As it stands at the conclusion of Round 17, it is evident there are four powerhouses of the competition, all of which are a force to be reckoned with in their own way.
Sydney, Adelaide, Hawthorn and Collingwood are currently in contention for the most prestigious prize in AFL; the 2012 Premiership. While it’s respectful to note that all four have been successful up until this stage of the season, it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds. With six rounds remaining in the 2012 season, will Sydney retain its throne as the top team? Or will all four teams maintain their respectful positions? That is the big question.
Sydney solidified top spot with its seventh consecutive victory and 29-point win over St. Kilda last Sunday. The good old Swans have no intention of being dethroned of top spot; at least, not yet. It’s a matter of consistency and utilising the tools that have helped them attain the top spot.
Though Sydney’s consistent winning streak will enhance their mental game, they need to continue their dominance, as they are facing ‘a month of hell’. Of the six games remaining, three are against Collingwood, Hawthorn, Geelong. Then there’s Carlton, who are a win shy of a top eight birth. If Sydney can prevail over Collingwood and/or Hawthorn – both of whom are nipping at their feet for top spot – they will have all but secured the minor premiership and will arguably be the favourite for the flag. However, with Adelaide currently equal with them on points, they are the one team they are hoping will falter at the finish.
With percentage only separating them from top spot, Adelaide have been graced with an easy run home to the finals, with three of their six opponents being mediocre teams; Gold Coast, Melbourne and Brisbane. This is balanced out, however, by the fact they have to face off against three teams eager to secure their spot in the top eight; Essendon (6th), Geelong (7th), and Fremantle (9th). Adelaide are off to a four-game winning streak, averaging over a combined margin of 61 points, but despite that, the mighty Crows need to maintain their superiority.
The third ranked Hawks were living testimony that despite the absence of their prolific player, Lance Franklin, they can jump any hurdle, as they overcame the all-conquering Collingwood. Franklin is still not cleared to return for the Hawks as they battle fierce rivals Essendon, in a match that could go either way. How will the Hawks remain for the next six rounds? Can they carry on their form in the absence of Buddy? Hawthorn are considered one of the most talented teams, and they are up to the test as they face four of the six teams currently in the top eight.
It’s a rare occurrence that a team outside the top four claims the premiership title, which is why it’s ever so important for Collingwood to clinch a spot ahead of fifth place contender West Coast, whom they face in Round 22. The Pies have arguably the greatest competition of the top four as they have yet to face five of the top eight teams.
Further down the ladder, outside contenders in St Kilda and North Melbourne are in battle for a top eight position, whilst Essendon and Sydney will also attempt at retaining their position in the foreseeable rounds. All in all, it will be a competitive six rounds as the season closes its doors.