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Power Rankings after Round 20 Fox Footy, ladder, analysis, highlights, top eight, every club ranked, predictions

Welcome back to the Power Rankings.

The Swans have entered the top four, but we’ve rated them very highly for weeks. Plus just as Carlton progressed and Richmond declined, shock results have seen a pivot to the default.

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NEW FIRST CRACK PODCAST — R20 wrap: ‘Arrogant’ Blues torched, Danger’s best flag chance

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1. GEELONG CATS (15-4, 135.5%)

Last week’s ranking: 1

AFL 360 co-host Gerard Whateley said the win over the Bulldogs was “as brutal a performance I’ve seen from Geelong maybe in my whole time watching as a fan”. That’s two weeks in a row an opposition side has thrown everything at the Cats – and Chris Scott’s side has adjusted in-game and responded emphatically. They’ve always had this incredible knack of knowing how to win from any situation, but you sense that trait has gone to a new level this year, for the team has genuinely become ‘the hunted’ in 2022. Jon Ceglar’s first outing in the hoops was promising, so he could add another dynamic to the Cats’ on-ball brigade come finals. Top two and a ‘home final’ looms.

Next game: St Kilda at GMHBA Stadium, Saturday night

‘Can’t help but think about it’ | 01:57

2. MELBOURNE (14-5, 131.6%)

Last week’s ranking: 2

The emphatic dismissal of the Dockers on Friday night was a performance Dees fans would’ve been relieved to see after several shaky weeks. Jack Viney’s brutality at the contest was scary yet inspirational for his teammates, while Christian Petracca’s ability to impact the game from such a high percentage of game time forward of centre was brilliant. They face the Pies, Blues and Lions across the final three rounds. Win at least two of those and they’ll likely finish inside the top two to give themselves a terrific opportunity to go back-to-back.

Next game: Collingwood at MCG, Friday night

3. SYDNEY SWANS (13-6, 126.5%)

Last week’s ranking: 3

Suddenly, they’ve climbed into the top four off the back of several wins in less-profile matches, including Saturday’s victory over the Giants in which the Swans gained nearly five per cent. But we’ve been monitoring the Swans closely for several weeks, hence they’ve featured high in the Power Rankings consistently. Now the footy world has caught on, to the point where Sydney is considered a genuine premiership contender alongside the Cats and Demons – so its ladder position is now a true reflection of where the team stands in the flag mix. As Fox Footy’s David King said on Saturday, the Swans have “got weapons on every line and star-factor players across every line that separate games”. Off the back of four straight wins, the Swans face North this weekend before a crunch game against Collingwood. Beat the Pies in Round 22 and the Swans should be top-four bound.

Next game: North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, Sunday afternoon

‘Put a line through them’ | 03:05

4. BRISBANE LIONS (13-6, 123.3%)

Last week’s ranking: 4

Up by seven goals over the Tigers midway through the second term – and they still lost. This Lions-MCG hoodoo sure is something. It was a costly loss in many ways, most notably because they’ve now slipped out of the top four – and they’ll find it tough to get back in there. Frustratingly, the slick footy Brisbane displayed in the first half would be good enough to match it with other contenders – only for the match to completely flip after half-time. And it wasn’t ‘the ground’ that beat the Lions, it was their own second-half performance. Now they face a Carlton side that’ll be desperate to atone for its own Round 20 horror show. Huge stakes.

Next game: Carlton at The Gabba, Saturday afternoon

5. COLLINGWOOD (14-5, 106.2%)

Last week’s ranking: 6

LOL, they did it again. That’s 10 wins in a row, of which seven have been by single-figure margins. As colleague Ben Cotton highlighted last week, the Pies have been intentional in simulating close game situations at training and challenging the players to always be thinking what the game needs. Surely that’s helped their ability to hold their nerve and finish out tight games on top. Jordan De Goey’s return to the side on Saturday was electric, showing off a leaner figure that should have him primed for a big finals series. Plus Brodie Grundy is due back soon. The asterisk on the Pies is their past six wins – all by under two goals – have come against teams ranked 11th or lower on the ladder. We’ll find out lots about them in their next three games against Melbourne (2nd), Sydney (3rd) and Carlton (7th).

Next game: Melbourne at MCG, Friday night

‘It’s taken a toll on my mental health’ | 02:05

6. FREMANTLE (12-6-1, 114.9%)

Last week’s ranking: 5

The decline continues. That’s now two losses and one draw from their past three games in which they’ve scored just 65, 52 and 39 points. Hence the Dockers have dropped two spots in the Power Rankings in the past two weeks. Melbourne champion Garry Lyon said the Dockers looked “unimaginative” and “passive” in their most recent performance against Melbourne, which saw Justin Longmuir’s men lose five per cent on the ladder. It follows a concerning pattern of performances against the best sides since the mid-season bye, capped by a 31-point loss to Carlton and a 17-point loss to Sydney. After a brilliant run of form mid-season, it’s clear rival teams have gone to work on the Dockers and figures them out, stifling their ability to move the footy. Lose to the Dogs this weekend and their top-four hopes are shot.

Next game: Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, Saturday twilight

7. RICHMOND (10-8-1, 114.0%)

Last week’s ranking: 8

That was one mightily impressive comeback. Just when we thought Richmond had completely lost the ability to close out tight games, it produces the comeback of 2022, turning a 42-point deficit into a seven-point win. Noah Cumberland has added an exciting edge to the Tigers’ forward 50, while Shai Bolton … well, some believe he’s now the best player in the competition. There’s still a mini watch on their defence – they’ve 89 points or more in five of their past six games – while the fact they’re ranked 18th for pressure applied across those past six matches is a concern. Still, you wouldn’t want to play the Tigers in an elimination final …

Next game: Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, Saturday night

Tigers claw back to claim stunning win | 03:02

8. WESTERN BULLDOGS (10-9, 109.4%)

Last week’s ranking: 9

The Dogs felt the full brunt of a brutal Geelong team last weekend, blown away by the flag favourites during a ruthless third term. But remember that came one week after an epic win over Melbourne. The reality is we all knew this tough run home loomed for the Dogs. And of the five contenders they’ve played in the past five weeks, they’ve only beaten two of them – and one of them was St Kilda on a horror night for Brett Ratten’s side. The big concern is the Dogs are conceding significant scores of late, giving up 94-plus points in five of their past seven games. An absolutely must-win game against the travelling Dockers looms this weekend.

Next game: Fremantle at Marvel Stadium, Saturday twilight

9. CARLTON (12-7, 112.6%)

Last week’s ranking: 7

Yuck. That loss to Adelaide was ugly – so ugly the Blues have moved two spots down the Power Rankings. Fox Footy’s David King certainly didn’t miss the Blues on Sunday night’s edition of First Crack, labelling the loss to the Crows “the most arrogant performance that I’ve seen in a long, long time” as Matthew Nicks’ men slipped tackles for fun. Adelaide thumped Carlton around the contest – something that has barely happened to the brutal Blues all season. Anomaly or was that a sign that more pain is to come? The Blues had an opportunity to guarantee a finals berth with a win at the Adelaide Oval. Instead, they’re now vulnerable inside the eight with games against top-five sides Brisbane, Melbourne and Collingwood to come. Expect a few tweaks at selection this week … surely Jack Silvagni’s back in the best 22?

Next game: Brisbane Lions at The Gabba, Saturday afternoon

“Most arrogant performance!” | 03:02

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10. PORT ADELAIDE (8-11, 104.7%)

Last week’s ranking: 10

It’s remarkable a side that has shown as much promise as Port Adelaide in recent weeks will miss finals. Saturday’s loss to Collingwood was Port’s third close straight defeat to a top-four side despite throwing everything at them. The Power’s ability to win the contested ball has improved dramatically since the start of the season, while Charlie Dixon and Jeremy Finlayson have been surprising yet significant wins playing different roles in recent weeks. You could make a case that Port could beat any team from Brisbane down on the ladder if it was in the finals series. How frustratingly costly that 0-5 start has turned out to be.

Next game: Richmond at Adelaide Oval, Saturday night

11. GOLD COAST SUNS (9-10, 103.2%)

Last week’s ranking: 11

Their slim finals hopes remain alive. You could take Sunday’s close call against West Coast in two ways. The half-glass full approach would be that it was a sign of maturity to hold on against the fast-finishing Eagles, as that would’ve been a game the Suns of the recent past would’ve lost. Conversely, the close win proved the Suns lack the polish to break into the finals mix this year. It was also the third straight game in which Gold Coast conceded 100-plus points. Still, the 2022 season will be considered a success for Gold Coast and Stuart Dew, who’s now coached the Suns to a career-best nine wins so far this season.

Next game: Hawthorn at UTAS Stadium, Saturday afternoon

Suns keep finals hope alive | 01:25

12. ST KILDA (11-8, 104.3%)

Last week’s ranking: 12

In the eight on the ladder, but nowhere near the top eight of the Power Rankings. It’s rankings like this, as well as other comments from more-credentialed pundits, that likely prompted Brett Ratten’s pointed post-match remarks in which he was stunned by the constant glass half-empty commentary around the Saints, especially when they win. But any observer would’ve been concerned watching the Hawks storm home on Saturday, only to fall just short of a remarkable comeback. Dan Hannebery made a promising return, while Rowan Marshall and Jack Steele were colossal. But in reality, there was nothing from the win over Hawthorn that convinced us the Saints are a better team than rivals like the Tigers, Dogs, Blues, Power and Suns.

Next game: Geelong at GMHBA Stadium, Saturday night

13. ESSENDON (7-12, 89.8%)

Last week’s ranking: 13

That’s five wins from seven games as Ben Rutten’s side continues to finish 2022 with a flourish and ample confidence. The best aspect of the win over North was the glimpse Bombers fans got of Jake Stringer at his devastating best – a sight they’ve been denied of for most of the year – while Mason Redman’s rise off half-back continues. There just seems to be a better balance about Essendon since Round 14 – it’s just a shame it took them until Round 14 to find that groove.

Next game: GWS Giants at Giants Stadium, Saturday afternoon

Bombers inflict more misery on Kangaroos | 01:11

14. HAWTHORN (7-12, 92.6%)

Last week’s ranking: 14

So close yet so far, falling just short of pulling off a remarkable comeback win over St Kilda. Sam Mitchell spun the magnets and it paid dividends, with Dylan Moore thriving in the midfield, Jai Newcombe impacting the scoreboard up forward and medical sub Emerson Jeka taking several strong grabs after being injected into the game. With games against Gold Coast, Richmond and the Western Bulldogs – teams all still fighting for a spot in the top eight – in the final three weeks, the Hawks could play party poopers and end a few 2022 campaigns short of finals.

Next game: Gold Coast Suns at UTAS Stadium, Saturday afternoon

15. ADELAIDE CROWS (6-13, 85.2%)

Last week’s ranking: 16

The Crows had been building confidence and form for weeks and were due for a scalp. Few, though, would’ve predicted Matthew Nicks’ side to obliterate the usually-brutal Blues at the contest and notch a 29-point win. It clicked for them defensively on Saturday night, which has so often dictated results for Adelaide this season. The Crows have conceded 82 or less points in five games this season – and they’ve won all five of them. And just quietly, Ben Keays – what a remarkable story and bargain recruit he’s been for the footy club.

Next game: West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium, Sunday afternoon

Giants keen to ‘correct their cap’ | 04:04

16. GWS GIANTS (5-14, 82.5%)

Last week’s ranking: 15

No matter what you thought of Mark McVeigh’s “checked out” post-match comments and whether they were appropriate, he ultimately said what no doubt a lot of on-lookers were thinking during Saturday’s Sydney derby loss. The Giants’ 2022 campaign has unravelled fast, losing their past four straight games by an average margin of 51 points, with the 73-point loss to Sydney the club’s worst since the 2019 Grand Final. A few players playing for their footy futures over the next few weeks.

Next game: Essendon at Giants Stadium, Saturday afternoon

17. WEST COAST EAGLES (2-17, 60.0%)

Last week’s ranking: 17

They might’ve lost in heart-breaking circumstances, but the Eagles got a glimpse of life beyond Josh Kennedy – and if Jack Darling can produce performances like that consistently, they’ll cause a few headaches for opposition defences. Good to see Tim Kelly bounce back and Jack Petruccelle back among the goalkickers.

Next game: Adelaide Crows at Optus Stadium, Sunday afternoon

18. NORTH MELBOURNE (2-17, 54.9%)

Last week’s ranking: 18

Three weeks to go, North fans. Hang tight! Mad Monday is close.

Next game: Sydney Swans at Marvel Stadium, Sunday afternoon

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