The AFL season has just ticked past the bye rounds and the mid-year break. We’ve named All Australians. Teams have had time off.
Now, we’re ready to launch into the back half of the season as AFL clubs jostle for top eight supremacy or start looking towards 2022.
I know, I know, there’s a million of these rankings, but I feel like It’s time to check in, take a pulse, see where things are at as 18 clubs start their turn at the bend for their sprint to the finish line. There’s more at stake now.
Here’s how this works
This is based on form and gut feelings on who the best to worst teams in the AFL are right now. It takes into consideration recent form and overall form.
If I have a team ahead of another, vent your spleen in the comments and tell me why that team should be ranked higher!
Geelong are hot right now. They’ve won eight of their last nine which has included some top scalps: Tigers, Bulldogs, Power in Adelaide, Eagles. Their only loss in nine weeks was to the Swans by two.
Tom Stewart is having a breakout year. Sam Menegola and Cam Guthrie have been important. Their menacing forward trio of Tom Hawkins (30), Jeremy Cameron (25), and Gary Rohan (22) have kicked 77 goals between them. The only question is: how far can they go in finals? Home-and-away season dominant Cats are back.
A loss to the Pies and then a bye has cooled Melbourne’s hot form for now, but they remain finals-bound on the back of their 9-0 start to the year.
They’ve gone 2-2 in the last month and take on the Bombers, Giants, Power and Hawks next. Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Max Gawn have been incredible this year. Tom McDonald, Kysaiah Pickett, Bailey Fristch have rejuvenated their forward line combining for 71 goals.
Brisbane are rolling. They’ve won eight of their last nine – the same as Geelong. Lachie Neale is back. Joe Daniher’s transition has been injury free.
Jarrad Lyons is having a year averaging 28 touches a game and ranked fourth in the AFL for the contested ball. Harris Andrews is second in the league for interceptions (119) behind Melbourne’s Jake Lever. Brisbane are in a good spot right now and will be hoping they can go one step further in finals.
There are some concerns here that they can’t get the job done against the top teams. They’ve lost to the Tigers, Cats and Demons and have lost two of their last three.
Jack Macrae is having a standout year and leads the AFL in disposals averaging 35 a game. Josh Bruce has been their best forward with 37 goals.
The focus for the Bulldogs has been their clearance work: they are ranked first for clearances (40 per game) and centre clearances (14 per game). They should finish in the top four.
The Tigers win may just be the point we refer back to as the line in the sand moment for their 2021 season. The point where they started to get things right. Others might argue that point was the Blues win when they were missing half-a-dozen players.
They’re a different team from the outfit that lost by 97 to the Cats in April. They’re ranked 18th for tackles in the AFL which indicates a lack of pressure, but that seems to have shifted.
They have five games in Perth coming up. Expect them to rise as the injured bodies return.
They beat the Tigers early in the season and expectations have been sky high since. But, they dropped two home games to the Bulldogs and Cats. They just beat the Pies by one. The Lions smashed them by 49. And they’ve only really bullied terrible teams.
Midfield bull Ollie Wines is having a solid year with 32 touches a game. The good news for Port Adelaide: six of their last nine are against non-finals teams. They also play five games at home. There’s potential here for a top four finish if they can rectify their home form slump.
It’s mind blowing to think how the conversation around Essendon has shifted in just 12 months. Remember how much of a trainwreck they appeared to be, with Joe Daniher, Conor McKenna, Orazio Fantasia, Adam Saad all leaving. They are still very much a work in progress but their game plan is starting to hold up in tight contests and we’ve seen their best is very good.
Darcy Parish has taken his game to a new level we haven’t seen before. Rising Star duo Nik Cox and Harrison Jones get better with every week. The Bombers are 4-1 in the last five weeks: only Geelong is better than that.
They are 6-3-1 in the last 10 weeks with wins over Swans and Eagles. They lost to the Tigers by two and drew with the Roos – that tells you where things are at with Greater Western Sydney.
Toby Greene is doing his part with 27 goals. They’re right on the cusp of the finals and their form sits on a spectrum of top four and middling. It’s hard to say which side of finals they will fall on right now.
It hasn’t been a consistent year for the Tigers with injuries, form slumps and blooding a new cast of future players. But they’re been able to hang in there and get the wins when they’ve needed it.
I trust this team will make finals and that’s all they have to do at this point. Where they finish in the top eight doesn’t really matter. They still have what it takes to win a flag but other teams are better this year.
I’m not convinced the Swans are a finals bound team yet. They’ve played in five games where the result was nine points or less. They’ve won three of those against the Bombers, Cats and Saints. They could have been sitting in 12th on five wins had those results not gone their way.
A good reason for their rise this year has been their pressure. They are the no.1 tackling team in the AFL averaging 65 a game. They’re also the best at tackles inside 50, with 12 per game.
It feels like Hawthorn are playing much better than their results are showing. They’ve lost 10 of their last 11 but in recent times they’ve played better football.
They are the no.1 team with rebounds from their defensive 50, averaging 43 a game. Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara, Changkuoth Jiath, Luke Breust and a handful of others are making other teams work for their wins.
They started the year 4-2 but have only recorded two wins in the last seven weeks. They’ve beaten most of the non-finals teams but haven’t been competitive against the top tier teams. They lost the derby to the Eagles by 59, Port by 46, and then lost to the Blues early in the season by 45.
Having said that, they sit just outside the top eight and can be a contender if they can find consistency. But they have a tough run home that includes the Tigers, Cats, Swans in Sydney, Lions and Eagles.
Why did it take Nathan Buckley to resign to get up and beat competition leaders Melbourne? I’ll never understand that part of football. But, whatever happened, they looked more competitive, engaged, and threatening.
The Darcy Moore injury comes at a horrible time but Collingwood should be playing more inspired football from here because they just cost Nathan Buckley his job. That’s on them.
Their kids look alright and even their veterans are contributing in a season that won’t feature finals. Taylor Walker has kicked 37 goals and is fourth in the Coleman Medal race.
Brodie Smith and Paul Seedsman are the two best metres gained players in the league averaging 628 and 624 per game.
They’ve shown classic shinboner spirit in the last few weeks, which is a sign the players have committed to effort that lasts longer than half a quarter.
They lost by 23 against the Lions, drew with the Giants and lost by 20 against the Saints. These are signs that there are better days coming for North Melbourne fans. Rebuilds are hard to sit through but these last nine weeks should see more hope with a more resilient effort.
They showed so much promise last year and now it feels they’ve regressed to a point where you can’t tell where the improvement is going to come from.
They’ve beaten the Hawks, Suns and Roos in the last nine games and that doesn’t mean all that much. Their next five games will decide their year (if it isn’t already decided): Tigers, Pies, Lions, Power and Eagles. Brett Ratten needs to reset this group in the off-season. I think they can bounce-back in 2022.
There were talks last week that the Suns could make a great relocation candidate to Tasmania. That’s never a good conversation to have about your club but the reality is they are 2-8 in the last 10 weeks and as a club, they’ve been bone dry of success historically.
Injuries haven’t helped their cause and while I don’t think relocation is the answer, if we’re having this discussion two to three years from now something needs to give. It’s hard to know when it gets better for the Suns.
They’re just a mess at the moment. They’ve won two games in the last nine weeks against rebuilding teams in the Bombers and Hawks. How many rebuilds and draft picks is it going to take before Carlton gets it right? The good news: form can change.
They have Paddy Cripps, Sam Walsh and Harry McKay. They went after Zac Williams and Saad. Most of their good players are playing. But something is off though.
They are missing a connection. Hopefully the review will reveal their flaws and they can make a good fist of their run home against the non-finals teams. They’ve got the Crows, Dockers, Pies, Roos, Saints, Suns and Giants.