THE picture that is the 2017 AFL Finals is starting to become clearer. A handful of teams in the top 10 clashed with the outcomes equating to a lot of ladder movement. Pivotal wins by the Hawks, Bulldogs and Magpies have them still in mathematical finals contention and the Tigers, Demons and Swans are all knocking on the door for a top four spot. While those winners rejoice the losers from the weekend have their work cut out for them over the final five matches of the season.

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In A Nutshell

– AN inspired effort by Rory Sloane helped steer the Crows to a 21 point win over the Cats. The win moved Adelaide six points clear atop the table of Geelong with some tough matchups still ahead.

– ESSENDON kept their faint finals hopes alive with their third win in a row against North Melbourne. The Bombers were led by Cale Hooker’s five goals to overcome the Roos by 27 points, leaving North tied with Brisbane at the bottom of the ladder.

– THE Demons underlined their legitimacy as a premiership contender by knocking off a gallant Port Adelaide outfit. The win leaves both teams locked at 10 wins and seven losses with both still a chance to sneak inside the top four.

– WHAT seemed like a danger game in the third quarter turned into a massive percentage boost for the Bulldogs. Liam Picken was the hero with six goals in their 54 point win over Gold Coast, who need to be careful if they want to avoid the wooden spoon.

– WE learned a lot about the Swans and Saints on Saturday night with Syndey throwing the challenge down against St Kilda. The result was the Swans pulling off a 42 point win and continued to soar, while St Kilda travels in the opposite direction with a second consecutive loss.

AFL Round 18 Wrap Up 1Image from afl.com.au

– HAWTHORN celebrated Alistair Clarkson’s 300th game as coach with a resounding 52 point win to keep their faint finals hopes alive. The Dockers looked out of their depth for most of the game and lost to the Hawks for the 10th time in 11 games.

– IN sloppy condition a gritty Richmond outfit staked their claim for a top four spot, beating the GWS Giants by 19 points. The loss sees GWS go four straight games without taking four points as they look ready to freefall down the table.

– UNDERMANNED and trailing by close to 30 points early in the fourth, Collingwood kicked the last five goals of the game to record a memorable win over the West Coast Eagles. The interstate woes of Adam Simpson’s men continue as they face the prospect of missing out on finals action.

– A fast starting Brisbane outfit has recorded their fourth win of the season at the expense of Carlton’s fifth consecutive defeat. A blistering first half set up the win for the Lions, who conceded seven straight goals late in the match, only to weather the storm and run out 30 point winners.

AFL Round 18 Wrap Up 2Image from couriermail.com.au

The Four Points

The Eagles Meltdowns Will Cost Them
WEST Coast seemed like one of the teams to beat at the beginning of the season, even with their most important player, Nic Natanui likely to miss the whole year. Their consistent inconsistencies and inability to win on the road will likely result in the Eagles missing out on finals competition in 2017.

It’s Decision Time At St Kilda
NO one is questioning if Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt are champions of the game, that much is clear. It might be time though, for the Saints to focus on generation next with Volt visibly hampered by niggles and injuries and Montagna suffering a hamstring strain int he second half too. It would only be right that St Kilda allows their out of contract champions to receive the farewell they deserve.

The Wooden Spoon Might Not End Up In Brisbane
AFTER a stirring with over the Blues the Lions now find themselves sitting at 4-13, the same record North Melbourne has. With the two clubs meeting each other in Round 23, that match could very well decide who earns the wooden spoon and at this rate, I’d bet my money on the Roos claiming last on the ladder.

Dale Morris Deserves Better
FAVOURITE son of the Western Bulldogs Dale Morris has been a valuable servant of the club. Playing in his 239th game on the weekend though, many fear that it may be the final time Morris steps onto an AFL field. Morris landed awkwardly in the second quarter with doctors confirming he has a badly broken arm. After managing only nine games this year and at the tender age of 34 all signs point to curtains falling on Morris’ stellar career.

AFL Round 18 Wrap Up 3Image from theaustralian.com.au

Power Rankings

1. Adelaide Crows (level) – Look’s a cut above the rest and now sit six points clear.
2. Geelong Cats (level) –
 Despite the loss, they still look like the clear 2nd best team.
3. Sydney Swans (Increase 2) – You can’t deny it anymore, the Swans are a real flag chance.
4. Richmond Tigers (Increase 3) –
Last week I asked to see more from Richmond. Well, they certainly did that.
5. Melbourne Demons (Increase 1) –
Arguably their best win of the year knocking on the top four door.
6. Port Adelaide Power (Decrease 3)
 – Missed a real opportunity to cement a top four spot.
7. GWS Giants (Decrease 3) – Alarm bells are ringing, surely they can’t lose to Freo…right?
8. Essendon Bombers (Increase 1) – Took care of business vs North. Can they do the same against the Dogs?
9. St Kilda Saints (Decrease 1) – 
Really trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time of year.
10. Western Bulldogs (Increase 1) – Needs to win on the weekend if finals are any chance
11. West Coast Eagles (Decrease 2) – 
Dreadful collapse may see them miss finals.
12. Hawthorn Hawks (level) – Still maybe sort of kinda not really a finals chance.
13. Collingwood Magpies (Increase 1) –
Did that win save Buckley? Maybe, another win or two wouldn’t hurt though.
14. Fremantle Dockers (Decrease 1) –
Just when you thought the year couldn’t get worse your B&F (Walters) is done for 2017.
15. Brisbane Lions (Increase 1) – Gutsy win by an exciting young group
16. Carlton Blues (Decrease 1) – 
Missed a chance to stay out of the bottom bottom rung.
17. North Melbourne (Increase 1) –
Showed resolve despite yet another loss.
18. Gold Coast Suns (Decrease 1) – Fought it out in the first half, then let the floodgates open.

PORT Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney were heavily penalised for their losses while Melbourne and Richmond were subsequently rewarded. At this time of year though the stakes are much higher, just ask the 11th placed Eagles.

Fantasy +3

2200 – A rare Sam Docherty disposal managed to scrape me through to 2200, which considering the carnage wasn’t a bad outcome. High praise goes to Brad Ebert who came in for Luke Shuey and put up 118 on debut for the Large Fry’s & Coke. Ok enough happiness, rainbows and butterflies, get ready for my Rocky rant.

AFL Round 18 Wrap Up 4.jpgImage from afl.com.au

  • FOR f*ck sakes Tom Rockliff (44) what the hell are you doing?! For weeks I have backed you in, but enough is enough. Any owner must trade Rocky out as he looks proppy and now seems destined for a tagging/run with role. Until 2018 P.I.G.
  • ROCKY’S teammate Dayne Beams (142) is a perfect trade target to bring in after a round high score. Beamer was joined by Rory Sloane (134), Jack Gunston (132) and Tom Mitchell (130) in the top Round 18 scorers.
  • THERE were plenty of disappointments outside of Rocky though. The Sydney Swans popular picks Isaac Heeny (72), Nic Newman (56), Josh Kennedy (86), Kieran Jack (65), Jake Lloyd and Dan Hannerbery (81) were the main culprits with Luke Parker (95) receiving a C-. Rory Laird (74) and Heath Shaw (68) were alos amongst the popular failures of the round.