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The contenders flex their muscles

What a tedious final round – until Sunday, that is.

Collingwood kept on marching. Unfortunately Carlton didn’t.

I don’t intend to rank the bottom nine. Partly that’s because I’m trying to show mercy to North Melbourne, Adelaide, West Coast and Essendon, but mostly it’s because they don’t matter anymore.

9, Carlton Blues

A really disappointing run home from Carlton culminated in a last-quarter, final-minutes loss to mortal enemy Collingwood. Patrick Cripps stood up – what a fine specimen of a midfielder. A six-foot-four strong and fast player. No wonder the tall, strong midfielders dominate the game and dominate the Brownlow votes. Sam Docherty was a tower of strength out back. He even swooped in for a goal.

The side has plenty of talent, but that is next year’s tale. We saw Charlie Curnow consolidate his Coleman Medal and provide a spark in the third quarter, but unfortunately errant kicking, even if only slightly, cost the team – and his final bomb to a pack of Collingwood players in front of his goal resulted in a rebound goal at the other end. It might be a long summer for him, but he’s a star, so he should just move on.

8. Western Bulldogs

The Bulldogs’ wet sail got them over the line against Hawthorn with just enough points to pip Carlton to make the final eight. Hawthorn put up a valiant effort in a wind-affected Launceston, but the Hawks’ dismal effort against the Tigers the week before should probably be used as a yardstick. Either the Tigers are the best team in the competition or the Bulldogs just won had a meandering and close win against a bottom-six side. Add this to a meandering win against GWS and a loss against Freemantle and their prospects don’t look good. The 2016 finals result gives a glimmer of hope.

7. Brisbane Lions

Brisbane was scarred when they met Melbourne earlier this year at the MCG. Any drive and attacking play was nipped in the bud. And Friday’s crushing defeat by the reigning premiers was brutal. On their home deck in front of their home fans they were completely taken apart. What a terrible way to enter the finals. Richmond can thank Melbourne for destroying Brisbane’s psyche.

Dayne Zorko of the Lions looks dejected after his team's defeat against Melbourne.

(Photo by Albert Perez/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

6. Freemantle Dockers

Freemantle are taking a leaf out of Collingwood’s playbook. You don’t have to win by much, you just have to win. The problem is that they need to blow out the cobwebs up forward. They need to score. It doesn’t help that their twin towers were absent on Saturday, but a 20-point win against the lowly GWS is not enough, and the ten-goal game against West Coast the week before is insufficient. But they are playing finals and they do have an easy one at home for the first round. Maybe they can play themselves into some form.

5. Richmond.Tigers

Richmond have been tuning up their goal scorers against some struggling opposition. They absolutely belted the Hawks and then gave Essendon similar treatment. You could say they are just bullying the weak, but you can only beat who you play. Interestingly, the one top-eight side they’ve actually beaten are Brisbane, so that bodes well.

The one player who is behind Richmond’s late-season surge is Dion Prestia. He’s the engine room in the middle. He wins the ball and accurately delivers it to players. Tom Lynch can thank him, although his marking and accuracy are all his own.

Richmond rely very much on the fear from opposition teams of their helter-skelter rebound. It’s how they score their goals and how they hurt teams. But it leaves them open to the other teams’ rebounds if they are brave enough to go for it. Although Essendon were easily beaten last week, they didn’t have much trouble penetrating the Richmond backline.

Judson Clarke of the Tigers celebrates.

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

4. Collingwood Magpies

It seems a bit harsh that Collingwood have been relegated to fourth after their magnificent last-minute victory over Carlton, but the Swans did convincingly beat them and Melbourne just changed up a gear.

The Magpies have heart, they have spirit and, most of all, they have self-belief. Collingwood’s accuracy from some of their set shots was impressive. Elliott Johnson and Jack Ginnivan – now there’s a familiar name. Three crucial goals and no free kicks. Hmm.

Isaac Quaynor and Darcy Moore are doing some heavy lifting out back and setting up some forward thrusts. Scott Pendlebury, although not outstanding, is still doing the hard inside work. Steele Sidebottom and Jordan De Goey are producing their customary flashes.

The one chink I can see is the ruck. Too many frees are given away and not enough contests are won.

I see that Collingwood have tied young Jamie Elliott to a new contract after I offered him a spot at Geelong in the last power rankings.

3. Sydney Swans

The Swans showed us they are a class above Collingwood. They are the true dark horses of the 2022 season. They have kept under the radar but are coming and coming hard.

Isaac Heeney

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

They had the opportunity to move up to second place at the weekend. They had to secure a 50-point win over St Kilda, who had nothing but heart to play for. A mere 14 points is not nearly good enough. It means they give away a home-ground advantage in the qualifying final to a strengthening Melbourne side. Maybe it was all a cunning plan to beat Melbourne, beat them early and beat them on the MCG.

As usual, Sydney have been winning with across-the-side even performance. Lance Franklin flashes but is just a supporting actor now. Isaac Heeney is the star. He’s always ready to break out and demolish the opposition. I can just see him in a preliminary final, three points down, ten seconds to go – you know the ending.

2. Melbourne Demons

The finals are on, and who should put their hands up but the reigning premiers. Melbourne stands up and demolished Brisbane again, and in such a mean way. They just cut off their goal-scoring opportunities. Steve May was a beast –he rag dolled players all game.

It was the old firm that just did as they wished. Max Gawn, Christian Petracca, Angus Brayshaw and Clayton Oliver were unstoppable. If that wasn’t enough, Luke Jackson is getting in on the act. Bayley Fritsch does what he does best – he gets on the end of some plays. The easy ball. But he kicks straight, and what else do you want from a forward>

1. Geelong Cats

The Cats had a ten-goal victory over Gold Coast followed by a regulation flogging of a lowly the West Coast at Kardinia Park – and I don’t think there could ever be enough floggings to make up for the 1990s finals. They did what had to be done.

Brad Close made a magnificent forward dash to be rewarded in the game-opening goal. Tom Hawkins showed characteristic strength if not accuracy. Tyson Stengle was brilliant and will be a handful in September. Brandan Parfitt, with his strength, made the most of his opportunities, as did Gary Rohan, but up forward Patrick Dangerfield and Tom Stewart were dominant.

The injuries are creeping in. Jeremy Cameron, Rhys Stanley and the good Cameron Guthrie. But who knows, maybe Chris Scott is just been cautious.

Now all the Cats have to do is maintain their power rankings until after the grand final.

They’re my power rankings. What are yours?

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