs

7-6, 101.4%

Remaining fixture: Cats (Metricon), Eagles (Metricon), Hawks (Adelaide), Dockers (TBA)

Like the Magpies, did themselves a world of good in that third quarter against Melbourne on the weekend. Turning their woeful percentage around has been a huge help too – the problem is they’ve only got four games left (versus five for the three teams in pursuit) and their next fortnight sees them play Geelong and West Coast. Despite leading the pack, they’re hardly in control.

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Notching an upset in either game would almost certainly see them through but if, as is more likely, they go 2-2, they really need to hope the others take points off one another. The silver lining is that they don’t play Melbourne, Carlton or GWS in the run home, so they don’t give them a leg up if they lose, but they’ll be watching that trio very closely.

Carlton beating GWS – even if they lose to Collingwood beforehand – looks to be the most dangerous result for Doggies fans over the home stretch, so they may need to do the unthinkable and get behind the big, big sound when that match rolls around.

The Bulldogs look dejected after losing the round 1 AFL match

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

9th – Melbourne

6-6, 112.1%

Remaining fixture: Saints (Alice), Swans (Cairns), Dockers (Cairns), Giants (Gabba), Bombers (TBA)

The Demons shouldn’t need too much help from the outside to get back into the eight, although they need either the Dogs or Magpies to lose games against the top four. Their significantly easier run home than the Bulldogs’ puts them at an advantage but, of course, they need to bank the points – something they can’t necessarily be trusted to do.

They can afford going down to St Kilda this weekend, but would then need to go 4-0 against Sydney, Fremantle, GWS and Essendon – very achievable. If all goes to script, their Round 17 clash with the Giants could be a virtual elimination final – if only Tom Scully was still in orange.

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Steven May and Christian Petracca of the Demons celebrate victory

(Photo by Matt Turner/AFL Photos)

10th – Carlton

6-6, 100%

Remaining fixture: Magpies (Gabba), Giants (Metricon), Swans (Metricon), Crows (Metricon), Lions (TBA)

As I’ve alluded to already, the next fortnight will be season-defining for Carlton. Presuming they take care of Sydney and Adelaide, knocking off Collingwood and GWS almost certainly gets them into the eight, even if they lose to Brisbane in their final home-and-away game.

Even strong finishes to the year for Melbourne and GWS wouldn’t be enough to knock them out in that scenario.

They can’t afford both the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood winning out, even if one those sides finish unbeaten, a 4-1 finish to the year should be enough to see the Blues through.

Losses over the next fortnight obviously make things a lot harder – they’d need the others to go to water to sneak in.

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Sam Walsh runs with the ball

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

11th – GWS Giants

6-6, 96.8%

Remaining fixture: Dockers (Optus), Blues (Metricon), Crows (Adelaide), Demons (Gabba), Saints (TBA)

Unfortunately, for GWS fans, they may have already made their bed in 2020. A loss to Fremantle this round would just about be curtains – they’d need to knock off Carlton, Adelaide, Melbourne and St Kilda from there to do it and, right now, I’d only back them in one of those games.

They’ve got the talent to flick the switch and go 5-0 to finish as high as sixth, but their percentage works against them here too.

Josh Kelly of the Giants looks dejected

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

12th – Essendon

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5-6-1, 85.9%

Remaining fixture: Hawks (Adelaide), Eagles (Gabba), Cats (Gabba), Power (Adelaide), Demons (TBA)

A much-improved effort against Richmond on the weekend after last week’s shocker against St Kilda (which, in fairness, is their only truly bad game of the last month). The real obstacle here is the brutal run home and their awful percentage. If they’re to stage a miracle, Hawthorn isn’t a must-win, it’s a must-belt – but I can’t see them going 3-0 against West Coast, Geelong and Port Adelaide.

I would say even the most one-eyed Bombers fan would agree but, let’s face it, they’ll lose to the Cats by 86 points and their supporters will be flooding Twitter with clips of offline ball-ups all week, claiming that was what cost them.

Ben Rutten, Senior Assistant Coach and Team Defence of the Bombers addresses his players

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

13th – Fremantle

5-7, 93.5%

Remaining fixture: Giants (Optus), Tigers (Metricon), Demons (Cairns), Kangaroos (Metricon), Bulldogs (TBA)

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With a game in hand and reasonable (for their position) percentage, Freo aren’t out of it just yet – but they’ll almost certainly need to run the table. I’d back them in against GWS and North on current form, but they probably start just behind the Dees and Dogs and are obviously huge underdogs against Richmond. They’ve looked much better under Justin Longmuir this year, but are a few pieces short of the full puzzle.

The Dockers look a bit dejected after losing

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

14th – Gold Coast Suns

4-8-1, 94.1%

Remaining fixture: Kangaroos (Metricon), Lions (Gabba), Magpies (Gabba), Hawks (TBA)

Despite the lengthy winless run, it’s been a superb leap forward for Gold Coast in 2020 – but you’d hope how flat they looked against Carlton was just a blip. They’ve probably earned a pass mark for this season as it is, but I’d really want a good win against North and a final-round triumph over Hawthorn if I was a Suns fan. Finishing 4-12-1 would be an injustice to themselves.

Brandon Ellis of the Suns marks

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

15th – Hawthorn

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4-8, 82.7%

Remaining fixture: Bombers (Adelaide), Crows (Adelaide), Saints (Metricon), Bulldogs (Adelaide), Suns (TBA)

Hawthorn’s form since the start of July, for a side that’s clearly been trading to win for some time, simply hasn’t been good enough. Alastair Clarkson has earned the right to end his time at the Hawks on his terms, but a poor showing over the last five matches would raise even more questions. They looked good against the Power and should net one or two wins – Round 23’s Gold Coast clash looks like a bottom four decider.

Alastair Clarkson

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

16th – Sydney Swans

4-8, 81.7%

Remaining fixture: Power (Adelaide), Demons (Cairns), Blues (Metricon), Lions (Cairns), Cats (TBA)

Haven’t seen a side do such a dramatic about-face as Sydney did against the Giants and Freo over the last fortnight in some time. Sadly, for Swans fans, they finish the season off against Charlie Dixon, Tom McDonald/Sam Weideman/Luke Jackson, Levi Casboult/Harry McKay, Eric Hipwood and Tom Hawkins without the services of Dane Rampe. Look away – 17th place very possible.

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Callum Mills of the Swans

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

17th – North Melbourne

3-10, 81%

Remaining fixture: Suns (Metricon), Power (Metricon), Dockers (Metricon), Eagles (TBA)

The Kangaroos were in it last night for as long as Collingwood allowed and once the Pies got their act together, they weren’t getting close. Will look to give Gold Coast and Fremantle a good run over the last month, but this season can’t finish quickly enough for North fans.

Cameron Zurhaar of the Kangaroos

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

18th – Adelaide Crows

0-13, 54.9%

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Remaining fixture: Hawks (Adelaide), Giants (Adelaide), Blues (Metricon), Tigers (TBA)

Well… Adelaide’s best chance of avoiding the first winless VFL/AFL season since 1964 will come in the next fortnight. Home games against the struggling Hawks and free-falling Giants are the ones to circle – if they can’t nab the four points in either of those then you can stick a fork in them.

Jake Kelly crestfallen after another loss

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

My predicted ladder

1st – Port Adelaide (14-3)
2nd – Brisbane Lions (14-3)
3rd – Geelong Cats (13-4)
4th – West Coast Eagles (13-4)
5th – Richmond (11-5-1)
6th – St Kilda (11-6)
7th – Melbourne (10-7)
8th – Collingwood (9-7-1)

9th – Carlton (9-8)
10th – Western Bulldogs (9-8)
11th – GWS Giants (7-10)
12th – Fremantle (7-10)
13th – Gold Coast Suns (6-10-1)
14th – Essendon (6-10-1)
15th – Hawthorn (5-12)
16th – Sydney Swans (4-13)
17th – North Melbourne (3-14)
18th – Adelaide Crows (0-17)