Sunday 18 March 2018 / 03:22 AM


We’re eight rounds into the AFL premiership, and TRISTAN LAVALETTE’s power rankings have seen a bit of movement after another unpredictable weekend.

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) 2nd

We have our first movement at the top of the leaderboard although it says more about Adelaide’s spiral than a rise from GWS, who have looked shaky in recent times. GWS were able to just pull through against a beleaguered Collingwood at home in a lucky escape.

Still the Giants have now won six of seven and you feel will build towards their best towards the backend. The favourites pre-season have finally assumed their mantle at the top but only just.

2) Adelaide; ladder position 1st; last week 1st

Once could excuse Adelaide’s abomination against North Melbourne but the expected regroup against a middling Melbourne at home never eventuated. Startling, the Crows were totally outplayed after quarter-time to suffer a second consecutive shock defeat.

Suddenly, the Crows look vulnerable and it feels like a lifetime ago that they were being feted amongst the greatest modern teams. A matchup next round against the hapless Lions could be the tonic the Crows need to restart a stuttering season.

3) Western Bulldogs; ladder position 8th; last week 3rd

The reigning premiers were brave against the Eagles in the cauldron of Subiaco Oval – a venue the Eagles have only lost at four times since the start of the 2015 season. After another slow start, the Bulldogs stymied the Eagles holding them to just one goal in the second half albeit aided by wayward goal kicking from Josh Kennedy.

The Bulldogs overpowered the Eagles in a late surge but continually botched opportunities; they only kicked three goals of their own in the second half. Still, the Bulldogs’ power through the middle was imposing and smelt like a whiff of their heroics last September.

4) West Coast; ladder position 3rd; last week 4th  

It hasn’t been pretty but West Coast has gutted consecutive victories against elite teams. Often admonished as a flighty team, the Eagles have unshackled that perception with a fierce appetite for the contest marked by a resilient defence.

However, one cause for concern is the Eagles’ vaunted forward line which has struggled to make an impact in recent weeks. With Kennedy’s radar misfiring against the Bulldogs, West Coast struggled to find other avenues at goal. Jack Darling, Mark LeCras and Josh Hill are temperamental players and can’t be relied upon game-to-game. Injured small forward Jamie Cripps has been missed, particularly his pressuring skills, although he should return soon.

Somehow, someway, West Coast needs to manufacture a crumber.

5) Port Adelaide; ladder position 4th; last week 6th

The Power’s venture to Shanghai was successful both on-and-off field. Expectedly, they thrashed a middling Gold Coast continuing that knack of eviscerating average teams.  Port are clearly a very good side – they ruthlessly take care of business while their only losses have been against the top three side on the AFL ladder.

A percentage of 151 – nearly 25 more than anyone else – is everything you need to know about the Power.

6) Geelong; ladder position 5th; last week 5th

Amid such an unpredictable competition, Geelong may be the hardest team to read. After a soft opening to the season, the Cats are tentatively poised at 5-3 and have lost three consecutive matches against teams not expected to figure in finals.

Their top end is brilliant but the Cats drop off after that testing a fragile list. The AFL is far more competitive than anyone expected this season; only Brisbane appear to be fodder. It all means that Geelong can’t merely rely on their superstars to get them over the line.

7) St Kilda; ladder position 6th; last week 7th

The Saints looked somewhat shaky against a lowly Carlton but nonetheless nabbed an important victory to now enter the top six of the AFL ladder. With their stock rising, it will be interesting to see if the Saints can handle the increased expectations.

You feel the Saints may trip up occasionally during this period of newfound scrutiny but every indication suggests they are top 8 material.

8) Fremantle; ladder position 9th; last week 9th

The Dockers may very well be the new surprise packets of 2017 having won five from six after a disastrous opening couple of weeks. Ross Lyon may be conjuring his finest season from the coaches box making a mockery of those questioning his ability to rebuild a list.

Fremantle are transitioning nicely and their recruits have found a groove after a stuttering start. Brad Hill is adding pace, carry and a touch of class, while Cam McCarthy appears to finally be the quality key forward Freo have long craved.

A finals berth is a distinct possibility.

9) Melbourne; ladder position 10th; last week 12th

Shaking off a scratchy stretch, Melbourne produced probably their best perfomance since the Neale Daniher era ended a decade ago with a stirring win over ladder leaders the Crows in Adelaide. For such a notoriously fickle team, the Demons’ frantic pressure and tenaciousness would have heartened a sceptical fan base.

However, souring the growing goodwill was the devastating news that gun forward Jesse Hogan has testicular cancer and will be out indefinitely.

10) Richmond; ladder position 7th; last week 8th  

The Tigers’ unbeaten start must feel like a dream for long suffering Richmond fans. The Tigers have now lost three straight matches, including a heartbreaking defeat against the Dockers.

The Tigers hit the front with 20 seconds left and it appeared they had done enough to eke out an important victory. However, it all went downhill for the Tigers in a horrible finale that could trigger the demise of embattled coach Damien Hardwick.

It was an abominable finale for the Tigers, one that was just all too familiar for this tortured club.

11) Essendon: ladder positon 11th; last week 13th  

Like so many other teams, the Bombers are hard to read but an upset victory over the Cats has them at a respectable 4-4 and in reach of the top 8.

During a cathartic season washing away the pain of the past four years, the Bombers have shown impressive grunt – traits akin to their coach John Worsfold, a renowned hardnosed player during his playing days.

Worsfold will coach his second match against his former club West Coast, where he remains the single most important figure having captained and coached them to premierships.

12) Sydney: ladder position 15th; last week 17th

Suddenly, Sydney have clicked into gear after a couple of victories. It is not crazy to believe the Swans, even at 2-5, remain the most feared team outside the top eight. It is also not delusional to think that the Swans can surge into finals having started the season with five straight losses. That type of turnaround has never happened in the AFL.

It if was ever going to happen, this is the season for a miraculous type of feat to eventuate. And the Swans are primed to be just that team to achieve it.

13) Hawthorn: ladder position 14th; last week 16th

The Hawks have won three from four and are in touching distance of the top 8. Like Sydney, they will continue to strike fear in opponents because of their track record but don’t feel poised like the Swans to make a legitimate run for a finals berth.

A worrying injury scourge is also likely to hinder the Hawks with news emerging that superstar Cyril Rioli will be on the sidelines for an extended period due to a knee injury.

14) North Melbourne: ladder position 16th; last week 11th

The Kangaroos’ momentum was halted by the Swans in a disappointing home loss. After such a barnstorming performance against the Crows, perhaps a letdown was inevitable for this young side who were largely uncompetitive and overpowered by a hungry Swans.

Perhaps the Kangaroos’ brains trust would be wise to recall former captain Andrew Swallow in a bid to add more grunt and hardness around the ball.

15) Gold Coast: ladder position 12th; last week 10th

Frustratingly, the Suns just can’t find consistency. They followed a memorable victory over the Cats with a no-show against Power Adelaide. Perhaps there can be some pathos considering the novelty of playing in Shanghai and the logistics involved.

Still, the Suns continue to tease and have shown no evidence that they can be trusted. The bye has come at a good time and a chance for coach Rodney Eade to try to make sense of this baffling start.

16) Carlton: ladder position 13th; last week 14th

Carlton continue to be competitive and are making real strides even though one suspects a drop-off in the second half of the season is almost inevitable. They dished it up to St Kilda for the majority of the match before being outclassed.

Right now, impressive young coach Brendon Bolton is vying for coach-of-the-year honours with Lyon.

17) Collingwood: current position 17th; last week 15th

It speaks volumes of this even AFL season that the 17th ranked team almost defeated the best team in these rankings. The Pies may be the best lowly team in recent memory, as evidenced by their gritty performance against GWS in Sydney.

However, languishing at 17th spells disaster for coach Nathan Buckley, who remains in the hottest of hot seats.

18) Brisbane: current position 18th; last week 18th

There isn’t a lot to say about the beleaguered Lions. Right now, they are the only team that can be labelled as ‘bad’. It is almost impossible imagining them getting off the foot of the ladder. With just one win, they are already a game back from 17th-placed Collingwood.

If they can muster 4-5 wins this season and be generally competitive then Lions fans could feel somewhat satisfied.




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About the author

Tristan Lavalette

Tristan is a freelance journalist based in Perth. He has written for The Guardian, ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Previously he was a newspaper journalist for almost a decade.

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