Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia
In a quirky scheduling twist this week, round eleven – celebrating Australia’s Indigenous heritage - saw the top eight teams pitted against the bottom eight, giving the top teams the chance to stretch their advantage while those struggling had the opportunity to make up some ground. Fast forward to Monday, and with all of the games in the books, the top six teams on the AFANA Power Poll all had wins, keeping them at the top of the tree.
Two teams in the top half of the Power Poll couldn’t get things done, and find themselves dropping down this week – coincidentally both of these teams are from the same city! Read on to get a handle on what went down and which teams are riding high at the unofficial half way mark of the season….
1. West Coast Eagles (Last Week: 1)
The good news is the Eagles cruised into their bye with a nine-game winning streak courtesy of a 13 point win over a plucky Saint Kilda. The bad news is a potentially nasty ankle injury to key forward Jack Darling.
2. Richmond Tigers (2)
The Tigers were back to their aggressive best against Essendon on Saturday night, thumping the Bombers by 71 points. With Dion Prestia, Daniel Rioli and Bachar Houli not far from returning, Richmond has built a solid platform to once again challenge for the premiership.
3. Melbourne Demons (3)
Melbourne has now won six in a row after easily accounting for the Bulldogs on Saturday at Etihad Stadium. Coach Simon Goodwin must feel that he has the team to go all the way, despite losing ex-Crow Jake Lever to a suspected ACL injury on the weekend. Next Monday the Demons take on the in-form Collingwood on the Queen’s Birthday holiday, in what should be a sensational game of footy.
4. Sydney Swans (4)
The Swans took care of Carlton by 30 points at the SCG on Friday night, with ruckman Callum Sinclair leading the Swans charge in arguably a best afield performance, though it was live wire mid/forward Isaac Heeney who took home the Goodes O’Loughlin trophy, voted as best by a panel of AFL greats.
5. North Melbourne Kangaroos (5)
It was another impressive performance by Brad Scott’s Kangaroos as they cruised to a 54 point win over an injury hit Lions at Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Despite losing forward Jarrad Waite to injury in the pregame warmup, midfielders Ben Cunnington and Shaun Higgins led from the front to keep North Melbourne in the mix for a top four spot on the AFL ladder.
6. Geelong Cats (6)
Gary Ablett junior returned to the Gold Coast to take on his old team at Metricon Stadium, and the little master showed no mercy on his former team mates as the Cats crushed the Suns by a whopping 85 points. Touted as a “danger” game for Geelong, it turned out to be anything but as Ablett, Mitch Duncan and Tim Kelly tore the hapless Suns apart in front of a crowd of 17,500 - most of which came to boo Ablett for leaving the fledgling franchise for his old club in Geelong.
7. Collingwood Magpies (9)
Collingwood had no problem in accounting for Fremantle at the MCG on Sunday, romping to a 61 point win that sees the Magpies back in the top eight and eying off a top four spot. The Collingwood midfield of Scott Pendlebury, Tom Phillips, Steele Sidebottom and Adam Treloar is as good as there is in the AFL right now. Add in the form of ruckman Brodie Grundy and forward Will Hoskin-Elliott (6 goals) and you have a team that can seriously make some noise in the rest of 2018.
8. Greater Western Sydney Giants (12)
The Giants had their collective backs against the wall as they visited Adelaide to take on the Crows in a do or die game on Saturday. Early in the last quarter in what was an enthralling match, the Giants trailed and were in danger of drifting out of finals contention. Enter Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio, Jeremy Cameron and Zac Langdon who produced an inspired 20 minutes of fierce football to silence the crowd as the Giants rolled to one of their greatest victories. They’re not done yet.
9. Hawthorn Hawks (11)
The Hawks trailed Port by 24 points at quarter time at University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston on Saturday, and things were looking grim. Once again Coach Alistair Clarkson masterminded a comeback to have Hawthorn back in the game at half time, then go on to win a tight one by just three points against a Port team that was held to just four goals after quarter time. Tom Mitchell once again led the way in the win, which now sees the Hawks equal with Port on six wins, huge in the context of a tight season.
10. Adelaide Crows (7)
The Crows played some pretty good football in what was the best game of the round against the struggling but talented GWS Giants. In a tight affair, the Crows trailed by 12 points at three quarter time but fought their way in front during the last quarter, only to see the Giants rally for a hard fought win. Decimated by injuries and having lost three of its last four, Adelaide must defeat a Fyfe-less Fremantle this week to keep in touch with the eight.
11. Port Adelaide Power (8)
The second Adelaide side to slip down in the Power Poll this week is Port Adelaide, who looked the goods in the first quarter against the Hawks in Tasmania but could not sustain their momentum. The Power displayed poor discipline in conceding an unheard of eleven 50 meter penalties in the match, effectively handing the Hawks the win in in a game that Port should have taken the points.
12. Essendon Bombers (10)
Big wins over Geelong and the Giants in consecutive weeks had given Essendon fans a boost, raising their hopes of a win against the reigning premiers on Saturday night at the MCG. Twenty minutes into the second quarter after three consecutive Bomber goals those hopes looked like they might be fulfilled as Essendon challenged the Tigers. Hope turned to despair in short order as Richmond steamrolled the Bombers from that time on, running out big winners. A shoulder injury to David Zaharakis added to the Essendon pain as their finals hopes took a beating at the hands of the hungry Tigers.
13. Western Bulldogs (13)
The Bulldogs once again stuck with their stronger opponent in Melbourne early in the game, but failed to maintain the challenge due to a drop in efficiency under continuous pressure. Lachie Hunter, Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli once again stood out as best for the Bulldogs, but this young team has too many holes right now.
14. Brisbane Lions (14)
The Lions lost Charlie Cameron, Allen Christensen and Hugh McCluggage to injury during their 54 point loss to the Kangaroos, effectively robbing them of the chance to stage any sort of comeback. The fact the young Lions didn’t allow the score to get much worse is a credit to their fight, with Dayne Zorko, Dane Beams and young Cameron Rayner leading the way.
15. Fremantle Dockers (15)
The Dockers were no match for Collingwood at the MCG, and to make matters worse had their star player Nat Fyfe put on report for a high hit on Levi Greenwood. With the Adelaide Crows up next week and Fyfe missing, it is hard to see Fremantle mounting any case to win, despite the game being at home.
16. Carlton Blues (17)
The Blues lost again, this time to Sydney by 30 points, but it was another solid showing on the back of their plucky game against Geelong at Kardinia Park in round 10. There are signs of improvement, but Blues fans are no longer satisfied with “honorable” losses.
17. St Kilda Saints (18)
The Saints took on the hardest road trip in football, playing the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium in Perth. At three quarter time, the Saints trailed by 48 points and were in danger of getting crushed, however they fought back through Tim Membrey (6 goals), Jack Newnes and Jack Sinclair to reduce the margin to 13 points at the final siren. An improved showing.
18. Gold Coast Suns (16)
The Suns finally hosted their first home game (delayed due to the Commonwealth Games) with some added spice provided by the return of ex-Sun Gary Ablett junior. A solid home crowd expected a good showing from the Suns, but what Stuart Dew’s men served up was nothing of the sort. An abysmal, uninspired performance by the Suns sends them plummeting to last place on the AFANA Power Poll this week.
Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 4:26 PM EDT