The race for the top eight
By Kayla Voss
The race for finals is tight. The ladder position for every team is uncertain. We are down to the final five games before the 2020 finals campaign kicks off. At this point in the season, every fan is doing the math and predicting their teams chance of playing finals. However, one can never predict what is going to happen. ‘Easy’ games can turn into a team’s nightmare and loss of momentum can kick a team out of the eight if other results go against you.
We almost witnessed nightmare results for Port Adelaide, Geelong and West Coast. While all three teams are in a safe spot to play finals, losing games you are expected to win is crushing for momentum. West Coast have the best argument for their 12-point win; GWS are a threat when they play their best footy, but their inconsistency is why they sit at 11th. However, Port Adelaide and Geelong played 15th and 18th respectively. Geelong managed to put the crows away in the fourth quarter to win comfortably by 28 points. Yet, the third quarter margin was only 9 points in Geelong’s favour. Port Adelaide, on the other hand, had to fight until the final siren. Hawthorn had transformed their on-field behaviour by taking on their ‘unsociable’ label from their glory days, which proved a task for ladder leaders Port. Port only just escaped from a loss to the Hawks after a combined effort from Scott Lycett, Zak Butters and Ollie Wines to produce a goal in the final two minutes.
The teams at the top of the table are tasked with finishing off their season strongly against teams sitting comfortably below them. All four teams are facing games over the final five rounds which they are expected to win, especially with a bye in the next two weeks to recover.
Meanwhile, teams hovering around the eight spot cut-off are facing a tough battle over the coming weeks. Desperation is the key to securing those final spots up for grabs. Who can string together consistent performances, and who wants it more? Also, who deserves to be there come finals?
From 6th position to 11th, the battle for top eight is tight; only two games separate 6th from 11th. St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Collingwood, Melbourne, Carlton and GWS are the six clubs hanging closely around the top eight cut-off. During the final home and away rounds these clubs need to prove why they should play finals football.
Out of all six teams, St Kilda deserve a spot the most. After finishing 14th last year, they have taken on board new coaching leadership and produced a fresh style of football. The Saints are exciting to watch and have developed brilliantly under Brett Ratten, especially young players like Max King.
Western Bulldogs and Collingwood share similar fates at the moment; their inconsistency is the biggest challenge in the final rounds. Collingwood in particular have proven over the past three years that they are a force to be reckoned with when they are at their best. However, injury issues have not helped in their efforts to provide more consistent football.
Finally, Melbourne, Carlton and GWS are sitting just outside the top eight. If results go their way, there is no reason these clubs will not play finals football. However, it is a question of whether or not they should. Melbourne, while they are the closest to breaking the eight, have produced some of the worst performances of football this year. If they can prove they are back on track then there is no reason they do not deserve a spot. They certainly have the personnel required to produce good, exciting football.
GWS and Carlton have similar fixtures in terms of difficulty. So it will be whoever can prove their worth. However, Carlton lack the experience required to make a run for the finals after battling for so many years. While GWS will be looking to return to the finals stage after a disappointing finish last year against Richmond.
Either way, the battle for the final top eight spots is well and truly a tough one. No doubt, these teams will be fighting hard to secure a place in finals and, ultimately, a chance to contend for the 2020 premiership.
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