Here are the power rankings after Round 14, which was arguably the greatest round in AFL history. Despite such an astounding array of results, the rankings generally have remained unmoved despite a power shift at the top with the Crows falling out of the two for the first time all season.
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
Despite being undermanned, the Giants made light work of the Lions in Brisbane to move a game clear at the top of the ladder. With so many flawed teams beneath them, the Giants are clearly the best team in the AFL and seem a class above the rest of the competition.
You wouldn’t want to bet anything amid this most unpredictable AFL season but the Giants appear a lock for a top 2 finish. If they can shrug off the injury scourge, then the Giants appear headed for their first flag.
2) Geelong; ladder position 3rd; last week 3rd
One down and we are already getting into flawed territory. It is hard to remember the last time the No.2 ranked team felt so shaky. The Cats moved up a spot by default because of Adelaide’s continual lethargy.
The Cats avoided a major calamity by shrugging off a depleted Dockers to win by two points after trailing for much of the match. With inspirational captain Joel Selwood going down in the early stages, the Cats were largely rudderless and once again their depth was exposed.
Still, the Cats have won 4 from 5 with their only loss being to the Eagles in Perth.
3) Port Adelaide; ladder position 4th; last week 4th
The Power have the unwanted tag of being a “flat-track” bully and a victory over a middling Collingwood at the MCG is unlikely to erode that perception, Still, solid victories interstate are gold and, accordingly, the Power easily accounted for the Pies in what appeared a danger game.
Port’s percentage of 135, the second highest in the league, is invaluable amid such a tight competition.
4) Adelaide ladder position 2nd; last week 2nd
For the first time this season, the Crows are out of the top two of these rankings. I don’t feel good placing them this ‘low’ but the Crows deserve to be relegated after a baffling malaise where they have lost 4 from 7, including the nadir of losing at home to the Hawks in round 14.
The Crows just haven’t been able to click into gear and question marks abound when they are being stymied. A matchup against the improving Blues at the MCG on Saturday looms as a danger game.
5) Melbourne; ladder position 5th; last week 5th
Of course, it was almost inevitable that the Demons would end their long drought in the Wild West in the most insane fashion. Led by inspirational hard nut midfielder Jack Viney, the Demons impressively wouldn’t go away and chipped away at West Coast’s lead. Tom McDonald, the former star defender turned key forward, capped off a terrific match with his fifth goal in the dying stages to trigger wild celebrations from the Demons.
The Demons are now well perched at 8-5 having won four straight matches. In a season so intoxicated, it would be fitting if the tortured Demons – who have not won a flag since 1964 – somehow go all the way in 2017.
Don’t bet against it.
6) Sydney; ladder position 10th; last week 6th
The Swans have been the best team now for the past seven weeks, having won six matches to be on the blink of the top 8. It is a decent enough sample size to suggest the Swans are very much the real deal – they are headed towards finals and perhaps once again into premiership contention.
However, even the Swans aren’t immune to wild inconsistencies plaguing the league as they jarringly stuttered against the Bombers in round 14. After controlling play for much of the first half, the Swans conceded seven straight goals to suddenly trail by 19 points with just minutes left.
Through trademark grit coupled with a Bombers collapse, the Swans miraculously conjured a victory after the siren to ensure their fairytale revival remains on track.
7) Richmond; ladder position 6th; last week 7th
There were a raft of astounding results in round 14 but, shockingly, the innately mercurial Tigers didn’t feature in one of them. Instead, the Tigers had a comfortable victory over the Blues in a ho-hum encounter.
Well positioned at 8-5, the Tigers should make finals but you feel we’ll learn more about them when they travel to Adelaide to face the Power this weekend.
8) Western Bulldogs; ladder position 9th; last week 9th
The reigning premiers avoided disaster with a last gasp one-point victory over the lowly Kangaroos. It was hardly convincing but ensures the Bulldogs, importantly, are back with a positive ledger – 7-6. It’s been a strange season for the Bulldogs and everyone is waiting for them to flick the switch.
Coach Luke Beveridge will be hoping the victory will be a springboard for an improved backend of the season. They face a crux match at home against West Coast – another disappointing team similarly positioned on the ladder.
9) West Coast; ladder position 7th; last week 8th
West Coast’s heartbreaking loss to the Demons almost surely spells the end of their premiership aspirations and puts them in real danger of missing the finals. Truth be told, the Demons looked the slicker team for much of the night but the Eagles, buoyed by their home crowd, appeared to be running over the top of them.
A costly set shot miss by Lewis Jetta – which would have put the Eagles 21 points up with eight minutes left – cruelled the Eagles’ momentum and the rest is history. With spearhead Josh Kennedy still on the sidelines and a tough schedule ahead, the Eagles are set to disappointingly miss the finals.
10) Essendon; ladder position 11th; last week 10th
Like so many teams, the Bombers have been hot and cold this season – which was notably evident against the Swans. The blistering Bombers overcame an early deficit to overwhelm the home side booting seven goals in a row to lead by 19 points with just minutes left.
Bafflingly, the Bombers made numerous lapses in the dying moments, highlighted by veteran pair James Kelly’s contentious rushed behind and Brendon Goddard’s smothered kick after playing on. Moments after, Gary Rohan took a mark in the goal square and kicked the match-winning goal after the siren to send the SCG into delirium.
It was the Bombers’ most painful loss at the venue since the famous 1996 preliminary final.
11) St Kilda: ladder positon 8th; last week 11th
The Saints had a comfortable victory over an Ablett-less Gold Coast to propel back into the top 8. It is the first time in 11 years that both the Saints and Demons have been in the 8 in a perfect snapshot of this most beguiling season.
It appears inevitable the Saints will make way for the Swans or Bulldogs, who are both likely to make finals despite currently sitting out of the top 8. Thus, St Kilda have to keep eking out victories, including this weekend when they play the Dockers in Perth.
12) Collingwood: ladder position 13th; last week 12th
Unlike numerous teams, the bye came at a bad time for the surging Pies. This was evident against the Power, as the Pies looked lethargic from the opening and were never in the hunt. It was a disappointing performance from the Pies, who had shown glimpses of promise before the bye.
The Pies’ season is on the line when they face the Hawks at the MCG on Sunday.
13) Fremantle: ladder position 12th; last week 13th
An undermanned Fremantle, without captain Nat Fyfe and ruckman Aaron Sandilands – their two best players, were resilient and nearly produced a major upset against the Cats in Geelong. The Dockers led for much of the match before being mired in quicksand in the last quarter.
Still, livewire Michael Walters had a chance to be the hero but his last grasped kick missed as the siren sounded. Fremantle have now lost four straight games and appear unlikely to make finals. However, an encouraging performance from first-year ruckman Sean Darcy will soothe the angst and he seems highly capable of being Sandliands’ eventual replacement.
14) Carlton: ladder position 15th; last week 14th
The Blues were competitive against the Tigers in another encouraging sign for the future. Carlton were similarly perched last season before falling away badly at the backend. Coach Brendon Bolton will be hoping his charges can remain competitive for far longer, starting with a tough matchup against the Crows at the MCG on Friday.
15) Gold Coast: ladder position 14th; last week 15th
Without their talisman Gay Ablett, the Suns never had much of a chance against the Saints on the road. Their overreliance on Ablett remains a major concern with the 33-year-old almost surely set to return back to Geelong at season’s end.
After a couple of losses, the Suns will be hoping for a victory at home against the Kangaroos in what shapes as Ablett’s 300th match.
16) Hawthorn: ladder position 16th; last week 17th
You knew mastermind tactician Alastair Clarkson would have been scheming endlessly during the Hawks’ bye. The hardnosed coach would obviously have been bitterly disappointed at the Hawks’ plight with the powerhouse reduced to being one of the dregs of the competition.
Somehow, although becoming predictable amid this unpredictable season, the Hawks produced a major boil over in a throwback performance to defeat the stunned Crows by 13 points to trigger a remarkable round of AFL.
Take a bow, Alastair Clarkson!
17) North Melbourne: current position 17th; last week 16th
It speaks volumes of the AFL that the 17th ranked team almost knocked off the reigning premiers. In archetypal fashion, the Kangaroos never wavered against the Bulldogs and almost caused a major boil over.
At 4-9, the Kangaroos’ season is effectively over but a decent percentage of 93 is a more accurate reflection of their standing. While other teams similarly positioned might tail off, the dogged Kangaroos will keep flying the flag.
18) Brisbane: current position 18th; last week 18th
The Lions received an expected pummelling at the hands of the Giants but, nonetheless, it was a step back for them after recent improvement. The Lions will be hoping for a more competitive showing against the Bombers in round 15 to regain some goodwill.