The finals picture has cleared considerably following round 22, but there are still a few scenarios that could see teams jump in and out of the top 8 and top 4.
Two favourites in the race to the eight have separated themselves from the rest, while top 4 teams will clash on Friday and Saturday nights in what could be finals previews.
Greater Western Sydney Giants
GWS all but secured their place in the finals while simultaneously ending Richmond’s season in their highly convincing win last Friday.
A win against the lowly Carlton Blues this Saturday night would secure seventh place and make it three wins on the trot for the Giants heading into the finals.
The Bombers are in a very strong position to make the eight, given their unassailable lead in percentage over the teams trailing them.
They also come into their final home and away match as the heavy favourite against Collingwood. They will play that game on Sunday afternoon with the knowledge of whether they need to win based on previous results in the round, while Collingwood will play it knowing that it will help their bid for Nick Daicos if they lose.
It surprised me to see Fremantle at $8 to make the finals on Sportsbet along with West Coast. While GWS and Essendon are solid favourites in their respective matches, it wouldn’t be shocking to see one of them lose.
If they do, Freo will still be riding high after an emotional derby win and will fancy their chances against a Saints team missing a bevy of good players and any motivation at Blundstone Arena.
West Coast Eagles
West Coast now faces a steep uphill battle to make the eight after losing their third game in a row in a backbreaker against Fremantle. The good news is that they only need one of GWS and Essendon to lose to jump them with a win. They also don’t have to worry about Fremantle, should they also win, given the Eagles’ edge in percentage. The bad news is that their win has to come in a trip to the Gabba to face a red-hot Brisbane Lions outfit.
The Top 4
Geelong and Melbourne will face off in a bout for the minor premiership on Saturday night, while Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs will likely be playing for second place the night before (if Melbourne win, the Bulldogs can only get third).
If the Bulldogs lose, however, they could fall out of the top 4 if Brisbane beats West Coast convincingly.
Given there may be a finals hub in Perth and therefore no home-field advantage, the top 4 teams might not choose to put it all on the table and show their hands. It would be no surprise if these were Preliminary Final, or even Grand Final, previews.