And then there was four again. For most of the season, there’s been a sense of inevitability that we would be watching Hawthorn and Sydney duel it out on the last Saturday in September. Ross Lyon has other ideas, though, with Sunday evening’s performance in which Fremantle found the perfect balance between defence and attack. It sent a clear message – the Dockers are a big a chance as any.
Then there’s the Cats, the side which has been written off so many times in the last seven years and has never failed to prove any doubters wrong. Despite going through something of a form slump of late, the Cats made it seven wins in a row on Friday night and will be looking to further dent Hawthorn’s top two chances on Saturday night to build their own momentum going into finals.
The race for eighth looks to be a two horse race now with Essendon knocking West Coast out of contention, all but assuring seventh place for its own with the win on Saturday evening. Collingwood’s season looks effectively over following a series of injuries to key players and an embarrassing loss to Brisbane, while Gold Coast’s loss to Port Adelaide in the wet all but signalled the end of the Suns hopes.
All Richmond can do is win its last two games against St Kilda and Sydney – who should have a top two place locked up by the time the Tigers face them – and hope Adelaide drop a game against North Melbourne or St Kilda, or hope to make up the seven per cent which separates the sides.
At the other end of the ladder Melbourne suffered its worst loss of the year with a 64-point thumping at the hands of the Giants. For all the progress Paul Roos looked to have made earlier in the season, the Dees sit only percentage off 18th and desperately need to find some attacking prowess in the off-season.
Here’s the Team of the Week for round 21.
B: Mark Baguley, Alex Rance, Daniel Talia
HB: Pearce Hanley, Harry Taylor, Shannon Hurn
C: Luke Parker, Dyson Heppell, David Mundy
HF: Josh Caddy, Lance Franklin (C), Robbie Gray
F: Jason Winderlich, Matthew Pavlich , Dayne Zorko
Foll: Matthew Lobbe, Tom Rockliff, Andrew Carrazzo
Int: Hamish Hartlett, Brandon Ellis, Harley Bennell
Sub: Mitch Grigg
Mark Baguley: He was as good as any Bomber on Saturday night, often finding himself matched up on the much bigger Jack Darling and managing to win the contest as well as cleaning up on the dozens of occasions the ball hit the deck in the Essendon defensive 50.
Alex Rance: Rance was simply great down back in holding off the Crows in the fourth quarter while Richmond struggled to convert opportunities at the other end. Rance was hardly beaten in a one-on-one contest all night and had 21 disposals.
Daniel Talia: Talia did what nobody else has been able to in nearly two seasons, keeping Jack Riewoldt goalless for the first time since round one 2013.
Pearce Hanley: Hanley took on the Macaffer tag and ran a tiring Collingwood midfield ragged with 34 touches, six tackles, seven clearances, 11 inside 50s and four score assists.
Harry Taylor: Taylor started forward but was forced back in the first quarter and from there – once again – he dominated. Whether he was left to play loose or playing on Levi Casboult, Taylor controlled the game from the Cats defensive half and finished with 24 disposals – 11 of which were contested – and eight marks.
Shannon Hurn: This makes it three weeks in a row now that Hurn has started a game without a lockdown player assigned to him and the third week in a row he has made the opposition pay. In a game full of clangers, Hurn was picking off everything across the West Coast half back line, finishing with 10 marks as a result, in addition to 23 disposals with 20 by foot.
Luke Parker: The guy wearing number 23 for Sydney stole all the attention and detracted from another stellar Parker performance as he had 33 disposals, 17 contested, six tackles, six clearances and a goal.
Dyson Heppell: With star midfielders dropping like flies, this could be the year somebody pops up from outside the top echelon of midfielders to win the Brownlow and Dyson Heppell could well be that man. Saturday evening will have marked another three votes as Heppell gathered 29 disposals in the second half alone to finish with 39.
David Mundy: Mundy led the line for the Fremantle midfield against the Hawks with 33 disposals, six tackles, nine clearances and six inside 50s.
Josh Caddy: Caddy played comfortably the best game of his career to date on Friday night with career-highs in disposals (28), contested possessions (16), effective disposals (18) as well as showing his forward nous with three marks inside 50.
Lance Franklin (c): Franklin booted three goals in the first quarter and looked a sure thing to hit double figures but fell short in the end. Ultimately, he finished with just the nine goals and four behinds, to go with his 13 marks (five contested) and 19 kicks.
Robbie Gray: Gray looked a cut above in torrid conditions as the heavens opened up on the Gold Coast. While most struggled to get a handle on the ball Gray had it 26 times, 20 of which were contested, as well as having nine clearances, 11 inside 50s and a goal.
Jason Winderlich: It was the switch of Winderlich from a half back flank to operating out of the goal square at half time which proved the catalyst for Essendon’s comeback. He gave the Essendon midfield a leading target to kick to and showed the intelligence which has been a feature of his game as he kicked three second half goals.
Matthew Pavlich: The Dockers are back in town, of that there can be no question, and so may be the Fremantle skipper. Pavlich bagged his first haul of five goals for 2014 on Sunday as Fremantle recorded its best win of the year.
Dayne Zorko: Zorko was best on ground on Saturday night with 36 possessions, five tackles, nine clearances, eight inside 50s, two goals and two score assists.
Matthew Lobbe: Getting your midfielders first use of the footy becomes increasingly important in the wet, and on Saturday Lobbe was superb in tapping the ball down the throat of the Port midfielders with 56 hitouts, as well as contributing himself with seven clearances and 12 tackles.
Tom Rockliff: Another week and another 40 disposals for Rockliff. This week it was 43 at 79% efficiency, nine marks, nine tackles and six clearances.
Andrew Carrazzo: Carrazzo was charged with one of the toughest gigs in footy in tagging in-form Geelong skipper Joel Selwood and performed admirably, comfortably winning the contest by keeping Selwood to 21 disposals while having 32 disposals and eight clearances of his own.
Hamish Hartlett: Hartlett was the most exciting player in an otherwise scrappy contest on Saturday as his 24 disposals did did plenty of damage.
Brandon Ellis: Another Richmond win, another ripping game from Brandon Ellis. Saturday night’s 31 disposals now leaves Ellis averaging 31 disposals per game in Richmond’s seven-game winning streak, and it should assure him of a spot in the All-Australian squad at least.
Harley Bennell: Bennell was the best of the Suns on Saturday with 27 disposals at a respectable 67% disposal efficiency considering the conditions, along with seven tackles, six clearances and two goals.
Mitch Grigg (sub): Grigg played just 29% of the game yet racked up 11 disposals and laid three tackles.