Of course this round was going to up-end the calculations surrounding the top eight.
With Sydney closed to the AFL due to COVID, we had the Crows feasted upon, the Blues butchering the ball, the Saints surging and the Power petering out.
18. The Adelaide Crows (down two)
I may be writing this on Saturday morning, but I think a historically low score from the Crows warrants them going down to the bottom of the ladder. They were atrocious, there’s no sugar-coating for the Crows fans in the ground. The Crows were more like the carrion their namesakes feast upon. They were lucky that it was only 63 points, as a more clinical side would have destroyed them. Matthew Nicks was left with more questions than answers as his side was petrified against the Essendon surge.
17. Hawthorn Hawks (up to one)
The only reason the Hawks have gone up is that they were not completely insipid like the Crows. The match was dominated by the spectre of the dreaded coaching succession plan looming large. The Hawks were comprehensively dismantled by an eager Fremantle pushing the lower reaches of the eight. Hawthorn would also be concerned about the two injuries to young jets Jacob Koschitzke and Changkuoth Jiath, both of whom have been solid contributors to the Hawks this year.
Things went from bad to worse when Freo really put the hurt on in the last, with six consecutive goals. This Hawks outfit is being increasingly questioned both for their decisions as they pertain to list management and for their game style, while Alastair Clarkson will leave titanic shoes for Sam Mitchell to fill.
16. Carlton Blues (down six)
That game was infuriating, and I am not a Blues fan. The Carlton faithful were vociferous, but the Carlton players took until the third quarter to kick their second goal. While they did outscore Adelaide and their ball movement was considerably better than the sides below them, this game was atrocious. Truly it was a coach killer for David Teague’s men.
The Blues had a prime opportunity to get one over a premiership contender, with the Cats missing Joel Sellwood, Mitch Duncan and Jeremy Cameron, all of whom are best-22 players. The lone bright spot was the two goals and 35 disposals to Sam Walsh, while Jack Silvagni, becoming David Teague’s preferred utility player in the ruck and half-forward, racked up 19 disposals.
15. West Coast Eagles (down two)
The Eagles are the flakiest side of the competition. They crumbled like wet paper in the bog that is Optus Stadium. West Coast challenged the Roos in the first half, and but North Melbourne returned that challenge two-fold, hammering the Eagles.
The worst part was the Eagles had an opportunity to win the match and secure their place in the eight – they took back the lead in the last with a lucky bounce from a Nic Naitanui snap, but North kept on coming again and again. The Eagles are now left with questions about game style and their inability to get the job done in consecutive weeks.
14. Richmond Tigers (down five)
Poetic irony dictates that I should have the insipid Tigers in ninth, but their fourth consecutive loss means they’re further down. Ninth is mediocre;l the Tigers are poor. The more concerning factor for Damien Hardwick would be the trend of fourth-quarter fade-outs – they conceded a 28-point margin against West Coast and seven of the last eight goals against Collingwood. The Tigers were put to the sword by a more invigorated Collingwood side as the Pies ran for each other and got in the right positions to win the game.
13. Collingwood Magpies (up to four)
Finally they showed some offensive verve. I feel conflicted. On the one hand, I normally salivate at the prospect of a Collingwood loss, yet here I was rooting for the come-from-behind win. I don’t think Robert Harvey will become the senior coach at Collingwood, but if he can put forward a few more performances like that, he may force the Collingwood board to take another look.
The Pies suffocated the Tigers as they ran in numbers to get seven of the last eight goals, all the while their small forwards pressured and harassed the Richmond defence.
12. North Melbourne Kangaroos (up to three)
I’m not going to lie: when I began writing this week’s piece I had the Kangas in 15th. But such was their hard-earned victory I felt the need to move them up to this position. It was a classic shinboner victory that was built off the back of hard tackles, and the class of Jaidyn Stephenson with his personal best 38 disposals and a vital goal in the last quarter.
The Roos would also be super impressed with their new forward line, as Nick Larkey and the human wrecking ball of Cam Zurhaar. The Kangaroos have had a difficult season, but there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel, with David Noble’s third victory as head coach. It was a significant victory with implications all the way into the eighth.
11. Gold Coast Suns (up four)
If Touk Miller was in Melbourne, he would be considered among the top ten players in the league such is his importance to the Suns line-up. Gold Coast wanted these consecutive wins so much, and it meant the world to Stuart Dew’s men as they vigorously celebrated the win. Additionally, they were able to do it without any help from Hugh Greenwood, who went down with a knee injury in the first quarter.
The Suns have had an absolute nightmare of a season, but this win would provide some much-needed solace.
10. Greater Western Sydney Giants (down three)
Wowee. A week is a long time in footy, and that was certainly the case for the Giants, who ran out as warm favourites against the Suns. It is not so much that they didn’t have opportunities to win that game; it’s that they didn’t take them. The Suns were just that bit cleaner when they had the wind at their back, while the Giants butchered the ball far more frequently.
GWS failed to meet the expectations that were placed upon them by their favourite status. Jesse Hogan was good getting up around the ball and taking multiple contested grabs, while medical sub Jeremy Finlayson and Harry Himmelberg left too much for Toby Greene to do himself.
9. Essendon Bombers (up two)
That was not a football match; this was a massacre by the Bombers. A significant percentage boost sees them jump ahead of Richmond. The Bombers dominated the field position for large portions of Friday night’s game, winning the inside 50s (+29) and intercept possessions (+14) to eviscerate the uninspired Crows.
I want to particularly shout out the big man himself, Peter Wright, who made his presence felt in the forward line with a couple of goals and 12 disposals. The headline of the match will be Archie Perkins and his three goals, but the Bombers had contributors across the ground in a diametric display when compared with last week’s showing.
8. Fremantle Dockers (up four)
Freo does indeed appear to be the way to go. They recorded the biggest ever win over the Hawks – a spectacular way to celebrate the 200th game of Nathan Fyfe. Fremantle now find themselves in the eight with a bit of security, as the win gave them a vital percentage and four points and addressed a bugbear of theirs with a win away from their home fortress.
Additionally, the spread of multiple goal kickers for the Dockers was a sight to behold, as Josh Treacy, Bailey Banfield, Rory Lobb and milestone man Fyfe combined for 11 goals, giving the Fremantle Dockers offensive are more potent bent.
7. St Kilda Saints (up one)
The Saints have completely turned around their season after three consecutive wins over quality opposition. The goths appeared to be at the gates (metaphorically speaking) demanding their pound of flesh (maybe a little more literal with this one) after a feckless loss to the Crows in Cairns, where they gave up a six-goal lead.
The machinations surrounding that episode and Brett Ratten’s job are a distant memory. They’ve won three consecutive matches to make the eight. While the season may still fall to pieces for the Saints, there’s no denying the positive experience they’re bringing forth. St Kilda dominated this game, winning disposals (406 to 311), disposal efficiency (79 per cent to 74 per cent), and marks (129 to 84) to suffocate the underdone Lions.
The media may somewhat unfairly discount this win as Eric Hipwood went down with an ACL tear, depriving the Lions of a key forward, but this is reductive and denies the Saints the credit for improving their game style.
6. Port Adelaide Power (down one)
That was a more significant loss than the 31-point margin indicates. The Power are now officially 0-4 against top-four opponents. Port Adelaide have shown an inability to finish the job against their contemporaries on the ladder. They will make the finals, they may even win a final, but until they address the hoodoo against other top eight members, they will not win a premiership.
Making matters worse for Port was the news of yet another injury to one of their brightest young talents in Zak Butters. The Power and Ken Hinkley have a conundrum on their hands, as this season a clear delineation between the top four and the rest of the eight has emerged, leaving the Power to make up the numbers.
5. Sydney Swans (up one)
The Swans have struck a rich vein of form, decimating the Eagles one week and then grinding out a win against the Bulldogs the next week. Sydney are not just overperforming expectations, nor are they making up the numbers in the top eight; they are a genuine premiership threat.
Despite losing the clearances by 20, they were able to dominate the intercepting game and the pressure gauge. Tom McCartin, Jordan Dawson and Jake Lloyd were able to combine for a remarkable 23 intercept possessions. More remarkable still, Dawson was able to score three goals from his 26 possessions on the halfback flank. The Swans have a unique opportunity to be September spoilers for the finals, and I back them to do it.
4. Brisbane Lions (down three)
That was an ignominious way to ring in Dayne Zorko’s 200th game. The milestone man may have played well, with three goals and 17 disposals, and the match may have been overshadowed by Eric Hipwood’s ACL tear, but the more significant takeaway was the inability of several Lions players to compensate. They missed his line-breaking attributes and contested marking, and Charlie Cameron (four disposals) and Joe Daniher were unable to cope with it. Daniher will have to revise his game style, as he must play closer to goal and get stronger in the marking contest.
The Lions would be rueing having to play at Metricon again, as their last two matches have resulted in two ACL tears.
3. Western Bulldogs (down one)
We got to see the much-vaunted first draft pick, the second coming of Lance Franklin: generational talent Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. While his debut game was not a victory, he played well enough to show that there’s something there for Luke Beveridge to work with.
It was an ironic juxtaposition of the old and the new – as the elderly Swans took a backseat to their young guns, the Bulldogs dismantled them at the clearances but failed to make any meaningful gains out of them. I believe the Bulldogs will surge back up the ladder and will be at the pointiest end of the season, as the depth they have across the ground is obscene.
2. Geelong Cats (no change)
The Cats did what needed to be done to take home the points on Saturday afternoon. They went into the match missing Joel Selwood, Jeremy Cameron and Mitch Duncan, all of whom are best-22 players. They used one more of their lives as the Blues kicked a remarkable 11 consecutive behinds. Eventually the experience of Dad’s Army won out and they were able to run out 26-point victors and further consolidate a top-four position that will be vital to their premiership aspirations.
1. Melbourne Demons (up four)
What a difference having a key focal point in attack makes. Having Ben Brown made a massive difference, if only because it enabled the more athletic Tom McDonald to play his more natural game style on his way to three goals and 21 disposals. There was something almost ephemeral about the contributions of Brown, as he took the best opposition defender and enabled McDonald, Christian Petracca and Kysaiah Pickett to play their best games of the past month.
The Demons would be eager to get the past month’s form out of their minds, solely because they have a focus on attack. Their domination of the Power sees them obtain top spot on both the ladder and the power rankings.
What do you think about this week’s power rankings? Leave any ideas you have in the comments below.