We are twelve weeks through the AFL season with teams getting postponed in the farewell rounds.
While six clubs had a week off, the results of the remaining 12 told us enough, with the reigning prime ministers shockingly losing two.
Here’s what we learned from the weekend’s games:
The match looks wide again
The race for the premiership seems wide open.
Melbourne looked unbeatable for the first 10 rounds, but their final two weeks at home with losses to interstate rivals Fremantle and Sydney have proved there are chinks in the armour.
While their position as favorites is still undeniable, clubs won’t be as scared of this side of Melbourne as they were two weeks ago.
Just as the Demons seemed to slip, victories from the Dockers and Swans have proven their credentials and suddenly they have joined a list of contenders that could be seven or eight strong.
If Melbourne is truly back in the pack, it will be a draw of who could be the next best match, potentially leading to an exciting end to the season.
We’ll all have Simon Goodwin’s side as the number one seed until something drastic happens, but number two has never looked closer.
Fremantle has real PFI
They proved it last week, but Fremantle’s win over Brisbane further compounded their clear PFI.
PFI, or Preliminary Final Integrity, is an idea created by David King of SEN that states that certain games throughout the season increase a team’s status if they can overcome the challenge ahead.
Fremantle not only did that, but they probably did it against the two teams you had before them two weeks ago.
With those two feathers on their hats and a 9-3 record on the turn, Fremantle not only looks like a top four threat, but also a real contender for the premiership.
They will host Melbourne one more time at round 20 at home and they will not face the Lions again unless they match in September.
Chances are they’ll take a 3-0 record against their biggest rivals in the final, who knows how much confidence that could give on the big stage.
Dockers fans should really dare to dream, there is something special about building West.
Geelong is a top four lock
Like clockwork, Chris Scott’s Geelong side is looking like a top four slot after taking out the Dogs on Friday night.
Although their form has been questioned, this veteran team has quietly racked up four wins in their last five games, nestling them in fourth place with an 8-4 ‘record’.
Heading for the bye in a double-chance slot is probably all the convincing we need to expect the Cats to show up there at the end of the season, but that proves even more true when you look at their fixture.
Of their last ten games, three have come against the Eagles and Kangaroos, with two in particular against the worst looking side in the league, Adam Simpson, and quite comfortable.
With 15 or 16 wins, they should earn one of those places, and then only four or five wins are left against the rest of the league on the run.
After getting so close in the last decade, this is the platform this side needs to earn another flag.
Gold Coast looking good their next month will tell us if they are ready
The Suns are 6-6 and are sincerely in contention to appear in September for the first time in their 12-year history.
While they are currently 11th on par with Richmond and the Western Bulldogs, the Suns could really position themselves for a finals tilt next month.
After next week’s retirement, Stuart Dew’s squad will face Adelaide at home, Port Adelaide away, Collingwood at home and Richmond at home, in four somewhat even games before their game gets a bit on the run with the Kangaroos and Eagles approaching.
If the Suns can take three wins out of the next four, there’s no doubt they can go past the 12 wins and play footy in the final.
Do that, and there’s no way Dew will leave his position as the club’s coach at the end of the season.
We are none the wiser in the Rising Star race
What a season our Rising Star candidates are experiencing.
There is probably a clear top four at this point that would win in another year, with Jai Newcombe, Nick Daicos, Nic Martin and Sam De Koning making big impact for their side.
De Koning took off with a bit of momentum and De Koning’s name was thrown as a potential winner after another starring appearance, this time narrowing Western Bulldogs forward Aaron Naughton to one target.
With De Koning one of the best players on Friday, Collingwood’s Daicos and Hawthorn’s Newcombe may have even put him ahead of him when they faced each other in a head-to-head battle on Sunday afternoon.
Daicos had won a whopping 798 yards from 36 disposals and often looked like the only player in dry conditions, while Newcombe’s massive second half brought the Hawks back into the game – however you look at it, they’ll likely be the earn 3. and 2 come on Brownlow night.
With 11 weeks to go, let’s sit back and enjoy watching the kids play.
We will know that once the prize is awarded, the winner will earn it hugely with the competition they’ve had to fight.
It’s a big week for Melbourne
After Melbourne’s loss in round 11 to Fremantle, we were all expecting a backlash against Sydney on Saturday.
It wasn’t to be, and now the Dees have lost two on the bounce to sit 10-2 after 12 rounds.
While that’s still a dominant record, it’s not as impressive as it once was, with the Lions and Dockers just one win behind them at the turn.
Perhaps most worrisome for the Dees, it’s not that they lost, it’s how they went down.
In their last half against the Dockers and Swans, Simon Goodwin’s side scored just three goals in total as the front line didn’t seem to work well.
On Queen’s Day big stage against a resurgent Collingwood in the MCG, there’s no better opportunity for the reigning Prime Ministers to make a statement and prove they’re the best at it.
Going into the bye with a win should help them settle in and focus on their title defense for the second half of the year.
The footy world is waiting for their response… it may be emphatic.