If you entered the split round frustrated by the lack of quality in the first week, you wouldn’t be alone.
There were well reasoned arguments to suggest that this split round could even derail the season: however, as we all know by now, the first half of round 18 has been one of 2014’s best.
The fear was that we would see up to four blowouts and one sided contests that were not appealing to watch. This fear was quelled essentially immediately, when the Blues triumphed and continued the roller-coaster season of North Melbourne.
And yet, the ramifications from Friday night which could play a major role in dictating the way the finals are going to unfold were second fiddle to the events of the following afternoon.
The weekend was headlined by the Saints, who dismantled Fremantle in the same way they had done so last season. An irresistible Saints outfit ran the Dockers ragged, inspired by the retirement of a legend of the club Lenny Hayes.
And the unpredictability didn’t end there.
Greater Western Sydney pushed Geelong right to the end, as did Melbourne to Port Adelaide. It made for two very watchable and thrilling games which delivered the expected results, yet threatened the most improbable of outcomes.
The match that was effectively the main-event of the first half of round 18 lived up to expectations, with Essendon defeating the Bulldogs in a solid match with a number of lead changes and a grandstand finish.
With four of the five matches up for grabs at three quarter time, it was hard to look away. Carlton were the only team to breakaway and win comfortably of these contests, and yet the continuing saga of North Melbourne capitulating in matches they should win made it worth watching to the end.
And in a year where blowouts have been a major point of discussion in football circles, the Saints’ demolition of premiership fancies Fremantle was the most fascinating bout of the season.
St Kilda, GWS and Melbourne were given all next to no chance going to their respective games. Considering they were coming up against Fremantle, Geelong and Port Adelaide respectively, this was both expected and justified.
The Giants and the Demons were gallant in defeat and showed clear signs that they’re improving. They won’t deliver performances like that every week, but they’re heading in the right direction.
Of course, the Saints are the story of the round by causing the upset of the season, toppling Fremantle by almost ten goals. St Kilda played an attacking style of footy that was great to watch, cutting open Fremantle from the first minute to the final siren.
The AFL’s slogan at the start of the year was “everything’s possible”, and this round has proven just that: the lowest of expectations heading into the weekend produced one of the year’s more memorable rounds.
The pressure is now on the round’s two blockbuster games – Hawthorn vs Sydney and Collingwood vs Adelaide – to deliver, and not to be outshone by the competition’s cellar dwellers in the opening half of round 18.