Tussle for grid spots heats up in AFL

The top-eight train has left the station, but there’ll be some significant jostling behind closed doors before the teams arrive at their finals destination.


Geelong’s shock 48-point loss to Collingwood on Friday night means no new teams can break into the top eight.

But there’s still plenty of room to manoeuvre within the eight if an upset or two eventuates in the final round.

Fremantle are officially the minor premiers after their 54-point demolition of Melbourne on Sunday to take an unassailable lead on top of the AFL table.

But second spot is still up for grabs after the Eagles slumped to a 57-point loss to Adelaide, with a shoulder injury to star defender Jeremy McGovern compounding their woes.

West Coast need to beat St Kilda at home on Saturday night to secure a home qualifying final.

But if they slip up, the Hawks are in the box seat to steal second spot.

“We’re going for top two next week. And that might have been the reason why we didn’t compete as hard as we normally do,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said after his team’s heavy loss to the Crows.

“It’s a really good reminder that this competition has a way of giving you a clip when you take your eye off the ball.”

Hawthorn’s superior percentage means they are safe inside the top four – even if they suffer a shock loss to Carlton in the final round.

But the same can’t be said for Sydney, who could be booted out from fourth spot by Richmond or the Western Bulldogs if they lose to Gold Coast at the SCG.

Swans forward Lance Franklin managed just one goal in his return from a back injury, but Sydney still managed to thump the Saints by 97 points.

If everything goes to script in the final round, Fremantle will host Sydney and West Coast will host Hawthorn in the qualifying finals.

Adelaide need to beat Geelong at Simonds Stadium and rely on the Tigers or Bulldogs to lose next week if they are to host an elimination final.

Geelong will miss the finals for the first time since 2006, and Cats coach Chris Scott admits some hard decisions will need to be made on the club’s ageing veterans.

Steve Johnson is desperate to play on next year, while the futures of Mathew Stokes, James Kelly, Jimmy Bartel, Andrew Mackie and Corey Enright are also up in the air.

Along with Geelong, the biggest loser of the weekend is North Melbourne, whose 23-point defeat to the Bulldogs is likely to cost them a home elimination final.

The AFL is set for a handy pay day in the wake of the mini-brawl between Port Adelaide and Gold Coast players on the stroke of halftime in the match at Metricon Stadium.

Port Adelaide won the match by 37 points to continue their late-season surge.

But the main focus of the match will be on the all-in melee, sparked by Brandon Matera’s high tackle on Port’s Angus Monfries.

Gold Coast enforcer Tom Lynch could find himself in the hot seat after appearing to throw a series of mini-punches.

GWS forward Jeremy Cameron kicked seven goals in his team’s 81-point win over Carlton, while Hawthorn overcame a slow start to beat Brisbane by 72 points.