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By Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia

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)
The Crows thumped St Kilda at home prior to their bye, once again stamping their credentials as premiership contenders. With a dominant home record, the Crows should finish in the top two, giving themselves a springboard into a favorable finals draw.

2.    Greater Western Sydney Giants (1)
The Giants run of narrow wins came to a screaming halt against a plucky Carlton prior to their round 12 bye. With a mounting injury toll, the next month of football is crucial for the team that has rightful claims to the 2017 premiership.

3.    Geelong Cats (3)
The Cats put up three very good performances at their home fortress of Simonds Stadium before stumbling away to the West Coast Eagles on Thursday night. One of just three teams to win four of their last five, the Cats hang on to third spot on the power poll for now.

4.    Port Adelaide Power (4)
The Power received a mighty wake-up call when they were thumped in Melbourne by a rampaging Essendon in round 12, but managed to steady the ship at home against Brisbane on Saturday night. Still look to be a genuine contender.

5.    West Coast Eagles (6)
The Eagles managed a rare feat on Thursday night – beating a premiership contender (Geelong) without their main spearhead in Josh Kennedy. As luck would have it Geelong’s main forward, Tom Hawkins, was also missing through suspension, but the way the Eagles handled a red-hot Geelong was most impressive.

6.    Melbourne Demons ( 8 )
The Demons are a team on the rise. Despite missing prime forward Jesse Hogan and arguably the league’s top ruckman in Max Gawn, Melbourne has rolled to four wins in their last five games, including a crushing 57-point victory over the reigning premier Western Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon. With the two aforementioned stars due back soon, the Demons are primed to return to the finals.

7.    Sydney Swans ( 10 )
Here come the Swans. With four wins in their past five games and on the back of an impressive comeback against the Tigers in Melbourne, the Swans are looking good. A poor start has the Sydneysiders as long odds to win it all; however their form is good enough to suggest they could pull of a miraculous finish to make the final eight. If they do, other teams will be nervous.

8.    Richmond Tigers (9)
No other team puts their fans through weekly torment like the Tigers. Starved of premiership success since 1980, Richmond cannot seem to find the formula required to win the close games. While the Tigers are no doubt an improved team to that of recent years, they coughed up another big lead on Saturday, this time against the Sydney Swans, to go down by nine points. The jury remains out.

9.    Western Bulldogs (5)
The Bulldogs slumped to their fourth defeat in their last five games against a brilliant Melbourne on Sunday, leaving them out of the eight and searching for answers. The reigning premiers seem to have lost their run as opposition teams target their main ball carriers out of defense, in particular Jason Johannisen. The Bulldogs have too much talent to dismiss the defense of their title, but Coach Luke Beveridge has his work cut out to get the Doggies back to their best.

10.    Essendon Bombers (13)
The Bombers enjoyed the bye week after destroying the highly fancied Port Power in round 12. Prior to that the Bombers fell just short of beating premiership favorites the GWS Giants and have a victory over Geelong in the bank from round eight. At their best, Essendon are good enough to beat anyone. How far they go will depend on how consistently they can reproduce their best form.

11.    St Kilda Saints (11)
The Saints were in danger of falling out of the finals race after a string of three losses in a row. On Friday night they came up against a desperate North Melbourne, with experts being evenly split on who would win. Four quarters and a comfortable 17 point win later; the Saints are once again in the mix.

12.    Fremantle Dockers (7)
The Dockers continue to puzzle the football public with their schizophrenic form. Since crafting a three game winning streak and once again looking like the Dockers of old, Ross Lyon’s team has rolled off three consecutive losses including their most recent failure against the last placed Brisbane Lions.

13.    Collingwood Magpies (15)
Collingwood had a big chance to pull of the rare 2017 feat of four wins in a row when they faced Melbourne in round 12, but the Demons proved too classy in a final quarter blitz that sunk the Magpies. With niggling injuries to key players robbing Collingwood of fielding their best 22 each week, it is hard to see them playing in the major round with so many teams to leapfrog into the top eight.

14.    North Melbourne Kangaroos (12)
The Kangaroos had everything to play for against the Saints on Friday night, but in the end the 17 point loss actually flattered them. The Saints were by far the better team on the night, at one stage in the final quarter blowing the game out to a 47 point margin before North piled on some consolation goals. You can put a line through them as contenders in 2017.

15.    Carlton Blues (17)
The Blues have been somewhat of a revelation over the last fortnight, as they defeated both expansion teams – the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Gold Coast Suns – in succession. Liam Jones return to the team plus some career best form from midfielders Bryce Gibbs and Marc Murphy has Carlton fans dreaming of finals football once again. Whilst a top eight finish is unlikely, the Blues will fancy themselves against an unsteady Richmond this week.

16.    Hawthorn Hawks (14)
After giving their fans some joy with an upset victory over the Swans in Sydney three weeks ago, the Hawks have gone back to disappointing those who believed their 2017 season still had a pulse. Back to back poor performances against the Power and the Suns have condemned the Hawks to also rans this season.

17.    Gold Coast Suns (16)
Another team that has plenty of talent but limited depth, the Suns simply had to defeat Carlton at home on Saturday night to keep them in the race for the top eight. Despite taking the lead in the final quarter, the Suns were overrun by a hungry Carlton outfit that is in good form. With rumors of gun midfielder Garry Ablett looking to return to Melbourne next season, the Suns immediate future looks clouded.

18.    Brisbane Lions (18)
The Lions produced season best form to defeat a disappointing Fremantle in round twelve, then backed it up with a solid team effort against a tough Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night. Despite going down to the Power by a comfortable margin, the Lions showed patches of excellent form that indicates better times ahead.

Article last changed on Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 2:34 PM EDT

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