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By Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia

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)
The Crows played their best football of the season in dismantling a Geelong team they have struggled to handle in the recent past. From the opening bounce, Adelaide attacked both the football and their opposition, sending a message to the rest of the league that they will be the team to beat this season. With a win over Geelong and the Giants struggling to find form, the Crows are now clear premiership favorites.

2.    Sydney Swans (5)
The Swans move up to second on the AFANA Power Poll on the back of their seventh win in a row, a 42-point drubbing of St Kilda on Saturday night at the SCG. After a horror start to the season, Sydney now has serious claims on returning to the Grand Final just a year after going down to the Western Bulldogs in the big one.

3.    Geelong Cats (2)
The Cats drop a spot after going down to Adelaide in the top of the table clash at Adelaide Oval. The Crows were the better team all night, never seriously looking threatened by a Geelong team that has had the wood on the Crows in the past. No need for panic stations at Geelong, with a top four spot still well within it’s grasp.

4.    Richmond Tigers (6)
The Tigers came up against the Giants at the MCG on Sunday looking to keep pace with the top four, while the Giants were desperate to re-establish themselves as a Grand Final favorite after an indifferent five weeks of form. It was the Giants who jumped out to an early lead, holding a twenty point advantage at the first break. After that, Richmond went to work with a ruthless display of hard tackling that appeared to fluster the Giants. As the rain came, the Tigers seemed to go up another level, eventually running out 19 point winners and in doing so, snuck into the top four. The resurgence of the Tigers is of the great stories of the season so far.

5.    Melbourne Demons (7)
The Demons conjured a massive win over previously fourth placed Port Adelaide at the MCG on Saturday. Regaining Jack Watts and more importantly Jack Viney, the Demons were simply more desperate than a disappointing Port who fell out of the top four with Richmond beating the Giants. Boasting one of the youngest lists in the AFL, there looks to be great times ahead for the Demons, both this season and beyond.

6.    Greater Western Sydney Giants (3)
Just a matter of weeks ago the Giants were sitting top of the table and looking to cruise into the September with home finals on tap. After losing to the Tigers on Sunday, despite remaining in third position, they are desperately trying to find a way to get back on track. With a tough draw to come home, a top four finish looks unlikely.

7.    Port Adelaide Power (4)
It was a case of a missed opportunity for the Power as they were completely outplayed by a hungrier Melbourne Demons on Saturday at the MCG. The run home for Port still gives them a strong chance to finish top four, but if they miss out, the loss to the Demons will loom large. An ankle injury to start forward Chad Wingard further soured the rough weekend for the Power.

8.    Essendon Bombers (10)
The Bombers did what they had to do against an undermanned Kangaroos on Friday night at Etihad Stadium, cruising home to win by 27 points. While not at their best, the win keeps the Bombers in the top eight, and with a soft run home, they should stay there until finals time.

9.    Western Bulldogs (11)
The Bulldogs played some of their best footy for weeks with a strong 54 point win against the Gold Coast Suns in Cairns on Saturday. A six goal haul from Liam Picken led the way for the resurgent Bulldogs which finds itself just one game out of the eight with five rounds to play. The reigning premiers are not done yet.

10.    Hawthorn Hawks (12)
The Hawks are long odds to make the finals – they would need to win every remaining game and hope other results fall their way – but they are certainly sending a message that they will be no pushover in 2018. A massive 52 point win away from home against Fremantle was not expected by many. With some solid young talent and the best coach in the business in Alistair Clarkson, the Hawks won’t be down for long.

11.    West Coast Eagles ( 8 )
The Eagles put themselves in a position to consolidate their top eight spot, leading Collingwood by 24 points early in the final quarter at Etihad Stadium on Sunday. The fact that Collingwood were down to 20 fit men with Darcy Moore and Travis Varcoe both hospitalized, should have meant that the Eagles could coast to a comfortable win. They didn’t. Instead, they seemed to stop. Collingwood gave everything in the contest, smashing the Eagles in contested ball in the last 20 minutes. When the final siren went, the Magpies had stolen an unlikely victory over a devastated West Coast Eagles, leaving their top eight dreams in tatters.

12.    Collingwood Magpies (14)
Collingwood pulled off the gutsiest win of round 18, coming from four goals down with just 20 fit men to take down the Eagles at Etihad Stadium. Amidst speculation about coach Nathan Buckley’s future, the Magpies found something in the last quarter, refusing to lie down when they had every right to do so. The eight point victory was one that warmed the hearts of Magpie fans who have endured a horror year that promised so much.

13.    St Kilda Saints (9)
Since rolling the Tigers in a scintillating performance just two weeks ago, the Saints have turned in a couple of shocking performances, last week against Essendon and on Saturday against the rampaging Sydney Swans. Those losses by a combined 113 points have left the Saints to pick up the pieces of their season. Unless they can turn things around this week against Port Adelaide – a tough task given they do not have a good history in Adelaide – the Saints will not be playing in the post-season.

14.    Brisbane Lions (16)
The Lions move up to 14th on the Power poll after a comprehensive win against a disappointing Carlton at the Gabba on Sunday. Whilst the Lions remain last on the AFL ladder, their form is definitely on the up, and there is plenty to like about this team in 2018 and beyond. Eric Hipwood, Hugh McLuggage and Alex Witherden look to be starts of the future that the Brisbane franchise can continue to build around.

15.    Fremantle Dockers (13)
The Dockers were totally outclassed by the Hawks at Domain Stadium on Saturday night in what was another disappointing performance. Expected to take the game right up to the Hawks, the Dockers could not get their running game going, eventually going down by 52 points. Coach Ross Lyon has a lot to do before season 2018 commences.

16.    Gold Coast Suns (15)
The Suns once again failed to fire a shot in the absence of star midfielder Gary Ablett Jr. With Ablett being rested for most games away from Metricon Stadium, the Suns are struggling to compete with bigger bodies midfields as their younger players develop. Ablett will return this week for a home fixture against the Tigers, and you can guarantee the Suns will give a much better showing. Either way, coach Rodney Eade’s fate appears sealed as the Suns will miss the finals once again.

17.    North Melbourne Kangaroos (17)
The Kangaroos are looking towards 2018. First choice ruck Todd Goldstein was sent down to the reserves, gun midfielder Jack Ziebell was rested, and a very young Kangaroo outfit went down to Essendon by 27 points despite never giving up. The rebuild is well and truly on at Arden Street.

18.    Carlton Blues (18)
No matter which way you slice it, any enthusiasm about the Blues future has to be tempered when they go down to the cellar dwelling Brisbane Lions by 30 points. While the Blues were missing some top line talent, in particular Patrick Cripps and Caleb Marchbank, coach Brendan Bolton would not have been pleased with what he saw on Sunday.

Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 4:11 PM EDT

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