In a prelude to the spring conditions awaiting in September, the final Sunday afternoon home and away match at the MCG for 2018 got underway in sunny conditions. The Demons were wearing their commemorative 160-year jumper and the Giants in their white away jumper. While not quite do-or-die with both teams assured a spot in the final eight, today’s result would determine who and where they would play in week one of the finals. A win to Melbourne would mean a home final at the MCG against Geelong, a loss would mean an away match in Sydney. A win to GWS would mean a home final in Sydney and a loss an away final against the Swans at the SCG.
Apparently no one had read the script to the Melbourne Demons. They hadn’t beaten a team in the top eight all season and it was a West Coast Eagles home game, Optus Stadium is a fortress and at 75 degrees, it was supposed to be too hot for Melbourne teams to last four full quarters. All that mattered little when the siren sounded and the Demons put on a display worthy of finalists when they ran over the Eagles in an upset in the West.
From the very first moments it was clear that Melbourne had come to play. They were ferocious in their tackling and hunted the Eagles down in packs all over the ground. West Coast were rattled and started to make disposal errors that played right into Melbourne’s hands.
And then there were eleven. After a cracking round nineteen that saw the Tigers hold off an injury hit but brilliant Collingwood, the Swans sink further into trouble with a loss to the Bombers and Carlton actually notch a win, there looks to be only eleven teams left in the race for the top eight. The Adelaide Crows all but dropped out of contention after being overrun by a revitalized Melbourne in the city of churches, while the Giants marched into top four contention with yet another win, this time over a plucky but inaccurate Saint Kilda.
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,
After another top notch round of footy, Richmond holds onto top spot on the AFANA Power Poll as a result of its 47 point win over the Adelaide Crows, damaging the Crows chances of returning to finals football in 2018. Collingwood had to fight hard to defeat a determined Essendon, while the Swans stumbled at home against a very impressive Geelong.
Port Adelaide kept in touch with the top two after a comfortable win over Saint Kilda, the Eagles returned to the winners list in the “battle of the decimated forward lines” as they held off the Giants in Perth, and the Hawks solidified their run at the finals with a second half blitz to defeat the Bulldogs.
Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia
Round nine was in keeping with the AFL season so far with upsets, great performances and a bit of controversy for good measure. The West Coast Eagles grabbed top spot on the ladder with a big win over Richmond in Perth, Melbourne crushed Carlton in continuing their strong form, and previously winless Brisbane broke their drought with an upset win over the Hawks.
1. Adelaide Crows (Last Week - 2)
The Crows take top spot on the Power poll after a stirring win in “The Showdown” against crosstown rivals Port Adelaide. Despite trailing early, the classy Crows posted their third win in as many games, the 17-point win keeping them on the top of the AFL ladder.
2. Greater Western Sydney Giants (3)
The Giants are starting to roll, and they might take some stopping. A 42-point drubbing of the Kangaroos – with a whopping 71 entries inside the 50 meter arc – will have teams scrambling for a plan on how to stop Leon Cameron’s young juggernaut.
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.
It was supposed to be a celebration of the life of Tommy Hafey, Richmond’s iconic four time Premiership coach who sadly passed away during the week. Instead, for Richmond, it was a disaster of far-reaching proportions. Coming into the contest with a precarious 2-5 record, the Tigers simply had to win. Not just to keep their Finals hopes alive, not just to honor the memory of Hafey, but to give their fans some hope that their 15 win season in 2013 wasn’t a fluke. The answer to the latter is one that Tiger supporters will not want to accept and will certainly struggle to understand. Melbourne mounted a spirited effort to grind out a hard-fought win – the Demons' second in a row and third for the season. The Demon players were simply better when it counted, their masterful new coach Paul Roos earning every cent of his high-priced contract.
The season is barely one week old and already several players are going to be sidelined for a number of weeks. The clubs have the option of promoting a rookie to the senior list to replace the injured players who must remain on the long-term injury list for a minimum of 6-8 weeks regardless of their recovery progress.