Top Eight Shuffle Left, Right?

August 27, 2008 Updated: November 27, 2010

{xtypo_sticky}Round 21 Results
WB 23.13 (151) vs ESS 15.15 (105)
RIC 15.15 (105) vs FRE 15.8 (98)
PA 18.21 (129) vs MEL 7.9 (51)
BL 16.13 (109) vs CAR 18.7 (115)
COL 18.10 (118) vs SYD 10.13 (73)
GEE 17.13 (115) vs KAN 13.4 (82)
STK 13.17 (95) vs ADE 6.11 (47)
WCE 9.8 (62) vs HAW 19.19 (133){/xtypo_sticky}
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AFL Ladder    Round 21/22

Teams        %    pts
Geelong        158.1    80
Hawthorn        128.9    64
W. Bulldogs    119.8    62
N. Melbourne    100.5    50
Collingwood    112.9    48
Adelaide        109.6    48
St Kilda        105.0    48
Sydney        109.4    46
Richmond        93.8    42
Brisbane        100.8    40
Carlton        97.3    40
Essendon        85.0    32
Port Adelaide    92.2    24
Fremantle        92.4    20
West Coast        67.7    16
Melbourne        64.0    12
4 points awarded for a win
2 points awarded for a draw
% is points for divided by points against

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Round 22

Friday, August 29
Fremantle vs Collingwood
Subiaco Oval 6.40pm
Saturday, August 30
North Melbourne vs Port Adelaide
MCG 1.10pm
Geelong vs West Coast
Skilled Stadium 2.10pm
Adelaide vs Western Bulldogs
AAMI Stadium 3.40pm
Carlton vs Hawthorn
Telstra Dome 7.10pm
Sydney vs Brisbane Lions
SCG 7.10pm
Sunday, August 31
Melbourne vs Richmond
MCG 2.10pm
Essendon vs St Kilda
Telstra Dome 4.40pm

The march to the finals is over. With one weekend of matches to play in the 2008 Australian Football League season, the top eight could still shuffle about, but the finals appearances door was decided and slammed shut – results left the Richmond Tigers, the Carlton Blues and the Brisbane Lions out in the cold.

Top eight teams will be striving to launch themselves into the four-week AFL finals series with a win where confidence and good form is like gold in Australian football’s National competition in September.

The luckiest team in the eight also happens to be the team with the poorest form. The Sydney Swans – who went down to the Collingwood Magpies by 45 points – continue to slip and falter and will need this coming weekend to turn things around, or they are likely to be the first of the finals’ casualties. They’ve won just two in the last eight and the haunting drawn Round 6 match underlies their “luck”. A loss again this weekend, without the two points awarded for that draw with the North Melbourne Kangaroos – where they were let-off for breaching the 18-man on-field per-side rule – and they may have missed the finals.

It was a very disappointing end for the Lions who, had they won last weekend, could have pushed the Swans out of the eight and taken their place when they meet this weekend at the SCG.

The Tigers and the Blues (mathematically) did everything right to keep their slim finals hopes alive with wins, but the Lions have no one to blame but themselves. Up by 32 points at three-quarter time, the Lions choked again and crumbled under the Blues’ pressure to lose by exactly one goal (six points).

Finals Beckon

As predicted in Round 6, at least six teams in the top eight at that time qualified to compete in the finals. The Lions made way for pre-season fancies the St Kilda Saints, keeping the trend alive – it’s now held true for eight years. Eight out of the top eight have never made it, while seven teams in five of those years have made it to the finals at that season-defining point. The impending inclusion of two new teams in AFL’s controversial expansion will test the trend in a few years; however, with the tendency of seven clubs again reinforced this season, six may continue.

While the bottom eight teams bemoan what could have been and begin to review their season, the top eight is far from settled. Fourth through to eighth are able to capture fourth spot, the first-week double chance and an opportunity to again test themselves against reigning Premiers Geelong.

Fatefully, should those five teams retain their positions, the first week of the finals series will see a rematch of their matches in Round 21.

Two teams from the top eight will be eliminated each week in the finals, culminating in the fourth week with the remaining two in the Grand Final.

Match of the Round

While last weekend there were three matches that were potential first-week finals previews, this weekend there is only one potential finals preview.

In a quirk of the fixture that saw them last play in Round 1, the Adelaide Crows hosting the Western Bulldogs at AAMI Stadium is the only match that vies teams in the top eight in the final round of this AFL season.

Head-to-head in the last five meetings, Adelaide have won three, but lost in that Round 1 match. It was a memorable high-scoring 2008 season-opening match for these two rivals. Bulldogs’ captain Brad Johnson, playing in his 300th match, with five minutes remaining, put on a three-goal burst to win by three points.

Of significance to this match is the Crows advantage in playing at their home venue. They have won the last six matches at the South Australian venue with the ‘Dogs winning the previous four.

Coming into this match, the Bulldogs refound their form against Essendon, while the Crows were defeated by St Kilda last round.

In the last five rounds, the Crows have been injury-depleted, but have won four, while the ‘Dogs with just two have flirted with their form that saw them win 13-and-a-half of their first 15.

It has been settled for several weeks that the Hawthorn Hawks and the Western Bulldogs will playoff in a first-week Qualifying Final. Should the Hawks lose, a win for the Red, White and Blue ‘Dogs could see them take AFL’s 2008 2nd place home-and-away season honours, while a loss will leave them 3rd. If other results go their way, a win for the Adelaide Crows could see them move into the valuable fourth position, while a loss could see them in 8th and in danger of a first-week finals exit.