Home Sports AFL Round-Up: Top eight chaos as the 2022 season is perfectly set...

AFL Round-Up: Top eight chaos as the 2022 season is perfectly set for the run home

It was a week of setbacks and top eight moves that set the table for the home game of an exciting season.

Welcome to the Round-Up, where we digest the week that was.

Chaos in the final race

Of all three bye weeks, this one felt the most bye week-like. The big dogs at the top of the ladder had a week off, so attention was turned a little lower.

Fortunately, the goings on down there — and by that we mean from about the fourth to the twelfth — are pretty convincing. In fact, here we have one of the craziest final races of recent times.

The big movers this week were Richmond, whose win over Carlton was both a way of restoring the old order and reconsidering the Tigers.

A Richmond striker roars triumphantly as his teammates surround him after a goal at the MCG.
The Tigers of yesteryear are hitchhiking again with a final return in sight.Getty Images: Robert Cianflone

That’s the evenness of this season across the board, Richmond’s experience on the biggest stage and in the biggest games will be an asset.

The same can be said of Geelong, who was once again quietly sucked in by the pull of the top four.

We’ve been saying all year that there will probably be one spot in the top four free and any number of teams capable of occupying it. Right now the smart money would be on either of Geelong or Richmond to give it their own by the end of the season.

Perhaps that’s an exaggeration on one lap, but it’s hard to get too hyped about Sydney or St Kilda after their hugely disappointing showings this weekend.

Tom Hawkins smiles broadly as Geelong players surround and hug him
Geelong is back in the top four and it feels like a comfortable fit.Getty Images: Will Russell

Both were beaten by teams way below them on the ladder, who engaged in little combat and showed little determination once their attacking instincts set in.

The Swans in particular have been wildly unpredictable this year, their best virtually untouchable and their worst barely worth registering.

Collingwood, Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs are now lurking just outside that top eight. Sporadic brilliance may not be enough to cut it in this year’s race for eight.

The best lies ahead of us

We normally try not to get too ahead of ourselves in the Round-Up, but it’s hard not to look at next week and not get excited.

It’s as if these three bye weeks were all just getting us ready for Round 15, when the 2022 season kicks off its glorious home track with everything up for grabs.

Check out these fixtures:

  • Melbourne vs Brisbane on Thursday nightt: Second vs first at the MCG. After three losses in a row, Lions poised to stake their claim as frontrunners. The biggest game of the year so far.
  • Carlton vs Fremantle on Saturday arvo: Fifth vs. third. Blues who want to prove they’re worthy of staying with the top four contenders, and the Dockers who want to prove how far they’ve come.
  • Geelong vs Richmond on Saturday twilight: Fourth vs. Sixth. Remember what we just said earlier about these two teams leading the way for fourth place? This game may ultimately be the deciding factor.
  • Sydney vs St Kilda on Saturday night: Seventh vs eighth. The loser could very well be out of eight by the end of the week.
  • Collingwood vs GWS on Sunday arvo: Ninth vs 13th. The stakes aren’t that high for the Giants, but the Magpies get a chance to take a huge step forward and return to the top eight.
  • Port Adelaide vs Gold Coast at dusk: 11th against 12th. The two outsiders. It’s all over for the loser, but the winner stays in the top eight picture.

Around the site

It’s probably good that Richmond said publicly to Shai Bolton for his showboating, but internally I hope they were much less critical. He is a special player whose flair and showmanship must be protected at all costs.

Shai Bolton and Patrick Cripps
Shai Bolton is at his best when he plays with complete creative freedom.Getty Images: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

West Coast produced their best performances of the year this week, and Geelong one of their more timid ones. In a weird win-win, the Eagles would have been happy with their intention and performance and the Cats were just happy to get away with the points

We put a line through Port Adelaide here last week. Just when I thought I was gone, they pulled me back in. As long as there is a mathematical probability, any team with those key position weapons cannot be completely ruled out.

Charlie Dixon smiles and clenches his fist after kicking a goal
Port Adelaide is still alive… just.Getty Images: James Elsby

It was hard to know where to look during the 80s throwback game of the Giants and Bulldogs, but it was very easy to know where not to look. Cody Weightman’s elbow† After returning to play, some of the chatter around the young gun and “the way he handles it” may end.

Good for Essendon. It would have been quite easy to stop in the third quarter after St Kilda cleared the deficit in about five minutes, but to find the willingness to go again shows there is still something to this team. The Dons can really underline this point with a win over West Coast next week.

Matt Guelfi hugs Archie Perkins as they begin to collapse to the ground
The Bombers claimed a mind-blowing victory over poor St Kilda.Getty Images: Michael Willson

Wil Powell’s injury was the kind that can rattle teammates so thorough that they struggle to see the game. The Suns couldn’t afford that and did a good job getting the job done. But holy cannoli, poor Wil Powell.

In the clubhouse

Here we take stock of who leads the race for the season’s individual prizes.

A slow week in the Rising Star race with many frontrunners being offside, but Nic Martin reminded him of his credentials in a timely manner.

We still have Nick Daicos up front for now, but it’s going to be really exciting to see which of the main contenders – Daicos, Martin, Jai Newcombe and Sam De Koning – take off with this thing.

Sam Draper can take home the honor of the week with this solid entry. Not nearly enough to disrupt Cam Zuurhar’s lead.

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Weak choices on the target front are week too, so we’ll throw it in Jack Billings for this one from the same game. Ed Langdon’s hold on the GOTY title remains.

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