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'I am left asking questions': Round 19 AFL power rankings

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Roar Guru
26th July, 2021
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We really are up to the business end of the season now.

With four rounds left to play the Bombers really threw the cat among the proverbial pigeons, leaving eighth spot open to the chasing pack.

While we had the eerie silence of the stands with their COVID-enforced silence, we also had the power of the crowd and the atmosphere they bring.

18. Hawthorn Hawks (down two)
The Hawks don’t have the cattle to run out the remainder of the season. Consider the contextual features plaguing the Hawks now and the pressures that come with their coaching succession plan, and the news of their issues between Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell, while the injuries continue to mount up. I watched the Hawks on Saturday with morbid fascination that often occurs when sides down the bottom of the ladder play one another and was not impressed. The Hawks are going to struggle for a few more years to come.

17. Adelaide Crows (up one)
The Crows seem to love their first halves against the Hawks. They kicked 13 goals, one behind in their two first halves against the Hawks this season and finished the game with an extremely accurate 16 goals, six behinds. The Crows scored a goal every third entry into their attacking 50 and scored 58 per cent of the time they entered the attacking 50. Taylor Walker had a return to form with four goals against a hapless Hawks back line, and Rory Laird continues to be one of the most improved players of the year.

Rory Laird

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)


16. Collingwood Magpies (up one)
The Magpies are playing with some dare, particularly when you consider the exigent circumstances we currently find ourselves in. They’ve had to face the prospect of an extraordinary general meeting and a caretaker coach to deal with yet still they’ve found the opportunity to blood youth in their side. The Pies blooded another two debutants in Jack Ginnivan and Anton Tohill alongside Trey Ruscoe, Caleb Poulter, and Trent Bianco. This match will be dominated by the news of Scott Pendlebury’s fractured fibula, a potentially career-ending injury given his age. The 27-point final margin does not denote how close this game actually was as Robert Harvey continues to throw his name in as a potential head coach.

15. Carlton Blues (down three)
The Blues had everything to play for and a milestone man in Ed Curnow made it to game 200, yet they quiet frankly made an absolute hash of things. The Blues have been left counting the casualties of Saturday afternoon with Harry McKay going down with a toe injury the Friday before, Zac Williams straining a hamstring, and Eddie Betts spending a solid ten minutes down in the rooms being assessed after heavily falling. The 38-point loss leaves the chance of the Blues making finals completely shot. However, like the struggling Suns, the Blues can surpass their best season since 2013, currently sitting on seven wins so the conjecture about David Teague is both in poor taste and inaccurate.

14. Gold Coast Suns (down one)
That game was there for the taking for the Suns. They led by 27 points at halftime but were only able to kick 11 points in the second half. That being said the Suns find themselves in the best form of their short career. The Suns were unable to deal with the weight in numbers. Despite the drought of opportunities Josh Corbett and Ben King kicked three goals each. Worryingly the Suns were unable to effectively dispose of the footy off the half back line and they missed the line-breaking run of Oleg Markov, who went off with an injury. The Suns appear to be at a crossroads as they still have an opportunity to surpass their best win tally for the year.

Oleg Markov

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

13. North Melbourne Kangaroos (up two)
The Kangas now have a viable opportunity of getting off the bottom of the ladder. Maybe it’s Adelaide tanking, or maybe it’s Hawthorn falling apart, but the Kangaroos are playing scintillating footy. Nick Larkey is shaping as one of the most astute picks of the draft of the past decade and he was in full flight on the weekend. However, I want to take this chance to call out Jaidyn Stephenson and Tarryn Thomas. They are forming one of the most dynamic duos, providing the blue-collar Kangaroos midfield with some champagne footy.

12. Fremantle Dockers (up two)
The Dockers played the Swans on the weekend, and they lost, which was precisely what was expected to happen against the Sydney Swans. They were suffocated by the Swans in a far cry from the earlier match in the season where the Dockers were able to eke out the win. However, the Dockers lost two key players and didn’t completely fall to bits with Nat Fyfe dislocating his shoulder again. Adam Cerra (two goals and 30 disposals) and Andrew Brayshaw (34 disposals) were able to largely make up for the loss of the key players.

11. St Kilda (no change)
There’s only one highlight for the Saints from that match and it is the massive eight contested marks and six goals, one behind from big Max King. The Saints were distant underdogs against the Eagles at their home fortress but they were able to push the Eagles to the death. Jack Steele continued to put his name forward as one of the best captains in the AFL with a gargantuan 13 tackles. Bradley Hill and Zak Jones also continued to be one of the most dynamic outside midfield groups with 1110 metres gained and 58 disposals between them.

Bradley Hill

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)


10. Essendon Bombers (down three)
The Bombers had a golden opportunity to cement their position in the eight. Halfway through the game they appeared to be well on their way. While it was good to see Dylan Shiel make his way back onto the footy field, the Bombers failed to deal with the pressure of the GWS midfield. To only score 11 points in the second half indicates a disconnect between the Bombers’ midfield and forward line. The Bombers now face the uproarious Swans (hopefully at home) where they’ll endeavour to get their season back on track.

9. Richmond (no change)
The Tigers have pretty much cooked their season. They faced the Cats at the MCG and the Cats put them to the sword. The Tigers were dominated by the Cats and were completely unable to deal with Esava Ratugolea and Tom Hawkins. In better news for the Tigers Trent Cotchin played his best game of the year with 19 disposals and a goal, while Jayden Short continues to be the Tigers’ Mr Fixit. As much as it pains me to admit, this nadir of the Tigers is only temporary and they will surge back up the ladder with their solid draft hand.

8. West Coast (up two)
The Eagles got one win closer to the vital finals campaign to relieve pressure on Adam Simpson, who’s been under considerable pressure this year to perform with a game style that appeared slow and outdated. That was a proverbial eight-point game for the Eagles, one they needed to win and it inches them closer to another finals campaign though I am left with questions about their game style.

Adam Simpson addresses the Eagles

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

7. Greater Western Sydney (up one)
The Bombers got the good Giants. It sometimes appears that the Giants play a borderline style with a thin line between them being good and them being atrocious. They were able to get the vital win and leapfrog the Bombers into eighth position. The decision not to tag Lachie Whitfield sticks out as a strange one from Ben Rutten as he dominated the game on the outside with 36 disposals. Daniel Lloyd continues to develop some added flexibility in the midfield.

6. Brisbane Lions (no change)
The Lions are a vastly different side without Eric Hipwood in it. They’re more mercurial, and less consistent as Joe Daniher and his style of play becomes drastically more emblematic of the Lions’ game-style decisions. Jarryd Lyons also continues to have a purple patch against his old club with another Marcus Ashcroft Medal-winning performance against the Suns. Additionally, the Lions were not able to exploit the weight of their opportunities into a bigger victory.

5. Port Adelaide (no change)
Port Adelaide would be disappointed it’s the Summer Olympics now because they are some good downhill skiers. They didn’t answer any questions they have surrounding their game style and I am left asking questions about their decision to play as many tall forwards as they did. While Ken Hinkley would be happy to get back Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma alongside Connor Rozee, he’d be hoping to exploit the final years of Charlie Dixon, Travis Boak, and Robbie Gray at the Power.

Robbie Gray of the Power juggles the ball

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


4. Melbourne Demons (down one)
The Demons have a problem: they can’t score. They have only scored above 80 points once since the bye and they’ve tried Ben Brown, Bailey Fritsch, Sam Weideman, Tom McDonald and a combination of all four. However, it is not a personnel issue, it is rather a connection issue between their forward line and midfield. The best ball use out of the midfield came from Jack Viney with 68 per cent but Christian Petracca and Max Gawn were atrocious, both under 40 per cent disposal efficiency. Going up against the much vaunted midfield of the Western Bulldogs, the Dees were unable to make a dent against them. Melbourne now face a danger game against the Gold Coast Suns.

3. Sydney Swans (up one)
The Swans are the wildcard of the finals series at this moment in time. This was a game for the goal-kicking midfielders and the high half forwards with Luke Parker and Isaac Heeney combining for seven goals. The Swans were still missing some key personnel like Callum Mills due to their recent exposure at AAMI Park in Melbourne. The Swans now face a Bombers outfit in Melbourne eager to atone for their meek showing against the Giants with the finals on the line.

2. Western Bulldogs (no change)
The Bulldogs have cemented their grip on the top spot of the AFL ladder but that’s not the power rankings. The winner of the minor premiership and McClelland Trophy has only won the major premiership once in the past ten years, but that just shows how difficult it is to win a premiership. The Dogs were able to train their high-powered offence on the weaknesses of the Demons’ line-up as Marcus Bontempelli moved his side around to expose the lack of accountability inherent in the Demons’ line-up.

Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs and Tom McDonald of the Demons

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

At the other end of field Josh Schache played his best game for the Doggies with 17 possessions playing as a big back man. The Dogs now face the Crows before going on to face the Bombers where they’re handy chances in both.

1. Geelong Cats (no change)
The Cats just keep winning. It doesn’t matter who they’re playing, they’ll find a way to win. It was good to see Esava Ratugolea put forward a relatively dominant performance where he can show his wares as a primary forward target alongside Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins. The Cats are clearly gearing up for a big finals campaign but as I said regarding the Bulldogs, the Cats have shown an ability to smash sides in the home-and-away season before fading away in the finals series.

Well, there you have it.

What do you think about my rankings, Roarers?