There is just one minor round of the AFL season to go. In what has been an incredible season to date, we still do not know which eight teams will play in the finals, and amazingly, which teams will get the all-important double chance.
The only team guaranteed to finish top two is the Adelaide Crows, who maintain the top spot on the AFANA power poll despite a narrow loss to the rampaging Sydney Swans in Adelaide on Friday night. Speaking of the Swans, the Sydneysiders became the first team in history to make the finals after starting the season 0-6. To top it off, the Swans are a chance to move into fourth place next weekend, boosting their chances for a ride all the way to the premiership.
Where does this leave the other 16 teams as we head into the round 23? Let’s take a look.
1. Adelaide Crows (Last time - 1)
The Crows came back from a 29 point deficit against the Swans to take the lead late in the final quarter in one of the games of the season. Not to be denied, the Swans kicked the last two goals of the game to win by just three points. Both teams can take plenty of positives out of the game, but the 11.14 to 13.5 score line, plus an Inside 50 meter count of 63 to the Swans 42 shows the Crows should have won. If they can be more accurate in front of goal, they will be hard to beat.
2. Sydney Swans (3)
The Swans have already made history in making the finals after their horror 0-6 start, but don’t think for a moment they are satisfied with just being there. Coming off a stirring three point-win over premiership favorite Adelaide, Sydney has a ton of momentum coming into round 23 and the finals. Only Carlton and a Richmond win over St Kilda stands on the way of a top four finish for the red hot Swans.
3. Greater Western Sydney Giants (2)
The Giants completed a workmanlike 21 point victory over the West Coast Eagles on Saturday at Spotless Stadium, locking in a top four spot for the finals. The form of Brett Deledio, in his third game back from a long term injury, would heave pleased the Giants brains trust as GWS are finally getting their talented list together for a run at the finals after a wretched run of injuries.
4. Geelong Cats (5)
The Cats took care of a spirited Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday, despite an early scare when the Magpies piled on seven first quarter goals. A tantalizing round 23 matchup against the Giants awaits the Cats on Saturday night, in a game that could vault them into second spot on the ladder if they can defeat the Giants.
5. Richmond Tigers (4)
It isn’t often you can drop a spot on the AFANA Power Poll after a thumping 104 point win, so the Tigers can consider themselves a tad unlucky. Needing to win to keep their top four chances alive, Richmond overcame a slow start to completely pulverise the hapless Dockers in the last AFL game ever to be played at Domain Stadium. For the Tigers, the equation is simple. Defeat St Kilda at the MCG on Sunday, and they will finish top four and earn the double chance. Lose and they will play an all or nothing elimination final.
6. Port Adelaide Power (7)
The Power took on the reigning premier Western Bulldogs at Eureka Oval in Ballarat on Saturday. In a tight game in blustery conditions, Port trailed at three quarter time but had the advantage of the breeze in the final quarter. Charlie Dixon and Robbie Gray led the charge as the Power stormed home to win, all but eliminating the Bulldogs from the finals race. With a home game in round 23 against a struggling Gold Coast, Port can still finish top four if results go their way.
7. Melbourne Demons (9)
The Demons never really hit top gear but they did enough to defeat the improving Brisbane Lions at the MCG on Sunday. The 13 point victory was enough to keep Melbourne in the box seat to take their place in the finals for the first time since 2006. The most pleasing aspect of the Demons win was the six-goal haul from full forward Jesse Hogan, returning after a two week absence due to a broken collarbone.
8. Essendon Bombers ( 8 )
The Bombers have all but claimed a finals berth after a scrappy 33 point win over an undermanned Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night. Inaccuracy in front of goal was the order of the day for Essendon who should have beaten the Suns by a far greater margin, as evidenced by the 71-31 inside 50 meter count. The good news for Bomber fans is their round 23 match is against Fremantle, who have been on the receiving end of 104 point floggings from Sydney and Richmond.
9. St Kilda Saints (10)
The Saints kept their slim finals hopes alive with a workmanlike 49 point victory over a struggling North Melbourne. To make the finals, St Kilda will have to defeat Richmond – not out of the question given they thrashed the Tigers just a few weeks ago – however they still have to rely on other results going their way, a much less likely scenario.
10. West Coast Eagles (11)
The Eagles put up a solid fight on the road against an almost full-strength Giants outfit at Spotless Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Trailing by just one point at three quarter time, West Coast failed to match the class of the Josh Kelly led Giants in the final quarter, eventually going down by 21 points. A lot would have to go right for the Eagles for them to scrape into the top eight, starting with a win over the first placed Adelaide Crows.
11. Western Bulldogs (6)
The Bulldogs traveled to Ballarat knowing only a win against Port Adelaide would keep the dream of back to back premierships alive. In a tight tussle, the reigning premiers were found wanting when the going got tough in the final quarter, eventually going down by 17 points. It would take a round of extraordinary upsets for the Bulldogs to scrape into the eight.
12. Carlton Blues (18)
The Blues get the biggest boost of the week on top of arguably their best performance of the season, defeating highly favored Hawthorn by seven points. Despite fielding one of their youngest line-ups for the season, Carlton were clearly the better side, giving Coach Brendon Bolton a big lift heading into the off-season.
13. Collingwood Magpies (12)
The Magpies jumped out of the blocks quickly against premiership fancies Geelong to pile on six first quarter goals, however once again a lack of consistency came back to haunt them. Adding just three goals for the rest of the game, Collingwood were overrun by the Cats, going down by 11 points. The Nathan Buckley coaching conundrum continues.
14. Hawthorn Hawks (13)
The Hawks have showed some resilience this season after undergoing massive personnel changes, however they let retiring champion Luke Hodge down with a below par performance against the Blues on Saturday night.
15. Brisbane Lions (16)
The Lions once again showed plenty of fight against a better credentialed opponent, this time Melbourne, giving the Demons an almighty scare in the final quarter before eventually going down by 13 points. The signs are positive for the young Lions moving forward.
16. Gold Coast Suns (15)
Yet another tough week for a banged up Suns outfit under interim coach Dean Solomon, going down to Essendon by 33 points. The AFL will continue to invest in the Gold Coast project, with the next two seasons crucial to its development.
17. North Melbourne Kangaroos (17)
The Kangaroos are blooding young talent with a view to the future, as such they were no match for a St Kilda outfit striving to make a last ditch attempt at playing in the finals. North Melbourne will throw the checkbook at high profile free agents Dustin Martin and Josh Kelly with a view to bolstering their top tier talent.
18. Fremantle Dockers (14)
The Dockers are limping to the line this season, suffering back to back 104 point beltings. With a finals bound Essendon to come in the final round, things may get worse before they improve in 2018.
Article last changed on Wednesday, August 23, 2017 - 1:33 AM EDT