Hawthorn and the embroiled Essendon carried the mantle of kicking off round 18 with their top of the table clash at Etihad Stadium on Friday night. The premiership favourites never really looked in much danger, dominating the Bombers all over the ground and eventually defeating the then second-placed Bombers by 56 points. After much ambiguity over his return, Lance Franklin proved his considerable worth with an huge eight-goal haul against a quality defence, while Jarryd Roughead continued his unheralded, albeit brilliant, form with four goals of his own. The Bombers drop to fourth place on the ladder after the loss, with a huge match-up against Collingwood their next on-field challenge.
Carlton fans were no doubt holding off nerves in the build up to their Saturday afternoon clash with the Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium. The same fixture nearing the end of last season saw the Suns upset the Blues, ending any slight chance Carlton had of playing in September. The Suns would have only added to this tension as they stayed within striking distance of Carlton throughout the match, though the Blues momentarily launched themselves into the top eight when they broke away midway through the final term to run out 43-point victors. Gary Ablett jnr was again fantastic in his side’s loss, firming ever further as the Brownlow Medal favourite, while Lachie Henderson continued his great form as a big swingman for Carlton. Brock McLean, Kade Simpson, Heath Scotland and Marc Murphy all shared plenty of the ball for the Blues.
The second Saturday match to take place was between the struggling Demons and the Kangaroos at Etihad Stadium. At half time, after a particularly wasteful opening half by North Melbourne, Melbourne only trailed by 25 points, a respectable margin. This deficit did not reflect that Melbourne had managed just two inside 50s in the first quarter, the second coming with just six seconds left on the clock. However North were quick to begin capitalising on their dominance, scoring a remarkable 16.9 in the second half, to Melbourne’s 1.2 – 105 points to eight in an half of football. The only negative for North to come out of the match was an innocuous yet severe Achilles injury to captain Andrew Swallow, who is expected to miss at least eight months.
Saturday afternoon football continued with an under-performing Collingwood side hosting the young Giants at the MCG. Although Collingwood held off a spirited Giants effort to win by 40 points, the attention of the football world was again drawn to Jeremy Cameron up forward for Greater Western Sydney. The emerging star kicked seven goals, several of which utilised agility and poise to belie his height and reach. GWS fans would be buoyed by the knowledge that this 20-year-old is showing signs of becoming perhaps the best forward prospect in the game. Credit must also be handed to Dane Swan and Dayne Beams, who controlled the midfield for the victorious Magpies, while their own young gun in Marley Williams gained a Rising Star nomination for his defensive efforts.
Simonds Stadium was host to the first Saturday night clash of round 18, with the Cats hosting the Saints. The visitors managed to go into the first change level with the home side, before Geelong quite simply annihilated St Kilda. The Cats, seemingly ready to build up to another strong finals campaign, kicked the last 15 goals of the game to establish the second 100-point thumping of the day. Although Jack Steven again proved just how superb he can be for the Saints, Joel Selwood played a captain’s game for the victors, his 32 disposals and three goals showing the way for Geelong.
Fremantle implemented its trademark lock-down style of football to claim the win in their match-up with Adelaide at Patersons Stadium on Saturday night. This win came in spite of the fact that Fremantle lost in inside 50s, possessions, tackles and contested ball. Adelaide’s inaccuracy hurt them in eventuality, possibly the result of battling the taxing Fremantle game-style. In the low scoring, bruising affair, Nat Fyfe starred for the Dockers, with ample support from Stephen Hill, Michael Barlow and Lachie Neale. Fremantle have effectively ended Adelaide’s finals chances, who face Port Adelaide in the Showdown this Sunday.
Port Adelaide would have expected a comfortable victory when they hosted Brisbane on Sunday, though there is little doubt that they were below par as they stumbled over the line against an improved Lions outfit. Brisbane, like Adelaide, now appear unable to make the finals this year after the nine-point loss, and Port again replace Carlton in the top eight with five rounds remaining of 2013. Tom Rockliff was great for the visitors, while Power captain Travis Boak, young midfielder Hamish Hartlett and defender Andrew Moore were all significant factors in the slim triumph.
Although the season was effectively over for both the Western Bulldogs and the West Coast Eagles prior to their clash at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, the Bulldogs’ performance would suggest otherwise. West Coast attained the early ascendancy before momentum shifted in the second term, and the Bulldogs never looked back, leading by 22 points at the final siren. Much-maligned Bulldog Jarrad Grant played possibly the best game of his career, showing a significant lift in effort and intensity. Luke Dahlhaus and Tom Liberatore were also among the best for the Bulldogs, with the latter amassing an impressive 12 tackles.
Many would claim that the premiership race is down to three sides; Hawthorn, Geelong and Sydney. Such predictions were somewhat affirmed when the Swans defeated the sixth-placed Tigers comfortably in Sunday twilight football. The Richmond side matched it with the reigning premiers early on, before the class and depth of the Swans proved far too much for the Tigers, who fell away to lose by 47 points in the end. Jesse White continued his considerable rise within the eyes of AFL followers, while Kieren Jack, Ryan O’Keefe and young star Tom Mitchell also excelled for Sydney. The loss seemingly ends any aspirations Richmond may have had for a top four finish, with fellow top four contenders Fremantle boasting a far easier run home.
Here are the best five highlights of the round as chosen by you:
@RyzaSmith: Dahlhaus and Grant’s performance against the Eagles were fantastic. Grants best ever game.
@Strauchanside: Kieren Jack and Luke Dahlhaus, may they reign at their clubs for years to come.
@mattybomb22: Photo after the Cats-Saints game for the Casey Tutungi appeal.
@Lucrious Cameron’s bag of seven against Collingwood. Going to be a star for the Giants!
@Paigeos_Hotpies Jarred Grant’s turnaround has been coming, but tonight was his best game for the club. Incredible performance by him.
If you want your highlight of the round to appear in our article next week, be sure to tweet @Bound4GloryNews during the week using the hashtag #BFGNHighlight. The top tweets will make our round 19 article.