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Power Rankings after Round 17, analysis, highlights, ladder, top eight, every club ranked, predictions

Welcome back to the Power Rankings.

Melbourne’s biggest problem, it turns out, is a pretty basic one. Plus why we still think eight teams can win the flag.

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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‘Taking the piss’ – King unloads on rule | 01:35

1. GEELONG CATS (12-4, 136.1%)

Last week’s ranking: 2

Other teams have beaten Melbourne this year; but few have truly dominated the Demons at their own game, with big-bodied midfielders and a dour defence (still without Tom Stewart) guiding Geelong to victory last Thursday night. Every contender has a strength, or strengths, but the Cats may not have any weaknesses. They’re No.2 for points scored (behind Brisbane) and No.3 for points allowed (narrowly behind Melbourne and Fremantle), but those sides are struggling on the other side of the ball. And if the Cats’ midfield was the problem, well, it looks a hell of a lot better with Patrick Dangerfield in it. Sorry Freo fans, but this is the first time all year we’ve been fully convinced someone can beat Melbourne when it matters.

Next game: Carlton at the MCG, Saturday night

Fantastic finishes kick off blockbuster! | 01:16

2. MELBOURNE (12-4, 133.4%)

Last week’s ranking: 1

It seems the Demons’ problem is very basic – because they’ve forgotten how to kick. Over the last five weeks they’re 18th in the AFL for Champion Data’s kick rating. Partly explaining their scoring woes, over that period Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver have made 46 kicks inside 50 and just two have been marked. That has to be a combination of poor decision-making, skill errors and problems from the forwards themselves. We’re not jumping off them completely – did someone say they can’t win the flag on the weekend? Two weeks after they utterly demolished Brisbane? – but all up, it’s a concern. And perhaps more pressingly, last Thursday the Cats showed can beat the premiers at their own game.

Next game: Port Adelaide at TIO Traeger Park, Sunday afternoon

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Betts shares special moment with Walters | 00:45

3. FREMANTLE (12-4, 123.8%)

Last week’s ranking: 4

Perhaps the best part about the Dockers’ season, and what makes it legit, is that it’s not off the back of pure home ground dominance. Don’t get us wrong, they’re better back home and that’s why finishing top two will be crucial, but they’ve lost more games in WA (two) than they have in Victoria (one) this year. In fact they’ve won more games over east this year (four) than they did between 2018 and 2021 (three, though they only played there once in 2020 for obvious reasons). Not since 2015, when they won five home and away games on route to the minor premiership, have they been this good in Victoria – and with games against the Tigers and Bulldogs left at Marvel, you’d back them to match or better that record.

Next game: Sydney Swans at Optus Stadium, Saturday night

4. BRISBANE LIONS (11-5, 124%)

Last week’s ranking: 3

It’s hard to extract how much of Brisbane being poor against Essendon was the Covid and injury outs, and how much was their slipping form. Post-match Chris Fagan said the worst part of the nine changes was what it did to their team defence, given the lack of synergy, and that makes sense. But they still had Neale, McCluggage, Lyons, Bailey and others in the midfield and coughed up six goals directly from stoppages – the AFL average is under three – so that group, which has copped scrutiny in recent weeks, deserves plenty. We’ll see how many players they lose and regain over the next few days. Hopefully for their sakes, this is the worst of this Covid wave and they’ve gotten it out of the way; all it’s done so far is damage their top four chances…

Next game: GWS Giants at Manuka Oval, Saturday early

Will teams lockdown as Covid hits? | 01:42

5. RICHMOND (9-7, 116.4%)

Last week’s ranking: 5

Look, that was a bad loss given the context of holding a 40-point lead. But we’re buying Richmond stock if you’re selling it. The Tigers still should’ve beaten the Suns – they won by 25 points on expected score – and it’s worth remembering just how bad their outs were for that game. Throw Vlastuin, Dusty or Lambert back into that side and they probably hold on. They may be without a veteran ruckman for this week but it’s an OK week to cop that sort of injury crisis. The Tigers are pretty unlikely to make the top four at this point, but they’ve only lost three games since Anzac Day – and all three by a kick.

Next game: North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, Saturday twilight

Commentators Monday Review | 02:35

6. SYDNEY SWANS (10-6, 120.5%)

Last week’s ranking: 6

Friday night was a perfect summation of why it’s so easy to get sucked into the Swans. They just play such stunning footy when they’re at their best, and it makes them a threat every week – but as we’ve seen, also a threat to lose every week. Still, name another team that’s beaten two finals contenders over the last three weeks by a combined 104 points. The Dockers at Optus Stadium has been a bit of a bogey game for them in recent years – this is the fourth straight year the Swans have played them over there (because as we know, the AFL fixture is always fair), and they’re 0-3.

Next game: Fremantle at Optus Stadium, Saturday night

7. CARLTON (11-5, 116.8%)

Last week’s ranking: 8

It was all going to script. We’d seen the Blues burst out of the blocks against lowly opposition and then get slowly pegged back towards a dramatic conclusion multiple times this year. And after keeping West Coast scoreless through a quarter on Sunday evening, it loomed again, with the hosts back within a couple of kicks by halftime. But then something weird happened… Carlton played good footy again. And in the end we saw a 63-point win that simultaneously flattered the Blues and accurately summarised how much better they were. It’s the Schrödinger’s cat of results. Without the poison.

Next game: Geelong Cats at the MCG, Saturday night

Flightless Eagles buried by Blues | 01:04

8. COLLINGWOOD (11-5, 106.3%)

Last week’s ranking: 7

It doesn’t quite make sense that the Magpies looked so much better against Melbourne and Fremantle than they did against North Melbourne and West Coast, but then they’re the perfect summation of a weird season, aren’t they? All of the close games, the rise from 17th (which we can’t exactly credit to their fixture, since the only team they’ve played twice is Gold Coast)… at this point we are just waiting until September, right? What else are we going to learn about this team in the home and away season? If you think this team is a legit contender based on its 11-5 record, you’re probably set in stone. If, like us, you think that record somewhat overstates their quality but concede they’re good enough to beat anyone on their day, you are too. And that’s the weirdest part of this year – because we think the team we consider eighth-best can win the flag. Why not?

Next game: Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval, Saturday early

Is Ginnivan playing for free kicks? | 04:11

9. GOLD COAST SUNS (8-8, 108.9%)

Last week’s ranking: 11

The Suns deserved that. Close games are heavily about luck – as much as Collingwood fans keep arguing with us about that – and they finally got some against Richmond, after two heartbreaking endings that didn’t go their way. As we wrote about on Sunday night, the Suns still have a path to 12 wins, though 13 (which they should need to actually make the eight) may be difficult. But they are undoubtedly a genuinely good footy team at this point; this isn’t a mirage. This is the best Gold Coast Suns team to ever exist – even when they were flying with Gary Ablett in 2014, their percentage was barely over 100 – and they should only get better next year. Whether they make the finals this year, next or after that, it’s going to happen.

Next game: Essendon at Marvel Stadium, Sunday twilight

Did Rowell think Anderson would win it? | 10:52

10. WESTERN BULLDOGS (8-8, 110.4%)

Last week’s ranking: 9

How did the Bulldogs get to a point where they’re throwing Mitch Hannan and Adam Treloar into defence? It’s just another example of Luke Beveridge trying to turn this hodge-podge of a talented list into a completely operational team. And it’s hard to know if the problem is Beveridge’s unique decisions or the decisions that left him with this list. Probably a bit of both, though their defensive problems are as much about the structure as the personnel. Look, we’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it – the Bulldogs are good. But only good. Of their eight losses, six have come against the top eight, so it’s not like you can say upsets have ruined their season (though losing to Adelaide hurt). It’s just that when they come up against the best, they typically look nowhere near the opposition. Just a baffling, wasted year… and we’ll fall for them in the pre-season again and tip them to make the top four, won’t we?

Next game: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium, Friday night

11. ST KILDA (9-7, 104.1%)

Last week’s ranking: 10

The brilliant defence which put the Saints at 8-3 heading into the bye has abandoned them, and in turn cruelled their season. Before the break they were a dour fifth in the AFL for scores conceded per inside 50; since then they’re an awful 17th. And that was typified against Fremantle when they allowed the visitors to score 111 points from just 45 inside 50s, or on 55 per cent of their entries. You absolutely cannot win like that and unless they fix whatever has gone wrong, and quickly, you absolutely cannot play finals like that either.

Next game: Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, Friday night

“Feel bad laughing” Goddard smashed | 02:58

12. PORT ADELAIDE (8-8, 108.6%)

Last week’s ranking: 12

Another strong performance. Another week still sitting 12th. Another big game against a contender which, this time, they need to win. The Power have lost a few of their remaining lives in narrow defeats to Richmond and Fremantle (and a non-narrow one to Geelong). Lose again and it’s likely game over.

Next game: Melbourne at TIO Traeger Park, Sunday afternoon

13. GWS GIANTS (5-11, 89.4%)

Last week’s ranking: 13

Yeah nah that wasn’t ideal, hey? The one thing we trusted from this new-look Giants team was their ability to kick goals… and then they go and boot three. They had pretty firmly cemented themselves as the best team in the bottom six, but suddenly there’s some doubt on that front.

Next game: Brisbane Lions at Manuka Oval, Saturday early

Davis decision looms after injury | 02:17

14. ESSENDON (5-11, 82.4%)

Last week’s ranking: 15

Yes, the Bombers are out of our bottom four. That’s what happens when you beat two contenders in two weeks. Clearly Brisbane’s nine forced outs made cracking the Gabba fortress easier, but Essendon is definitely a better side now than it was a month ago, with the midfield impressive and Peter Wright very quietly reaching 40 goals. Imagine saying coming into the year he’d out-goal Tom Lynch, Harry McKay, Buddy Franklin, Bayley Fritsch… he’s alright, Pete. Now if only he had a nickname. Something to do with his remarkable height, perhaps? Hmm… no, 6 foot 5 Wright doesn’t rhyme… we’ll get back to you.

Next game: Gold Coast Suns at Marvel Stadium, Sunday twilight

Just Wright! Bombers upset Lions | 01:45

15. HAWTHORN (5-11, 87.5%)

Last week’s ranking: 14

It’s not the fastest progress we’ve ever seen but with the second-easiest remaining fixture in the AFL, the Hawks look likely to pass GWS and finish higher on the ladder than they did last year for the second consecutive season. Of course that’ll only mean going from 15th to 14th to 13th, but hey, the parade celebrating the 2034 flag is going to be pretty special! (They moved down a spot, despite the win over Adelaide, because we have to credit Essendon’s strong wins.)

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

Hawks return to winners circle | 02:00

16. ADELAIDE CROWS (5-11, 83.1%)

Last week’s ranking: 15

The momentum from an encouraging fortnight suddenly halts with the Crows looking rather outmatched by a side that, based on the ladder, they should’ve played a bit closer. We’re on percentage watch to judge if Adelaide has improved from last year, and right now they’re 1.1% up on the 2021 Crows. With a pretty easy run home they’re a good chance of growing that – if they can finish up in the high 80s, we’re happy to give this year a narrow pass.

Next game: Collingwood at Adelaide Oval, Saturday early

17. WEST COAST EAGLES (2-14, 56.4%)

Last week’s ranking: 17

Two pretty damn good quarters and two horrendous ones? Are we sure that wasn’t Carlton playing in the West Coast guernseys?

Next game: Hawthorn at the MCG, Sunday early

18. NORTH MELBOURNE (1-15, 51.7%)

Last week’s ranking: 18

The talk around Saturday potentially being David Noble’s last game – and particularly the talk around the result mattering – seemed absurd. Why would you ever sack a coach based on one loss? As it turned out the Kangaroos fought incredibly hard, whether for him or just for their own reasons, which was encouraging. The review still feels likely to call for change but if there is a consistent trend of games like Saturday’s, maybe things can turn.

Next game: Richmond at Marvel Stadium, Saturday twilight

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