The run home: Where the contenders stand in the race for the top eight

The race for the top eight is well and truly on as we head into the home stretch of the AFL season, with all positions there for the taking.

Geelong and Collingwood are surging but Melbourne and Richmond have stumbled. Fremantle are also making their move, while the Suns are finally rising. Could Carlton and Collingwood meet in the opening week of the finals? The Western Bulldogs, however, shape as the great disappointment.

Essendon and Greater Western Sydney made the finals last season with only 11 wins each (the Giants with also a draw) but a minimum of 12, possibly 13 wins, appear required in a tight 2022 campaign.

So where does your team sit in the premiership race? Can your team make the finals? We analyse the run home for each of the contenders, complete with round-by-round predictions and our final ladder.

1 Geelong

First: 12 wins, 4 losses
48 points, 136.1%

Run home: Carlton (MCG) (Predicted Win), Port Adelaide (AO) W, Western Bulldogs (GMHBA) W, St Kilda (GMHBA) W, Gold Coast (Metricon) W, West Coast (GMHBA) W.

We say: Perennial top-four finishers, the Cats could not be better-placed. They have refined their game plan, now boasting an up-tempo gear when required, and their stars have been well-managed. Tom Stewart will use his suspension to refresh. Their run home is challenging, but we suggest there is no reason why they cannot be undefeated over the final six rounds. Yes, of their opponents, only the Eagles are out of finals contention, and Saturday’s clash against the Blues is line ball, but three home games at GMHBA Stadium adds to the optimism that the Cats will head into September as arguably the premiership favourites.

Patrick Dangerfield has been in excellent touch since returning from injury. The Cats star hopes a premiership is finally within his grasp.Credit:Getty Images

2 Melbourne

Second: 12 wins, 4 losses
48 points, 133.4%

Run home: Port Adelaide (TIO) W, Western Bulldogs (Marvel) W, Fremantle (Perth) L, Collingwood (MCG) W, Carlton (MCG) W, Brisbane (Gabba) L.

We say: They face a difficult run home and the unexpected reality they could slip outside the top four if they cannot regain their blue-chip form. We still back them to finish in the top four, but they have dropped four of their past six matches and aren’t the dominant side many had expected. A tough trip north awaits this week, while road legs against Brisbane and Fremantle will provide a true audit of where they sit. The Demons have worries up forward – they miss Tom McDonald and don’t have faith in Sam Weideman – but still boast a midfield the envy of most teams.

3 Fremantle

Third: 12 wins, 4 losses
48 points, 123.8%

Run home: Sydney (Perth) W, Richmond (Marvel) L, Melbourne (Perth) W, Western Bulldogs (Marvel) W, West Coast (Perth) W, GWS (Manuka) W.

Midfielder Andrew Brayshaw has been instrumental in the Dockers’ rise this season.Credit:AFL Photos

We say: The Dockers have a friendly run home and, having toppled St Kilda on the road on Saturday, appear destined for a top-two finish, possibly even top spot on percentage, though they face a challenging three weeks. They boast a stingy defence and a strong midfield, but have posted some miserable scores in their defeats. Victory over the Demons at home in round 20 would frank their premiership aspirations.

4 Brisbane

Fourth: 11 wins, 5 losses

44 points, 124.0%

Run home: GWS (Manuka) W, Gold Coast (Gabba) W, Richmond (MCG) L, Carlton (Gabba) W, St Kilda (Marvel) W, Melbourne (Gabba) W.

We say: The Lions are a legitimate premiership threat – provided they can stay healthy. COVID-19 chaos contributed to their loss to Essendon (which could cost them a home final in week one), although this was no reason for their woeful performance against the Demons at the MCG in round 15, let alone their poor finals record of recent seasons. These Lions have a tougher edge, with the loss to the Bombers their only defeat at home this year. That’s particularly good news, given they still have three more home games to come.

5 Carlton

Fifth, 11 wins, 5 losses
44 points, 116.8%

Run home: Geelong (MCG) L, GWS (Marvel) W, Adelaide (AO) W, Brisbane (Gabba) L, Melbourne (MCG) L, Collingwood (MCG) W.

Patrick Cripps is on the verge of having his first taste of finals football.Credit:AFL Photos

We say: The Blues, having slayed their Perth hoodoo thanks to their twin towers, are all but certain to return to the finals for the first time since 2013 (when they only made it after the Bombers were disqualified). Saturday night’s blockbuster against the Cats shapes as an epic, perhaps even a September entrée between these clubs. Expected victories over the Giants and Crows this month will rubber-stamp a finals berth – with the double-chance the major lure through a challenging final three weeks of the home-and-away season.

6 Collingwood

Craig McRae has been a revelation in his first year as Magpies coach.Credit:AFL Photos

Sixth, 11 wins, 5 losses
44 points, 106.3%

Run home: Adelaide (AO) W, Essendon (MCG) W, Port Adelaide (MCG) W, Melbourne (MCG) L, Sydney (SCG) L, Carlton (MCG) L.

We say: The Magpies are arguably the competition’s hottest team, posting seven straight wins, although they just scraped home against North Melbourne. Regardless, the Pies are primed to return to the finals in Craig McRae’s maiden season as coach. They should knock off Adelaide and Essendon over the next fortnight, guaranteeing a September berth, but the final month of the home-and-away season will be tough. A clash against arch-rivals Carlton to end the campaign, with plenty riding on it for both teams, will be mouthwatering.

7 Sydney

Seventh, 10 wins, 6 losses
40 points, 120.5%

Run home: Fremantle (Perth) L, Adelaide (SCG) W, GWS (SCG) W, North Melbourne (Marvel) W, Collingwood (SCG) W, St Kilda (Marvel) W.

We say: The Swans began 5-1 but have gone a frustrating 5-5 since. The past fortnight has encapsulated this run – a miserable finish against Essendon, followed by a thumping win over the Bulldogs. The latter featured the highest pressure rating of any side this season. An audit comes against the Dockers on Saturday night. They need to win probably five of their next six, and rely on percentage, to claim a top-four berth, which they are capable of.

8 Richmond

Eighth, 9 wins, 7 losses
36 points, 116.4%

Run home: North Melbourne (Marvel) W, Fremantle (Marvel) W, Brisbane (MCG) L, Port Adelaide (AO) L, Hawthorn (MCG) W, Essendon (MCG) W.

We say: They suddenly appear wobbly. The post-siren loss to the Suns could be haunting, exacerbated by injuries to key big men, but they do have a favourable draw. However, they need to find a way to secure at least three, possibly four, more wins and even rely on percentage. That should begin against the Kangaroos, but a potentially bruising three weeks then await against the Dockers, Lions, and a pivotal trip to face the hungry Power.

Another hamstring issue will keep Tom Lynch on the sidelines at a time the Tigers can ill-afford injuries to key players.Credit:AFL Photos

9 St Kilda

Ninth, 9 wins, 7 losses
36 points, 104.1%

Run home: Western Bulldogs (Marvel) W, West Coast (Perth) W, Hawthorn (Marvel) W, Geelong (GMHBA) L, Brisbane (Marvel) L, Sydney (Marvel) L.

We say: Their season of frustration continues. The Saints have dropped four of their past five, their lone win in this period coming against Carlton. They appear to be a confidence-based side – they’ve had runs of five-straight and three-straight wins – leaving their season hanging by a thread. They need to win at least three, possibly four, of their final six games and rely on percentage, with must-wins over the next three weeks.

The Saints need star forward Max King to keep directing them towards victory.Credit:AFL Photos

10 Western Bulldogs

10th, eight wins, eight losses
32 points, 110.4%

Run home: St Kilda (Marvel) L, Melbourne (Marvel) L, Geelong (GMHBA) L, Fremantle (Marvel) L, GWS (Marvel) W, Hawthorn (UTAS) W.

We say: Friday’s clash against the Swans shaped as a do-or-die contest. A heavy defeat means they now need to win at least four, and possibly five, of their final six matches and rely on percentage – a demanding prospect as this includes back-to-back matches against premiership favourites Melbourne and Geelong. The Dogs are one of the season’s great disappointments, with serious questions to be asked should they go from grand finalists to missing the finals. They boast an elite midfield and ruck, but their ball use is inconsistent. Marcus Bontempelli’s shoulder issues may be worse than the club has let on.

11 Gold Coast

11th, 8 wins, 8 losses
32 points, 108.9%

Run home: Essendon (Marvel) W, Brisbane (Gabba) L, West Coast (Metricon) W, Hawthorn (UTAS) W, Geelong (Metricon) L, North Melbourne (Marvel) W.

We say: A heartbreaking loss to the Magpies appeared to end their run, but a stunner over the Tigers was the perfect bounce back. They’ll probably need at least four more wins and percentage to force their way into the top eight, meaning they need a victory at Marvel Stadium this weekend, and then must upset either the Lions or Cats amid franking expected wins over lowly opponents. The Suns are playing a strong brand of football and have real belief they can get the job done.

Dynamic duo: The Suns are pressing for a maiden finals berth but need Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson to remain in excellent touch through the midfield.Credit:Getty Images

12 Port Adelaide

12th, 8 wins, 8 losses
32 points, 108.6%

Run home: Melbourne (TIO) L, Geelong (AO) L, Collingwood (MCG) L, Richmond (AO) W, Essendon (Marvel) W, Adelaide (AO) W.

We say: That the Power have been in the finals mix come this stage of the season is a feat in itself, given a 0-5 start had many thinking their campaign was all but done. They have rebounded well but, like the Suns, will probably need to win at least four, and possibly five, of their remaining six games and rely on percentage. That seems improbable considering the opponents on the agenda, particularly those over the next month.

The final word: Our top-eight prediction

Keep up to date with the best AFL coverage in the country. Sign up for the Real Footy newsletter.

Most Viewed in Sport

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article