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Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia

Zak Jones and Will Langford contest.

Round eight gave the football public some classic matches, making a mockery of those in the media who have been complaining that the overall standard of the AFL is trending downward. It started with a brilliant contest between Hawthorn and Sydney at the MCG on Friday night with the Swans storming home to take the win after it looked like the Hawks had the game won.

Young forward Ben Ronke was the star of the show for Sydney with a whopping seven goals to his name in the absence of Buddy Franklin. Saturday afternoon saw a classic South Australian “Showdown” decided by a Steven Motlop goal with less than 30 seconds remaining, giving the Port Power a five point win over a shattered Adelaide Crows.

In other matches Richmond remained top of the ladder with a hard fought 10 point win over an improved North Melbourne, West Coast won their sixth game in a row away from home against the fancied Greater Western Sydney and Carlton broke through for its first win of the season over a disappointing Essendon at the MCG. Gary Ablett Jr. returned to lead Geelong to victory over an inaccurate Collingwood, while the Melbourne Demons continued their resurgence with a big win over the struggling Gold Coast Suns in Brisbane. The Bulldogs and Fremantle were also winners over the Lions and the Saints, who both showed patches of good form but remain at the wrong end of the AFL ladder.

On to the AFANA Power Poll for round eight, with the top two spots remaining unchanged after great wins to the Eagles and the Tigers, who meet each other in Perth next round in a tantalizing Sunday matchup.

1.    West Coast Eagles (Last Week: 1) 
The Eagles continued their winning ways, taking care of the Giants at Spotless Stadium despite the late withdrawal of key back man Jeremy McGovern. West Coast has been super impressive in 2018, and will take a six game winning streak into next week’s blockbuster at home against the reigning premiers in Richmond. With forward Jack Darling in career best form, they Eagles will be very hard to beat.

2.    Richmond Tigers (2) 
The Tigers faced a determined North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, and it took a mighty effort from the reigning premiers to overcome the Kangaroos after trailing early into the final quarter. Playmaker Dustin Martin was all but blanketed out of the game by Kangaroo tagger Ben Jacobs, so it was left to Tiger Captain Trent Cotchin to lead the way for Richmond, racking up 37 touches in a match winning performance.

3.    Geelong Cats (4) 
Recruits Tim Kelly and Esava Ratugolea continue to perform for Geelong who not only keep winning, but manage to keep opposing teams to low scores despite injuries to key back men. This time it was Collingwood on the receiving end as the Cats ran out 21 point winners over the Magpies. Sam Menegola stepped up with three goals in the absence of Tom Hawkins who was serving a one game suspension for umpire contact.

4.    Adelaide Crows (3) 
The Crows went down in a thrilling showdown at Adelaide Oval on Saturday after looking like they had stolen the match from Port Adelaide in the final minute. With three consecutive goals the Crows took the lead, only to see their lead disappear in the last 30 seconds as Port’s Steven Motlop nailed the sealer in magnificent fashion. Injuries to Rory Sloane and Brad Crouch are reducing the impact of the Crow’s midfield, so Adelaide will be desperate to have them back.

5.    Hawthorn Hawks (5) 
The Hawks are a little lucky to retain their 5th place on the Power Poll this week, having gone down to the Sydney Swans in a tight affair on Friday night at the MCG. The reality is the Hawks should have won the game, leading at the 21 minute mark of the final quarter before allowing the Swans to steal the game with three late goals. There is still plenty to like here, and with X-factor Cyril Rioli still to return, Hawthorn should continue be a tough contender into the second half of the season.

6.    Sydney Swans (9) 
The Swans came from the clouds to defeat Hawthorn in a cracker of a match on Friday night, Ronke’s seven goals and a great performance from midfielder Luke Parker the highlights of Sydney’s performance. The Swans continue to explore ways to win in the absence of spear head Lance Franklin, which will stand them in good stead when Franklin does return to the fold. 

7.    Melbourne Demons (10) 
The Demons are rolling. With three wins in a row and a big percentage boost with their crushing of the Gold Coast over the weekend, it appears that Melbourne is finally ready to deliver on the promise it has shown in the last couple of seasons. Tom McDonald continued his great form up forward since returning from injury, kicking five goals against the Suns. With Carlton up next, look for the Demons to rise in the power poll again next week.

8.    Port Adelaide Power (11) 
The Power continues its Jekyll and Hyde 2018 season, turning in a startling second half performance to overrun the highly favoured Adelaide Crows in the “Showdown” of the South Australian combatants at Adelaide Oval. After a poor showing in Perth last week, the Power were superb in overcoming Adelaide to take the lead, only to lose the lead late before pinching a famous victory in front of 50,000+ screaming fans. Robbie Gray was incredible for the Power kicking six goals for the match.

9.    North Melbourne Kangaroos (7) 
The Kangaroos had the Tigers in their sights on Sunday at their Etihad Stadium home, taking the lead in the final quarter in their quest for yet another big scalp. It wasn’t to be, as Dustin Martin finally broke the Ben Jacobs tag to log three score assists in a frenetic final term. Despite the narrow 10 point loss, the Kangaroos once again showed they are no easy beats in 2018. Ben Cunnington was on fire for North Melbourne, setting a new AFL record with 32 contested possessions for the match.

10.    Collingwood Magpies (6) 
The Magpies were plucky in the face of adversity against Geelong at the MCG on Sunday, eventually going down by 21 points. The loss through injury of Darcy Moore and Tom Phillips proved too much to overcome for the Magpies who struggled in front of goal kicking 5.15 for the match. In a game that was to be honest a dour and uninspiring battle, Collingwood lacked the class and run to challenge the Cats when it came to the crunch in the final quarter. 

11.    Greater Western Sydney Giants (8) 
The Giants were looking for some respite from a tough start to the season when they hosted the Natanui-less West Coast Eagles at home, but despite holding the lead briefly in the second quarter, the Giants were outplayed by a well drilled Eagles outfit. Unusually it was ball use – usually a strong suit - that cost the Giants victory in this game, as they matched the Eagles for contested possession and clearances. Stephen Coniglio, Tim Taranto and Callan Ward battled all day to be the Giants best.

12.    Western Bulldogs (12) 
The Bulldogs once again fielded the youngest team in the competition in winning their third game in a row against the Brisbane Lions on Saturday. The victory was even more meritorious given the Bulldogs lost defender Aaron Naughton in the first few minutes of the game to a nasty ankle injury. Jackson Macrae had a whopping 47 possessions for the Bulldogs in a best on ground performance as they eventually shrugged off the Lions by 14 points.

13.    Fremantle Dockers (13) 
The Dockers showed comfortably accounted for St Kilda at Optus Oval on Saturday. Fremantle won the battle in the center square with ruckman Aaron Sandilands giving first use of the ball to his midfielders as they won the clearance battle 39-29. Nat Fyfe had another stellar game for the Dockers as the rangy midfielder continues to show the form that won him the Brownlow medal in 2015. He was ably supported by Lachy Neale and Connor Blakely.

14.    Carlton Blues (18) 
The Blues finally broke through for their first win of 2018, so they are getting a big boost in the power poll this week! As if victory wasn’t sweet enough for Carlton, it was against their greatest rival in Essendon, who were favored to continue the season of pain for the Blues. In a tight affair, Carlton came home strong in the final quarter through some excellent work by Charlie Curnow up forward and Patrick Cripps in the midfield. Ed Curnow also had a strong game, but will come under scrutiny after appearance to put his hand on a field umpire during the third quarter.

15.    Gold Coast Suns (14) 
The Suns were crushed by a slick Melbourne Demons at the Gabba on Saturday, begging the questions as to whether travel and injuries are taking their toll on the Suns. Displaced from their usual home due to the Commonwealth Games, the Suns have traveled a lot. This week it doesn’t get any easier as the Suns have to fly to China to take on Port Adelaide in Shanghai. Jack Martin and Touk Miller were excellent for the Suns, while the return of Steven May helped shore up the Gold Coast back line.

16.    Brisbane Lions (16) 
Another week, another honorable loss for the Brisbane Lions. Late in the final quarter the Lions appeared to have the momentum to steal victory from the Western Bulldogs, however a horrendous turnover from Lewis Taylor gifted the Bulldogs a goal to seal the game. The return to top form of key midfielder Dayne Zorko would have pleased Coach Chris Fagan.

17.    Essendon Bombers (15) 
The Bombers have bottomed out. At least they will be hoping so. Their loss against an under strength Carlton on Saturday was the last straw for some Bomber supporters who flooded social media with vitriol and footage of burning club merchandise. With a playing list that was touted as a potential premiership contender before the season, Coach John Worsfold has a lot of work to do to restore the faith at Windy Hill, the home of the Bombers.

18.    St Kilda Saints (17) 
Yet another poor performance from the Saints over in Perth, though at stages they were competitive and even had chances to challenge Fremantle for victory. Unfortunately their continued struggles in front of goal were once again evident as the Saints missed gettable chances early in the final quarter. Tim Membrey was the prime offender, kicking just 1.5 in attack.

Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 4:26 PM EDT

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