The byes are over, and this week there were some serious games, serious outcomes, serious ladder changes and serious movements in the power rankings. The seriously powerful are flexing their muscles.
18. North Melbourne Kangaroos
Their engine has stalled, and you don’t get much power when your engine has stopped running. They were absolutely belted by the 13th-placed side, Adelaide. The game was hard to watch. The wooden spoon is all but assured.
17. Essendon Bombers
There was a slight blip in their downward trajectory last week with a good win against the top-eight Saints. Maybe that said more about St Kilda than the Dons. A defeat by the easybeat Eagles confirmed their demise.
16. Hawthorn Hawks
The Hawks have claimed some serious scalps this year, but not recently. A good effort against Fremantle in Perth offered hope. They were just not up to the skill and the intensity of the Bulldogs. After quarter-time they were blown away.
15. Adelaide Crows
They did have a win. They beat up on North Melbourne. But doesn’t everyone?
14. Greater Western Sydney Giants
Their final chance of making the eight and the finals was extinguished this weekend. They faced a crucial game and brought their B-grade effort to the MCG. They did try to kick it up in the second half, but it was too little, too late. Good luck, Clarko!
13. West Coast Eagles
They had disappeared into a deep, dark place at the end of last season and the first half of this year. Injuries, COVID, border closures – they had it all. Their only reprieve this year was a 2018 grand final reverie against the Magpies. They made a contest against Geelong. Then they conquered the Bombers. A convincing win and no fluke. The old V8 engine was coughing into life – maybe it’s only running on six, but it’s blowing out the old carbon deposits. Good luck to any team taking a West Coast Eagles win for granted (apologies to Jack Riewoldt).
12. Gold Coast Suns
This weekend they saw their finals hopes fade in Adelaide. They looked dismal for the first quarter but came back and gave it their all. Mabior Chol seems like the recruit of the year. He’s only getting better. But they were not quite good enough. They are now level with Port and fighting with them for a dim chance of the finals.
11. Port Adelaide Power
It has been a hard year for the Pears. Injuries aside, they had a dreadful start. But they are coming good. They may still yet challenge for the eight. This week it was a hard-fought victory. Todd Marshall has stepped up and is showing what a star he can be.
10. St Kilda Saints
They have looked promising, but right now they look deeply disappointing. They were beaten by Bombers at home last round and then gave a really soft performance against a middling Swan. They’re sitting tenth on the ladder. I think the position flatters them.
9. Western Bulldogs
Like Port Adelaide, they had a terrible injury-inspired start to the season. Players are coming back and they are trying hard for the eight. They are just there on percentage but have a really hard run home. There was nothing wrong with their workmanlike win against the Hawks and GWS the week before. They are on the up.
8. Collingwood Magpies
They’re humming along nicely. They had a good win over GWS, although they had to hold them off at the end. They vanquished Melbourne before the bye. But it’s hard to rate them higher when ninth-placed Richmond convincingly beat them the week before. Apart from the occasional blond-headed goal sneak, it seems to be the oldies who are producing the goods.
7. Sydney Swans
They dealt with the Saints, but so did Essendon. And the week before there was the weak effort against the resurgent Port Adelaide. The Swans still have Lance Franklin and Isaac Heeney but seem to be lacking the real power burst to pull away from teams. A bit like a six-cylinder turbo with the turbocharger bearings worn out.
6. Brisbane Lions
How the mighty have fallen. They played a wounded Melbourne still missing star ruckman Max Gawn. They had a flying first quarter. Then the wheels fell off. They couldn’t score on any forward thrust and they were outmuscled in the middle and decimated in the backline. This was their stunned deer before the headlight moment. I think they are gone. For the season. I think I have to use the P-word. Pretenders.
5. Fremantle Dockers
At one stage Fremantle fans were looking at live ladders and seeing a rise to second, but it was not to be. Everybody was sure that the injury-laden, backline-denuded Carlton were going to be defeated. But no, Fremantle were beaten for strength in the middle and had no match for the tall Carlton forwards. The Dockers did not have the firepower to put the score on the board.
4. Carlton Blues
What a magnificent win. Injured players, makeshift backline, no problem. This is a great confidence booster and cemented a top-five spot and most probably a top-four berth. Sam Docherty, Sam Walsh and Zac Fisher starred. Charlie Curnow kicked four on a quiet day.
3. Richmond Tigers
They’re the big movers, and why not? They’re playing well in bursts. Maybe not for a full game, but when they do it, they are scary, they are intimidating and they are playing winning football. Shai Bolton and Tom Lynch are absolutely starring. They have beaten the Pies and Carlton. They just pulled up short of a firing Cats by a magnificent Jack Henry mark and goal. Have they beaten anyone else in the eight? Besides Sydney, they haven’t played many potential finalists recently.
2. Geelong Cats
What are they doing up here? They should be below the radar, but they haven’t really taken a backwards step. They lost to Fremantle way back in April but since have been racking up workmanlike victories. Jeremy Cameron is in spectacular form. Tyson Stengle is challenging Chol for mature-age recruit of the year. Henry is back in town, Tom Stewart is in Brownlow form – maybe the Charlie for him 2023 – and even Rhys Stanley playing alright. Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Rohan and Brandan Parfitt are still to return.
1. Melbourne Demons
The empire strikes back. Three straight losses and then a bye. Internal strife, injured champion ruckman and Christian Petracca playing like a reserves player. They were playing the top-of-the-table side, Brisbane, who had been cruising, just racking up wins.
Like a huge monster truck, Melbourne rolled the starter motor and had a quiet first quarter, but then the engine powered into life, and they monstered the poor Lions. They ran them over, choking up the forward line. They consistently outmarked them. Steven May asked: what morale issue? Then the old firm in the middle got together. Petracca and Clayton Oliver just outmuscled any Brisbane midfielder, driving the ball forwards again and again. Then the Demons forwards fired. A demolition. Usually I would think a side would need a few wins to re-establish first ranking. But not this team.