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Dustin Martin
Dustin Martin Tore It Up

After 23 rounds of sensational footy we now have our eight finalists ready to battle it out for the 2019 AFL premiership in a weeks time. The Western Bulldogs smashed their way into the last available finals spot by running out 34 point winners over a disappointing Adelaide Crows in Ballarat on Sunday. Just a couple of hours later, Richmond ended Brisbane’s nine-game winning streak with a 27 point win at the MCG, earning the Tigers a double-chance plus a road trip to Brisbane to once again face the Lions in week one of the finals.

Collingwood held on to the double-chance with a narrow win over an injury-hit Essendon in their Friday night clash, while the West Coast Eagles blew their opportunity to steal a top four berth back when they stumbled to a shock 38 point loss to Hawthorn at Optus Stadium.

Geelong stood up in the friendly confines of GMHBA Stadium to blitz Carlton to the tune of a whopping 68 point win, clinching the minor premiership and looking ominous as they head into big games of September.

The Giants tuned up for the major round with a comfortable win over cellar-dwelling Gold Coast, the Kangaroos stole victory over Melbourne at Blundstone Arena in Tasmania and Port Adelaide ended its season on a solid note with a big win over Fremantle. Buddy Franklin returned for the Swans and did not disappoint the home fans as he booted four goals in the Swans 45 point win over Saint Kilda.

With the premiership cup up for grabs, how does the AFANA AFL Power Poll rank the contenders as we look forward to one of the most open and anticipated finals series in many years? Here we go:

1.   Richmond Tigers (2) 
Richmond grabbed top spot on the AFANA AFL Power Poll heading into week one of the finals, courtesy of a solid win over previous poll leader in Brisbane. Dustin Martin was back to his best as the Tigers used a fast start to halt the Lions winning streak at nine. An intriguing rematch – this time in the much tougher venue of the Brisbane Cricket Ground – awaits Damien Hardwick’s men in week one of the finals.

2.    Brisbane Lions (Last Week: 1) 
Brisbane lost for the first time on 10 weeks at the hands of the equally hot Tigers at the MCG on Sunday, but were far from outmatched. The Lions can take solace in the fact that their rematch in week one of the finals takes place on their turf, where Brisbane are riding a 10 game finals winning streak courtesy of the Brisbane clubs of the early years of the century.

3.    Collingwood Magpies (4) 
Collingwood’s win over Essendon on Friday night at the MCG sealed the double chance for the Magpies, and a date with league leading Geelong in week one of the finals. Collingwood can expect some big names back from injury and suspension, putting them in a very strong position to avenge the premiership that narrowly eluded them in 2018.

4.    Geelong Cats (5) 
Geelong was back to its best in claiming a big win over Carlton at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday, sending the Cats back to the top of the AFL table and securing the minor premiership when Brisbane lost to the Tigers on Sunday. While the Cats have been a little under par of late, we shouldn’t forget they were by far the best team in the AFL for a large part of the season. Primed for a big September.

5.    West Coast Eagles (3) 
The Eagles took a costly stumble on Saturday night on their home deck of Optus Oval, as they went down to an on-song Hawthorn by 38 points. The loss knocked the Eagles out of the top four and removed the safety net of a double chance in the finals. While an elimination final against Essendon in Perth looks to be an almost certain win, so did a round 23 match-up with Hawthorn. The Eagles have the talent to win it all, but will now have to win tough games on the road to do so.

6.    Western Bulldogs (6) 
With big wins over the Bombers, Giants and now Crows in successive weeks, the Bulldogs are shaping up as the team that nobody wants to face in the finals. Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Josh Dunkley are in scintillating form, giving Bulldog fans hope that the 2016 premiership cup could soon have company.
7.    Essendon Bombers (7) 
The undermanned Bombers went down narrowly to Collingwood in a spirited performance on Friday night at the MCG. Coach John Worsfold will be hoping to get some soldiers back for their elimination final against the West Coast Eagles on Thursday night at Optus Oval. Whilst the Bombers task is daunting, they did defeat the Eagles at Optus in round 14 last season.
8.    Greater Western Sydney Giants (8) 
The Giants ended a rough two game losing streak by punishing the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium, eventually running out 72 point victors. Jeremy Cameron booted nine goals in a commanding performance to set up a meeting with the Bulldogs in Sydney in week one of the finals.

9.    Hawthorn Hawks (9) 
The Hawks didn’t go quietly in round 23, causing the upset of the round in defeating the highly fancied West Coast Eagles in Perth. Chad Wingard played arguably his best game in the brown and gold, gathering 28 possessions including 10 entries inside 50 meters. 
10.    North Melbourne Kangaroos (10) 
The Kangaroos narrow win over Melbourne at Blundstone arena gave them a 10-12 record on the season, not a bad result given they were not expected to make the finals in 2019. Youngsters Tarryn Thomas, Cameron Zurhaar, Kayne Turner and others will be looked upon to take the Kangaroos further in 2020.
11.    Port Adelaide Power (12) 
Both Adelaide teams failed to make the finals in 2019, but there is no doubt that Port Adelaide has the more favorable playing list of the two moving forward. Traded in youngster Ryan Burton plus draftees Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma and Zack Butters should have Port on a fast track back into the finals in 2020.

12.    Carlton Blues (11) 
The Blues final game against Geelong was a disappointing one, highlighting how far Carlton still has to go before being considered a finals contender. What cannot be dismissed is the progress that has been made under new coach David Teague, and that there is plenty of young talent to take Carlton back to being an AFL powerhouse.

13.    Sydney Swans (14) 
Sydney didn’t make the finals, but have overhauled their list to the point where they are one of the youngest in the competition. The Swans should be knocking on the door of the finals again soon. 

14.    Adelaide Crows (13) 
Next to Melbourne, the Crows have to be considered the next most disappointing team in 2019. A soft draw combined with a much better run with injury was supposed to send Adelaide back into premiership contention. Heads are about to roll at the Adelaide headquarters.

15.    St Kilda Saints (15) 
The Saints have had a tough run with injuries in 2019, but even that couldn’t save Alan Richardson at the helm. A new coach, possibly interim Brett Ratten, will look to guide the Saints back to the finals next season.

16.    Fremantle Dockers (16) 
Another lost season ends for the Dockers. A fresh coach will take the reins in 2020. 

17.    Melbourne Demons (17) 
 A horrible season from Melbourne. The biggest disappointment of all in 2019.

18.    Gold Coast Suns (18) 
18th spot for 18 losses in a row.

Article last changed on Friday, August 30, 2019 - 12:45 PM EDT

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