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Liam Shiels tackles Mark Baguley as the Bombers pressure

Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia

Almost a third of the way into the 2018 season and round seven gave us some answers while it also gave us plenty of questions. The West Coast Eagles are for real, Richmond are showing no signs of the dreaded “premiership hangover” and the Sydney Swans have seemingly lost their home ground dominance. Hawthorn is once again a contender after moving out the old and adding some ready- made talent.

What has happened to the expected rise of Essendon and the return to contender status of Port Adelaide? When will Carlton start to show signs of emerging from a seemingly endless rebuild? In what is shaping up to be one of the most open seasons in recent times, there are no doubt many fascinating twists and turns yet to come.

On to the AFANA Power Poll for round seven, where there has been plenty of movement at the top end.

1.    West Coast Eagles (Last five games, 5-0) 
The Eagles are without doubt the biggest surprise of the AFL season so far. Expected to miss the finals by most football experts due to the retirement of veterans Sam Mitchell and Matt Priddis, the team has reinvented itself with youngsters Andrew Gaff and Dom Sheed leading the way. Their round seven demolition of a highly fancied Port Adelaide was just another tick in what has been an excellent 2018 season in their new home at Optus Oval.

2.    Richmond Tigers (5-0) 
The Tigers successfully negotiated three games in 13 days – all wins – to sit on top of the AFL ladder after seven rounds. Whilst they have been blessed with few long term injuries so far, Richmond continues to play its high pressure brand of football with brilliant success. They have shown an ability to outlast the opposition, dominating final quarters consistently.

3.    Adelaide Crows (4-1) 
Adelaide has had a horror injury run in 2018, losing high quality players such as Rory Sloane, Taylor Walker, Matt and Brad Crouch and Eddie Betts for multiple weeks. Through the tough injury run they have managed to keep winning, showing a list depth that would make many teams envious. When the Crows list becomes fully healthy, they will be in great shape to go one better than last season.

4.    Geelong Cats (3-2) 
Geelong has not had things all its own way in 2018 with injuries to key players in Gary Ablett Junior, Harry Taylor and Lachie Henderson, yet the Cats continue to gain big scalps. Their definitive win over Greater Western Sydney on Friday night reminds us of how powerful this team can be. Recruit Tim Kelly has to be the pickup of the year, showing great skill and the ability to win plenty of the ball every week.

5.    Hawthorn Hawks (3-2) 
The Hawks have re-invented themselves with James Sicily, Jaeger O’Meara and Isaac Smith leading the way. Hawthorn’s speedy running style was way too good for Essendon on Saturday and stands them in good stead against the league’s best. Coach Alistair Clarkson continues to show why he is regarded as the best in the business.

6.    Collingwood Magpies (4-1) 
The Magpies have quietly gone about their business in the last five weeks, their only blemish a loss to league pacesetters Richmond in which they hung with the Tigers for three quarters before falling away late. The return of bad boy Jordan De Goey and form of rising star Jaidyn Stephenson has given Collingwood an injection of pace and skill that they needed. The Magpies are definitely a team to watch. 

7.    North Melbourne Kangaroos (3-2) 
The Kangaroos have been nothing short of amazing this season, their win over Sydney at the SCG on Saturday night yet another highlight for the under-appreciated Roos. With Shaun Higgins, Ben Cunnington and Ben Brown leading the way, the surprising Kangaroos have shown the rest of the AFL they should not be taken lightly. 

8.    Greater Western Sydney Giants (2-1-2) 
The Giants have struggled of late however their talent cannot be discounted. Injuries to high profile players Jeremy Cameron, Toby Greene, Josh Kelly, Tom Scully, Rory Lobb and Brett Deledio have stretched the Giants to breaking point. With most of the aforementioned apart from Scully due back in 1-2 weeks, the Giants will no doubt make a run at the top four before all is said and done.

9.    Sydney Swans (3-2) 
The Swans have failed to regain their midfield domination in 2018, with Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Dan Hannebery either hurt or down on form. With home losses to Adelaide, Port and now the Kangaroos, their usual home fortress of the SCG seems to have been broken. The return of spearhead Lance Franklin should help to get the Swans back on track sooner rather than later.

10.    Melbourne Demons (3-2) 
The Demons have won their last two games, and seem to finally be showing some of the promise we expected to see in 2018. Key forward Jesse Hogan is playing a role further up the ground that could prove a masterstroke with his elite endurance. With Jack Viney almost ready to return from injury, things are looking up for the Demons.

11.    Port Adelaide Power (2-3) 
The Power put in a terrible performance against the Eagles in Perth on Saturday, going down by 42 points and providing little opposition to an undermanned Eagles outfit. With high profile recruit Tom Rockliff banished to the South Australian Football League (Port’s reserves team); the supposed rise of Port this season has hit a sizable snag. They still have the talent to make some noise in 2018, but right now supporters are getting nervous.

12.    Western Bulldogs (3-2) 
The improvement of the Bulldogs after a tardy start to the season has been a slow burn, but three wins in their last five games has them back with at least a pulse. Midfielder Jack Macrae has been magnificent for the Bulldogs all season, with youngsters Aaron Naughton and Ed Richards showing enough to suggest they will be long term players for the club.

13.    Fremantle Dockers (2-3) 
The Dockers showed some fight against Richmond on Sunday but ultimately fell away as a final quarter Tiger surge doomed Fremantle to a big loss. Nat Fyfe continues to show he has regained his best form, but with injuries to Michael Walters, Bradley and Stephen Hill and Matt Taberner, their depth is being stretched.

14.    Gold Coast Suns (1-4) 
The Suns have fallen away after a strong start to 2018, this time going down in a close one to the Bulldogs in Ballarat. The biggest issue for the Suns is not just injuries; it is that their injuries are to most of their key position players. Tom Lynch, Peter Wright, Steven May and Pearce Hanley are all being sadly missed while Aaron Hall languishes in the reserves. It looks like another lost season for the struggling franchise.

15.    Essendon Bombers (1-4) 
The Bombers have hit the skids in a big way, losing three in a row and producing some pretty ordinary football in the process. Touted as almost certainties to return to finals in 2018 on the back of heavy off-season recruiting, Essendon has been far too inconsistent while lacking the firepower to be taken seriously this season. With Joe Daniher looking to miss a month with injury, the Bombers need to find some competitive fire, and find it quickly.

16.    Brisbane Lions (0-5) 
The Brisbane Lions are 0-7. However there is light at the end of the tunnel after a narrow loss to Collingwood in Brisbane on Sunday. Coach Chris Fagan has plenty to work with, the young talent of Cam Rayner, Alex Witherden and Eric Hipwood sure to pay dividends in the long run.

17.    St Kilda Saints (0-1-4) 
The Saints are suffering not only from a lack of form in general; they have an abysmal goal kicking record, kicking 61 goals and 89 behinds in their seven games. They continue to miss easy shots, leading to a lack of confidence every time a chance presents itself. Coach Alan Richardson has a lot of work to do if the Saints are to salvage their season.

18.    Carlton Blues (0-5) 
Carlton is preaching patience to their supporter base, but those same supporters are getting frustrated. With no wins to show from seven starts, a lengthening injury list and a Coach in Brendon Bolton who doesn’t seem as fired up as the fans expect, 2018 is becoming a recurring nightmare for the Carlton faithful.

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

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