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Power Rankings after Round 15, analysis, highlights, every club ranked, ladder, top eight, predictions

Welcome back to the Power Rankings.

Every top eight team played another, so naturally each spot in our top eight has changed. And it’s becoming clear the list of potential flag-winners is longer than usual.

What are the Power Rankings? This is our attempt to rank every AFL club from best to worst. We take wins and losses into account, but also the quality of opposition faced and whether teams are likely to get healthier or improve going forward. It’s a little bit ‘who’s hot and who’s not’; part predictive, part analysis of what’s happened. If Team A is above Team B, we’d probably tip A to beat B at a neutral venue this weekend.

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1. MELBOURNE (11-3, 139.2%)

Last week’s ranking: 2

Normal transmission has resumed. It may really be as simple as getting Steven May back – his leadership of the defence, which allowed Jake Lever to have one of his best games for the season, just has such enormous flow-on impacts. As coaches often say these days, defence sets up your attack, and the Demons attack looked a hell of a lot better last Thursday than it had for a while. The midfield also stepped up, even without Max Gawn. Turns out this is a good footy team and they’re still the favourites for the flag – who knew?

Next game: Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval, Saturday twilight

2. FREMANTLE (10-4, 122.6%)

Last week’s ranking: 1

We can’t dock the Dockers too much for their loss to Carlton – it’s an interstate loss to another top-four contender, after all. The Gold Coast and Collingwood losses were both worse, if both featuring the caveat of rainy conditions. It hurts Fremantle’s reality more than its perception, because now they’re tied for second with three other clubs and just percentage inside the double chance places. With six tricky games over the next six weeks before what should be a 2-0 finish, they’re likely to stumble a couple more times, and it might be a bit of a rollercoaster ride for anyone keen to see them make the top four. But the sample size of ‘Fremantle Being Good’ is too large at this point for us to be truly worried. If they lose to Port though…

Next game: Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium, Sunday twilight

North Melbourne begin internal review | 02:12

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3. GEELONG CATS (10-4, 125.6%)

Last week’s ranking: 4

The wins are really stacking up for the Cats now, propelling them from 5-4 and on the edge of the eight, to 10-4 and safely ensconced in the top four race. With how close the game was, the fact they beat Richmond was essentially a coin flip going their way – it doesn’t massively change our opinion on this team. They are what they are – offensively powerful at their best, strong defensively (when they have a non-suspended Tom Stewart), and with a midfield that probably needs to lift against the AFL’s best groups, but has improved since Tom Atkins was moved in there for Round 10. And the wins keep buying time for Patrick Dangerfield to actually, finally return. Assuming they don’t cop what would probably be the worst loss by any team this season, the Cats will be 11-4 for a third straight year (they were even better than that in 2019). Their consistency, if not their absolute success, remains the envy of the league.

Next game: North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium, Saturday night

Jeremy Cameron: Cat’s version of Dusty? | 01:19

4. BRISBANE LIONS (10-4, 124.9%)

Last week’s ranking: 3

Having lost three of their last five matches, the question is suddenly how far have Brisbane fallen? They’re so good at the Gabba they’ll get a few more wins at home and certainly play finals, but the top four has to be a bit of a concern if things don’t change. Their defence is leaky, and especially leaky once the opposition actually gets it into the defensive 50 – since Round 10, they’re 15th in the comp for points against, 15th for points against from turnovers and 18th for opposition scores per inside 50. The only team they’ve been able to limit to fewer than 15 goals in that period is the similarly ailing Saints – in retrospect that game looked ugly because both teams are struggling, more than anything else. The high-scoring Bulldogs shape as a very dangerous test.

Next game: Western Bulldogs at the Gabba, Thursday night

5. SYDNEY SWANS (9-5, 119.5%)

Last week’s ranking: 6

Safe to say that was a pretty nice rebound from the loss to Port Adelaide. It helped the Saints were pretty awful, but the Swans still carved them up, making it three wins against finals contenders across their last four matches. Hard not to be impressed, and we know how good they are at their best. Their relatively risky style of play makes them vulnerable to upsets, but it also makes them thrilling to watch and means they can beat just about anyone. Just bank the wins in their five remaining games against the bottom ten and they’ll be very safely into September. Last year they deserved to win a final but didn’t; this year they’ll get tougher opposition, so it’s no sure thing they’ll win one. But they’ll get a chance.

Next game: Essendon at the MCG, Saturday afternoon

How Baker’s role change ignites Richmond | 01:03

6. RICHMOND (8-6, 116.2%)

Last week’s ranking: 5

It feels weird having so much confidence in a team that isn’t even in the top eight, but it’s hard not to believe in a Tigers side that easily could’ve (should’ve?) beaten Geelong. And remember the controversial finish to the Sydney game? Those are Richmond’s only two losses since Anzac Day. It’s clear at this point we almost need to throw out their first six weeks, as they weren’t playing this chaotic game style that worked so well for them in the past and is working wonders once again. They’ll probably need to make a run from the bottom half of the eight, but it’s very easy to imagine these Tigers in a preliminary final – beat Carlton in an elimination final, then Geelong in a semi-final, or something? – and from there anyone can win the whole damn thing. (Imagine saying the team in ninth can win the flag! What a stupid, great season this is.)

Next game: West Coast Eagles at the MCG, Sunday afternoon

Why wasn’t play stopped for Prestia? | 02:31

7. CARLTON (10-4, 114.6%)

Last week’s ranking: 8

We’ve been lower on Carlton than most for the last couple of months – and we probably still are – but that win over Fremantle must be their best for the season. It’s a genuine sign that the Blues are in the top four mix, not just because of their ladder position but because they took advantage of the opportunity provided by getting a fellow contender at home. They’re now 5-0 at Marvel Stadium for the year, a record you’d expect them to take to 7-0 with games against the fading Saints and Giants over the coming month. After that though it’s back to the MCG for any big games, where they’re 4-2 but with two of those wins being very narrow and over bottom 10 sides. If there was any team that would love a return to finals under the roof, it might be the Blues.

Next game: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium, Friday night

Blues bounce back to beat Dockers | 01:00

8. WESTERN BULLDOGS (8-6, 120.9%)

Last week’s ranking: 7

They’re winning games of footy, and they’re scoring plenty. Tick and tick. Now we see if the Bulldogs, who have scored 100+ points in four consecutive games against bottom-ten opposition, can continue this run against quality sides. As has been well-discussed they have quite a difficult Run Home – in fact, the most difficult. For what it’s worth, if the Bulldogs do make the eight, we think they (and everyone ranked above them this week) are good enough to win the flag. In the Dogs’ case, they will have just proven it by winning their way in.

Next game: Brisbane Lions at the Gabba, Thursday night

9. COLLINGWOOD (9-5, 106%)

Last week’s ranking: 9

Three of their last four wins have come by less than two goals – weirdly the strongest win was against Melbourne – but banking those premiership points, with their next five games coming against bottom ten teams, has Collingwood on the brink of an unlikely finals berth. That’s more important than our view on how good they are, but we’re waiting for them to be a bit more impressive in the actual games before saying they’ll be anything better than the eighth-best team in the final eight. Now, they’re an eighth-best team that can upset pretty much anyone, because this is a weird, even season. But great teams comfortably beat bad ones. For comparison’s sake, over the last two weeks the Bulldogs have beaten GWS and Hawthorn by a combined 62 points. The Magpies’ recent wins over those teams were by a combined 15 points.

Next game: Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium, Saturday night

Pies hold off fast finishing Giants | 03:13

10. ST KILDA (8-6, 107.3%)

Last week’s ranking: 10

Something’s definitely wrong now. The absences of Bradley Hill and Paddy Ryder didn’t help, but they’ve been struggling to score even with them, and their defence – so good in the first few months of the season – has fallen off too. Since Round 10, they’re last in the AFL for scores per inside 50, and 14th in the AFL for opposition scores per inside 50. If they can regain whatever they had over the first nine rounds, they can certainly improve over their next three games which are all at Marvel Stadium – against the Blues, Dockers and Bulldogs – before winnable games against West Coast and Hawthorn. If they can’t regain it… well, look, they need to. Otherwise they’re done.

Next game: Carlton at Marvel Stadium, Friday night

11. GOLD COAST SUNS (7-7, 110.5%)

Last week’s ranking: 11

Listen, when you’ve never won a game at Adelaide Oval in club history – and only gotten within five goals of the opposition once – a two-point loss is pretty good. Probably not good enough to let the Suns play finals, though. They need to win at least five and probably six of their last eight to do that, which will require them to beat the Magpies and Tigers at home over the next fortnight. But we believe that’s do-able. A reminder of Gold Coast’s home form this season – beat Fremantle, Carlton and Adelaide, nearly beat Melbourne, better-than-it-sounds loss to Brisbane. We’ve lost no faith in the Suns’ ability to cause a bit of pre-finals chaos, and it’d be fun to see.

Next game: Collingwood at Metricon Stadium, Saturday night

Port too powerful for Gold Coast | 02:14

12. PORT ADELAIDE (7-7, 105.1%)

Last week’s ranking: 12

We can already hear a few tweets being composed, complaining the Power are behind the Suns, but a two-point win at home is hardly enough to prove one club is decisively better than the other. That’s not to denigrate Sunday’s victory, which kept Port’s slim finals hopes alive, and having won seven of their last nine games they’re doing almost everything they can to revive a season that looked lost. Even if they go on to miss the finals, as we expect, there are certainly positives to take from this season – Todd Marshall’s breakout being the most obvious. Having said all of that, the Power haven’t had a truly impressive away win in their run from 0-5 – the St Kilda one-pointer is the closest. If they knock off Fremantle this week, it’d not only shake up the top four race, but turn Port’s September dream into something feasible.

Next game: Fremantle at Optus Stadium, Sunday twilight

13. GWS GIANTS (4-10, 90.9%)

Last week’s ranking: 13

A comfortable win over the likely wooden spooners, and three games getting within three goals of a finals contender. That’s a pretty solid month of form for Mark McVeigh to put up on the slideshow when he goes for the full-time coaching job, yeah? You wouldn’t say he’s the favourite for the race (not with Alastair Clarkson still out there and few other jobs likely to open), and the recent history with interim coaches getting the upgrade isn’t terrific. But he has to at least be considered heavily.

Next game: Hawthorn at Giants Stadium, Sunday afternoon

14. HAWTHORN (4-10, 85.6%)

Last week’s ranking: 14

As we said in the Run Home, the Hawks are pulling off a brilliant tanking-without-tanking season, and they’ve shown enough over their last three games – even in defeat to the Bulldogs – to suggest they can knock off the Giants this week. But hey, no big deal if they don’t. Obviously every team wants to be in the finals race but there’s something calming about games that are almost entirely about optimism for the future, and not about fears for the present.

Next game: GWS Giants at Giants Stadium, Sunday afternoon

Crows fly high over lackluster Kangaroos | 01:04

15. ADELAIDE CROWS (5-9, 85.5%)

Last week’s ranking: 16

We would’ve had some concerns over the Crows if they hadn’t handled North Melbourne comfortably (or dare we suggest, lost), but they did, so that’s a plus. It’d be remarkable if they could upset Adelaide this week, just like they did last year, but otherwise we’re waiting for Round 17 against Hawthorn to see if Matthew Nicks’ side has really made up any ground on the teams above them in these rankings.

Next game: Melbourne at Adelaide Oval, Saturday twilight

16. ESSENDON (3-11, 78.6%)

Last week’s ranking: 15

We’re not making excuses for Essendon, but it’s worth pointing out the fixture has hurt them quite a bit this year. They played current top-eight teams in their first seven games of the year, and they had the misfortune of drawing West Coast now (when they’re not-terrible) as compared to early in the year (when they were terrible). It’s not like an ideal fixture would’ve put them into finals contention, but the horrible start to the year clearly didn’t help them, and the Eagles loss can legitimately be put down to when the game was played.

Next game: Sydney Swans at the MCG, Saturday afternoon

King rips Stringers sloppy defence! | 01:06

17. WEST COAST EAGLES (2-12, 55.8%)

Last week’s ranking: 17

The Eagles have done enough to deserve being summarised alone, without North Melbourne, and we totally get if you’d have them 16th above Essendon. But let’s just see how improved they are outside of WA first. (Plus, Essendon’s win over St Kilda is still a better win over the last fortnight.)

Next game: Richmond at the MCG, Sunday afternoon

18. NORTH MELBOURNE (1-13, 52.2%)

Last week’s ranking: 18

The Kangaroos are absolutely terrible. (Watch them keep it close with Geelong for like a quarter and a half, giving Cats fans a terrible fright, before the hosts unconvincingly pull away.)

Next game: Geelong Cats at GMHBA Stadium, Saturday night

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