The Tigers are in the eight. On the 20th of June when Richmond lost its 10th game of the year having only won three games at the time nobody could have forecast what would take place in the next eight weeks that has seen them to eighth. The Tigers face a tough challenge in holding onto the spot with a win against top of the ladder Sydney – who were clinical in a big win against the Bulldogs – required to guarantee a finals spot.
It looked for two and a half quarters like the most routine Geelong/Hawthorn game of the last six years as Geelong were a cut above in establishing a six-goal lead but the Hawks had other ideas completing a remarkable turnaround to walk away four-goal winners. The win for Hawthorn will likely mean little in the grand scheme of things other than making the Hawks the home team in a qualifying final between the two which would be played at the MCG regardless.
As disappointing as the second half of the season has been for Port Adelaide the Power still have a chance to finish in the top four with a in against Fremantle out West next Saturday afternoon. Both sides were dominant in big wins this weekend and Fremantle – and the rest of the teams in the eight – will be wary of Port Adelaide hitting form again at the perfect time.
North Melbourne’s spot is as good as locked in; the Kangaroos’ win over Adelaide not only left the Crows needing Richmond, Collingwood and West Coast to lose next week to play finals but basically guaranteed North a home final with the likely opponent being bitter rival Essendon.
Collingwood kept its slim finals chances alive with a good win against GWS with just 19 fit players while West Coast are arguably favourites to snag eighth with a superior percentage to the other four sides and a favourable draw to Richmond and Collingwood – who face the top two – with a game against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium next Sunday.
Here’s the penultimate team of the week for 2014:
B: Michael Firrito, Josh Gibson, Troy Chaplin
HB: Hamish Hartlett, Michael Hurley, Nick Dal Santo
C: Robbie Gray (C), Tom Rockliff, Luke Parker
HF: Chad Wingard, Lance Franklin, Brendon Goddard
F: Hayden Ballantyne, Jack Riewoldt, Mark LeCras
Foll: Paddy Ryder, Jack Ziebell, Scott Pendlebury
Int: Toby Greene, Will Langford, Josh Thomas
Sub: Luke Ball
Michael Firrito: Firrito either played loose down back where he was able to provide a third man in every contest and limited the influence of Taylor Walker or manned up on James Podsiadly who was kept goalless.
Josh Gibson: Gibson often went unaccounted for and was able to intercept Geelong’s forays forward and turn them into Hawthorn attacking moves. Chris Scott will have learnt that Gibson needs to be made accountable if Geelong are to get over the Hawks come September.
Troy Chaplin: He roamed free in the backline and made St Kilda pay with a game-high 29 disposals as well as 15 uncontested marks and three score assists.
Hamish Hartlett: Hartlett spent most of the game playing an outside role and there wasn’t much Carlton could do to stop him running them ragged as he picked up 27 possessions, had four inside 50s and four score assists and kicked a goal.
Michael Hurley: He played in defence for three quarters where he accumulated plenty of the footy before being swung forward in the last quarter where he changed the game for Essendon in offering a leading forward target and kicked two goals.
Nick Dal Santo: Dal Santo bounced back from a dry few weeks where he has struggled with hard tags to have 28 disposals and return to his regular damaging ways off half back.
Robbie Gray (C): It was another best on ground performance from Gray on Friday night with 31 disposals, five tackles, seven clearances, four goals and four score assists as he continues his Brownlow push in a season where it’s well and truly up for grabs.
Tom Rockliff: 207 disposals in five games. Those are Tom Rockliff’s numbers after another 45 against Fremantle on Sunday. If there’s ever been a more prominent display of ball-winning ability over five weeks I certainly can’t remember it. The scary thing is he could get better as the young Lions midfield begins to lift.
Luke Parker: An equal season-high 11 tackles was the highlight of Parker’s impressive stat line which included 32 disposals and ten clearances in a comfortable victory as his pressure never faltered even long after the game was dead and buried.
Chad Wingard: It is the game of Wingard on Friday night that will most worry the seven other sides who could potentially face Port Adelaide in September. At his best which was on show when Port Adelaide sat atop the ladder this year Wingard is Port’s most dynamic player who can change a game at the flick of a switch and Friday’s 19 disposal, 12 mark, three goal effort showed glimpses of his brilliance.
Lance Franklin: It was always going to be tough for the Bulldogs – whose lack of key position players has been well noted – to handle Franklin and it turned out just so as ‘Buddy’ extended his lead at the top of the Coleman Medal leader board with six goals.
Brendon Goddard: Goddard bounced back from an uncharacteristic poor performance against West Coast with 28 disposals and three goals playing mostly in the forward line.
Hayden Ballantyne: Ballantyne looks to be enjoying the return of his partner in crime Michael Walters from injury as he bagged another three as well as 19 disposals and ten marks on Sunday afternoon
Jack Riewoldt: Riewoldt came back strong from his first goalless game of 2014 with a bag of six from just the 11 touches.
Mark LeCras: He has hardly missed a beat in his two weeks off as he came back with 23 touches, four goals and six tackles.
Paddy Ryder: Ryder has quietly gone along and had an outstanding year in 2014 to the point where he will challenge for the All-Australian ruck spot. Saturday was no exception as he made a mockery of Gold Coast’s thin ruck stocks with 44 hitouts, 15 disposals and two goals.
Jack Ziebell: It had been something of a disappointing year from Ziebell who looked ready to explode at the start of the year but was at his best on Saturday with 25 touches and four goals.
Scott Pendlebury: Pendlebury stood up while his teammates were dropping like flies with injuries to lead his side to a courageous victory and keep their slim finals hopes alive with 28 disposals, eight tackles and nine clearances.
Toby Greene: Greene has been a ball-winning machine the last six games only dipping below 30 disposals twice and cracking 40 touches for the first time on Sunday evening with 42.
Will Langford: Langford was best on ground with 23 disposals and two goals – including the major at the end of the third quarter which gave Hawthorn the lead.
Josh Thomas: Collingwood needed everyone to lift with a host of stars missing the game and only one fit man on the bench and Thomas rose to the occasion with a season-high 29 disposals and career-high three goals.
Luke Ball (sub): Ball played 61% of Collingwood’s game against GWS and had 20 disposals, five marks, four clearances, three inside 5os and four rebound 50s.