JUST when you think it is safe to tip the favourites, along come the bye weeks to turn the AFL competition on its head.
The Power and the Cats were shock losers in Round 12, the Hawks regained their form and flair, while the Eagles rubber stamped their premiership credentials with an important away win.
Let’s take a look at the moments that mattered from over the weekend.
Hawks surge back into flag favouritism
The round began on Thursday night with the Crows hosting the Hawks at Adelaide Oval, with the visiting Hawthorn comprehensively dismantling the home team to the tune of 29 points.
The Hawks took a ruthless approach to the man and ball that is reminiscent of their 2008 premiership year and, even with Adelaide throwing everything they had at Hawthorn midway through the third term, they were still able to come out on top.
Despite their endeavour the Crows were again shaky via foot, and continued their poor disposal efficiency (ranked 16th in the league).
The win moved Hawthorn right back into the 2015 premiership frame, with Sportsbet reinstalling the pre-season fancies as $3.30 favourites to win the flag.
The loss puts the Crows in a precarious position, with their spot in the finals far from solidified.
With two road trips in the next month, including a visit to Domain Stadium to face the Eagles, they could slip out of the eight if they are unable to recapture their early season form.
The Crows are at $2.15 with Sportsbet to miss the final eight.
Friday night saw the Tigers hosting the Eagles at the MCG. The visiting Western Australians were in control for much of the night in a mature display away from home, leading the game from start to finish to record an impressive 20-point victory.
The Eagles’ spearhead Josh Kennedy was again prolific in front of goal, booting three majors for the match.
The three-goal tally moved Kennedy 11 goals clear at the top of the Coleman medal leader board and into $1.90 favouritism with Crownbet to win the medal at the conclusion of the season.
With a month of football ahead that includes matches against current top eight sides in Sydney and GWS, a grudge match against arch rivals Carlton and a resurgent St Kilda, the Tigers’ spot inside the finals is far from settled.
Five teams currently sit level on 24 points with the Tigers, with North Melbourne, Geelong and the Western Bulldogs all capable of jumping above them.
The Tigers are $2.50 to miss the top eight via Sportsbet.
Saturday afternoon saw one of the biggest upsets so far this season, with the Blues stunning the competition to record just their second win of 2015, outlasting a fast-finishing Port Adelaide by four points at the MCG.
Carlton played a committed and disciplined game of football, registering 71 tackles for the match – jumping a staggering 20 tackles above their average for the year thus far.
The turning point in the game came after a brutal tackle by Carlton star Bryce Gibbs on Port Adelaide gun Robbie Gray just before half time.
Gray, who had dominated the match up until that point, had eight clearances in under a half of football, the most of any player this year.
The Port midfielder was taken from the field on a stretcher and played no further part in the game, and the Blues capitalised, surging to a 29-point lead early in the final quarter.
The Power rallied but ultimately fell short, which now leaves them a game and percentage outside the final eight and in dire need of a turnaround if they are to play in September this season.
Port Adelaide are $3.85 outsiders to finish inside the top eight.
The win for the Blues gives them genuine hope for the remainder of the season, with a stellar performance from young gun Patrick Cripps the highlight of the afternoon.
The young star had a game-high 31 disposals and made the important plays when it mattered for his team, belying his infantile 10-games of experience.
Cripps was the round four nomination for the Rising Star award of 2015 and is currently the $1.90 favourite with Sportsbet.
The round ended down in Geelong with the Demons shocking the hosts by 24 points, spoiling the milestone for Corey Enright who was celebrating his 300th career game.
Despite conceding the opening two goals of the game, the Dees outplayed and outworked their opponents both in skill execution and attack on the ball, led manfully by skipper Nathan Jones who had a season high 35 disposals.
The loss leaves Geelong teetering on the brink of missing the finals. The Cats are currently in 10th position on the ladder with the worst percentage of all the teams ranked inside that top 10.
The Cats also have to contend with a horror fixture of the next month, with away matches against top eight sides Adelaide and GWS, as well as games against fellow finals aspirants North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
The Cats are currently $1.77 with Crownbet to miss the finals.
Round 12 injury report
It was a horror week for Essendon even without playing a match, with scans confirming ruckman Tom Bellchambers is set to miss the next eight weeks with stress fractures in his foot.
The Bombers’ big man has struggled to find form throughout this season and leaves the Dons’ depleted ruck stocks deprived of options.
Along with Bellchambers, impressive speedster Travis Coyler’s season appears over with surgery required to repair a break in the emerging midfielder’s foot.
The injury that saw Crows’ captain Taylor Walker subbed out of Thursday night’s loss to Hawthorn may only cost the skipper a week at worst, with the Adelaide medical staff revealing their leading goal-scorer suffered no significant damage.
The Eagles’ already battered back stocks took another hit, with Will Schofield sustaining a low-grade glute tear against the Tigers on Friday night.
West Coast has the bye this week, but Schofield may be spared a trip to Darwin in a fortnight’s time to play the Demons if his movement does not significantly improve.
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