Welcome back to the Power Rankings.
The Magpies have become the exception to a common AFL theory, the Dockers and Lions rediscovered their mojo and the Hawks are threatening to play party poopers.
What are the Power Rankings? This is our attempt to rank every AFL club from best to worst. We take wins and losses into account, but also the quality of opposition faced and whether teams are likely to get healthier or improve going forward. It’s a little bit ‘who’s hot and who’s not’; part predictive, part analysis of what’s happened. If Team A is above Team B, we’d probably tip A to beat B at a neutral venue this weekend.
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1. GEELONG CATS (16-4, 137.1%)
Last week’s ranking: 1
This is usually the point in the season where Cats fans look to finals with ample pessimism. But there’s something different about this Geelong outfit, which has now won 11 straight games. It seems like their new gamestyle and ability to shift gears mid-game will put them in better stead come finals time compared to previous years, while the lack of reliance on individual players can’t be underestimated. it was Sam Menegola, Brandan Parfitt and Max Holmes that did the damage around the ball against the Saints on Saturday night, while Isaac Smith drifted forward for three crucial goals. Nathan Buckley raised an interesting point on Best On Ground, though, saying the Cats’ final two games against 11th-placed Gold Coast and 17th-placed West Coast was “not the best way to finish the home and away season” and might’t leave Geelong “hardened” before finals. But the Cats, to date, have taken all before them.
Next game: Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium, Saturday twilight
2. MELBOURNE (14-6, 128.8%)
Last week’s ranking: 2
If you’re a Dees fans, it would’ve been hard to walk away from Friday night’s game with a glass half-full attitude, considering the close loss to Collingwood saw them slip outside of the top two. But all the key numbers indicated the Dees should’ve been in front by a significant margin at half-time, with only the Magpies’ staunch defence denying the reigning premiers a significant scoreboard advantage. As Nick Dal Santo told Fox Footy Live: “Off the back of some of the numbers of (Friday’s) game, I still think the Dees would get it done eight or nine times out of 10.” Probably the most concerning aspect for the Dees, though, is their inability to create forward-half turnovers in the past six weeks, ranked 18th in that category during that time frame. The loss to Collingwood means even if the Dees do win both of their remaining games against Carlton and Brisbane, it doesn’t guarantee them a top-two finish.
Next game: Carlton at the MCG, Saturday night
3. SYDNEY SWANS (14-6, 127.5%)
Last week’s ranking: 3
The Swans continue to sneak up on the footy world, stringing together several wins in ‘less-profile games’ that have put themselves not just in top-four contention, but top-two contention. They’ve thumped bottom-four sides Adelaide, GWS and North Melbourne in the past three weeks to gain almost seven per cent on the ladder. It’s why their upcoming matches against finals contenders Collingwood and St Kilda come at a perfect time, as it’ll give them the ultimate litmus test ahead of their finals campaign. One thing you can’t question, however, is their attitude without the ball, racking up ridiculous pressure numbers over the past month.
Next game: Collingwood at the SCG, Sunday afternoon.
4. COLLINGWOOD (15-5, 106.3%)
Last week’s ranking: 5
You sense the Magpies have ruined so many tipping competitions this season, not to mention the array of near-heart attacks they’ve given their fans across the past three months. Yet the Collingwood fairytale continues to roll on, notching their 11th straight win last round — of course by less than 10 points — to move into the top two. All the key numbers at half-time indicated the Demons should’ve been much further in front — which is why we’ve only moved the Pies up one spot — but their back six absorbed the short-term pain superbly before the Pies’ on-ball brigade matched it with Melbourne in the second half. There’s been a distinct change in how the Magpies have moved the ball in the past 11 weeks, ranking No. 1 in the competition for kick forward percentage. It’s paying dividends. The Power Rankings team this season, has focused a lot on the Magpies’ percentage, which is often a better and truer indication of where a team sits compared to the win-loss ratio. But the Magpies now, surely, are an exception, for the belief they have in each other when games are on the line goes beyond the numbers.
Next game: Sydney Swans at the SCG, Sunday afternoon.
5. BRISBANE LIONS (14-6, 124.2%)
Last week’s ranking: 4
If you’re a Lions fan, did you walk away from Sunday’s win over Carlton glass half-full or glass half-empty? It was certainly the former at three quarter-time after a dominant opening three terms from Chris Fagan’s men led to a 57-point advantage. They applied tremendous pressure and thumped the usually-brutal Blues in stoppages, territory and, ultimately, the scoreboard. But almost 37 minutes later – it would’ve felt like 37 hours for most Brisbane fans – the Lions were mightily relieved to escape with a win after a bonkers Blues comeback saw the visitors cut the Lions’ lead to 15 points in the dying minutes before the Lions steadied late. It never got to panic stations, but Brisbane players and fans would’ve felt uncomfortable. Since Round 9, Brisbane has gone: LWLWLWLWWLW. It’s hardly the most convincing formline, hence the Pies have usurped Brisbane on the Power Rankings despite Sunday’s result.
Next game: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium, Friday night
6. FREMANTLE (13-6-1, 115.3%)
Last week’s ranking: 6
Like the Lions, the Dockers produced a timely return to form on the weekend, producing an impressive win against the Western Bulldogs where they dictated the tempo of the game superbly. In fact a lot of Fremantle’s best performances this season have come on the road — think Geelong (Round 7), Melbourne (Round 11) and St Kilda (Round 17) — which augurs well ahead of finals. The key in the Dogs win was ball movement, slicing and dicing the Dogs with precise passes but always looking to go forward at every opportunity. Coach Justin Longmuir flagged on AFL 360 his side had been “a little bit safe and boring” going inside 50 prior to Saturday’s game. But if they bring the same dare they showed against the Dogs for the rest of the season, the Dockers could do some damage.
Next game: West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium, Saturday night.
7. RICHMOND (11-8-1, 115.8%)
Last week’s ranking: 7
That’s a draw and two wins from their past three games, with Tom Lynch and Dion Prestia returning to form, Shai Bolton firing and Noah Cumberland surprising. And with ‘winnable’ games to come, the Tigers are set to return to September this year. But while the Tigers have returned to their winning ways in recent weeks, they keep losing players along the way, with Nick Vlastuin joining Dylan Grimes and Dustin Martin on the injury list. Ultimately, the 2022 season could be remembered as a ‘what could have been’ campaign for the Tigers after losing so many close games. At the same time, you wouldn’t want to play Richmond in a final.
Next game: Hawthorn at the MCG, Sunday afternoon.
8. WESTERN BULLDOGS (10-10, 107.9%)
Last week’s ranking: 8
It’s been a frustrating, rollercoaster season for Bulldogs supporters, but especially since their mid-season bye. They were thumped by the Lions and Swans, impressed against St Kilda and Melbourne then handed reality checks by the Cats and Dockers in the past two weeks. Defence continues to be the biggest concern for Luke Beveridge’s side, which has conceded at least 94 points in six of its past eight games, including four 100-plus point games. They remain one of the hardest teams to get a read on, yet they’re still well placed to feature in this year’s finals series with games against the Giants and Hawks to finish their home and away campaign.
Next game: GWS Giants at Marvel Stadium, Saturday afternoon
9. CARLTON (12-8, 109.6%)
Last week’s ranking: 9
An interesting debate has emerged in the aftermath of the Blues’ loss to Brisbane: If Carlton became the first team since 1977 to feature in a finals spot for an entire season except the final round and missed September action, would the 2022 season still be considered a success? Star forward Harry McKay believes the positive change in culture and environment is just as good an indicator as the win-loss ratio. But Carlton fans, who haven’t seen their team feature in a finals campaign since 2013 and haven’t seen a premiership since 1995, are renowned for their flag contenders. The diplomatic — and inarguable — view is they’re heading in the right direction.
Next game: Melbourne at the MCG, Saturday night
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10. PORT ADELAIDE (8-12, 101.8%)
Last week’s ranking: 10
And with that loss to Richmond, the Power’s finals hopes are shot. Ultimately, they were always long odds to make finals from 0-5 — a win-loss ratio that could prove costly for coach Ken Hinkley, who’s job at Port now seems shakier following chairman David Koch’s comments on Monday. While the Power would love to finish their 2022 campaign with two strong wins over bottom-five teams, the narrative will now likely focus on Hinkley’s tenure.
Next game: Essendon at Marvel Stadium, Sunday twilight.
11. GOLD COAST SUNS (9-11, 102.7%)
Last week’s ranking: 11
Like the Power, the Suns’ finals hopes were shattered on the weekend after losing to Hawthorn in Tasmania. For the 16th time this season, the Suns didn’t win the first quarter — a stat that left coach Stuart Dew livid after the game. He told reporters: “We’re sick of sounding like a broken record, giving teams head starts. It’s … what we spoke about after the game, ’why are we waiting?’.” The slow starts have no doubt played a part in Gold Coast missing finals, but this club still appears superbly placed to seriously challenge for the top eight in 2022.
Next game: Geelong Cats at Metricon Stadium, Saturday twilight
12. ST KILDA (11-9, 101.1%)
Last week’s ranking: 12
Outside of a 20-minute patch, Saturday night’s loss to Geelong was a game to forget for the Saints, who’ve now lost six of their past nine games. Unlike the Power and the Suns, who sit above them in the Power Rankings, the Saints are still in the finals mix. In effect, the Saints need to beat both Brisbane and Sydney or they’re not playing finals. But their inability to kick winning scores since the bye, as well as their inconsistent pressure ratings from game to game, are proving costly.
Next game: Brisbane Lions at Marvel Stadium, Friday night
13. HAWTHORN (8-12, 93.2%)
Last week’s ranking: 14
Just when Sam Mitchell’s side threatened to peter into irrelevancy in the final rounds of the season, the Hawks have found form — and they could play ‘party poopers’ in upcoming matches against aspiring finalists. The Hawks ended the Suns’ September hopes last weekend thanks to a strong first-half display inspired by a five-goal haul from Jack Gunston. Their final two games will be against Richmond and the Western Bulldogs — two teams that need to keep winning if they want to feature in September. And you could make a case the Hawks, who’ve won four of their past five games, could cause a boilover in both games. For a team not in finals contention, the Hawks could have a major say in how the top eight will look at season’s end.
Next game: Richmond at the MCG, Sunday afternoon.
14. ESSENDON (7-13, 88.9%)
Last week’s ranking: 13
Where did that loss to the Giants come from? Coach Ben Rutten was certainly at a loss to explain the performance post-match, saying he was caught off-guard by the second-half fadeout. The Bombers have still made some inroads since their mid-season bye, highlighted by their five wins between Rounds 14 and 20. But poor performances against the Power and Tigers to finish their 2022 campaign could undo a lot of good work.
Next game: Port Adelaide at Marvel Stadium, Sunday twilight.
15. ADELAIDE CROWS (7-13, 86.8%)
Last week’s ranking: 15
Even though it was against the 17th-placed team on the ladder, that was still a strong win by the Crows over the Eagles considering the external distractions of the Crows camp revelations, as well as the emotional kick Josh Kennedy’s retirement would’ve given the home side. The Crows have finished the past two seasons in winning form — and they will go in as strong favourites to win a third straight match on Saturday.
Next game: North Melbourne at Adelaide Oval, Saturday afternoon
16. GWS GIANTS (6-14, 84.7%)
Last week’s ranking: 16
Interim coach Mark McVeigh was hoping for an emotional uplift from his players in the wake of his scathing post-match comments after the loss to the Swans — and his players responded against the Bombers. After an even first half, the Giants kicked seven goals to three in the second half as they thumped the Bombers at the coalface and stoppages. They take on the Dogs this weekend — and if past matches between the bitter rivals are anything to go by, it could be a brutal encounter … that is, if the Giants can bring the same heat as they showed last week.
Next game: Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, Saturday afternoon
17. WEST COAST EAGLES (2-18, 61.1%)
Last week’s ranking: 17
If only the Eagles midfielders could’ve fed Josh Kennedy the ball as much as possible during the entire season! Still, the Eagles great’s epic eight-goal finale wasn’t enough to upset Adelaide. The margins in their past four losses haven’t been excessive, it’s just the fact they’ve continued to concede big scores. They’ve given up at least 100 points in 70 per cent of their matches this season.
Next game: Fremantle at Optus Stadium, Saturday night.
18. NORTH MELBOURNE (2-18, 55.8%)
Last week’s ranking: 18
The ladder is a funny thing sometimes. The Roos lost to Sydney by 38 points, yet gained 0.9 per cent. Two weeks to go …
Next game: Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval, Saturday afternoon