With just one round to be played before the finals series begins, the top eight is finally taking shape, but there is still plenty to be decided with some big match-ups in the final round. The big winner out of round 22 was Melbourne, which finished strongly against the West Coast Eagles in Perth to book their first finals appearance in 12 seasons, much to the relief of Coach Simon Goodwin. Last year the Demons crashed out of the race late in 2017. Collingwood strengthened its hold on a top four finish with a big win over Port Adelaide at the MCG, effectively ending Port’s finals campaign in the process.
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.
Round seventeen was full of upsets, great finishes and some very big injuries. The Giants resurrected their season with a win over the Tigers, the Eagles rode their big forwards to a classy win over Collingwood, and the Crows celebrated the re-signing of favorite son Rory Sloane by banking a win against the highly fancied Cats.
Biggest loser of the weekend has to go to Port Adelaide, who not only forfeited a chance at second place on the ladder by losing to an undermanned Fremantle,
On a midwinters night in what was effectively a dead rubber, the best that could be hoped for was a close match with some big highlights. Neither brief was filled. Having the roof closed was a small mercy at Etihad Stadium for the 33,780 fans. On form this match would almost certainly be a bankable win to the Saints. In the end it was so, and no mercy was shown to the Blues on field. St Kilda won the toss and kicked to the Lockett end in what seems like a formality in the windless conditions. Carlton tonight were wearing their dirty grey clash strip with the curious fake pockets on their shorts.
By Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia
Hawthorn and Geelong gave us yet another Easter Monday classic with the Hawks scraping home by a solitary point in the match of the round. With just two weeks of the season in the books, the AFL brains trust must be delighted that there are just four teams sitting on two wins. Greater Western Sydney, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn and Gold Coast have set the pace with the Suns being the big surprise packet after outclassing an error-riddled Carlton on Saturday.
St Kilda has once again downed a fancied Melbourne with a frantic 36 point win at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Despite being a vastly improved team in 2016, the Demons could not find the answers to a fast finishing Saints that now hold a fourteen game winning streak over a beleaguered Melbourne. There was reason for optimism early for the Demons as they continually punished the Saints from defense in the first quarter, Jayden Hunt being the catalyst for numerous counterattacks that led to a 17 point lead at the first break.
In one of the biggest upsets of the season to date, a plucky St. Kilda snatched victory in the dying seconds of their match against league pacesetters Geelong in an enthralling contest at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night. Despite trailing by nine points late in the final quarter after some stirring football by the Cats, the young Saints willed themselves forward, scoring two brilliant late goals through Jade Gresham and Jack Steven to seal the Saints first victory over Geelong since 2010. This continues the Saints remarkable night game performance at Etihad where they have won more than 80% of their games in recent seasons. If only the Saints were so good at other times and places.
There are two types of West Coast Eagles. One is powerful and merciless and will quickly destroy any intruder that dares to enter its territory.
Richmond players faced St Kilda at the MCG in the final game of Round 22, knowing their fate was well and truly in their own hands. Riding the wave of an incredible seven game winning streak that included on the road wins against the West Coast Eagles and Adelaide Crows, the Tigers had to beat the Saints to keep their slim Finals' chances alive. After Round 14, Richmond held a 3-10 win-loss record, placing them 16th on the AFL premiership ladder. Fast forward to Sunday, and as the Tigers ran out onto the hallowed turf of the MCG, a win would send them to 11-10 and into the Top Eight with one round to play.
Brook "Boris" Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
The Sunday special this week belonged to Richmond and St Kilda, two clubs with differing fortunes and vastly different short term futures. The Saints, only a couple of years removed from a Grand Final appearance, seem to have bypassed their potential Premiership window as their older players move away from their prime. The Tigers on the other hand, have put a dark recent past behind them, forging a bright future on the back of 60,000 plus members and a three game winning streak that should help them build towards their first Finals appearance since 2001. The sideshow to every St Kilda versus Richmond clash is the match up of gun forward cousins in Nick (St Kilda) and Jack (Richmond) Riewoldt, with Jack having the better of the spoils over the last few contests including a seven goal haul the last time these two teams met. Tiger young gun Nick Vlastuin was a late withdrawal prior to game time, while St Kilda were without feisty goal sneak Stephen Milne after off field issues that could potentially end a tumultuous but effective career.