After a narrow loss, Geelong move to number three this week, replaced by Sydney. Brisbane’s good recent form sees it move up to 12th, with North Melbourne again moving after a close loss.
1. (Last week – 1) Hawthorn Hawks – Record: 14-2
Despite Luke Hodge’s incredible goal, Hawthorn struggled to put the Western Bulldogs away on Saturday. At this stage of the season for the Hawks it is all about preparing for the finals, and the Hawks did that by winning without Sam Mitchell or Lance Franklin. Hawthorn faces a test on Friday night when they face officially second placed Essendon.
2. (3) Sydney Swans – 12-1-3
Sydney moves to second on this ladder after a loss to Geelong, but it is a well deserved move. The Swans showed in their victory over the Eagles that their midfield depth is a major advantage. Dan Hannebery was the leader in the midfield, collecting 40 possessions in a best on ground performance. Sydney hosts an in form Richmond on Sunday.
3. (2) Geelong Cats – 13-3
For the third time this season, Geelong gave up a lead in the fourth quarter to fall to a narrow loss. Chris Scott is starting to draw comparisons to his brother Brad this season, as Geelong have lost three times by six points or less. Seven of the 14 losses since Chris Scott has taken over have been by a goal or less. Both Harry Taylor and Jimmy Bartel had relatively simple set shots at goal in the dying moments to win the game for the Cats but couldn’t get the job done.
4. (4) Essendon Bombers – 13-3
With two important matches coming up, Essendon will be happy to take the win over Greater Western Sydney. They didn’t smash the Giants like many expected, but James Hird was happy with the Bombers’ performance. Essendon comes up against Hawthorn this Friday night and Collingwood the following week; two wins and Essendon will hold on to their spot in the top four.
5. (5) Fremantle Dockers – 11-1-4
The top four hopes of Fremantle took a big hit on Sunday when they were beaten by Richmond. The Dockers are now a game out of the top four and time is running out for them to catch up. Fremantle were beaten everywhere by Richmond, proving they need to get their missing stars back in to form before September.
6. (7) Richmond Tigers – 11-5
Richmond was facing a premiership contender on Sunday and they flexed their muscles by defeating them. It is becoming very hard to see Richmond missing the finals now, and the form they showed on Sunday would make the teams around them nervous. The Tigers will give a good indication of where they are at when they travel to Sydney to meet the Swans on Sunday.
7. (6) Collingwood Magpies – 10-6
Collingwood watched their top four – and possibly premiership – aspirations fall apart when they fell to the Gold Coast on Saturday night. The Magpies were behind all game, and despite a late surge in the final quarter, they couldn’t stop the Suns or Gary Ablett. Collingwood will be desperate to make amends for their loss when they host Greater Western Sydney on Saturday.
8. (8) Port Adelaide Power – 9-7
Port Adelaide kept themselves in the top eight, but only just. The Power looked set for a comfortable victory when they led by 47 points in the second quarter, but let it slip late in the game. Justin Westhoff was important in the final quarter, kicking a goal and taking several crucial marks. It wasn’t pretty, but if they are going to play finals Port needed to win. Port hosts Brisbane in round 18, and will need to win again.
9. (9) Carlton Blues – 8-8
They got a bit lucky in the finish, but Carlton was excellent for almost three quarters on Friday night. The Blues applied themselves defensively all over the ground and played the style fans expect of a Mick Malthouse coached side. They will have to improve on their fourth quarter effort though if they want to force their way past Port Adelaide and get in to the top eight.
10. (11) Adelaide Crows – 7-9
Simply put, Adelaide was the better side on Sunday. They controlled the game all day, but the incredible offensive efficiency of Geelong saw Adelaide trailing by 30 points in the third quarter. The Crows hit back and worked their way to the front when it mattered and held on for a narrow win. Richard Douglas and Rory Sloane were outstanding for the victors, and Adelaide keep their slim finals hopes alive.
11. (10) West Coast Eagles – 7-9
West Coast remains in touch with the top eight, but the gap is widening between them and Port Adelaide. The Eagles couldn’t match the Swans in the midfield on Sunday and suffered because of it. West Coast travels to Melbourne to face the Western Bulldogs on Sunday, a loss will officially finish their season.
12. (13) Brisbane Lions – 7-9
Brisbane continued their late season revival with a win over Melbourne on Saturday night. The Lions started slowly but hit the lead late in the second quarter and didn’t give it up. Brisbane has now won four of their last five games and Pearce Handley has starred in all of those victories. The running defender had another 27 possessions on Saturday night. Brisbane will hope their form continues when they face Port Adelaide on Sunday.
13. (12) North Melbourne Kangaroos – 6-10
Just for something different, North came from behind to lose a thriller against Carlton on Friday night. Brent Harvey had a chance to kick the winning goal, but couldn’t pick the ball up at the crucial moment. This was the fifth time the Roos have lost by under a goal this season, and there isn’t much left to say about it. North can pay the fans back when they face Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.
14. (14) Gold Coast Suns – 6-10
For the first time in their history, Gold Coast defeated a side that is in the top eight. The win over Collingwood was another big step for the young club, once again achieved on the back of Gary Ablett. Ablett had 49 disposals and two goals in a spectacular performance. Ablett was well supported by Jaeger O’Meara and Trent McKenzie in a landmark day for the Suns. Gold Coast hosts Carlton in round 18 and will be hoping for a repeat performance.
15. (15) Western Bulldogs – 4-12
While Hawthorn was missing some stars on Saturday, the effort the Western Bulldogs showed was excellent. The Hawks tried to pull away and couldn’t as Ryan Griffen and Tom Liberatore kept the Bulldogs in the game. Fans wouldn’t have expected a victory, but the competitive performance the Dogs put in will leave them happy.
16. (16) St Kilda Saints – 3-13
After a poor season it was good to see St Kilda testing a top eight team when they almost stole the game against Port Adelaide on Saturday night. Facing a 47 point deficit the Saints got back in to the game on the back of their aging stars Leigh Montagna, Lenny Hayes and Nick Dal Santo. The Saints led their opponents in all the major stats, but couldn’t get over the line in the dying stages. St Kilda faces a tough test when they travel to Geelong on Saturday night.
17. (17) Melbourne Demons – 2-14
Another honorable loss for the Demons this week, going down to Brisbane on Saturday night. Unfortunately for Melbourne, they lost Colin Garland to an ankle injury in the third quarter, and missed his experience in the final quarter. It will be pleasing for fans to see Colin Sylvia and Aaron Davey performing well, both amongst the best for Melbourne.
18. (18) Greater Western Sydney Giants – 0-16
Kevin Sheedy was a lot more positive this week in the wake of a more competitive performance. The Giants stayed in the game during the first half against the Bombers, before losing touch as the game went on. Jeremy Cameron kept his Coleman Medal hopes alive with another four-goal haul. GWS faces Collingwood on Saturday.