Monday 19 March 2018 / 11:24 AM


Round 7 of the 2017 AFL season was an extremely fascinating one; for the first time in decades the lower-ranked side won every single game over the weekend. It started with St Kilda upstaging Greater Western Sydney on Friday night and finished with Fremantle overcoming Essendon at Domain Stadium on Sunday evening.

What the round of upsets showed us all was this is the most evenly matched season in the game’s history. We thought we’d seen that last season, when the Western Bulldogs shocked the competition by coming from seventh to win the premiership, but 2017 has stepped it up a notch and there is no doubt that on any given day any team can claim the four points.

The 2017 premiership has been full of surprises so far, Hawthorn and Sydney have fallen, Adelaide have risen but then lost to a 1-5 North Melbourne, GWS haven’t taken the league by the scruff of the neck as expected, and the reigning premiers have been scratchy but are managing to win games without being at their best.

One of the reasons for the evenness of the 2017 season is the lack of a standout or dominant team. There are some very good teams, but they are also flawed. In previous years it has been Hawthorn, often accompanied by Sydneym that have put daylight between them and the rest of the competition. However 2017 is different; while there are some impressive sides – Adelaide, GWS, and the Bulldogs to name just a few, anytime a team gets touted as a contender something happens to make us think again.

So far this season the aforementioned teams, along with the likes of Geelong, West Coast, Port Adelaide and even Richmond have been mentioned as top-four contenders. Yet all of these teams are deeply flawed, and that’s what makes this season so exciting.

Just when we thought Adelaide were going to be the runaway leaders of the pack, and they probably still are the flag favourites, they were upstaged by North Melbourne – who only got off the mark for 2017 a week earlier – in Hobart. The Crows conceded 10 goals before hitting the scoreboard themselves and left the Apple Isle a shell-shocked team.

Don Pyke’s men possess the most potent forward line in the league, and their ability to score heavily puts them right in the premiership race, but questions remain whether they can maintain their gung-ho approach for the duration of the season and defend well enough against the top sides.

GWS were touted as the flag favourites before the season began – many even expected the Giants to dominate the whole competition – but so far the star-studded side hasn’t got going. After an impressive victory over the Bulldogs they were upstaged by St Kilda. The Giants’ biggest challenge will be getting all their stars, and their egos, to pull in the same direction and play the sort of hard, tough football that wins finals. We all know they can play fast, eye-catching footy but are waiting to see the Giants juggernaut take a hold of the competition.

The reigning premiers haven’t been at their best so far this season, but teams who go deep into September can often start the next season a little slowly. The Bulldogs contested brand of football is proven to be successful in finals and this Friday night’s match against West Coast will be a test of where they are in 2017. The Bulldogs will fancy themselves to once again take the cake at the ground, against the opposition that started their dream run to the flag.

West Coast, Port Adelaide, Geelong and Richmond have all started 2017 well but all four are still short of the mark. West Coast still need to prove themselves against the top sides, and show they have the intent and hunger for the contest that is required. Port Adelaide have looked impressive, but the Power need to aim up regularly against the best sides. Geelong’s problem seems to be the opposite: they struggle to win games they are expected to. The Cats will also be looking to prove they can win when the dynamic duo of Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield have quiet games.

Richmond started with a bang but have lost their last two – against the two best sides they have played this year – so the jury is still out on the Tigers for season 2017.

There has been a mixed bag of results so far this season, and that makes for some great, edge-of-the-seat viewing. I look forward to many more surprises in 2017 and we wait to see if a clear leader will emerge from the pack.

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About the author

Akash Fotedar

Akash is a Perth-based sportswriter and journalist who has come on board with Commentary Box Sports to provide expert cricket, AFL and tennis coverage. An experienced cricketer, Akash has played three seasons in England as an overseas pro and is still active in grade cricket in WA.

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