Here are the power rankings after round 9. 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
Once again, it wasn’t pretty but the Giants won a heart-stopper. Worryingly, they have a mounting injury list so eking out wins is vital right now. They were well beaten by the Tigers for much of the day but showed grit to engineer a late comeback.
The victory was also a nod to the Giants’ growing maturity with a well-worked end-to-end goal in the dying moments full of poise – and basically the antithesis of the eternally jittery Tigers. The Giants will face a litmus test when they travel to Perth next round against the besieged Eagles – a team they have never beaten.
2) Adelaide; ladder position 1st; last week 2nd
Adelaide predictably returned to form with a rout over the hapless Lions in Gabba. It took a little bit longer than expected to click into gear before the Crows’ firepower reared after a couple of downtrodden weeks. Magician Eddie Betts tapped into his bag of tricks as the Crows rediscovered their freewheeling form.
However, stomping over the helpless Lions was not enough to shake off the stench of the previous couple of losses. The Crows should face a far sterner test against the upstart Dockers at home on Saturday.
3) Port Adelaide; ladder position 6th; last week 5th
The Power had a well-deserved breather after playing in Shanghai. They rose two spots despite being idle – it’s that type of season.
4) Western Bulldogs; ladder position 8th; last week 3rd
Perhaps it’s testament to this incredibly even AFL season but the Bulldogs sport a middling 5-4 record despite still looking fairly formidable. However, they have had head-scratching stretches during matches that makes you wonder about their standing.
The Bulldogs were shockingly held scoreless in the second quarter against Geelong, which was sandwiched between strong periods of play in the first and third stanzas. It certainly isn’t time to panic but coach Luke Beveridge would be hoping for more consistency soon.
5) Geelong; ladder position 3rd; last week 6th
Amid a soft schedule, Geelong has somewhat underwhelmed during a season of major inconsistency. Once again, they were erratic against the Bulldogs but the Cats grinded out an important victory playing a strong brand punctuated by ferocious tackling. Dynamic duo Patrick Dangerfield (36 disposals and four goals) and Joel Selwood (29 possessions) were inspirational but veteran defender Harry Taylor was the unlikely hero kicking five goals in a match-winning move from coach Chris Scott.
The Cats have another blockbuster at home when they face the rested Power on Thursday night.
6) West Coast; ladder position 4th; last week 4th
The Eagles have had many inept performances in Melbourne over the years but none worse than their diabolical loss to Essendon at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, where the match was over well before half-time.
The Eagles’ unwanted perception of being a “flat-track bully” continues to strengthen and they don’t seem to respond to the slander. They seem mentally shaky, which continually rears when under pressure in Melbourne. It is time that fingers start pointing at West Coast.
7) Sydney; ladder position 12th; last week 12th
The Swans have made the biggest jump on this ladder, leaping five spots after impressively thrashing the improved Saints on the road on Saturday. Having won their past three matches, there is a distinct possibility the Swans can create history and make finals after starting 0-5.
I’m an unabashed Swans believer – who could not be having seen their continual success over the past two decades. The Swans should win their fourth straight match when they host the struggling Hawks – a game that was for so long a showpiece affair.
8) St Kilda; ladder position 9th; last week 7th
The Saints’ growing goodwill took a hit against the Swans, their bogey team. These types of letdowns are somewhat inevitable for the upstart Saints, who still need to develop consistency to take the next step into being a genuine force in the competition.
Nonetheless, it was a good learning experience for the Saints, who were outmuscled and overpowered by the Swans. However, coach Alan Richardson would not want this to be a trend and will be seeking a response.
A match-up against the Bulldogs has come at an opportune time in the Saints’ development.
9) Fremantle; ladder position 5th; last week 8th
Fremantle were stunned early against Carlton in inclement Perth conditions before their famed doggedness came to the fore. The Dockers’ have won 6 from 7 although are still generally disregarded as a genuine finals team.
Boasting such a talent-laden midfield ensures the Dockers should be in the hunt for a finals berth fuelled by coach Ross Lyon arguably having his finest coaching season.
10) Essendon; ladder position 10th; last week 11th
The Bombers’ ascension has been wobbly thus far this season but they were devastating against a rudderless West Coast on Sunday. The youthful Bombers overpowered an experienced but meek Eagles to dominate the contest and then punished their flat-footed opponents on the outside with sheer speed.
They have a nice blend of experience and youth, while possessing the mercurial Joe Daniher, who right now is one of the most talented key forwards in the game. For the first time in about 15 years, the Bombers appear headed for relevancy.
11) Richmond: ladder positon 10th; last week 10th
Somehow, the Tigers continually botch matches they just shouldn’t lose. For the second consecutive week, the Tigers were denied victory in the dying moments against GWS testament to their knack of losing in the most macabre fashion.
The Tigers continually stick the knife into their downtrodden supporters, who surely must be at breaking point. In a silver lining, somehow, the wretched Tigers are still in the top eight although coach Damien Hardwick remains in the hottest of hot seats. Only Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley is under more pressure.
12) Melbourne: ladder position 11th; last week 9th
Frustratingly, Melbourne just can’t find consistency. They followed up their stunning upset over Adelaide – arguably their best win in a decade – with a disappointing loss to North Melbourne. Losing a tight match to the Kangaroos is no disgrace but the Demons need to string together a few wins before they are taken seriously.
The Demons face a rested Gold Coast in Alice Springs in a must-win game for their finals chances.
13) North Melbourne: ladder position 14th; last week 14th
The Kangaroos’ famed resiliency came to the fore with a bounce back victory over the Demons. It was a solid four-quarter effort and the Kangaroos at 3-5 could still be lustily dreaming of a surprise finals berth.
Realistically, the Kangaroos will be striving to successfully turn over their list although the reemergence of former captain Andrew Swallow against the Demons was a pleasing sight.
14) Gold Coast: ladder position 15th; last week 15th
The Suns enjoyed a week’s rest by moving one spot up these rankings. That might not make much sense but, as mentioned previously, this AFL season is drunk.
15) Collingwood: ladder position 13th; last week 17th
It looked over for coach Nathan Buckley when the downtrodden and injury-plagued Hawks led by seven goals in the first-half. Amid the ruins, the Pies mounted an incredible comeback to overrun the Hawks.
However, Buckley still appears to be on borrowed time. Right now, Buckley survives and he can largely thank his captain Scott Pendlebury, who once again showed why he is a top-10 player in the league with a match-winning performance under pressure.
16) Carlton: ladder position 16th; last week 16h
Carlton jumped the Dockers in Perth before predictably being overrun in the second-half. Still, no one expects the Blues to be a finals contender this season. It’s all about being competitive, which they have managed to do thus far.
It remains to be seen whether Carlton can continue to be competitive but it appears they will almost certainly avoid being the wooden spooners – a dreaded spot some critics earmarked them before the season.
17) Hawthorn: current position 17th; last week 13th
The injury-ravaged Hawks were brave against the Pies before they wore down. Recruit Tom Mitchell dazzled during his incredible 50-posssession performance in a welcome tonic for the Hawks. The injury scourge ensures the Hawks will almost certainly miss finals for the first time since 2009 but it also means it is a chance to test the list and play some youngsters.
18) Brisbane: current position 18th; last week 18th
It’s already been a wretched season for the Lions, who are essentially the only uncompetitive team in the AFL. Wisely, the Lions are sticking with youth but that also means they will cop plenty of thrashings.
Patience is the essence for Lions fans, who may just see some light at the end of the tunnel come season’s end.