Here are the power rankings after round 11, which are a little bit of a mishmash right now due to shortened rounds because of teams having their bye.
Note, these rankings aren’t merely about current form – you have the real ladder for that – but also takes into account player availability, perception and prophecies.
1) GWS; current ladder position 1st; last week (power rankings) 1st
For the first time since their inception in 2012, GWS are on top of the ladder. This shouldn’t shock anyone – perhaps the only surprise is that it has taken until mid-season for the flag favourites to rise to the top.
Ominously for the rest of the competition, the injury-plagued Giants haven’t hit their straps but still sit a game clear from the pack. It’s been a season of surprises and even the Giants, amid a continual injury scourge, are no certainties to stay at the top.
However, they remain the safest bet to win the minor premiership and enter the finals in pole position.
2) Western Bulldogs; ladder position 6th; last week 3rd
The Bulldogs had a breather and managed to climb one spot due to Adelaide’s worrying slump. One suspects the inconsistent Bulldogs will be a far more complete package when their season resumes against the Swans in Sydney on Thursday night in what looms as a danger game.
3) Adelaide; ladder position 2nd; last week 2nd
For the first time this season, the Crows fall out of the top two of these rankings. The once impregnable Crows have now lost three from five and were outplayed by the Cats on the road. It’s certainly no disgrace to lose to the Cats at their fortress of Kardinya Park but you feel the Crows missed a golden opportunity to make a statement.
After such a white hot start, the Crows have been stymied by nuggety opponents who have clearly done their homework. Star playmaker Rory Sloane continues to be the barometer for his team; when the ace midfielder is locked down the Crows struggle signalling a lack of depth beneath him.
4) Port Adelaide; ladder position 5th; last week 4th
The Power continue to destroy average teams as they ruthlessly thrashed an ashen-faced Hawthorn in a match that was over after about 10 minutes. They have frightening firepower that simply overwhelms lesser sides, as a league-leading percentage of 148 confirms.
However, the Power’s four losses have been against top 8 sides meaning there will be question marks against them until they notch a momentous victory against an elite team.
5) Geelong; ladder position 3rd; last week 5th
Three weeks ago, after a trio of disappointing losses, the Cats appeared to be pretenders and had a daunting upcoming schedule set to shape their season. The Cats passed the tests with aplomb by accounting for the Bulldogs, Power and Crows in impressive fashion.
We probably shouldn’t have written off the Cats during this home stretch, considering their utter dominance at Kardinya Park. In a season where the league has been flipped on its head, with powerhouses Sydney and Hawthorn struggling, the Cats remain unwavering and beating them at Kardinya Park is still the hardest task in footy.
6) Richmond; ladder position 4th; last week 7th
The Tigers have gotten their season back on track with a couple of solid victories to be well perched at 7-4 at the season’s halfway point. In typical Tigers fashion, it’s been a bewildering season – even for them – where they somehow sit fourth despite enduring some of the most heartbreaking losses imaginable.
The Tigers are unlikely to remain in the top 4 by season’s end but if they finish in the top 6, which is a distinct possibility, then embattled coach Damien Hardwick is likely to be vindicated. Their cause has been helped by boasting arguably the game’s best player right now – Dustin Martin, the bulldozer of a midfielder who is out-of-contract at season’s end.
7) Melbourne; ladder position 9th; last week 8th
Despite having a week off, the Demons move up a position because of West Coast’s shocking spiral. The Demons have been hard to read but, in the spirit of these rankings, I’ve looked into my crystal ball and believe they are the best team outside the top 6 on this ladder.
But don’t hold me to that prediction.
8) West Coast; ladder position 7th; last week 6th
West Coast have reached their bye in tatters and appear headed for a crucial juncture in Adam Simpson’s coaching reign. The Eagles are an ageing team and numerous senior players appear to have seen better days.
Hard judgement calls on high-profile players – notably the ever disappointing Jack Darling – need to be made by Simpson, who is set to receive the blowtorch for the first time as his currency from a stellar 2015 fades from memory.
Which way Simpson hedges, whether to stick with his underperforming players or put a line in the sand, will be highly interesting. Either way, I think the Eagles are likely to miss finals.
9) St Kilda; ladder position 11th; last week 9th
The slumping Saints enjoyed a welcome breather but will restart their season with a tough match in Adelaide against the Crows – although it’s probably not quite mission impossible due to Adelaide’s recent form dip.
10) Fremantle; ladder position 8th; last week 10th
After a surreal stretch of 6 wins from 7, the Dockers have hit reality with a couple of bad losses – an evisceration by Adelaide followed by a home loss to a handicapped Magpies. The Dockers are unlikely to make finals although they should reach their bye nicely placed at 7-5.
However, if they do suffer a shock defeat in Brisbane against the lowly Lions, the sheen from this steady rebuild would have disappointingly eroded.
11) Essendon: ladder positon 12th; last week 12th
The Bombers were gallant against GWS in Sydney but ultimately were outclassed. The loss was certainly no disgrace and the Bombers are still a finals contender at 5-6. A home match against a rampaging Port Adelaide looms as a crux affair for the Bombers, who would be quietly confident of producing a boil over.
12) Sydney: ladder position 16th; last week 11th
The Swans will almost surely miss finals for only the fourth time since 1996 if they lose to the Bulldogs at home on Thursday night. They are walking a tightrope but you feel there is still some fight left from this innately proud club.
13) Collingwood: ladder position 10th; last week 15th
Critics can scoff at their last three wins against middling teams but even the most ardent pessimist had to admire Collingwood’s gritty victory on the road against the Dockers on Sunday. The Pies were down veteran Daniel Wells and goal sneak Jamie Elliott but somehow managed to fend off the Dockers and savour a rare victory in Perth.
The Pies’ resolve was notable and indicates that coach Nathan Buckley hasn’t lost his charges. Clearly, the team are playing for their coach and maybe, just maybe, Collingwood are on track to salvage their season.
14) North Melbourne: ladder position 13th; last week 13th
The Kangaroos were typically gallant against Richmond but Tigers star Dustin Martin broke the game open with a devastating backend to the contest. It is little wonder the Roos are reportedly chasing the out-of-contract Martin as they lack class and a game-breaker.
The Kangaroos enter their bye at 4-7 with little prospect of making finals but you sense they will shape the eight due to their continual fighting spirit.
15) Gold Coast: ladder position 14th; last week 16th
Just when they appear to be on the canvass, the Suns offer a ray of sunshine. After several disastrous losses, the Suns won a thriller over the Eagles to keep alive their slim finals prospects. Clearly, the Suns have enough talent to be competitive but too often lack resolve. Against the Eagles, the Suns impressively showed fight in the dying minutes to snatch back a victory they appeared to have grasped.
Still, they needed a masterclass from Gary Ablett to help them get over the line. One wonders how they will fare next season when Ablett is no longer around as per reports he is headed back to Geelong.
16) Hawthorn: ladder position 15th; last week 14h
Against the Power in Adelaide, the feeble Hawks were held goalless in the first-half to trail by 59 points at the long break. There have been occasions this season where the Hawks have rewound the clock, as evidenced by somehow conjuring four wins, but far often they have been rudderless – as testament to an eyesore of a percentage languishing at 76.
Opponents, many of whom have long been whipping boys of the mighty Hawks, will be relishing a chance at payback while Hawthorn are down.
17) Carlton: current position 17th; last week 17th
After their bye, the Blues face a tough first up match against GWS at home. No one expects the Blues to win many games in the second half of the season but if they can remain competitive then that will be a major tick for the future.
18) Brisbane: current position 18th; last week 18th
The Lions will resume their season against the slumping Dockers at home in round 12. After an encouraging start to the season, the Lions fell away badly before their bye to be almost uncompetitive. They will be hoping for a far more sustained effort for the remainder of the season.