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Once again we had a change in ladder leaders in round 19, with Hawthorn reclaiming top spot despite Sydney recording a reasonably comfortable 22-point win on Friday night. Hawthorn were as ruthless as they have been in the last few years, making up the percentage on Sydney against the Bulldogs in Tasmania.

Speaking of Hawthorn and Sydney their clash last Saturday night survived only a week with the title of ‘best game of 2014′, with Saturday afternoon’s Adelaide-West Coast game comfortably exceeding any other game so far this year. The Crows and Eagles game was fast-paced, high-scoring and close, along with top eight repercussions and ultimately an upset result. The Eagles’ 31-point barnstorming win against Adelaide was their best win since 2012 and left the door for finals slightly ajar for the Eagles.

Thursday night was another very good game as Carlton refused to give up against Fremantle at Paterson’s Stadium, leading with 90 seconds to go in the final quarter. However, an unfortunate Cameron Wood turnover in the defensive 50 found Lachie Neale who kicked what would be the game winner, salvaging any Fremantle hopes of a home Qualifying Final.

Collingwood kept its season alive for the moment on Sunday evening while ending Port Adelaide’s top four hopes with a one goal win over the Power.  The Pies’ clash with West Coast at Patersons Stadium next Sunday is all of a sudden a defining game for both sides’ finals chances, with West Coast potentially finding themselves a game outside the eight with a win while the Pies need the four points to hold onto its spot.

After suffering a lapse in form since Gary Ablett’s season was abruptly ended, Gold Coast pulled out of its tailspin on Saturday night with an easy win over St Kilda. The victory leaves the Suns on equal points with North Melbourne, Essendon and Collingwood, but sitting out of the eight on percentage.

For most of the first quarter and the end of the third quarter, it looked as though North Melbourne would be able to cause an upset on Saturday night against Geelong. However, a series of brain fades in the second quarter which gifted Geelong a couple of goals proved costly, as the Cats were able to run away with it comfortably in the last quarter to make it five wins in a row.

Elsewhere, Richmond kept its slim finals hopes alive by beating GWS and Brisbane continued its nice run of form to win its sixth game of the year – a respectable number, considering that the Lions were a popular pick to finish last this year.

Here’s the Team of the Week for Round 19.

FB: Matt Jaensch, Heath Grundy, Nick Smith

HB: Shannon Hurn, Michael Hurley, Robert Murphy

C: Brandon Ellis, Nathan Fyfe (C), Andrew Gaff

HF: Allen Christensen, Josh J Kennedy, Shane Edwards

F: Ben McGlynn, Jarryd Roughead, Hayden Ballantyne

Foll: Nic Naitanui, Callan Ward, Joel Selwood

Int: Taylor Walker, Shane Edwards, Luke Parker

Sub: Jack Steven

Full Back:

Matt Jaensch: Jaensch did all he could down back – with Daniel Talia subbed out after a stray knee to the cheek – while also maintaining his counter-attacking prowess that has been crucial for Adelaide. However, there was only so much he could do to try and stop the Eagles tall forwards considering the size he was giving up. Otherwise, he had a very good game with 27 disposals, six inside and six rebound 50s.

Heath Grundy: Tasked with manning up on the most dangerous player in the game the last two weeks in Jake Carlisle, Grundy more than held his own with 22 disposals while keeping Carlisle to just 11 touches, two marks and one goal.

Nick Smith: While Jake Carlisle has been taking the big marks and kicking goals, it’s often been Travis Colyer getting the ball to him. However,  Colyer’s attempts were thwarted as Smith completely shut down his run and carry on Friday, limiting the speedster to an unremarkable 15 touches and no score assists.

Half Back:

Shannon Hurn: He was huge on Saturday afternoon – particularly in the first half before Matt Wright was sent to tag him – to the point where every time he had the ball and burst through the middle, it looked like West Coast were going to score. The Eagles should be thrilled they locked him down early in the year before other clubs were reminded what he can do and came at him with the big bucks.

Michael Hurley: When he was down back, Hurley played on Sam Reid and comfortably won that contest, keeping the Sydney forward to nine touches. Then, having been swung forward in the fourth quarter as a last ditch attempt to breathe some life into Essendon’s stagnant forward line, Hurley kicked a goal but the Bombers were ultimately unsuccessful in getting over the line.

Robert Murphy: It was certainly the best game of Bob Murphy’s season in Tasmania on Sunday afternoon, recording a career-high 32 disposals and constantly setting up for the Bulldogs off half back.

Centre:

Brandon Ellis: After a slow start to the season which echoed that of Richmond, Ellis has exceeded his form of last year in the second half of the season and Saturday was no exception. Ellis accumulated 34 touches, five inside 50s, five rebound 50s along with kicking a goal, and worked harder than anyone on the field.

Nathan Fyfe (C): The AFL would be quietly hoping that Fyfe does not keep his current form up. Otherwise, they will face the backlash that will come with the star Docker finishing with the most votes come Brownlow night but not taking ‘Charlie’ home due to his ineligibility stemming from a suspension. Thursday night would have been another three votes for the 22-year old as he had 28 disposals (21 contested), 13 clearances and kicked two goals.

Andrew Gaff: He has often suffered from receiving a hard tag this year due to the Eagles poor midfield depth. However, on Saturday, Gaff got off the leash, with it being just the second time this year Gaff has had upwards of 30 touches. He did it in style as well, as kicking three goals in West Coast’s best win for a couple of years.

Half Forward:

Allen Christensen: It was a more than handy return to the side from Christensen with a likely two votes for his 29 disposals, five clearances and eight inside 50s, along with a goal in the final term.

Josh J Kennedy: Kennedy benefitted greatly from Daniel Talia being subbed off with a facial injury, with the Crows having nobody else big enough to go with him. As a result, he took 11 marks and kicked five goals from nine scoring shots.

Shane Edwards: He played the best game of his career a few weeks back against Brisbane, but Saturday against GWS may well have been the second best outing of his career. ‘Titch’ had 21 disposals (11 of those contested) playing through the middle and forward line: now, he just needs to start doing it against top eight sides.

Full Forward:

Ben McGlynn: There’s plenty of Swans who receive more attention than McGlynn, but very few who work harder come game day. He makes up for the inability of the big men Franklin, Tippett and Reid to apply forward pressure on his own by tacking and running himself ragged. The small forward got reward for his effort on Friday with 25 touches and two goals.

Jarryd Roughead: The Bulldogs were once again left wanting when it comes to key position players, as Roughead had his way with them on his way to bagging six goals.

Hayden Ballantyne: The best small forwards make the most of limited opportunities and Ballantyne did just that on Thursday night. Of his eight disposals, three were goals with two of those coming in the last quarter, as Fremantle struggled to get over the top of Carlton.

Followers:

Nic Naitanui: Sam Jacobs had 15 more hitouts but Naitanui’s taps to advantage are more damaging than any other ruck in the league. This was there for all to see on Saturday afternoon, with a tap straight down the throat of Luke Shuey late in the first quarter leading to a Josh Kennedy goal. Naitanui was also outstanding when the ball hit the deck at stoppages with eight clearances and five tackles

Callan Ward: Once again, Ward was outstanding on Saturday, continuing his remarkable 2014 season. Ward accrued 26 disposals at 81% efficiency: now, he just needs to work on his goal kicking to make the jump into the top tier of midfielders.

Joel Selwood: His Brownlow chances get stronger by the week. With Ablett forced to watch on from the sidelines and Fyfe ineligible, he would have secured another three votes on Saturday night with 29 touches (at 86% efficiency), 12 marks, five clearances, seven inside 5os and a goal.

Interchange:

Taylor Walker: Walker kicked four goals which is a fine return considering he was manned up by Eric Mackenzie: along with his scoreboard impact, he competed well in the air and assisted a couple of teammates unselfishly.

Dayne Beams: Despite being well-held in the second half, Beams’ superior first two quarters saw him still finish with a game-high 32 disposals, in addition to ten clearances, seven tackles and six inside 50s.

Luke Parker: He had the most disposals of any player in round 19 with 35, while also notching up seven clearances and five tackles playing entirely in the middle.

Jack Steven (sub): A handy player to have in the green vest is Jack Steven. The 2013 Saints best and fairest winner proved that he’s fit and firing: coming on at half time, Steven finished with 11 touches, six tackles, three clearances and four inside 50s in 42% game time.