Welcome back to the Power Rankings.
There’s a team on top of the ladder, a team we’d tip to win the flag and a team on top of this week’s rankings. And they’re three different teams.
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 win if they’re playing this weekend.
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1. FREMANTLE (10-3, 128.5%)
Last week’s ranking: 2
wow. Even after a surprisingly difficult day against Hawthorn, with the Demons’ fade-out continuing, we simply have to put Fremantle at the top of this week’s rankings – we have to respect on-field results at least a little bit. We’re in a new phase with the Dockers. We had them 12th in our pre-season Power Rankings (above West Coast, at least), but while they’ve made us look stupid there, we did say “if they’re even an average team this year they should be 7- 3 or 8-2 heading towards the bye”. Well, they’ve won those games after that too, and they’re clearly in the wide-open mix for the premiership. Now, in the cold depths of winter, they need to keep this momentum going and try to earn a home qualifying final. It’s not going to be easy – they have one fewer loss than the team in seventh. It’s a compact ladder, to say the least.
Next game: BYE
2. MELBOURNE (10-3, 134%)
Last week’s ranking: 1
Well, after all of the talk about Steven May’s Entrecote brainfade, it actually mattered because once again the Demons were exposed without him to set up their defense. And as coaches always say, a strong defense sets up your attack, an attack which is missing Tom McDonald quite badly. Over the last two seasons the Dees averages around 20 fewer points without him. Look, force us to put a house our generation can’t afford on it, and we’ll still peg Melbourne as the premiership favourite, but there is a genuine trend now of them struggling to kick a winning score, combined with a season- long lack of pressure. Spare a thought for Angus Brayshaw who managed to have one of his greatest ever quarters while Mason Cox was doing his ‘take over the game for 20 minutes and everyone yells a lot’ thing in the third – 13 disposals at 92% efficiency with 11 kicks , eight marks and eight interceptions. He single-handedly kept Melbourne ahead at the final change, before even he couldn’t stop the black and white flood.
Next game: BYE
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3. BRISBANE LIONS (10-3, 134.2%)
Last week’s ranking: 3
Well, that was the nicest thing Collingwood has done for them in 19 years, as the Magpies’ late surge over Melbourne pushed Brisbane to the top of the AFL ladder. You wouldn’t exactly call them the form team of the competition but there is no perfect contender right now and the Lions did enough against a wounded Saints side to continue their fantastic home form. Surely the Demons can’t lose four in a row, but the premiers’ lack of form makes Round 15’s showdown at the MCG an even more enticing prospect. We tipped Brisbane for the flag pre-season and they are clearly still in that mix… it’s just that more teams are in the mix than we expected.
Next game: BYE
4. GEELONG CATS (8-4, 127.6%)
Last week’s ranking: 4
The Cats had the bye. (And arguably have it again.)
Next game: West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium, Saturday twilight
5. ST KILDA (8-4, 119.1%)
Last week’s ranking: 5
Everyone and their mother loses to Brisbane at the Gabba in the home and away season, so no shame there, and you can put the Saints’ second-half fadeout partially down to their awful luck with injuries during Saturday night’s game. We’d be shocked if they weren’t able to pick apart Essendon’s Swiss cheese defense like the other contenders have this season. They can’t afford not to – every slip-up against a bottom 10 team is going to hurt even more than usual over the next 10 rounds, given how tight the ladder is. 13 wins is shaping as the remarkably high bar to make the eight, and that could mean it’s 15 to make the four.
Next game: Essendon at Marvel Stadium, Friday night
6. SYDNEY SWANS (8-4, 118.8%)
Last week’s ranking: 6
The Swans had the bye.
Next game: Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, Saturday afternoon
7. CARLTON (9-3, 114.9%)
Last week’s ranking: 8
We were actually going to start writing Carlton had the bye, and then we remembered oh yeah, that was Essendon’s defence, not a training drill. (An understandable mistake, we’d think.) The Blues weren’t spectacular on Friday night, to be honest – their 20 scoring shots were the second-fewest conceded by the Bombers all season – but they continue to rack up the wins. They’ll have to play better than that to beat Richmond, but if they do knock off the Tigers, they’ll have put three wins between themselves and falling out of the eight. That’s a serious margin that’d be hard to cough up, even as their run home gets tricky.
Next game: Richmond at the MCG, Thursday night
8. WESTERN BULLDOGS (6-6, 118.5%)
Last week’s ranking: 7
The Bulldogs had the bye. We’d just like to add that they’ve really picked the absolute worst year to be a good team that may barely get to 12 wins. In a usual season they’d do that and win an elimination final as the lower seed… this year they might end up 11th.
Next game: GWS Giants at Giants Stadium, Saturday night
9. RICHMOND (7-5, 117.5%)
Last week’s ranking: 9
We happen to know there’s optimism inside Tigerland that they can still make a top-four charge, despite Collingwood’s Queen’s Birthday win keeping them outside of the eight. Richmond has certainly improved over the last six weeks – winning five of their last six clearly tells you that, but they’ve also gone back to the more chaotic game style that worked so well for them in years gone by. Will it be the difference in their rematch with the Blues? Keep in mind back in Round 1, they led by almost three goals at three-quarter-time. It’s a pretty huge game – with a loss they’d only be one game out of the eight, but three games back of the top four, which is a tough gap to close.
Next game: Carlton at the MCG, Thursday night
10. COLLINGWOOD (8-5, 105.4%)
Last week’s ranking: 10
Listen, Collingwood fans, we know. You beat Melbourne, you beat Fremantle, you beat Carlton. The sheer fact of the matter is that there are too many good teams this year – in a complete reversal of last year when there weren’t eight teams that deserved to play finals. Not only will at least two pretty-damn-good footy teams miss playing in September, but there’s a real chance a team could win 13 games and still miss out, which would be an all-time first. And Collingwood could be that team thanks to their percentage. Or look at it this way – you’re eighth on the ladder, but you lost to Richmond and the Bulldogs, which is why you’re 10th in our rankings. See, we’re respecting results!
Next game: BYE
11. GOLD COAST SUNS (6-6, 108%)
Last week’s ranking: 11
The Suns had the bye. Kinda like the Bulldogs, in any other year they’d be way better off, with a real shot at 12 wins and a stunning finals berth. But that doesn’t feel like it’ll be enough this year.
Next game: Adelaide Crows at Metricon Stadium, Sunday afternoon
12. PORT ADELAIDE (5-7, 103%)
Last week’s ranking: 12
Unless the Power are planning on finishing the year on an 8-2 or better run, their season is essentially over, but as you can tell by the fact they have a positive percentage they’re better than your usual 12th-place team. That percentage is obviously boosted by their two enormous wins over West Coast and North Melbourne, but if you somehow transplanted this team into last year (when GWS and Essendon made the finals with 11 wins), we’d back them to make the eight. It’s just that… well, you’ve seen the ladder, right? Anyway – shout out to Todd Marshall. One of the rare shining lights and improvers for them this year.
Next game: Sydney Swans at Adelaide Oval, Saturday afternoon
13. HAWTHORN (4-9, 87.5%)
Last week’s ranking: 13
We’re struggling to think of the last time a team sitting 14th on the ladder looked this scary (even if there have been teams in 14th with a stronger percentage). The Hawks put a real scare into Fremantle, just like they did with Melbourne. In fact despite having just four wins for the season, Sam Mitchell’s men have won more games against the top eight than the Demons. What an odd year.
Next game: BYE
14.GWS GIANTS (4-8, 92%)
Last week’s ranking: 14
You really can’t take much out of a 49-point win over North Melbourne – it sounds great but then you realize it’s below North’s average losing margin this year – so let’s instead point out two big keys to their recent improvement. For a start, Stephen Coniglio is back playing genuinely A-grade football, which is great to see given the criticism he has copped over the last two and a half years or so. And then there’s James Peatling, who 90% of the footy community probably hasn’t even heard of – fantasy players excepted – but is averaging 18 disposals and three goals over the last three weeks.
Next game: Western Bulldogs at Giants Stadium, Saturday night
15. ADELAIDE CROWS (4-8, 82%)
Last week’s ranking: 16
The Crows had the bye (but they move up after moving down after a win last week… look, these rankings are an art, not a science!).
Next game: Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium, Sunday afternoon
16. ESSENDON (2-10, 73.1%)
Last week’s ranking: 15
We’re not sure if you’ve heard but Essendon’s defense is, uhh, bad? They’ve had issues all year but there were passages of play last Friday night where the lack of pressure and inability to track open men was simply laughable. Sorry Bombers but you’ve earned a relegation back behind Adelaide. (Which we’re sure you care about.) And here comes more Friday night scrutiny – jeez, the commercial department at the club is probably thrilled at their primetime appearances, but we can’t imagine the footy department feels the same…
Next game: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium, Friday night
17. NORTH MELBOURNE (1-12, 52.3%)
Last week’s ranking: 17
Next game: BYE
18. WEST COAST EAGLES (1-11, 50.7%)
Last week’s ranking: 18
Next game: Geelong Cats at Optus Stadium, Saturday twilight
The Eagles had the bye, and while the Kangaroos were pretty terrible against GWS, it wasn’t quite enough for them to drop into 18th in the rankings. Or on the ladder – there were two moments in the first half where the Giants were one goal away from putting West Coast into 17th on the live ladder. See, the live ladder isn’t just for last-round final calculations!