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AFL: Race for the Top 8 Heats Up

With two games remaining in the AFL home and away season, all but two of the top eight spots remain in play for teams outside of the eight. Carlton, Richmond, St. Kilda, and the Western Bulldogs are the only four teams that can make up the final 2 spots in the top eight. With two rounds remaining, many have speculated about what could happen and which teams will play in the finals but everything depends on the different machinations of how these results will pan out.

Heading into round 22, Carlton currently occupies the seventh position with 48 points with a decent percentage but the club has one of the toughest remaining games of the four teams. Richmond currently sits in eight, with 46 points after their draw with Freemantle, this means that percentage is unlikely to play a factor in their final position but they can also fall out if results go against them.

The Saints sit on 44 points after losing to the Lions and the worst percentage of the four teams, and the fourth-placed Swans and need to win at least one game and hope results go their way. The final outside team is the Western Bulldogs, who have GWS and the Hawks in their run home. The Bulldogs have arguably the easiest run home of the remaining teams, but they need to win both games and hope results go their way to make it.

Carlton – 7th Place

AFL Star Patrick Cripps

As already stated, Carlton currently occupies the best position having already banked 12 wins and another win in their remaining two games will almost bank them into the finals. A big concern for Carlton is their mediocre average percentage. Assuming Carlton loses its remaining games and the Bulldogs win theirs, the Bulldogs will likely overtake Carlton on percentage.

Missed Opportunities

Carlton missed a lot of opportunities this season and could have had their final position locked away already. After round 10, Carlton was sitting in third on the ladder with a win-loss record of 8-2. Since then, Carlton has lost 6 of their next 11 games to take their record to 12 wins and 8 losses.

If Carlton does miss the finals, their round 16 loss to St Kilda may be a painful reminder of what could have been as they kicked 10 goals 18 behind to lose by 15 points. Another game that the Blues should have won was against Adelaide in round 20. The game was a perfect chance against a lower-placed club, but a poor effort saw them fall to the Crows by 29 points.

Run Home

Carlton’s two final games come against the reigns premiers, Melbourne, and Collingwood. Both games are incredibly tough with both opponents fighting for positions in the top 4. Melbourne lost their last game to Collingwood and need a win to make sure that they don’t fall out of the top 4, with Sydney, Brisbane, and Freemantle within half a game of them. This will be Carlton’s first game against Melbourne since the two sides played off in a pre-season encounter.

Carlton will face Collingwood in their last game of the season. Collingwood is currently in second place on the ladder and only a win and percentage behind first-placed Geelong. While the Pies are unlikely to catch the Cats, they still need to win to guarantee a home qualifying final. Also, a chance to knock their arch-rivals, Carlton, out of contention would make the prospect of winning that much sweeter. Collingwood is also currently on an 11-game winning streak. The last time the two sides played, Collingwood narrowly defeated the Blues by 4-points.

Finals Chances

A lot of people have been writing Carlton’s finals chances, with many expecting them to lose their final two games. However, the fact that they have wins in the bank and a slightly better percentage may help them just hold on to their spot in the eight. As long as Carlton is competitive in their last two outings, the Saints are unlikely to overtake Carlton.

The only other worry remains the Western Bulldogs with a relatively easy run home, compared to Carlton and St Kilda. However, the Bulldogs cannot afford to lose either of their games on the run home and GWS and the Hawks may just try to spoil the Bulldogs’ final chances since they are already out of the running. The Bulldogs also need to make up 2 percent on Carlton to overtake them.

Richmond – 8th Place

Shai Bolton, AFL, Tackle, Evade

Richmond had a mixed bag to start their season, losing to Carlton, St Kilda, and Adelaide in the first five weeks. Richmond did manage to improve their hopes with a percentage-boosting win over West Coast. The Tigers climbed into as high as sixth before falling off again. They currently sit in eighth after impressive wins over the Lions and Port Adelaide.

Missed Opportunities

While losses early in the season would have hurt, arguably Richmond’s biggest missed opportunities were rounds 17 to round 19. In round 17, Richmond lost to Gold Coast with a kick after the siren. The following week, playing North Melbourne, Richmond lost another close game going down by four points to the bottom-placed side. Finally, there was the draw against Freemantle coming in round 19.

The close games perhaps reveal an issue for the Tigers as they also lost a further two out of three other close games, losing to Geelong by 3 points, Sydney by 6 points, before beating Brisbane by 7-points.

Run Home

Richmond has arguably the easiest of the runs home, still needing to play Hawthorn and Essendon. Richmond, like Carlton, also has points on the board meaning that it is other teams that need to catch up to them.

Richmond has already played Hawthorn and Essendon earlier this year. Richmond defeated the Hawks in Round 9 by 23 points. In round 10, Richmond defeated the Bombers by 32 points in the Dreamtime at the G match.

Finals Chances

Richmond is perhaps the most secure team of the four. They are favorites to win their remaining games and with a two-point buffer, they also don’t have to worry about percentage points. Richmond will likely overtake Carlton but are unlikely to finish higher than 7th due to a gap between them and Freemantle.

While anything can happen, Richmond would need to lose both their remaining games and either St. Kilda would need to win their final game of the season or the Bulldogs would need to win both of their remaining games to knock them out of the top eight.

St. Kilda – 9th

St Kilda, Max King, AFL

Having already played and lost their round 21 clash sees St Kilda well and truly behind the eightball with their hopes of making the top 8. The Saints have one game in hand and are currently two points behind Richmond and four points behind Carlton. With a tough round 23 ahead of them and a big percentage gap between them and the rest of the teams, St. Kilda remains an outside chance of making the top 8.

Missed Opportunities

Going over the St. Kilda fixture, they appeared to take the most of their chances. A loss to Essendon in Round 14 would have been tough, as Essendon had lost their previous four before that game. The Saints also pulled off wins over Freemantle and Carlton, who are currently top 8 teams.

Their only close loss came against Port Adelaide where they literally missed countless opportunities to win the game. The Saints lost to Port Adelaide by one point in a game that had tricky conditions to score, to say the least. However, the Saints had 4 more scoring shots than their opponents and could only kick 4 goals 18 behinds compared to Port’s 5 goals 13 behinds.

Run Home

As previously mentioned, the Saints have already lost their Round 21 game to Brisbane, meaning the teams around them have a game in hand. St. Kilda’s last game of the season comes against the Swans. When the Saints played the Swans earlier this season, the Swans picked apart St. Kilda and handed the Saints their heaviest loss of the season.

St Kilda desperately needs to win their remaining game to keep their season alive and will still need other results to fall in their favor to have any hope of jumping into the top eight by the end of the season.

Finals Chances

St. Kilda has less of a chance to make the top 8 than Carlton does at this point. While Carlton could still drop out of the top 8, they already have 12 wins on the board and a decent percentage. For St. Kilda, they sit at least 2 points out of the top 8 with only one game remaining in their season.

Given that the teams around them have a game in hand, St. Kilda has a tough final game against Sydney ahead of them, and St. Kilda has the weakest percentage out of the four teams, it seems highly unlikely that the Saints will feature in September action this season.

Western Bulldogs – 10th

AFL, Western Bulldogs, Bailey Smith

The Western Bulldogs stand the best chance to be a bolter at the end of the season, despite starting 6 points clear of the top 8. A combination of their rivals having a tough run home, and Western Bulldogs arguably having an easier run home means that last year’s Grand Finalists have an outside shot of playing finals again this season.

Missed Opportunities

The Bulldogs will be disappointed starting their season 0 and 2 after losses against Melbourne and Carlton in the opening rounds of the season, but losses to Adelaide and Port Adelaide in rounds 6 and 8 respectively also hurt the Dog’s cause.

The loss to Adelaide is particularly tough as the Crows got up by a single point. Had the Bulldogs won their game against Adelaide, they would have been 2 points behind Richmond and breathing down the necks of the top 8.

Run Home

The Bulldogs will play Greater Western Sydney and Hawthorn in their final two games of the season. The Bulldogs already played both teams earlier in the season, winning both games comfortably. In round 14, the Bulldogs defeated the Giants by 20 points at Giants Stadium in Sydney.

The Dogs followed up that win by defeating the Hawks by 42 points at Marvel Stadium the following week. However, the Dog’s final game against the Hawks will be played in Tasmania, where Hawthorn has very rarely been beaten in Tasmania, in the last 9 years, Hawthorn has traveled to Tasmania 31 times and only lost 7 games.

Finals Chances

The Bulldogs come into the final two rounds in an interesting position. They have an outside chance with a decent run home, and many expect the Bulldogs to sneak over the line by winning their final two games. While they are expected to beat the Giants, the Hawks in Tasmania. This season the Hawks have won 2 of their 3 trips to Tasmania already, with wins coming against Brisbane and the Gold Coast, while their one loss at the ground came against Sydney.

Written by Edan Nissen

Edan Nissen is a writer who has been published on websites such as WhatCulture, Sportskeeda, TheSportster, and The Roar. Edan was born and raised in Australia but currently lives in the Middle East.

Like the other writers, Edan is obsessed with sports having grown up playing Cricket, Tennis, Football (Soccer), and Football (Australian Football). In 2017, Edan has also achieved a lifelong dream by stepping into the ring as a professional wrestler.

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