We are 16 weeks into the AFL season and we are none the wiser as to how September could be shaping up.
With setbacks, beatings and tight finishes from this weekend’s nine games, there was plenty to take in from the action.
Here’s what we learned from the results of round 16:
We still don’t know what the top eight will look like
After the Bulldogs lost on Thursday, there could have been a clear gap between the top eight and the chasing pack…if the Blues and Swans were to win games, they were expected to beat the Saints and Bombers respectively.
Obviously we’ve seen disruptions in those games and suddenly the race for the top eight has started again.
With Richmond, St Kilda and Sydney all on nine wins… and Collingwood and Carlton not locked in at 10-5, we don’t know which team will miss in September.
The Bulldogs also have a shot at 8-7, but it will be difficult with their draw from here on out.
Who knows, in the next month or so, there may be two sides that jump into the final final positions.
It will be interesting to see how 10 fits into eight.
Gold Coast is so close but so far away
Gold Coast final hopes may have gone up in smoke in Saturday night’s defeat to Collingwood, but there’s no doubt they’ve taken a huge step forward in 2022.
With a record of 7-8 through 15 rounds, the Suns would lament the fact that they could easily take 10 wins, with narrow losses to the Magpies, Power, Bulldogs and Demons ultimately turning them vicious.
As they stand on the threshold of taking that next step, their youth is what holds them back as teams with more experience and know-how in tight competitions consistently get the job done when it matters most.
While this season may seem to be remembered as a ‘near’ campaign, they are expected to hit their stride in 2023 and win more often than not.
With Ben King back, and this young side constantly improving, next year should be the start of something big on the Gold Coast.
The platform has been laid, but next year there will be no excuses.
Sydney is the hardest team in the league to read
At their best, Sydney seems like a real contender, but at their worst they don’t seem close.
Of all the quality sides so far this year, they probably have the biggest gap between their best and their worst, especially since we see significant shifts so often.
Evidence of their inconsistency is shown by their two trips to the MCG this season, one being a win against reigning Prime Minister Melbourne and the other Saturday’s loss to 16th-seeded Essendon.
While the Bombers are a better side than their record suggests, this had to be a match Sydney won, given how precarious their position on the ladder is.
At 9-6, and with games against the Bulldogs, Dockers (away), Giants, Magpies and Saints (away), there’s no guarantee they’ll show up in September.
It would be a shame if they don’t get the quality on their list, but something needs to change soon if they’re going to make a splash this campaign.
Now is the time to start a run, and the Swans will be desperate for a model of consistency.
West Coast will cause serious problems for teams in the last seven rounds
They may be 17th, but West Coast has been looking a lot better since parting.
Although they have lost to Geelong and Richmond and have only just crossed the line against Essendon, the Eagles are no longer the easy beats they were earlier this year.
In Sunday’s defeat to Richmond, Adam Simpson’s side threatened much of the day and equaled the Tigers with 28 scoring shots, they just weren’t as accurate as their opponents.
At home especially, you might imagine the Eagles racking up a few more wins this season as their seniors begin to take shape.
They may not get the four points, but they can really scare teams vying for the final spots.
That could start next Sunday against the Blues at Optus Stadium.
The Rising Star race is over
Just a month ago in this column, one of the topics of conversation was how the Rising Star race was wide open, but a few weeks is a long time in footy.
While the likes of Sam De Koning, Nic Martin and Jai Newcombe haven’t dropped out, Collingwood’s Nick Daicos has really gone to another level after being the early favorite.
Saturday’s game was probably his best at the AFL level, with the 19-year-old making 37 disposals with an efficiency of 83 percent, while also making two goal assists, seven goals, three clearances and eight 50s rebounds. picked up in an instant. catch a getaway.
Daicos’ averages of 32.75 sales and 5.5 scores per game over the past month are unheard of for conscripts, and it’s the fact that he’s already Collingwood’s top user and decision maker that makes those numbers even bigger.
If he stays fit for the rest of 2022, Nick Daicos will be this year’s Rising Star winner, simple as that.
It’s a big week for St Kilda
Just when we thought it was slipping, St Kilda immediately brought itself back in with a smashing win over Carlton on Friday night.
Now that they have their destiny in their own hands, it is imperative that the Saints keep up their momentum at home against Fremantle on Saturday night.
With the game open to them a few weeks after the Dockers game, the Saints now need to book some wins before taking on the Cats (away), Lions and Swans in the final three weeks of the season.
Win against Fremantle, and that will go a long way in building a platform for the rest of their season.
Lose, and it could be back to square one.
This Saturday all eyes will be on Marvel Stadium.