BY the time round 18 had come to a close last Sunday evening, the AFL world had a much better idea of who will be playing finals and who has effectively been ruled out.
The Pies blew their chance to remain in contention after a shocking loss to the Demons, the Cats and the Power kept their faint hopes of a finals berth alive with good wins, while the Western Bulldogs and Richmond now unbelievably could push for a top-four finish after terrific wins.
With the top two spots just about the only ones that look secured, there is still plenty to play for in season 2015.
Let’s take a look at the moments that mattered.
Round 18 review – where is the big money going?
The round began on Friday night with the Tigers stunning the Hawks, bringing the reigning premiers’ eight game win streak to a halt with an 18 point victory at the MCG.
Richmond bounced out of the blocks with a terrific opening quarter where the Tigers kept the Hawks goalless for the first time this season.
Hawthorn fought back and made a contest of it, but again Richmond was able to keep the Hawks goalless in the third quarter, setting up what was their best win of the season.
Star on-baller was the catalyst up forward, scoring four goals in a match-winning performance.
The win places the Tigers just one game outside the eight, and with Richmond only playing one team currently in the top eight in the final five rounds, they are right in the mix for a top-four finish.
The Tigers are currently $4.50 outsiders with Sportsbet to make the top-four.
The loss did nothing to hurt to dent the confidence in the Hawks, with the reigning premiers still outright favourites for the flag at $2.35.
Saturday afternoon saw the Swans find some much needed form to maintain their position inside the top-four with a comfortable 52 point win at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
It was an even team effort for the 2014 Grand Finalists with the returning forwards Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett kicking three goals each, while five separate Swans had 30 or more disposals for the match.
The impressive win did nothing to boost the punters’ confidence in the Swans, with last year’s runners-up now on the fourth line of betting at $6.50 with William Hill to win the premiership.
The loss leaves the Crows languishing outside the eight with a visit from the red-hot Tigers to come.
Adelaide is now $2.10 outsiders to find their way back into the finals by the end of the season.
Saturday night saw North Melbourne strengthen their claims on a finals position with a 64 win over the struggling Blues at Etihad Stadium.
It was a dominant display from the Kangaroos, who had 10 individual goal kickers in the match.
Roos’ ruckman Todd Goldstein continued his brilliant form, kicking two goals to go with his 41 hitouts for the match.
Sportsbet now has the North Melbourne big-man as the third favourite for the Brownlow medal, with the $8 quote on offer a great investment considering the impact Goldstein has had for his team.
The win places the Roos right in the finals frame, with Centrebet offering a paltry $1.14 for Brad Scott’s men to earn the right to play in September.
Another loss for the Blues leaves the Carlton hierarchy in a precarious position in terms of who to select as their next coach.
Caretaker coach John Barker has firmed into $1.75 to get the senior position, but many industry experts believe Hawthorn assistant coach Brendan Bolton will be right in contention given his credentials.
Bolton is at $4 to get the Carlton head coaching role via Sportsbet.
The round closed out over in the West, with the Dockers maintaining their position atop the AFL ladder with a hard-fought 21 point win over the Giants at Domain Stadium.
Fremantle were able to strengthen their grip on the minor premiership, with Ross Lyon’s men moving into the short priced favourites with Crownbet at $1.40.
The Dockers looked comfortable throughout the match even without superstar Brownlow favourite Nat Fyfe, keeping their opponents at arm’s length through the duration of the contest.
The win means Fremantle are all but assured of a top-two finish, which means they will play their first final at home in Perth – a venue they have only lost at once this season.
Two home wins in the final would put them into the Grand Final, with Sportsbet placing Fremantle at $2 to make it to the big dance.
Injury news for the run to the finals
Port Adelaide have been dealt a huge blow in their race to make the finals with young midfielder Olly Wines told he will need reconstructive surgery to repair his injured shoulder.
The strongly built on-baller left the match against the Saints early and did not return after suffering a full shoulder dislocation.
Further bad news on the injury front for the Lions with Danye Beams’ season now over after having season ending shoulder surgery.
Beams, who had struggled with the persistent injury throughout the second half of season failed to play out the match against Geelong and was booked in for surgery on Monday.
In better news for the Dockers Fremantle superstar and Brownlow medal favourite Nat Fyfe has been cleared to play after overcoming a quad injury.
The Dockers have an extended break, with a Sunday match against the Saints at Etihad Stadium giving Fyfe the maximum amount of time to get himself right for the match up.
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