Optus Stadium was the location for champagne football on a fine Sunday afternoon and the next day became the venue for a rain-sogged slugfest. This Monday night's (Perth time) game saw the Geelong Cats finish convincing winners by booting six goals against the undermanned Fremantle Dockers. It was a rain-soaked game where the team with the highest number of fit and mature bodies would win. The Dockers fielded a team without a recognized tall defender and their dual Brownlow Medalist captain Nat Fyfe was one of eleven Dockers on their extensive injury list. The Cats had an injury list nearly as long, which included Gary Ablett, Joel Selwood, and Rhys Stanley. It wasn't the number of non-injured players that won the Cats the game; it was the physical maturity of the players fielded, which gave them the winning advantage.
Much maligned Carlton has held on grimly to defeat a fast-finishing Geelong by just two points at Kardinia Park on Saturday night – the Blues first win at Geelong’s home park since 1996. This continued a series of surprising results in this already unusual season. The star of the Carlton show was undoubtedly veteran Eddie Betts, with the plucky goal sneak not only kicking the game’s opening goal but bookending it with a game-saving tackle within the last minute of the match.
Carlton stunned the highly fancied Geelong by dominating the first quarter through some great work by star midfielder Patrick Cripps and emerging ruckman Marc Pittonet, with the aforementioned Eddie Betts chipping in with two goals. At quarter time the Blues led by 25 points after what was comfortably their most impressive quarter for the season to date.
Melbourne rolled to a 29-point win over a hapless Geelong on the back of a scintillating first quarter at the MCG on Friday night. Long suffering Demons fans celebrated wildly as their team broke a decade long finals drought and the party might not stop here. The dominant performance would have resulted in a much larger winning margin had the Demon forwards brought their kicking boots, with Melbourne managing just 1 goal, 10 behinds in two quarters of football to give Geelong a sniff of a comeback after halftime.
Melbourne Demons vs Geelong Cats (MCG)
State of Play:
This is a battle between two differing line-ups: the finals hardened Cats and the young enthusiastic Demons. After a disastrous end to 2017, Melbourne finished strongly this season to book their finals berth for the first time in 12 years. By contrast, Geelong has missed the finals only once in the same 12 year period. The contrast continues with the Cats playing two easy beats in Gold Coast and Fremantle to complete the minor round, winning both games by over 100 points each.
And then there were eleven. After a cracking round nineteen that saw the Tigers hold off an injury hit but brilliant Collingwood, the Swans sink further into trouble with a loss to the Bombers and Carlton actually notch a win, there looks to be only eleven teams left in the race for the top eight. The Adelaide Crows all but dropped out of contention after being overrun by a revitalized Melbourne in the city of churches, while the Giants marched into top four contention with yet another win, this time over a plucky but inaccurate Saint Kilda.
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.
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)
Finally the bye weeks are all done and dusted, and how the footy landscape has changed as we head into the final 10 rounds of the season. In the tightest finals race seen in recent times, there are 12 teams that currently have realistic claims to a finals berth. Here’s how the AFANA Power Poll shapes up as we head into a fascinating stretch run.
1. Adelaide Crows (Last time - 2)
Geelong capitalized on Docker errors to post a convincing win to launch their season. With the return of Aaron Sandilands, Fremantle dominated in the ruck and won more clearances than Geelong, but Fremantle’s frequent skill errors gifted the ball to their opponents. The Cats midfielders, Patrick Dangerfield, Mitch Duncan and Joel Selwood punished any Fremantle turnovers and shot the ball deep into the Geelong forward zone. Tom Hawkins
A sell-out crowd of almost 14,000 saw the Greater Western Sydney Giants overcome finals favorites Geelong in a stirring performance that signals their arrival as a team to be reckoned with. The fact that the Giants did it with ex-Cat Stevie Johnson kicking two important goals made it all the more memorable for the fledgling club.