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.
Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Optus Stadium, Perth
The North Melbourne Kangaroos become the first interstate team to win at Optus Stadium since Sydney in Round 1. The Roos bounded away from the determined Dockers in the final quarter, to notch an encouraging win away from home.
The game was played in wintry conditions with strong winds and periods of heavy rain which turned the game into a congested struggle for the ball as both teams pushed numbers around the ball. Players on both sides committed their bodies to the contest,
The big winners in Round 18 were the Adelaide Crows and the Sydney Swans. The Crows win over second placed Geelong in Adelaide gives them a six-point buffer at the head of the table, providing a great chance at finishing in first at the end of the minor round with the bonus of home finals. For the Swans, their big win over the Saints has them sitting 6th as the best performed team in the last two months.
The big loser over the weekend was the West Coast Eagles, whose final quarter capitulation against an undermanned Collingwood dropped them out of the top eight, leaving them with an uphill battle ahead to work their way back into finals contention.
1. Adelaide Crows (Last time - 1)
by Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia
1. Western Bulldogs (Last Week - 1)
The Bulldogs retain top spot on the AFANA Power Poll after a stirring win over a gallant Sydney Swans. Marcus Bontempelli and Luke Dalhaus were once again magnificent for the Bulldogs who are showing no signs of a premiership hangover.
2. Adelaide Crows (2)
Another big tick for the Crows who came from behind to beat Hawthorn for the first time since 2011. Despite losing tall forward Josh Jenkins early, the Crows were simply too slick for a Hawthorn outfit that is yet to hit their straps in 2017.
The West Coast Eagles showed steely resolve to stare down the North Melbourne Kangaroos to claim their first top eight scalp of the season. With only eight teams making the postseason, and the difficulty in making a postseason run going up with every spot down the standings, this match was crucial to both clubs.
Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
North Melbourne has survived a spirited comeback by St Kilda to take a seven point victory at Etihad Stadium and remain undefeated after seven rounds of the AFL season. Despite holding a four goal buffer well into the final quarter, the Kangaroos were almost run down by a determined Saints unit that tied the scores late in the match. A Todd Goldstein free kick gave North Melbourne a slender lead that they were able to maintain under intense pressure. A goal on the siren by Mason Wood sealed the win for the Kangaroos who remain atop of the AFL table over the Geelong Cats and the Sydney Swans.
(Ed: note: Our newest contributor, Cale Hellyer, will be sending match reports from Victoria for the rest of the season.)
North Melbourne was put to the sword in a one-sided contest against the Fremantle Dockers in their Round 8 clash in Perth. The visiting Kangaroos were never a threat and showed the same inconsistency that has haunted them over the past few seasons. Just when fans think that North might be a contender, the players fall and stumble at the hurdles that teams like Fremantle throw up at them. It is hard to predict which Kangaroos' side is going to take the paddock from week to week and for this game the wrong side turned up. North Melbourne was belted from pillar to post and looked second rate against a more skilled and disciplined Fremantle unit.
by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Sydney midfielder Luke Parker has won his first Bob Skilton medal as the Swans' best and fairest. Parker polled in all but three games to finish on 758 votes, ahead of Josh Kennedy (709) and Lance Franklin (688). Parker, 21, is the youngest winner since Michael O'Loughlin in 1998. He also won the Paul Kelly Players’ Player Award, which is voted on by the playing group. Parker led the club in 2014 for tackles, averaging six per game, and was among the leaders for the season in disposals, contested possessions and goals. Coach Longmire praised Parker as a great competitor, saying the win - after just 82 games - was a great achievement. “When you look at the players behind him - Kennedy and Franklin - you quickly get an understanding of how good a season he has had, and how highly we think of him as a player. Luke was taken as quite a late draft pick, but he really is testament to where hard work can get you, and we value that really highly."
In a no holds barred Second Elimination Final in front of 78559 fans, Essendon lined up against North Melbourne for the right to advance further into the Finals series. The Bombers had much to prove after two tumultuous seasons marred by the ASADA investigation into the use of prohibited substances at the club in 2012. Banned from the 2013 Finals series as a result, finally they had a chance to play on the big stage and give their fans something to celebrate. For North Melbourne it was “make or break’ type pressure hanging over their heads with the absence of team “barometer” Brent (Boomer) Harvey (through suspension) a definite disadvantage.