Here are the power rankings after round 12, which continue to be a mishmash right now due to shortened rounds because of numerous teams enjoying a breather.
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 2nd; last week (power rankings) 1st
GWS suffered a blow to their growing aura with a shock one-point loss to Carlton in Melbourne. It means the Giants are knocked off from the top and have the same amount of losses as third-placed Geelong.
However, after enduring an injury scourge, the Giants should be well pleased to hit their bye at 9-3.
2) Adelaide; ladder position 1st; last week 3rd
After a lacklustre month, the Crows returned to their freewheeling best with an easy victory over St Kilda on Friday night. These are the types of games one expects the talent-laden Crows to dominate and, accordingly, they easily took care of business.
Despite the comprehensive victory, the stench over their strange recent period remains and one suspects coach Don Pyke will be combing through the issues during the team’s bye. Still, being 9-3 is a position nearly every other team would envy.
3) Geelong; ladder position 3rd; last week 5th
Despite having the bye, the Cats move up two spots due to horrific losses from the Bulldogs and Port Adelaide. Geelong have been a hard team to read and we should learn more about them when they play West Coast in Perth on Thursday night.
Subiaco Oval is a cauldron for the WA teams but the Cats generally play the ground well and easily beat the Dockers there in round 1.
4) Western Bulldogs ladder position 8th; last week 2nd
After an erratic first-half of the season, one suspected the reigning premiers were priming themselves for a strong backend to the season. However, in their first match after the bye, the Bulldogs were thumped by the Swans in Sydney to leave the reigning premiers delicately poised at 6-5 and seventh on the ladder.
The Bulldogs only kicked six goals for the entirety and look far removed from the force that captivated the football world last September. It isn’t quite panic stations just yet but the Bulldogs are in a major fight to stay afloat as a premiership contender.
5) Port Adelaide; ladder position 5th; last week 4th
For many, the Power are premiership contenders and should finish in the top four. They play a dazzling brand and their firepower simply overwhelms weaker teams as evidenced by a stunning percentage of 134 – the second highest in the league.
However, the Power have lost to the Crows, Giants, West Coast – when they were in top form – and the Cats; so in essence, they haven’t beaten anyone better than them. On the weekend, they got belted in Melbourne by Essendon in a damaging blow for their credibility.
Right now, the Power are the ultimate “flat-track” bully.
6) Richmond; ladder position 4th; last week 6th
Alone at 7-4 and inside the top 4, the Tigers have a great launching pad when they resume their season with a crux match against the Swans at the MCG on Saturday. Anything other than a finals berth would be a major disappointment and probably spell the end for coach Damien Hardwick.
7) Melbourne; ladder position 6th; last week 7th
The traditional Queen’s Birthday match against the improved Pies loomed as a danger game for the Demons, who have a knack of disappointing when favoured. Another Demons letdown appeared to be on course with the Magpies leading by 27 points in the second quarter.
However, the Demons would not be denied and mounted an impressive comeback to eke out a thrilling victory. In sixth position with an impressive percentage of 111, the Demons would be bitterly disappointed if they didn’t end their long finals drought stretching back to 2006.
8) Essendon; ladder position 7th; last week 11th
There have been matches this season where the Bombers look like legitimate flag contenders. One such occasion was on Saturday night against Port when the Bombers’ eclectic talents harnessed impressively.
The Bombers blitzed a shell-shocked Power early and impressively didn’t letup to notch a comprehensive 70-point victory. However, Essendon have been erratic at times and are no guarantees to stay in the eight.
If they do make the finals, the Bombers will be daunting for any team they face.
9) Sydney; ladder position 14th; last week 12th
The Swans easily defeated the Bulldogs on Thursday night and have now won 4 of 5 and are still a distinct chance to make finals after starting the season 0-6. In trademark fashion, the Swans played a physical and relentless brand to overwhelm the Bulldogs in an ominous warning to the rest of the competition.
I’ve perhaps been overly bullish of the Swans all season but one suspects they strike the most fear of any side outside the current top 8.
10) West Coast; ladder position 9th; last week 8th
After three losses on the trot, the bye came at an opportune time for West Coast. The Eagles are set to wield the axe for their crunch match against the Cats at home on Thursday night. Ruckman Scott Lycett is set to be recalled in a major boost for West Coast’s depleted big man stocks although star spearhead Josh Kennedy is unlikely to recover in time from a calf injury.
11) St Kilda: ladder positon 12th; last week 9th
The Saints started the season impressively but have hit a wall with three straight losses. They were never in the hunt against the Crows in Adelaide, which wasn’t particularly surprising for this inexperienced team but the Saints need to bounce back quickly to avoid a freefall.
A Friday night clash with the Kangaroos feels like a defining match for the Saints’ finals chances.
12) Collingwood: ladder position 11th; last week 13th
The Pies have been one of the most dissected teams this season but they impressively continue to battle hard through the white noise. The Pies have won three of their past five with the two losses being by a combined seven points.
A heartbreaking four-point loss to the Demons was a body blow to their finals chances but supporters should be mightily proud of how the team have weathered the storm. The Pies should enjoy a welcome breather during their bye – a stage in the season that coach Nathan Buckley looked unlikely to even make a month or two back.
13) Fremantle: ladder position 10th; last week 10th
The Dockers’ impressive rebuild has quickly spiralled after three bad losses culminating with a humiliating pounding by the Lions in Brisbane
The Dockers have been rudderless without giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands dictating in the middle and Freo’s highly-rated midfield has been badly exposed. It may be time for Freo to unleash Sean Darcy, their first round pick from last year’s draft, in a desperate bid to find a solution to Sandliands’ sizeable absence.
The bye has come at a good time for the Dockers.
14) Gold Coast: ladder position 13th; last week 15th
Amid a baffling season, the Suns are one of the hardest teams to read. They have had some of the most pitiful performances seen this season but are just one win out of the eight at the season’s midway point.
Even in his twilight – and possibly final season at Gold Coast – Gary Ablett continues to dazzle and was at the forefront of the Suns’ impressive victory over the Hawks in Melbourne. When Ablett is purring, the talented Suns are hard to beat.
15) North Melbourne: ladder position 15th; last week 14th
The Kangaroos will relaunch their season against the Saints on Friday night. At 4-7, a loss to the Saints could effectively end any realistic prospect of finals.
16) Carlton: ladder position 16th; last week 17h
The inexperienced Blues are playing with passion and grit – characteristics instilled by coach Brendon Bolton, who hopes they will become defining features of Carlton. Most thought Carlton would drop off in the second-half of the season much like last year but the Blues produced a major boil over by beating ladder leaders GWS in a one-point thriller on Sunday.
Quite clearly, something good is percolating at Carlton, who may boast the AFL’s next master coach in Bolton. It won’t happen overnight but the Blues are on the right track to finally return to their old pomp.
17) Hawthorn: current position 17th; last week 16th
The Hawks enter the bye at 4-8 with a percentage of just 77. No one saw this spiral coming and it’s still strange seeing the mighty Hawks languishing near the bottom of the table.
However, the Hawks will use the second half of the season as a golden opportunity to test the list and get vital games into the youngsters.
18) Brisbane: current position 18th; last week 18th
Bottom-placed Brisbane – who were seemingly clearly the worst team in the league – snapped a nine-match losing streak with an utter evisceration of the struggling Dockers, who had won 6 from 7 not long ago.
It was the type of dazzling performance that gave a welcome tonic for long-suffering Lions fans. Quite clearly, there is talent in this young list. Obviously, it will take time for the Lions to become competitive but new coach Chris Fagan has them on the right track.