THE finals picture is starting to take shape for season 2015 – with the top four seemingly set in stone, only positions seven and eight remain in contention for those outside the top eight.
Close games were on display throughout round 14 of the AFL season, with four of the eight matches across the weekend being decided by 10 points or less.
The Power squandered a great chance to put themselves back in the mix, the Hawks inserted themselves inside the top four and the Dockers maintained their buffer at the top of the table.
Round 14 review – Hawks hold on, Fremantle fight and the Swans take flight
The round began on Thursday night with an epic encounter between the Sydney Swans and the Port Adelaide Power with the harbour town men holding out their opponents by ten points.
The Swans went into the game without their two key forwards in Kurt Tippett and Lance Franklin, but had no troubles finding avenues to goal with nine individual goal kickers and six majors between forwards Sam Reid and Adam Goodes.
It was an enormous game for the Swans, who lost Gary Rohan to a hamstring injury early in the match and key defender Ted Richards midway through the third quarter after a ferocious Jay Schulz tackle.
With the game on the line the Swans found an extra gear and left the Power in their wake and outside finals contention.
The win placed the Swans in third position on the ladder and into outright second in premiership betting with Sportsbet, with the online bookmaker offering $3.75 for the 2012 premiers to do it again this year.
Port Adelaide now look to be out of finals contention after being one of the 2015 premiership hopefuls.
The $5.50 on offer from Sportsbet is reflective of the unlikeliness of a late season rally.
Friday night saw the Hawks and the Pies play out a tightly fought match up, with the reigning premiers overcoming Collingwood late to record a 10 point victory at the MCG.
Collingwood lead midway through the final quarter by two goals and looked like they could snap the dominance the Hawks have held over them, but some Cyril Rioli magic, combined with some Collingwood inaccuracy in front of goals, gave the Hawks an important victory.
The win reinforces Hawthorn at the top of premiership market, with William Hill’s quote of $3.25 great value for the fourth-placed Hawks.
The Pies were leapfrogged by Hawthorn, who snatched their top four position. Sportsbet are not offering $6 for Collingwood to jump back into the top four, indicating the overriding opinion that the current top four is set in stone.
Saturday afternoon at the MCG was the scene for a tight arm wrestle between the Tigers and the Giants, with Richmond rallying late in the fourth to snatch a crucial nine point victory.
GWS lead for large portions of the game and looked to have the better of the home side heading into the last quarter, but a five goal final term to the Tigers secured the important victory.
The win places the Tigers right back in contention for a top four finish, with Sportsbet offering $4.50 on the yellow and black army to force their way into a double chance scenario.
GWS showed predictions of the league’s youngest franchise falling out of the eight are premature, as the Giants fought hard and showed real attacking flair.
The $4.40 quote from Sportsbet for the Giants to maintain their place inside the final eight looks to be a quality bet as the GWS are far from done in season 2015.
The round closed out on Sunday afternoon with the Dockers and the Lions slogging it out in wet in the West, with the home team grinding out a 36 point win that flattered Fremantle.
The Dockers held just a three point lead heading into the final change but blew the Lions away in the fourth quarter, kicking seven goals to Brisbane’s one to re-establish their two-game buffer at the top of the table.
Michael Walters and Matthew Pavlich did the damage for the home side, with the elusive forward and the veteran games record holder combining for seven of their side’s 13 goals.
Although the Dockers came away with the win, they were thoroughly unconvincing in doing so, with question marks lingering over their capacity to kick winning scores against the better teams in the league.
The win puts the Dockers in equal second in premiership betting, with Crownbet offering $3.75 for the Westerners to win their first ever flag.
Veteran Dog defender Dale Morris will miss at least the next two weeks after suffering a broken jaw in Saturday night’s win over the Blues at Etihad Stadium.
Even if Morris is able to avoid surgery – that would place him out of the game for an extended period – the chance of reoccurrence is high which is why at least a fortnight away from the game will be required.
Dashing Swans half forward Gary Rohan will miss up to six weeks of football after sustaining a hamstring injury in Thursday night’s win against Port Adelaide.
The Swan was an early substitution in the game and a best case scenario will see the 24-year-old miss a month of football, but with Rohan’s reliance on his burst of speed, it could be potentially six weeks before we see the speedster again.
Emerging Carlton midfielder Patrick Cripps is a 50/50 chance of playing on Friday night against the Tigers with the Rising Star nominee rolling his ankle early in the last quarter in Saturday night’s loss against the Bulldogs.
Cripps returned to the field late in the match, but was seen in a moonboot after the game.
The Carlton young gun remains a $1.80 favourite with Sportsbet to take out the 2015 Rising Star Award.
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