Richmond v Essendon: The Bombers were one of two teams to play their way out of the finals race at the weekend. Essendon’s injury worries have become almost comical now. Alwyn Davey and Stewart Crameri joined the list of casualties and the Tigers really only had to keep their feet to win it in the end. They kicked poorly but got it done and they now have an 11-11 finish to a season on offer next weekend. The Bombers? It is hard to believe a team could have the run of soft tissue concerns as they have this season and there be no consequences so off-season shifts in their staff levels will be watched closely.
St Kilda v GWS: The Saints have been pretty solid for a team likely to finish a game or two out of the finals but it was all a bit easy for them against the Giants on Saturday. The young Sydney-siders have found the season far too long and it was one way traffic after the toss of the coin. The Saints have the chance to finish positively against Carlton next week but the more pressing questions involve the age of their list and the future of Brendon Goddard who remains unsigned despite the club putting its best offer on the table. Toby Greene is a possession winning marvel for the Giants, pity he can’t win the Rising Star.
Brisbane v Port Adelaide: This was an easy game to get absorbed by, in the same way that car crashes are sometimes easy to get absorbed by. There is no lack of effort from Port, just a lack of polish, decision making and class. Throw in a bit of rain and wind at AAMI Stadium and you have the sort of tragi-comedy that unfolded there on Saturday afternoon as the Power played bravely only to get nutted at the end by Brisbane. Jonathan Brown kicked four goals, the Lions have improved a little, but need to improve a lot to be a finals threat next year. Port are way, way back.
Gold Coast v Carlton: Brett Ratten is likely to remember this game, in the same way that Matt Primus remembers Port’s game against GWS and Dean Bailey remembers Melbourne’s visit to Geelong last year. What was billed as a percentage booster became an ambush. When the Blues didn’t crawl out from underneath the rubble at the end of it, Ratten’s chances of retaining his job were slashed exponentially. That seems harsh because he has coached solidly for much of his time there but Carlton are an unforgiving mob. The flipside is a really significant win for one of the league’s new franchises – just their second at their home ground and their sixth in two seasons. Tom Lynch’s four goals were hopefully a sign of things to come.
Hawthorn v Sydney: One of the games of the season and great to see 31,000 crammed into what is left of the SCG grandstands to enjoy it. Significant that Buddy Franklin returned successfully from injury for four goals but just as significant that Shaun Burgoyne stepped back into the form that made him such a great player at Port Adelaide. He was wonderful, the reason the Hawks won this one after getting jumped and fitting that he kicked the goal that put the Hawks back in front at the death. They will be favoured to beat West Coast and finish top now. Sydney have to beat Geelong in Geelong to avoid travelling in week one of the finals.
West Coast v Collingwood: We can sum this one up with a few short stats: Ruck knocks, 60-12, clearances 48-23, inside 50s 55-33, contested possessions 142-109. Needless to say these things all went West Coast’s way and the scoreboard went 49 points their way with it. Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox were wonderful, ditto Daniel Kerr and Luke Shuey. Not so Travis Cloke and Chris Dawes, the two Magpie power forwards are treating confidence like some mysterious foreign object at the moment. Just as mystifying though was Collingwood’s lack of accountability around the contest when they were getting spanked in the ruck. The Eagles lost Matt Rosa to a collarbone but are back in top four contention and Collingwood are in genuine strife.
Geelong v Western Bulldogs: It was, as suspected, a comfortable enough win at home for the Cats but there are concerns arising out of it. Travis Varcoe played his first game for the season off a serious foot injury and didn’t last long before suffering a knee injury which could have ramifications for Geelong’s title defence. The Cats play the swans next weekend at Simonds Stadium, a game that will tell us much about the claims of both teams. At this stage we think Geelong are just going ok, not great.
Fremantle v North Melbourne: The Dockers lost Matthew Pavlich pre-match but shut the gate on other finals contenders with one of their more significant wins. They were harder for longer than the Roos who wanted to run when Fremantle were clearly going to make this a scrap. Terrific efforts from small forwards Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters who kicked eight goals between them to fill the hole left by Pavlich. And a monster game from Aaron Sandilands who set Fremantle’s midfielders Stephen Hill, David Mundy and and Fyfe in motion. We can’t yet confirm a derby final first week in but you wouldn’t bet against it now.
Adelaide v Melbourne: The Crows will finish somewhere in the top three with a game against Gold Coast to finish their season. They took care of the demons by 69 points, then paid due respect to Melbourne veteran Brad Green who was playing his 254th and last game. The Demons come to Perth next week to finish their season and how bad that gets might have much to do with whether the Dockers sniff the prospect of a home final or not. It has been a disappointing first year for coach Mark Neeld. Melbourne needs to be significantly better in 2013.