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The battle for eighth continues: AFL Round 20 power rankings

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Roar Guru
2nd August, 2021
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It would seem that no one wants to end up in eighth.

Several sides had golden opportunities to cement the eighth spot or even go into eighth but they failed. We had West Coast drop the ball against Collingwood, while North gave an almighty fright to Geelong and St Kilda continued to be the most disappointing side this year. Read on for my power rankings this week.

18. Adelaide Crows (down one)
Going down to blustery Ballarat for a battering by the Bulldogs, the Crows have had an extremely disappointing second half of the year marred by poor ball movement and a stagnant kick mark style. Adelaide has a scoring issue where none of their big key forwards seem to be able to hit the scoreboard. It’s Taylor Walker or nothing, and with Tex entering the twilight of his career, you can’t rely upon him for the majority of your scores.

17. Gold Coast Suns (down three)
Yuck. That’s my summary of the game. To go down by 98 points to Melbourne was gross. It begs the question as to when pressure will start to be applied to Stuart Dew. He is almost the longest-lasting coach for the Suns in their short tenure but he has the worst winning percentage of all of them.

The Suns now face a newly confidant Carlton in a match I am dubbing the Clarkson Cup as both sides have been linked with mercurial coach Alastair Clarkson.

Alastair Clarkson

(Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

16. North Melbourne Kangaroos (down three)
The Roos have made their second home in Blundstone Arena something of a fortress as they’ve played an exponentially more assertive brand of football in the second half of the year. However, it was too much to ask them to get over the top of premiership fancies in Geelong, and while the 20-point margin does speak to the newfound ability of the Kangaroos to stay in games, it obscures the fact that Geelong were atrociously inaccurate (eight goals and 14 behinds).

15. St Kilda (down four)
That was woeful from the Saints. They had the chance to make the eight and really cement their opportunity as a top-eight contender. Instead, we are left rueing the inability of the Saints to maximise their opportunities. Zak Jones, Luke Dunstan and Jack Steele combined for 95 disposals yet outside of three goals to Max King in the first quarter I have a hard time pointing to highlights of the game.

This year will be a year of missed opportunities for the Saints with an ironic twist of fate as the under-pressure former Blues coach and the under-pressure current Blues coach faced off.

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14. Collingwood Magpies (up three)
The Magpies are building something right now. They ought to be praised for their willingness to begin developing the youth of their side after contending.

While I think the Pies have a ways to go yet before they’ve restored faith in their organisation the performances Robert Harvey has his charges turning in is fantastic to see. The Pies beat the Eagles at their own game style with a monumental 167 marks (ninth-highest ever) and 102 more uncontested possessions. They suffocated the Eagles and they made them look second-rate.

Harvey has taken the best aspects of the Nathan Buckley game style and applied his own spin to it to give it a more offensive lean.

13. Carlton Blues (up two)
The Blues are now having their best season in eight years since the win on Friday. The scoreline might flatter the Saints somewhat, but for the Blues to do what they did while without their best ruckman was a positive reflection on the coaching and style that David Teague has his charges playing. Of note for the Blues fans would be Harry McKay kicking five goals and Jack Silvagni chimed in with a goal and 25 disposals.

Harry McKay of the Blues kicks a goal

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

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But that’s all irrelevant as Blues supports would be ecstatic that Charlie Curnow got through his first game in 700 days. The Blues now face the Gold Coast Suns hungry to atone for their meek performance today.

12. West Coast Eagles (down four)
That was exceptionally disappointing from the Eagles, the disappointment to rule all disappointments. To put up such a meek performance to mark Shannon Hurn’s 300th game was exceptionally poor from the Eagles as it appears that the league has moved on without them in record pace. It leaves Adam Simpson and his men with numerous questions about how they can develop their line-up and game plan when they’ve very clearly sold out their future in the name of success now.

11. Hawthorn Hawks (up seven)
This is a difficult game to position. On the one hand, the Hawks were up by 53 points two-thirds of the way through the third quarter, but on the other hand, the final margin was only 12 points which puts Brisbane’s comeback three points ahead of the previous record (38 points in the miracle on grass). This match shows that Alastair Clarkson still has the hunger and the coaching nous left in him to take another team to the promised land, and while his exit was acrimonious, I do think that Clarkson will make Hawthorn rue the day they ousted him.

10. Richmond Tigers (down one)
It truly is remarkable that after losing six of the last seven games the Tigers can still make the eight.

The Tigers look dejected after loss.

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

This was a disappointing game for the Tigers, and a far cry away from the best footy we know the Tigers are capable of. For the spoiled Tiger army there wasn’t too much to take from the game. Without Dustin Martin, the Tigers are unable to brutalise their opponents on offence. The Tigers had their opportunities and with 13 marks inside-fifty and their pressure was able to force the Dockers into 76 turnovers.

The Tigers now face a solid North Melbourne outfit eager to get their season back on track.

9. Essendon Bombers (up one)
There are few teams I detest losing to more than the Swans because they’re always agonisingly close, and some of my earliest memories at the footy was seeing my Bombers obliterated them by a hundred points in a preseason game. This was the third loss where the Bombers scored over 100 points indicating a potent forward line, but the scores came from unique parts of the ground. Nick Hind, Devon Smith (two goals) and Zach Merrett (two goals) all chimed in to give the Bombers a new-look forward line while Aaron Francis provided a big central target to kick to with greater aerobic capacity than Cale Hooker.

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The Bombers fell agonisingly short once again but I am not too cut up about it given the machinations that occurred surrounding the movement of the game interstate. Essendon now face the Western Bulldogs eager to end their hoodoo, which has resulted in a string of losses since Round 18 of 2014.

8. Fremantle Dockers (up four)
They gave the Tigers the old heave-ho. And as a neutral supporter, I am here for this. The Dockers’ supporters would be ecstatic with the performances of Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw as they combined in a master class of inside and outside dominance. The win was made all the more impressive by the absence of Michael Walters and Nathan Fyfe.

However, given the length of their slated absences, I believe this will be extremely damaging to the make-up of the Fremantle Football Club. Good on the Dockers, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re going to be simply making up the numbers.

I also want to point out how magnificent the Dockers jumper looked as well, yes I believe retro round is more a mark of vapid consumerism but that guernsey was great to see and maybe they should roll it out for more occasions.

Andrew Brayshaw of the Dockers.

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

7. Brisbane Lions (down one)
The Lions look to be headed back to the dark days of the Voss Leppstitch years as they gave up a 53-point lead to the Hawks. It was good to see them come back but with South Eastern Queensland denied to them the Lions are seriously struggling in the absence of Eric Hipwood and Cam Rayner.

However, I do not think this is a full accounting of the problems the Lions are having at the moment. Their midfield is too one-paced and Joe Daniher is past his best. The Lions are in danger of having the ignominious title of ‘wasted year’. The Lions have fallen away in a big big way, their lack of injuries over the last few years emphasised their exemplary injury management but obfuscated their lack of depth.

6. Greater Western Sydney Giants (up one)
The GWS Giants are in a weird position. Their most important player is the talismanic Shane Mumford along with the combative Toby Greene, and they were at their best. However, the conundrum wrapped around an enigma this year is a glut of mediocre teams around their position.

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The AFL would say that this is attributable to their equalisation or the ‘any given Sunday’ mentality but I say the Giants are just the least bad of the log jam. But to paraphrase Homer Simpson, the two most brilliant words of the English language are de fault, and the Giants are winning by default at the moment.

5. Port Adelaide (no change)
Port are loading up for a massive finals series with the return of Zac Butters, Orazio Fantasia and Xavier Dursuma. Their forward line is still a little too top-heavy and I am left questioning the logic of playing Mitch Georgiades, Peter Ladhams, Todd Marshall and Charlie Dixon, leaving two-thirds of their forward line over 195 centimetres. The glut of inside fifties (+19) belies the thin margin between the Power and Giants.

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With Steven Motlop and Robbie Gray still to come back in and their AFL team humming along beating the teams they’re supposed to beat they’re loading up for a charge at the eight. Even as recently as 2019 the Giants were able to make the grand final from outside the top four and it reveals how doable the feat is.

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4. Sydney Swans (down one)
The Swans are playing scintillating football. They’d be disappointed to give up over 100 points but they’d be euphoric they got the win against their reviled enemy in the Bombers. Callum Mills was extraordinary for the Swans coming off a two-week mandatory isolation due to him being at an exposure site, and his stats clearly show a man on a mission with 33 disposals, 522 metres gained and a goal.

You’d have to think that Mills was nearly a lock for the Skilton medal and then some.

Callum Mills of the Swans

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

I do have my doubts as to whether Lance Franklin should’ve got off after decapitating a player against Fremantle, however, the Swans were the better side and much as I detest them I must commend them for how they’ve been able to reinvent their game style on the run this year.

3. Melbourne Demons (up one)
Melbourne appear to have resolved their scoring problems. Put out your cheese boards ladies and gentlemen, as the mediocre maladies that have plagued the Melbourne footy club finally appear to be over. That was their most well-rounded performance this season as the Suns appeared more akin to traffic cones than opposition players.

Four goals to Ben Brown and Luke Jackson was a desperately needed return to form from the Demons’ big men as they’re sure to need more consistent output from these players. The ignominious doldrums of mid-table indignity appear to be over as the Demons are finally relishing their chances against inferior opposition.

2. Geelong Cats (down one)
The big sticks Cats. They kicked nearly twice as many points as goals down in the windy conditions in Tasmania. But it was the Guthrie Brothers show as Cameron and Zach Guthrie put on a clinic with 29 and 28 disposals respectively. For Zach Guthrie in particular, it was his best game in the hoops off of a halfback flank with 28 disposals, 13 marks and 11 intercepts to do his chances of a contract extension no harm.

The Cats should have won that game by more as they more than doubled their opponents’ scoring shots and nearly doubled their inside fifty count, however Ben McKay blanketed Tom Hawkins extremely effectively, forcing the Cats to have to find alternate avenues to goal.

Tom Hawkins of the Cats celebrates a goal

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

1. Western Bulldogs (up one)
The Bulldogs have managed to fix one of the key faults in their game style in that they have finally found some depth at the key position in defence. Josh Schache has shown some of the potential as to why he was taken Pick 2 in the National Draft while also shoring up a key fault in the Bulldogs’ game.

The Bulldogs were able to play the blustery conditions to great effect as they used their superior run and carry by hand playing into the wind to exploit the Crows’ lack of speed on the outside to maximal impact. The Bulldogs now face the Bombers in a do-or-die clash for the Essendon footy club and the Dogs will be confident as they’ve had the wood on the Bombers almost as long as Richmond have.

There you have it, folks. Three more weeks and you’ll be done with my dulcet tones. I won’t do power rankings for the finals, but I will do them for the trade period and preseason.

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