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By Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia

There are just three rounds of the regular season remaining, and the make up of the final eight remains on a knife edge. A big win by the Adelaide Crows over crosstown rivals Port Adelaide has put the Crows six points clear at the top of the table, setting them up for two home finals and Premiership favoritism. The other big stories to come from round 19 were the Greater Western Sydney Giants back on track and looking primed for a big run into September, the Geelong Cats are stumbling, and the Richmond Tigers look to have confirmed an unlikely finals spot just a year after being in crisis.

1.    Adelaide Crows (Last time - 1)
The Crows have established themselves as clear premiership favorites after demolishing fellow finals aspirants and crosstown foes the Port Power by 84 points at Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon.

2.    Greater Western Sydney Giants (3)
The Giants powered to a solid 35 point win over a disappointing Melbourne in Canberra on Saturday. The return of gun midfielder Stephen Coniglio, along with the addition of traded Tiger Brett Deledio in his first game for the season after multiple calf issues, gives the Giants added grunt in their march to the finals. With forwards Jeremy Cameron, Jonathon Patton and Toby Greene all to return in the coming weeks, the Giants look the most likely to challenge Adelaide for the title.

3.    Sydney Swans (5)
The Swans took on the toughest road trip in footy – the trip to Geelong’s fortress of Simonds Stadium – and barely raised a sweat in trouncing the Cats by 46 points. Whilst Geelong was missing the league’s best player in Patrick Dangerfield, the Swans were also missing Captain Josh Kennedy as they continued their rampage up the ladder. With plenty of finals experience on hand, Sydney has a realistic chance to pull off a miracle premiership after starting the season with an 0-6 record.

4.    Richmond Tigers (6)
While most football pundits haven’t taken Richmond’s solid season seriously up until now, wins over the Giants and Hawthorn in recent weeks have vaulted the Tigers into third position on the AFL ladder. Using a predominantly small forward line out of necessity due to injury and personnel, the Tigers have been frantic with their tackling to lock the ball into the forward area and therefore increase their scoring chances. It has been a long time since Richmond featured deep into the finals, and you can be sure their loyal supporter base will be out in force, enjoying every second.

5.    Geelong Cats (2)
The Cats drop to 5th on the AFANA Power Poll after a dismal showing against the Swans at home. The good news that star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield returns next week was soured somewhat by an injury to Joel Selwood that will keep him out for the rest of the home and away season. Add to that suspensions through misconduct by Tom Hawkins and Pitch Duncan, and the Cats have a tough task ahead to secure an all-important top four spot on the ladder.

6.    Western Bulldogs (11)
The Bulldogs get the biggest boost this week, all the way up to number six. With four wins in a row and momentum building, the reigning premiers are finally starting to resemble the team that took the 2016 finals series by storm. Currently in 7th position on the AFL ladder, there is still work to be done over the final three rounds, but the back to back dream remains alive.

7.    Port Adelaide Power (4)
The Power was absolutely terrible in its 84 point loss to the Crows on Sunday afternoon. Promising a tough contest in the local Showdown”, Port delivered nothing. Despite the awful display on Sunday, the Power sits in 5th position on the ladder, and still has a realistic top four chance if they can return to their early season form.

8.    Essendon Bombers (10)
Essendon didn’t look anything like a premiership contender in their win over Carlton on Sunday, however they did show plenty of fight in coming from behind to win against the plucky Blues. With the easiest run of all top eight contenders in the next three weeks, a place in the 2017 finals is theirs to lose.

9.    Melbourne Demons (7)
Despite kicking the first three goals of the game against the Giants in Canberra on Saturday, the Demons failed to match the intensity of the hosts, eventually losing by 35 points. Looking like a genuine premiership threat just a month ago, the Demon’s form has dropped off, leaving it with plenty of work to do if it wants to get back into the premiership conversation.

10.    St Kilda Saints (9)
The Saints were on the brink of finals elimination in the final quarter against the West Coast Eagles at Etihad on Saturday, but they refused to lose. A couple of late goals saw the Saints over the line by eight points, giving them a lifeline to a possible finals appearance with three rounds remaining.

11.    West Coast Eagles ( 8 )
The Eagles have struggled in recent weeks, losing two close games to both Collingwood and St. Kilda after leading late into the final quarter in both. The narrow losses have put the Eagles in a precarious position, as they now sit just outside the top eight. With an ageing list and the impending retirements of Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell, the Eagles will be desperate to squeeze into the top eight and have a crack at premiership glory.

12.    Collingwood Magpies (14)
A draw with highly fancied Adelaide and a solid 54 point win over the Kangaroos has given the Collingwood faithful some momentum at the tail end of their season. While finals participation is out of the question, the Magpies recent form may be enough to save the job of Coach Nathan Buckley as the entire football department is currently under review.

13.    Hawthorn Hawks (12)
The Hawks were no match for the speed and pressure of Richmond in their 29 point loss on Sunday, however the future looks a lot brighter than it did just a couple of months ago. With their finals aspirations now dashed, the youth movement at Hawthorn will continue.

14.    Fremantle Dockers (13)
The Dockers have been somewhat an enigma this season, their best form good enough to trouble the top teams but they have not been able to consistently produce that form. A 23 point win over the struggling Gold Coast Suns will give their fans some hope, and most importantly, past Brownlow Medal winner Nat Fyfe seems to be finally regaining his best form after suffering a broken leg last season.

15.    North Melbourne Kangaroos (17)
The Kangaroos have produced back to back wins, taking down the Gold Coast Suns after a stirring win in Tasmania against Melbourne just a week earlier. It has been a tough season for the Roos with retirements and injury, but the two recent wins will give some hope for fans coming into 2018.

16.    Brisbane Lions (16)
The Lions took the game right up to the Western Bulldogs at the Gabba on Sunday, even taking the lead into the final quarter, before the classy Bulldogs turned the tables to win by 14 points. With a plethora of young talent, narrow losses will turn into wins for the Lions in 2018 and beyond.

17.    Gold Coast Suns (15)
The Suns form has declined in tandem with their increasing injury list, resulting in some heavy losses in recent weeks. Coach Rodney Eade will not retain his position beyond this season, so a fresh start awaits this talented list in 2018.

18.    Carlton Blues (18)
The Blues have been on the slide, not surprising given the loss of Justin Cripps to injury. With most of their talent either older or very young, the off season will see the Blues open the checkbook in an attempt to lure gun free agents such as Josh Kelly and Jake Lever, to boost their young stocks with a view to returning to the powerhouse they once were.

Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT

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