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The race for AFL finals intensifies as punters jump back on Hawks

NO other round encapsulated the phrase ‘a week is a long time in football’ in 2015 more than round 19.

Port Adelaide blew its finals chances after losing to the Dogs, the Tigers fell badly to the Crows after they looked destined for a top-four finish and the Eagles gave up a three quarter time lead to the fast-finishing Hawks, who will now eye West Coast’s second spot on the ladder.

With only a month left of the home and away season and the real stuff about to get underway, let’s take a look at the important games of the round.

A punter’s guide to round 19 of the 2015 AFL season

The round began on Friday night with a Richmond capitulation, this time falling to the Crows by 36 points at Adelaide Oval.

The Tigers were coming off the back of their finest victory in five years, upsetting the reigning premiers Hawthorn just a week earlier, but were never truly in the contest against Adelaide.

In the aftermath, Richmond coach Damian Hardwick said the match felt like ‘a 100-point loss’ such was the Tigers’ inability to impact the contest.

The win keeps the Crows within striking distance of a finals berth, with the Crows now into $1.79 to finish inside the top-eight after their unlikely victory.

With two winnable games against Essendon in Melbourne, then Brisbane at home, the Crows have a chance to build some percentage towards the back end of the season.

The Crows currently sit just .1% behind the eighth-placed Geelong.

It was another terrific performance from Adelaide superstar on-baller Patrick Dangerfield, who finished with 29 disposals and a goal to his name. The last six weeks of football have seen the number 32 get back to his absolute best form, and shoot right into Brownlow medal contention after a lean start to the year.

Sportsbet still has an enticing $23 dollars on Dangerfield to win the Brownlow medal in 2015.

Saturday afternoon saw the Western Bulldogs force their way into the top-four with a stellar performance against last year’s preliminary finalists, Port Adelaide – defeating the Power by 64-points.

The Bulldogs, who were without captain Robert Murphy, conceded the first three goals of the match, but then went on to score 10 goals unanswered to set up their impressive win.

The Bulldogs unpredictable forward set up was again the catalyst for the win, with 14 goals between the four mainstays in the forward line – Redpath, Crameri, Dickson and Stringer.

The win places the Dogs in the top-four with just a month of football remaining.

The Dogs’ percentage is robust given the nature of their last two wins against the struggling Port Adelaide and Essendon sides and currently places them above Sydney, who are locked on points with Luke Beveridge’s men.

Saturday night down at Simonds Stadium saw a titanic battle between the Cats and the Swans, with the home team prevailing by 32-points.

Geelong overcame a 13-point deficit at half time to win the match in captain Joel Selwood’s 200th AFL match, which also forced their way back into the top-eight.

The Swans, who were without superstar forward Lance Franklin, only managed one goal after half time and got little input from fellow big man Kurt Tippett, who finished with just one goal from 11 possessions.

Despite their average game, the Swans are still favourites to displace the Western Bulldogs and finish inside the top-four, with WilliamHill.com.au rating Sydney as a $1.40 chance to end the season with a double chance.

Saturday night saw the Hawks edge closer to a top-two finish with a spirited 14-point victory over the Eagles at Domain Stadium on Saturday night.

The win leaves the Hawks within an arms-length of the Eagles in second position. The teams separated by two premiership points – a result of the Eagles’ draw with Gold Coast two matches ago.

With a favourable run coming up that sees the Hawks face Geelong, Port Adelaide, Brisbane and Carlton in the final month of football, Hawthorn should not lose another game for the year.

The Hawks have been wound in to $2.20 to win the 2015 premiership, with those odds likely to shorten significantly if Hawthorn secure a top-two finish.

Injury and tribunal news

West Coast have been dealt a double-blow with Jeremy McGovern re-injuring his hamstring and Mark LeCras suspended for two weeks for a headhigh hit on Hawk James Frawley.

Eagles’ coach Adam Simpson conceded McGovern came back too early from his hamstring injury and will now be without the attacking defender for the rest of the season.

Fremantle may be without defender Luke McPharlin for an extended period after the veteran Docker injured his calf in Sunday’s win over St Kilda.

McPharlin missed over half the season with the same injury last year.

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon will be wary of bringing the former All-Australian fullback early considering he is such a vital component to their maiden premiership chances.

In better news for the Dockers, superstar midfielder Nat Fyfe should be fit to return for this week’s top-of-the-table derby with the Eagles.

Fyfe has overcome a groin injury that has kept the Brownlow medal favourite out for the last fortnight.

Lance Franklin, who missed last week’s vital clash against Geelong, may miss again this week after the former Coleman medallist’s injured back has not responded to the weekend of rest that Sydney medicos would have hoped.

The Swan superstar will be given right up until Friday’s final team announcement to prove his fitness ahead of their vital clash with Collingwood at the Sydney Cricket Ground.