The West

Premium Duff - who shone, who bombed in round 21
Aaron Sandilands in action against Richmond at Patersons Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Geelong v St Kilda: It is hard to remember a team being more impressive, and yet get as careless as the Cats did at times in Friday night’s seven goal win over the Saints who were without Nick Riewoldt and without much hope when Geelong took a six goal lead in the second term. Yet there they were, a quarter later, within a point after Geelong had gifted them a string of goals with over use of handball and a generally casual attitude. It took a three quarter time pep talk from Chris Scott to wake them up. Then Geelong strolled to victory with Tom Hawkins starring in attack. The Saints need a lot of luck to play finals now and it will be interesting to see whether they try and get Riewoldt back from his knee injury to play or whether they concede the run is over.

Carlton v Essendon: It’s August. It’s the MCG. It is two traditional Melbourne-based Giants going at it with a finals berth on the line. And only one team turned up. This is what it has come to for the banged up Bombers, who have battled too many in juries in the back half of this season and have now slumped to 10th spot on the ladder in the wake of their loss to the Blues, the first time they have been out of the eight all season. The Bombers have now lost eight of 11 after starting the season 8-1. On Saturday their 2012 injury catastrophe continued with veteran Dustin Fletcher suffering a groin problem and young defender Jake Carlisle what looked like a serious ankle injury. The Blues were brilliant with Marc Murphy in full cry and Kade Simpson in support while Jarrad Waite kicked five goals – a trio who have missed a truckload of footy this year. Chris Judd was back too and Carlton’s finals hopes have come back to life with him. They are waiting to pounce if Fremantle lose.

Fremantle v Richmond: The post-match press conferences were all about whether the Dockers decision to introduce Aaron Sandilands after 11 weeks out was pre-meditated or suddenly made necessary by a groin injury to Jon Griffin. Believe what you like but whatever the truth Sandilands dominated the first half of this match and then the Dockers had too many contributors across the board to give the Tigers any more than a faint sniff. The 22 point margin at the end flattered the visitors, who had a brilliant midfielder in Trent Cotchin but he was against too many. Hayden Ballantyne, Luke McPharlin, David Mundy, Ryan Crowley, Michael Barlow and Paul Duffield all played big games for the home team. Fremantle are in the eight for now at least and Richmond are playing for pride now.

Melbourne v GWS: Not one for the time capsule. It was played in a strong cross wind in Canberra, between two teams at the foot of the ladder in front of 7500 people. The major talking point out of it was the performance of rugby convert Israel Folau, who did not touch the ball in the first half and looked like a fish out of water – or perhaps just a rugby star playing AFL football. The best we can say is that Folau needs more time and development. The pessimistic view is that time won’t fix what is a major adjustment between codes. Better news for the Giants was the form of youngster Toby Greene who ran up 39 possessions. It was Melbourne’s fourth win of the season but the Demons are a long way from where they were aiming to be at the start of the year.

Brisbane v Adelaide: Saturday night threw two curve balls at the AFL premiership ladder and this was one of them. The Crows started the weekend in second spot on the ladder and have now dropped to third courtesy of a 10-point loss to Brisbane at the Gabba. Even more remarkable, the Crows coughed up a six goal quarter time lead, were outscored 13 goals to six after the first change and are now no certainty to finish top four, let alone host a final. Rohan Bewick kicked three goals and Jack Redden had 30 touches for the winners. Adelaide’s performance dipped after losing power defender Daniel Talia to a corked thigh. The Crows still only have Melbourne and the Gold Coast in the fortnight ahead but the Demons at the MCG may provide some heart palpitations in the wake of this loss.

North Melbourne v Collingwood: The performance of the weekend and the game that has sealed North’s first finals berth since 2008 when Dean Laidley was in charge. It was also the game that opened up the possibilities of a top four finish again for West Coast, who are now a game behind the fourth placed Magpies, with a superior percentage and the chance to host them in Perth next weekend. Drew Petrie, Lindsay Thomas and Robbie Tarrant kicked three each for the winners but 34-year-old veteran Brent Harvey continues to astound us all with another 33 touch, best on ground performance leading the way. The Magpies have their issues. Nick Maxwell injured a hip flexor and right now forwards Travis Cloke and Chris Dawes are struggling to define form, let alone find some. Collingwood get Dane swan back from a club suspension next week and they will need him against the Eagles.

West Coast v Port Adelaide: We all expected West Coast to win this and keep their top four hopes alive. We didn’t expect Jacob Brennan to take out teammate Adam Selwood on the way to victory but Brennan is not the first player to blindside a Selwood. It was comfortable apart from one 10 minute burst in the third term that saw Port close to within five goals on the back of their best play of the day and a couple of West Coast defensive errors. Selwood was subbed out, Jack Darling did clutch a hamstring at one point but played on. West Coast’s focus was also drawn elsewhere – to East Fremantle Oval where forward Josh Kennedy made his return from a serious foot injury and kicked two goals from 10 disposals against West Perth. The Eagles are regaining a couple of stars at the right end of the season and it will be interesting to see what they can make of it.

Sydney v Western Bulldogs: About two and a half months ago the Western Bulldogs won their fifth game of the year, taking them to 5-6 for the season, a respectable win-loss which left them with an outside chance of contending for finals. They have lost nine games in a row since. Worse still, they haven’t come within three goals of victory and that didn’t change yesterday as they plunged to an 82-point loss at the hands of Sydney. The Dogs were three goals up at quarter time and increasingly worse from that point on before the Swans piled the misery on in the last term to kick 10 goals to two. Sydney are now clear at the top of the ladder. The Bulldogs are arguably the most disappointing team in the AFL right now.

Hawthorn v Gold Coast: We knew a couple of days ago there was going to be no Cyril Rioli or Sam Mitchell. Then in the hours leading into the game we learned there would be no Buddy Franklin either as the Hawks released a statement saying he had fallen ill the night before the game and was suffering from nausea and dizziness. That was likely to provide some relief to the Suns but it was never likely to swing the result their way and that is how it worked out. No great surprises here. The Suns hung on to be within 30 points at the last change but the Hawks kicked seven goals to two in the final term to win by 64 points. Jack Gunston kicked four goals, Jarryd Roughead, Ryan Schoenmakers and Shane Savage all kicked two as Hawthorn surged to second spot on the ladder. Gary Ablett had 43 touches and booted two goals to be his team’s best. No surprise there either.

The West Australian

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