A packed house at the MCG for the two clubs with (probably) the biggest following in Melbourne made the most noise heard all year at the MCG. It began in the lead up to the sides running onto the arena for the first Preliminary Final. Richmond were undeniable favorites going into the game, but there has been something special building at Collingwood this season under a more relaxed coach Nathan Buckley, Perhaps taking his lead from the 2017 Damien Hardwick success story.
It took until the dying minutes of the game for the West Coast Eagles to overcome a spirited Collingwood Magpies in the 2nd Qualifying Final. It was the second trip to Perth for the Pies in as many weeks, and they proved that they are not overawed at the prospect of playing in front of nearly 60,000 hostile fans in the cauldron of Optus Stadium. There were a dozen lead changes over the course of the game and it could have gone either way as time ticked down. Both sides were spent, but it was Lewis Jetta who danced on a dime to put the Eagles in front when it mattered – five minutes out from the final siren.
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.
With De Goey and Treloar out of the Collingwood team over the past few weeks, few gave Collingwood a chance of defeating ladder leader and reigning premiers, Richmond. They pushed the Tigers for three quarters before the toll of losing two defenders in Howe (to concussion) and Scharenberg (to a knee injury) saw Richmond run away to a 28-point win.
As July days go this was a warm one in Melbourne. It was an overcast day and perfect conditions for footy and 88,180 fans in black and white or black and gold packed the MCG. There was an earlier than traditional Saturday afternoon kickoff time but most fans were in well ahead of first bounce.
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.
There are just three rounds of the regular season remaining, and the make up of the final eight remains on a knife edge. A big win by the Adelaide Crows over crosstown rivals Port Adelaide has put the Crows six points clear at the top of the table, setting them up for two home finals and Premiership favoritism. The other big stories to come from round 19 were the Greater Western Sydney Giants back on track and looking primed for a big run into September, the Geelong Cats are stumbling, and the Richmond Tigers look to have confirmed an unlikely finals spot just a year after being in crisis.
1. Adelaide Crows (Last time - 1)
The Crows have established themselves as clear premiership favorites after demolishing fellow finals aspirants and crosstown foes the Port Power by 84 points at Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon.
2. Greater Western Sydney Giants (3)
The big winners in Round 18 were the Adelaide Crows and the Sydney Swans. The Crows win over second placed Geelong in Adelaide gives them a six-point buffer at the head of the table, providing a great chance at finishing in first at the end of the minor round with the bonus of home finals. For the Swans, their big win over the Saints has them sitting 6th as the best performed team in the last two months.
The big loser over the weekend was the West Coast Eagles, whose final quarter capitulation against an undermanned Collingwood dropped them out of the top eight, leaving them with an uphill battle ahead to work their way back into finals contention.
1. Adelaide Crows (Last time - 1)