THERE is an old adage in football that suggests the ladder rarely changes after round eight in the AFL, and if that is the case, the changing of the guard is well and truly underway in Australia’s national game.
Western Australian teams sit in positions one and two on the ladder, while the Sydney teams make up the remainder of the top four, Collingwood and Richmond sit inside the eight after huge wins, while pre-season premiership fancies North Melbourne and Port Adelaide sit sensationally outside the finals frame and have a huge mountain to climb already just to get themselves into the September action.
It was a huge weekend of action with plenty of season-defining outcomes, so let’s get right to the recap.
Round eight review: what happened across the league?
The round commenced with Geelong hosting Carlton on Friday night at Etihad Stadium. Chris Scott’s men extended Mick Malthouse’s misery, dismantling the Blues by 77 points.
The match would end up being Malthouse’s last as senior coach after his sacking on Tuesday afternoon.
The Cats jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter and were never challenged throughout the match, with the margin threatening to balloon out to triple figures at various stages through the game. Had it not been for some inaccuracy in front of goal, Geelong could have easily exceeded their record winning margin over the Blues, which was previously 78 points.
Joel Selwood had his second mediocre game – by Selwood standards – as Carlton stopper Ed Curnow curbed the Cats’ skippers input, limiting him to just 17 disposals and negating the superstar’s normally prolific and profound impact.
As a result, Selwood’s Brownlow medal chances have taken a dive and the market has responded. Sportsbet is currently listing the Geelong captain as a $26 outsider to take home the medal. Selwood’s team mate Mark Blicavs did his best-on-ground chances no harm, with another spectacular performance that could garner him three votes from the umpires.
Blicavs represents terrific value at $251 with Sportsbet to be adjudged the best and fairest player in the AFL, with at least three best-on-round performances so far this year.
Saturday afternoon saw the GWS Giants hosting the Adelaide Crows at Spotless Stadium, with the Sydney-siders jumping out to a commanding six-goal first quarter lead that was never headed, running out eventual winners by 24 points.
The Giants had winners all across the park and thoroughly outplayed their opponents, highlighting a gulf and fitness in class between the two sides.
In an ominous sign for teams yet to face the Giants, emerging forward Cam McCarthy – this week’s Rising Star nominee – starred up forward, booting four goals. This now means Jeremy Cameron is not the sole focus and teams will have to put genuine time and effort into negating two absolute stars on the rise.
Cam McCarthy’s performance has moved him into outright second favourite to win the Ron Evans medal (Rising star) as the league’s number one young prospect in the country. WilliamHill.com.au currently has the blonde-haired dynamo at $3.75.
The win sets up GWS nicely to make their maiden finals appearance. With six wins already to their name and a spot inside the top-four, the Giants would only have to win a further five-to-six more games from their remaining 14 fixtures to all-but guarantee their finals place.
The Giants are currently at $4.25 with WilliamHill.com.au to maintain their place in the top-four, and there is no reason to believe they cannot retain this position given the strength of their victories and the consistency of their football.
Saturday night saw one of the games of the season, with the Swans and the Hawks clashing at the MCG in the rematch of the 2014 Grand Final. The game was everything that the football world expected and more, with the lead oscillating throughout the night before the Swans eventually coming out on top by four points.
It was an intense battle from the opening bounce, but it was the Swans who weathered the early storm and jumped out to a five-goal lead in the first quarter, only to have the reigning premiers launch a brutal assault on the ball and the goal face, turning around a six-goal deficit into a 12 point lead, and threatened to run away with the contest. It was the Swans who responded when it mattered, kicking the final three goals of the match to seal victory and their spot in the top-four.
The Swans were marshalled brilliantly by Daniel Hannenbery, who had a game-high 36 disposals in a clear best-on-ground performance that would have certainly caught the eye of the umpires.
It has been a tremendous month of football from Hannenbery, who has bounced back in sensational fashion after a less than stellar Grand Final performance, and now moves into outright second favourite for the Brownlow medal behind Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe. Sportbet have the Sydney Swans’ superstar at $13.
Adelaide Oval was the scene for the final game of the round with the Power hosting the Tigers in Kane Cornes’ 300th and final match.
The game was not the send-off the Power nor Cornes would have hoped for, with the Tigers ruining the party, running out shock 33 point winners.
The Tigers went in with a clear game plan aimed at negating Port’s run-and-gun style of ball movement through the middle of the ground and were prepared to play along the boundary for the entirety of the game. The methodology saw Damian Hardwick’s men take the lead early in the contest and never let the lead slip under 12 points for the entire match.
The loss severely hampers the Power’s premiership chances, with even a finals finish in doubt after back-to-back losses against teams they would have fancied themselves to beat easily in Brisbane and Richmond. It leaves Port Adelaide languishing in 13th position on the ladder, with top-four all but gone.
The Power are currently paying $1.70 just to make the finals with Sportsbet, which is a stark contrast to the $1.90 offered prior to the season for the Power to make the top-four.
Richmond are flying after back-to-back wins over much more fancied opponents, and have halved their odds of making the finals in the last fortnight. The Tigers are still $2.50 outsiders to make the finals for the third year running.
Minimal news on the injury front this week with only two significant aliments to come out of the weekend, with Hawthorn’s Brian Lake set to miss up to three weeks with a knee strain. The 2013 Norm Smith medallist suffered a knee injury in a tangle of limbs that saw him limp of the field. He eventually returned to the field and played out the match but is still expected to have a short stint on the sidelines.
Carlton’s Bryce Gibbs will likely miss this week’s encounter with the Sydney Swans after tweaking his back in his side’s heavy loss to the Cats. The Carlton vice-captain was subbed out of the game early in the second half and will be monitored closely throughout the week.
Good news out of St Kilda with inspirational captain Nick Riewoldt recovering from a nasty concussion and should be available for selection this week in his side’s crucial match against the Brisbane Lions. Riewoldt was subbed out of the game after suffering a brutal clash of head’s with Adelaide’s Brodie Smith. Smith’s outlook is still unknown but Riewoldt’s availability surely is a good sign for Smith who also missed his side’s game against the Giants.