The home-and-away season is finished, after a thrilling final day of games that decided how the finals series will look. Round 23 was full of drama, and will be looked back on as one for the history books.
Last week's rankings are in brackets.
1. Geelong (1)
The Cats have looked to be one of the premiership favourites for most of the year, and this week's performance didn't change that view for anybody. Celebrating Patrick Dangerfield's 300th game, the Cats were clinical against the Eagles.
The milestone man was not as spectacular as he has been at times in his career, with 22 disposals in a workmanlike performance. Tyson Stengle and Tom Hawkins picked up the slack, with four goals each in a dominant performance.
The Cats will be counting the cost of the win, with Jake Kolodjashnij concussed, Cam Guthrie suffering a shoulder injury and Sam Menegola a late omission, being managed.
After being atop the ladder for much of the year, the Cats will be hoping to take that momentum into finals and win their first premiership in over a decade.
2. Melbourne (3)
The Demons showed that their hopes of defending their premiership are alive and well, with a dominant performance against the Lions. In what was expected to be a finals-like match for a place in the top four, but the Demons had other ideas.
Coming out with a first-quarter barrage, the Demons blew the Lions away, leading by more than 10 goals at half time. While the air came out of the game in the dying stages, the Demons were in control all game.
An incident that affected Harrison Petty at three-quarter time will draw conversation for a few days, but it should be Petty's play, alongside Jake Lever and Steven May that has the footy world talking ahead of finals. It will be hard for any trio to get past them and score consistently throughout the finals series.
3. Sydney (2)
The Swans didn’t do a lot wrong over the weekend. The Saints came to play, and brought plenty of pressure, but the Swans held their nerve and saw off the challenge. Chad Warner was his usual explosive self, kicking one of the goals of the year while bursting away from the congestion.
James Rowbottom was one of the Swans’ best, with 24 disposals, seven tackles and six clearances. He had help further up the ground from Will Hayward (three goals) and Isaac Heeney (23 touches, two goals).
The Swans will now turn their attention to the Demons at the MCG. The wide-open expanses will hold no fear for the Swans, who beat the Demons there earlier in the year. Now all the focus will be on the rematch next Friday night.
4. Collingwood (6)
Whatever is in the water at Collingwood is working, because the Magpies won another nail=biter to knock the Blues out of the finals. A fourth-quarter comeback, led by Jamie Elliott's two goals, including the match winner.
The Magpies were down by 25 points in the last quarter, before finding a way to beat Carlton, as the run of close wins continued, giving them 11 wins by less than two goals for the season.
Josh and Nick Daicos were instrumental for the Pies, combining for 53 disposals, 12 score involvements and more than 1100m gained, getting the Magpies moving the ball towards goal. Scott Pendlebury joined them in having a major impact through the middle, with 26 disposals, seven clearances and eight score involvements.
5. Fremantle (5)
The Dockers were challenged by a Giants side that showed up ready to play spoiler, and hoping to affect the finals. While the Dockers managed to get it done, it was far from easy for them, as the midfield put in a strong performance to put away the Giants.
Michael Walters (three goals) was the star of the show in his milestone 200th game, but Caleb Serong (32 disposals, 11 clearances) and Andrew Brayshaw (25 disposals, two goals) made an impact in the middle for the Dockers as they ran out 20-point winners.
The forward structure is still under a cloud, as Nat Fyfe made a gentle return to football with an inconsistent performance in the forward line, while Rory Lobb was out injured, leaving question marks for Justin Longmuir to consider.
For now, the Dockers will have to rely on the energy the Giants brought in their final hitout, and the knowledge of Optus Stadium at home to give themselves a boost for the finals.
6. Brisbane (4)
The Lions had an opportunity to stamp their premiership credentials, after a tough couple of finals losses in the last few years. Instead, they wilted under the pressure of the Demons, and were listless in the heat of the match.
The Lions conceded a run of seven straight goals in the third quarter to lose any hope of a comeback, and the Lions will now likely be missing Cam Rayner and Noah Answerth in their first final next week.
Dayne Zorko also didn't cover himself in glory, after a comment to Harrison Petty that sparked an incident at three-quarter time. Zorko has since apologised, but the incident, combined with the Lions' failure to match the Demons' pressure will leave concerns going into finals.
7. Richmond (7)
The Tigers came out on Saturday night with clear intent to get a big win and set up plenty of momentum coming into finals. Tom Lynch kicked five goals, but was substituted out of the game with injury late, and the Tigers will be sweating on his fitness for finals.
Dion Prestia led the way for the Tigers, with 31 disposals, five clearances and a goal, and he was well supported by Jayden Short, who had 25 disposals and five clearances of his own.
Shane Edwards, Noah Cumberland and Shai Bolton all starred for the Tigers, with the fleet-footed band of small forwards proving a handful for the Bombers’ defensive group. The Lions will be hoping to slow down the Tigers’ small forwards more effectively when they meet next weekend.
8. Western Bulldogs (8)
The Western Bulldogs had a complicated equation to make finals, but the first part was simple. Beat Hawthorn, preferably by a big score. And that’s exactly what the Bulldogs did.
Roarke Smith was an unsung hero for the Bulldogs, kicking three goals, including two in the last quarter as they tried to boost their percentage enough to give them a chance. Aaron Naughton also had three goals, playing a key role up forward.
Lachie Hunter and Marcus Bontempelli were damaging through the middle of the field, with 13 score involvements for Hunter, and ten for Bontempelli, along with seven clearances.
The Bulldogs will now set their sights on playing spoiler and look to upset the Dockers early in the finals, bringing back memories of their 2016 premiership run.
9. Carlton (9)
It was an all-time heartbreaker for the Blues. After knowing early on that a win or a draw was required, the Blues were up by more than four goals early in the last quarter. In a metaphor for the season, it was just a bridge too far, as the Magpies charged home to take the win, and crush the Blues.
They become the first team in almost 70 years, and the second team ever, to be in the eight after every single round except the last. The Blues had their chances, with Charlie Curnow (who sealed the Coleman Medal) kicking 2.5, and Harry McKay managing 2.3.
The late withdrawal of Sam Walsh was huge, as the Blues struggled with fluency with ball in hand, and missed some midfield class, as they were unable to make Collingwood pay on the scoreboard when they had their chances.
For now, the Blues will be heartbroken, but there will be optimism about the future, with Curnow, McKay, Walsh and other stars like Jacob Weitering and Patrick Cripps in for the long haul.
10. St Kilda (10)
The Saints may not have been playing for finals, but there was no giving up at any point. The Saints threw everything they had at the Swans. Max King turned around his goalkicking woes, to kick five goals straight, torturing the Swans’ defensive group.
Dan Hannebery’s time at the Saints has been cruelled by injuries, but he turned it on against his old club. In his swansong, the Swans’ premiership player had 30 disposals, seven clearances and six tackles as he turned back the clock.
The Saints’ on baller brigade of Seb Ross, Jack Sinclair, Jack Steele and Ben Long were all also prolific, with 120 disposals between the quartet, as they fought hard and gave the Saints hope of an upset win.
11. Port Adelaide (11)
The Power may not be playing finals, but a big Showdown win will be a tonic for that disappointment. The Power were undone by their poor start to the season, and in the end, just had too much distance to catch up.
In his farewell, club legend Robbie Gray had two goals and was involved in more, as he turned back the clock one last time. He was well supported by Todd Marshall in the forward line, who had four goals of his own.
The Power showed everyone that they had the talent to compete this season, had they not started in such poor fashion. Karl Amon, who has since told the club of his intention to depart, played a big role with 31 disposals, while Connor Rozee won the Showdown Medal with 34 disposals and a goal.
12. Gold Coast (16)
The Suns finished off the year with a big win, equaling their best-ever total, and showing signs that the ongoing rebuild may have some light at the end of the tunnel.
Noah Anderson lead the way for Gold Coast, covering the midfield and drifting to the backline on his way to his 30 disposals, with David Swallow (33 disposals, nine marks, nine clearances), Touk Miller (25 disposals, nine clearances, seven tackles), and Matt Rowell (15 disposals, 10 tackles) all playing their role.
Alex Sexton had a career-best six-goal outing in which four of his majors came in the second half as the Suns gained greater ascendency on the game, with Malcolm Rosas and Alex Davies each adding two goals to their name.
Down the other end of the ground, Mac Andrew had his best game as a defender with six intercepts, and three one-percenters as he got some height to mark and spoil.
13. GWS (12)
The Giants season came to an end in a similar fashion to much of their season, where they were outclassed and outmanned by their opposition. The Giants had plenty of application, as they have for much of Mark McVeigh’s interim tenure, but it wasn’t enough.
The Giants jumped out of the blocks, with seven of the first nine goals, and a big lead early in the second quarter. If they can keep that forward momentum going for longer in the future, it will bode well for the club under new coach Adam Kingsley.
Sam Taylor wrapped up his excellent season with 20 disposals, including 12 marks and nine intercepts, as he booked his place in the All-Australian squad, and possibly the All-Australian team. The young star added Nat Fyfe to his list of victims for the season, in a roll call of some of the best players in the competition.
14. Hawthorn (13)
The Hawks came out for the last time this season, with plenty of pride, and a strong effort, but as was the case for much of the season, the Hawks didn’t have enough to beat a finals team.
In his final game, Ben McEvoy hit the scoreboard twice, in a strong performance supporting Jack Gunston (four goals). James Sicily was one of the stars of the show, with 33 disposals, 17 marks and nine intercepts.
As the rebuild continues at Hawthorn, there will be plenty of excitement about Jai Newcombe, Josh Ward and Jack Saunders, who was the latest (and eighth) player to debut in the brown and gold this season.
15. Adelaide (15)
The Crows struggled for much of the season, and were again dominated against in their final outing for the year. A big Showdown loss will leave a bitter taste in the club’s mouth as the off-season begins at West Lakes.
Darcy Fogarty fought as he did all year, with three goals, while Reilly O’Brien had 50 hitouts, and was one of the Crows’ best on the night. Rory Laird and Sam Berry worked hard at his feet, with 47 disposals and 12 clearances between them.
The questions for the off-season will centre around continuing to strengthen the young midfield brigade, and working out which of the more experienced players at the club will be part of the next tilt at a premiership.
16. North Melbourne (17)
The Kangaroos couldn't get the win in caretaker coach Leigh Adams' final game in charge, going down to the Suns by 67 points in a second-half fade-out to claim the wooden spoon for the second year in a row. However, North Melbourne fans were celebrating for other reasons this week, with the club appointing former player, and four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson to the senior coaching role from 2023.
The defenders saw plenty of the ball on Saturday afternoon, with Aidan Corr the side's leading disposal-winner against the Suns, recording 28 touches along with nine marks and eight intercepts, while Lachie Young had 26 touches and nine marks. A defender was even in on the team's scoresheet, with Bailey Scott one of six individual goalkickers.
The Kangaroos now turn their attention to the off-season, and there are promising signs for Clarkson to see and work with from the Kangaroos going forward, with Nick Larkey and Cam Zurhaar down forward, Jy Simpkin, Luke Davies-Uniacke, and Jason Horne-Francis - if they can keep him - in the middle, to pull the side off the bottom of the ladder.
17. West Coast (18)
The Eagles will be glad that the season has come to an end, after a year of disappointment. This weekend's match against the Cats marked the end of a long, tough campaign.
Jamie Cripps was one of the lone bright spots for the Eagles, with three goals, reward for his effort, week in and week out this season. Jack Darling was the only other multiple goal-kicker, and the duo were joined by Tim Kelly and Liam Ryan in hitting the scoreboard.
The Eagles have struggled at GMHBA Stadium over the past few seasons, with horror losses to Geelong (and the Swans) by an average of more than 12 goals. It brings a merciful end to the season, and the Eagles will turn the page to next season.
18. Essendon (11)
Has there been a club that has had a more disappointing and disconcerting week in the last few years? What started with a coup-de-etat on the Board continued into a rumour that the coach had been sacked, a failed Hail-Mary bid to get Alistair Clarkson, a 66 point loss and then actually sacking the coach.
Ben Rutten was put through the wringer in the media, and his players seemed to be missing a little bit of their fire on the weekend, as they were outclassed and outworked by the Tigers, who were pressing on to finals.
Zach Merrett was the Bombers’ best, with 37 disposals, 12 intercepts and six tackles. He played close to a lone hand though, as many of the Bombers were below their best at the end of a disappointing season.
What started as a season with hopes of winning finals matches has ended with a club drifting, with no coach, no board cohesion and a lack of a plan to get the club back to competing.
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