In mid-November, the AFL announced that club lists will be the following: 36 to 38 senior players, 4-6 Category A rookies and two Category B rookies. Rookie listed players will be allowed to play senior football without having to be elevated to the senior list. So many clubs have had to make hard calls on players, with some clubs even demoting senior players to rookie lists. Although there have already been some trades and free agent signings, the free agency period ran November 25 through November 29 with the first list lodgment due November 25 ahead of the free agency period.
It has taken until the completion of round sixteen, but the reigning premiers are back at the top of the AFANA AFL Power Poll after thumping cross-town rivals Fremantle by 91 points on Saturday. The Eagles win coincided with Geelong going down to an improved Western Bulldogs and Collingwood being run over in the last quarter by Hawthorn on Friday night, signaling a change in not only the AFANA Power Poll but betting markets all over the country.
The Brisbane Lions announced to the rest of the competition that they are not only big improvers but a genuine threat to the top four with an away win full of merit against the fancied Greater Western Sydney Giants. Port Adelaide continued it's up and down season by crushing the favored Adelaide Crows in the "Showdown" at Adelaide Oval and the resurgent Kangaroos had another comfortable win, this time over a faltering Saint Kilda.
Thursday night saw Geelong continue its early season dominance with a stirring win over Adelaide, the upstart Brisbane Lions stormed home to defeat the vastly improved Port Adelaide and the Grand Final replay saw the Eagles once again victorious over a disappointing Collingwood.
Highly fancied Melbourne are yet to register a win after faltering against Essendon, the much maligned Gold Coast Suns won again, and Richmond added a couple more players to its ever increasing injury list in a big loss to an impressive Greater Western Sydney Giants at Spotless Stadium.
With just one round to be played before the finals series begins, the top eight is finally taking shape, but there is still plenty to be decided with some big match-ups in the final round. The big winner out of round 22 was Melbourne, which finished strongly against the West Coast Eagles in Perth to book their first finals appearance in 12 seasons, much to the relief of Coach Simon Goodwin. Last year the Demons crashed out of the race late in 2017. Collingwood strengthened its hold on a top four finish with a big win over Port Adelaide at the MCG, effectively ending Port’s finals campaign in the process.
Round eighteen gave us some sensational football with Geelong stealing the limelight. Twenty nine points down in the final quarter to a steadfast Melbourne, the Cats conjured some more Kardinia Park magic to steal a two-point win on a goal after the siren to Zach Tuohy. The Giants won a hard fought away game against a suddenly struggling Port Adelaide, setting themselves up for a top eight finish in the process.
Round seventeen was full of upsets, great finishes and some very big injuries. The Giants resurrected their season with a win over the Tigers, the Eagles rode their big forwards to a classy win over Collingwood, and the Crows celebrated the re-signing of favorite son Rory Sloane by banking a win against the highly fancied Cats.
Biggest loser of the weekend has to go to Port Adelaide, who not only forfeited a chance at second place on the ladder by losing to an undermanned Fremantle,
On a midwinters night in what was effectively a dead rubber, the best that could be hoped for was a close match with some big highlights. Neither brief was filled. Having the roof closed was a small mercy at Etihad Stadium for the 33,780 fans. On form this match would almost certainly be a bankable win to the Saints. In the end it was so, and no mercy was shown to the Blues on field. St Kilda won the toss and kicked to the Lockett end in what seems like a formality in the windless conditions. Carlton tonight were wearing their dirty grey clash strip with the curious fake pockets on their shorts.
By Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia
Hawthorn and Geelong gave us yet another Easter Monday classic with the Hawks scraping home by a solitary point in the match of the round. With just two weeks of the season in the books, the AFL brains trust must be delighted that there are just four teams sitting on two wins. Greater Western Sydney, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn and Gold Coast have set the pace with the Suns being the big surprise packet after outclassing an error-riddled Carlton on Saturday.
St Kilda has once again downed a fancied Melbourne with a frantic 36 point win at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Despite being a vastly improved team in 2016, the Demons could not find the answers to a fast finishing Saints that now hold a fourteen game winning streak over a beleaguered Melbourne. There was reason for optimism early for the Demons as they continually punished the Saints from defense in the first quarter, Jayden Hunt being the catalyst for numerous counterattacks that led to a 17 point lead at the first break.
In one of the biggest upsets of the season to date, a plucky St. Kilda snatched victory in the dying seconds of their match against league pacesetters Geelong in an enthralling contest at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night. Despite trailing by nine points late in the final quarter after some stirring football by the Cats, the young Saints willed themselves forward, scoring two brilliant late goals through Jade Gresham and Jack Steven to seal the Saints first victory over Geelong since 2010. This continues the Saints remarkable night game performance at Etihad where they have won more than 80% of their games in recent seasons. If only the Saints were so good at other times and places.