Round 21 gave us a clearer picture of how the finals will shape up. With only two rounds left, what were the main talking points out of this weekend of AFL?
Kurt Tippett having a huge impact at the Swans
The biggest signing of the off season is now finding his place in the Sydney Swans forward line. After looking out of sorts coming into the lineup midseason, Tippett now has 17 goals in the past three matches. It may well have been more too, with the big man being subbed in the 3rd quarter to give him a well-deserved rest.
From these figures you could argue that Tippett is the most in form power forward in the game. Comparing him the leaders in the race for the Coleman medal, Giants superstar Jeremy Cameron has booted 10 goals in the past 3 matches, Josh Kennedy has six, Travis Cloke with 10 and Franklin 13.
Aided by some excellent delivery from the Swans midfield, Tippett’s form will certainly worry opposition coaches leading into the finals. The Swans forward line boasts some pretty impressive height. The combination with Canadian Mike Pyke and emerging big man Jesse White, the Swans have the ability to really stretch the defensive capabilities of their rivals. Given that most top teams comprise of two tall and one medium build athletic defender, the height up forward may be too much for teams to handle when they play the Swans.
Top 4 is set
With victories to the Swans and the Dockers today, the top 4 is set. This may be a bit earlier than many anticipated, but with Richmond, Collingwood and Essendon all losing, both Freo and Sydney are now 10 points ahead of their nearest rivals with only two matches to play. All that awaits now is how the order will look coming into the finals. With next week’s match between Geelong and Sydney, followed by the Hawks and Sydney the week after, each team in the four can finish first, second, third or fourth.
After the Swans were beaten by the Pies last week, there was a small chance that the top four teams in the competition would not actually finish in the top 4, but now we can rest easy. Hawthorn, Geelong, Fremantle and Sydney are BY FAR the four best in the competition, with only a few upsets derailing what have been pretty solid seasons.
Keep an eye on Blindside Sport in the coming week where we take a look at the form of these four clubs heading into the business end of the season.
Joel Selwood – Brownlow Smokie?
A late season drop in form from Gary Ablett may make the Brownlow Medal race closer than what everyone is expecting. And the main challenger may come from a bit of a surprise package in Joel Selwood. No one has ever discounted the talent of the Geelong skipper, but everyone needs to take a look at his past seven weeks. Since gathering only 13 disposals against Fremantle, he has averaged 28.3 disposals, 5 marks, 6.5 tackles and 2 goals. From these seven games, pencil in three votes in Rounds 15, 18, 20 and 21, with maybe 1 or 2 votes in the other games as well.
Don’t expect Selwood to feature heavily at all in the early stages of the season, but he may poll heavily in Rounds 1 and 4, with a couple of maybes in Round 2 and 13. Adding all this up and Selwood should be polling around 20-25 votes, which is certainly more than enough to be competitive.
Dogs are playing great footy
Tuning into today’s match at Etihad Stadium, you would be forgiven if you thought that the Dogs were playing finals type footy, cause that’s exactly how they’re playing! The pressure the Adelaide boys had on them the entire match was incredible, with the Dogs limiting the impact of Patrick Dangerfield (only 16 disposals!) Mitch Wallis was simply superb in keeping him out of the game, gathering 19 for himself including a goal.
What the Dogs bring to opponents is much what the Swans do. We saw only a few weeks ago the match between the Dogs and Swans, where they announced that they were no longer worthy of their place at the lower end of the ladder. All that separates them from finals football is skill under pressure, and maybe a key forward they can rely on. Next year I can see them playing very similar to how Port Adelaide has this year, and prove to be the big surprise of 2014.
One of the major surprises in how they’re performing is that the late season fade from a lot of younger teams isn’t happening. With their final two matches against Brisbane and Melbourne, the Dogs are highly likely to finish the season with four straight wins, ending with a respectable record of 9 wins and 13 losses.
Battle for 8th heating up
Heading into the final two rounds of the AFL season, the battle for 8th is still ongoing. A win for Port Adelaide over the Suns makes things a little tough for the Blues, but with a tough match next week for both clubs, anything can happen. Port Adelaide makes the tough trip west next week to face Fremantle, while Carlton faces a bit of an unknown in Essendon.
Facing Fremantle on their home turf will surely be too much for Port Adelaide to overcome, but having not played each other this year the rise of Port Adelaide will make it an enticing match. Certainly one of the must watch matches of the round. Carlton facing Essendon is possibly one of the hardest matches of the year to tip. Carlton had the biggest upset of the round with an inspiring win over Richmond at the G on Saturday. If the Blues play like this next Saturday night then the Bombers are in for a real challenge. Essendon, well, who knows what they’re going to bring next week. Four consecutive losses by whopping margins has just added to the off field pain they’re experiencing.
With a loss for Port, and a win for Carlton, the Round 23 match between the two will most likely turn into a ‘winner makes the finals’ scenario. We’ll revisit this scenario next week, but stay tuned, this may be one of the most highly anticipated final round matches in recent memory.