Two thirds of the way through the season, and while we’re still pretty tight at the top as far as the ladder goes, I think we’re a bit closer to deciding on our premiership contenders.
This week, instead of your regularly scheduled match reviews – let’s run an eye over contenders, pretenders, and the also-rans.
The Poos and Wees are once again building nicely in to the back half of the season, and haven’t tasted defeat since they took on the Swans way back on May 20th. The Swans got the job done that night, and while the Hawks haven’t been at their best since – they haven’t dropped one, and their performance against Port on Thursday night was a good one – with their big names all turning in good performances. We’ll know a bit more about them after next weekend, when they travel up to Sydney for another shot at the Swans in what will (mark my words) be labelled all week as a Grand Final preview. So creative.
Flag Ranking: Legitimate Chance
The Swans have been patchy over their last 5 games, losing to the Bulldogs and thumped by the Giants, but a good win this weekend against Geelong lifted them into the top 2 for (I think) the first time this year. I think the Swans have the most complete midfield in the competition, and if they’re winning the ball and giving their outside runners first use – Franklin and Tippett are more than capable of kicking winning scores against every team in the competition. The question mark for me is their tall defenders. While that won’t be a major problem against Hawthorn version 2016, there’s a team wearing blue, red, and yellow who could pose them problems – especially if they don’t win the midfield battle.
Flag Ranking: Legitimate Chance
In the past three to four weeks, the Crows have gone from “premiership smoky” to “legitimate chance” on my ranking scale. (Scale goes from “Nope” to “Can’t lose”). They have a forward line as good as any, and probably better, than any in the league, have solid key defenders, and a reliable workman like midfield. The only knock on the Crows I have is the real class outside run and carry. If only they had a Dangerfield type player…
The Crows have Collingwood, Essendon, Geelong, and Brisbane in their next 4 games – you’d expect at least three of those to be wins, and should the Hawks and Swans slip up – the Crows are a realistic chance of securing home finals, and that means Eddie gets to play in his pocket… so to speak.
Flag Ranking: Legitimate Chance
4. Western Bulldogs
The Dogs have been damn impressive this season – injuries have conspired against them, no doubt – but they’ve been able to hold steadfast (I can’t believe it’s taken me 16 rounds to work that in…) and sit a game clear in 4th position. They play really exciting footy, they’re fast, skilful, and have played good footy against some good sides at times this year – but sorry Bulldogs fans – you’re not a legitimate chance. Not yet anyway.
The Dogs have the lowest score for out of the entire top 8 – in fact, two teams outside the 8 have scored more than the Dogs this year, and while their defense has been miserly (only Sydney has conceded fewer points) – I can’t see them kicking a big enough score to consistently put top 4 teams away.
Flag Ranking: Smoky at best.
5. West Coast Eagles
Hmmmm. The Eagles have won their past three, and have Carlton, Collingwood, Melbourne, and Fremantle in their next 4. We’re looking at the very real scenario that come round 19 – we’ll have up to 5 teams sitting on 14 wins, and the Eagles could be one of them. And, in the Eagles favour is their Bully Boy tag – they have been beating up the bottom sides this year, and have the second biggest percentage in the competition – so it’s not out of the realms of possibility that they finish top 2 either. Do that – and it’s home finals and no travel in September. Then you can add in their finals experience, last year’s Grand Final loss, and the imminent return of Nic Naitanui, and the Eagles are more than a smoky as well. Like the Crows – they’re solid down back, have at least three capable forwards, and some midfield grunt. Do they have the outside class under pressure? I’m not sure, but I do like their chances.
Flag Ranking: Legitimate Chance
Alright – what’s up with Geelong? Gave the Bulldogs a fierce kicking three games back, then promptly dropped their next two. There’s no shame in losing to Sydney ever – but dropping that game against St Kilda may well be the reason they don’t finish in the top 4. The Cats have a tricky few weeks coming up too – away to Fremantle, followed by games against Adelaide and the Bulldogs. We’ll know by round 19 for sure whether the Cats are a legitimate chance. In their favour is that their last 4 games are against Essendon, Brisbane, Richmond, and Melbourne – so they can get on a roll heading in to September – but they probably need to win two of their next three in addition to all of their last 4 to avoid finishing in the bottom half of the 8. The thing with Geelong though is that they have the undeniable class and ability to win the flag – so even if they don’t make top 4, you can’t write them off. Not with PFD, Selwood, Bartel, Enright, Taylor, Mackie, Hawkins… etc.
Flag Ranking: Definitely Maybe
7. GWS Giants
So much class oozing from this team – and then they go and drop a game to Collingwood. There were danger signs for these blokes a couple of games ago when Essendon were able to match them for large parts of their game – I reckon the young legs are starting to tire. In all honesty, I think they’re still two seasons away from being legitimate contenders, however this is such a tight year that if the Giants can manage their players well over the next few weeks, then they can fly under the radar (cliché alert…) and take a team or two by surprise in September. Conspiring against them is that they have a couple of tricky games coming up in round 18 and 19 versus Port Adelaide and Richmond. However, they have Gold Coast and Fremantle on the run home and would expect to win both of those. I can’t see them improving higher than 7th, however their last round clash with North Melbourne could determine whether they get a home final, or have to travel for one.
Flag Ranking: Nope.
8. North Melbourne
Well, it’s happened. The almighty fall from grace that this column has been predicting for at least 10 weeks now has finally happened. Guys – North Melbourne are not that good. For months, we had to endure the talk of how Boomer and his mates were going to be there on Grand Final day and they were going to win it for the little fella – but the sensible ones amongst us kept our powder dry (whatever that actually means…) and said no, wait until they play good teams. Geelong, Hawthorn, Adelaide, and West Coast have all taken the points against the Roos in the last 5 weeks, and the Kangas have fallen from first to eighth from round 12 to round 16. Will they play finals? Yes. With 10 wins, and 3 games clear of 9th – there’s very little chance of them dropping out of the 8. That said – they would not want to drop their next game to the Power and lessen the gap by another 4 points – particularly as they have a tricky little run home – Hawthorn, Sydney, and GWS in the last three weeks of the season could see them sitting nervously as Port tackle Gold Coast in round 23.
Flag Ranking: Nope
9th – 12th Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Collingwood, St Kilda
It would take a miracle from here for any of these teams – but with North faltering at the moment in 8th – we can’t write these teams off just yet. At least, not this week. They would need to win every game on the way home, and rely on North only winning 2 or less. Regardless, all these teams will be “shaping the eight” in the last third of the season.
If Port lose to the Roos next week, then I’ll be striking a line through them. They’re still a decent team though, and they are tough to play at home – can they knock over GWS in two weeks time? What about the Crows in the Showdown?
Melbourne have a tough run home – a trip to Perth, a trip to Adelaide, plus games against Hawthorn and Geelong. Winnable games against Carlton and Gold Coast should keep their fans off the ski slopes though.
If Melbourne had it bad, Collingwood have it worse. They still have to play the Crows, the Roos, the Eagles, The Bulldogs and the Hawks this season. Having said that – they disposed of one top 8 team pretty handily on the weekend – you wouldn’t put it past them to knock over a couple others.
St Kilda. With Melbourne, Carlton, Richmond, and Brisbane on the run home – they have the easiest of the fixture list – but with the lowest percentage of the lot, they’re probably the most likely to lose the most games. That said – if they could recapture the form from the Geelong game – who knows. Saints produce miracles right?
Flag Ranking: Not even Saint Francis of Paola could get these teams a flag this year.
Also rans: 13th – 18th: Richmond, Carlton, Gold Coast, Fremantle, Brisbane, Essendon
Adios amigos – while for some of you it’s still “mathematically possible” – the reality is that you’re now looking towards next year, and hoping your team loses every game from now on so you can pick up the most exciting player in the draft. Unless, of course –you barrack for Essendon – in which case, you’ve had enough of losing and just want one damn win. Cheer up Dons fans – we’ve still got games against the Suns and Lions to come, plus TIPPA!™
This week’s results:
Hawks 101 def Power 79
Swans 98 def Cats 60
Magpies 125 def Giants 93
Suns 139 def Lions 113
Dogs 85 def Tigers 75
Demons 87 def Dockers 55
Crows 107 def Blues 47
Eagles 104 def Roos 72
Saints 109 def Bombers 98
Sydney Swans v Hawthorn
Fremantle v Geelong
Richmond v Essendon
North Melbourne v Port Adelaide
Western Bulldogs v Gold Coast Suns
Adelaide Crows v Collingwood
Carlton v West Coast Eagles
St Kilda v Melbourne
Brisbane Lions v GWS Giants