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It's been a dark year for the Blues

Twenty one rounds into the AFL season and incredibly the finals and top four races remain wide open and just two weeks to go. A big win to Richmond over the Suns has locked up a top two spot for the reigning premiers while an amazing last gasp win to the Eagles – in almost identical fashion to their final in 2017, and once again over a distraught Port Adelaide – leaves them in great shape to finish in the top two and secure a home final.

A gutsy win to Hawthorn over Geelong has catapulted the Hawks into fourth position on the AFL ladder, in turn sending the Cats crashing out of the eight, while the Giants 14 point win over Adelaide kept them in great shape for a finals double chance while ending the Crows chances of any finals participation in the process.

Arguably the biggest winner over the weekend was the Sydney Swans, who overcame the fancied Melbourne despite being two men down early – one of those men being the luckless Alex Johnson who suffered what looks to be his 6th ACL tear – in their finest win of the season, adding to the questions over Melbourne’s mental toughness in close games.

Here’s how the AFANA AFL Power Poll looks with just a couple of rounds to play before the major round begins.

1.    Richmond Tigers (Last Time: 1) 
The Tigers welcomed back tackling machines Jack Graham and Dion Prestia as they demolished the Gold Suns at Metricon Stadium. Spearhead Jack Riewoldt booted 10 goals in a best afield performance as the reigning premiers locked in a top two finish. 

2.    Greater Western Sydney Giants (2) 
The Giants are the form team of the competition, winning their 5th game in a row while dispatching Adelaide out of the finals race for 2018. Rory Lobb had a day out for the Giants with 15 disposals, 40 hitouts and a whopping eight tackles. They are building towards a big finals campaign. 

3.    West Coast Eagles (4) 
Somehow the Eagles conjured a win despite never leading the game in regulation time, with Jeremy McGovern kicking a goal after the final siren to steal victory from Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. With the loss of Andrew Gaff to an eight week striking suspension during the week, it was a massive win in the scheme of things, setting up a potential home field advantage for their first two matches in the finals series.

4.    Collingwood Magpies (5) 
Collingwood comfortably defeated Brisbane at Etihad Stadium, with Taylor Adams, Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom dominating the contest. The Magpies continue to perform well despite a decimated backnline, and will be eying off a top four spot come finals time. 

5.    Hawthorn Hawks (7) 
The Hawks are an amazing football team. The playing list doesn’t appear imposing on paper; however the team is greater than the sum of its parts, including super coach Alistair Clarkson. In defeating the fancied Geelong on Saturday at the MCG, Hawthorn has slowly crept into contention for an all-important top four finish. 

6.    Sydney Swans (10) 
Sydney could be forgiven for being run over by a rampant Melbourne early in the second quarter on Sunday, having lost two players for the game and conceding multiple inside 50 meter entries to their opponents. They did the opposite. A virtuoso performance by Isaac Heeney and 19 other committed Swans saw the Sydneysiders stave off a late charge by Melbourne to win by nine points. They can never be counted out.

7.    Melbourne Demons (6) 
In direct contrast to Hawthorn, Melbourne is a team oozing with talent that has shown an inability to win against top teams. Yet to defeat a top eight team this season, the Demons have beaten up on the lesser teams to boost their percentage to a point that they should still make the finals. If and when they can overcome their mental demons, their talent level says they will be hard to stop.

8.    Geelong Cats (3)
Geelong has had a couple of disastrous weeks, going down in a tight one to the Tigers before blowing an early lead against Hawthorn on Saturday. Such is the tightness of the competition that the Cats suddenly find themselves out of the top eight looking in, with two games to play. The good news is Geelong has an easy run to the line, facing Fremantle and the Gold Coast both at home to complete the minor round. 

9.    Essendon Bombers (9) 
Four wins in their last five has Bomber fans still holding out of making the finals, but with matches against Richmond and Port Adelaide to complete their minor rounds, they will have earned it if they do in fact make it. There have been plenty of bright spots for Essendon in 2018, however they will rue a loss to lowly Carlton if they just miss out on playing finals.

10.    Port Adelaide Power (8) 
Port Adelaide had a disastrous night at Adelaide Oval on Saturday, not only stealing defeat from the jaws of victory against the Eagles but losing key forward Charlie Dixon to a broken leg in the process. With first choice ruckman Patty Ryder carrying a troublesome hip flexor and two tough games (Collingwood & Essendon) to come, the Power’s finals chances are precariously placed.

11.    North Melbourne Kangaroos (11) 
Another team that blew a golden opportunity to stake claims on a finals berth, the Kangaroos gave up a solid 28 point half time lead, conceding eight goals to the Western Bulldogs in the third quarter en-route to a seven point loss. Like Essendon, will need plenty of results to go their way to make the finals.

12.    Adelaide Crows (12) 
The Crows loss to Greater Western Sydney was a microcosm of their season. They played very good football in bursts, but were unable to maintain that level consistently, having costly lapses that let their opposition take control. With their chance to play finals gone, 2018 has been a big let down after appearing in the 2017 Grand Final as favorites to win.

13.    Brisbane Lions (13) 
The Lions couldn’t match Collingwood for four quarters but as they have most weeks, showed enough to suggest they could take a big jump up the ladder in 2018. Keeping Dayne Beams who has been rumored to move to another club will be important in guiding the young midfield in 2018.

14.    Western Bulldogs (18) 
The Bulldogs have had a mini-revival as the season winds down, winning their last two games and with Carlton this week they are every chance to make it three in a row. The way they came from behind against the Kangaroos stands the Bulldogs in good stead with such a young squad heading into 2018. 

15.    Fremantle Dockers (16) 
The Dockers took care of Carlton as expected, but moving forward will be an interesting team to watch in 2018. There is star power in Nat Fyfe, Lachie Neale and young guns such as Adam Cerra, but questions remain on the overall quality of the list.

16.    St Kilda Saints (15) 
For the Saints, the end of the season cannot come quick enough. 2018 has been an unmitigated disaster for a team that was supposed to battle for a top eight berth. As low start next season will make Coach Alan Richardson very nervous about his future at the club.

17.    Gold Coast Suns (14) 
Three weeks ago we were singing the praises of the Suns after they upset Sydney for the first time in their history. Since then the boys from the Gold Coast have endured three big losses, including one against the worst team in the league in Carlton.

18.    Carlton Blues (17) 
Patrick Cripps is a star. Charlie Curnow is on the way to becoming one. The Blues need to find some talent to supplement them as they head into next season.

Article last changed on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 - 3:50 PM EDT

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