Not only is it the first time since 1982 that Richmond is the highest ranked Victorian-based club after 20 rounds, but the Tigers are also the last team to have jumped in and interrupt the order of the top eight this late in a season.
That was 2014, and it was the only time in the past nine seasons that the top eight changed in the last few rounds.
For many teams, it may well and truly come down to the last game of the season to determine their September fate, and with sides – right down until Fremantle – mathematically still a chance, games have never been so big.
We should expect the unexpected, even history knows it’s not over until it’s over.
No team has ever started the year winless after six rounds and then progressed on to make finals. Enter Sydney. It has so far been a remarkable comeback from that point and now the Swans are a legitimate premiership threat, but it’s not going to end three games out. The Swans play Fremantle this Saturday at the SCG, a ground that the Dockers have not played at since 2014. Freo’s last three results at the home of Sydney are L-D-L and their overall record stands at 4-1-11, which will put an end to their slim finals hopes but will aid the Swans in their bid for a top four finish. And if they want a top four finish, the Crows are the team in their way. Sydney has beaten Adelaide five of the last six times the two sides have met and the Crows only won by 10 points when they were victorious. The Swans are in a good spot.
Short term pain for long term gain?
It’s been many years since the Blues had a taste of September and it’s been clear the direction the club has taken since Mick Malthouse’s departure. The Blues didn’t have the greatest of expectations in 2017 and for some have performed reasonably well, taking scalps over many teams above them. But who would’ve thought that a season that was seen as promising by many, with countless youngsters nominated for the Rising Star award, could still be seen as disappointing to others? History believes Carlton are a big chance for the wooden spoon. Brendan Bolton’s sides has not defeated the Hawks since 2005 and have lost their past 14 matches against them. The Blues also struggle at the SCG, having lost 11 of their past 12 matches at that venue with their last win coming in 2011. Whether they deserve it or not is out of the question, Blues fans should be concerned. But the Lions need to win, too.
Hawks can do it again
Surely not. Just like the Swans, Hawthorn was hanging out near the bottom of the ladder for so long at the start of 2017, but were also able to find form. They’re not currently in the top eight, but three wins to close out the year could see the Hawks sneak in, not uncharacteristically. They’re far from their best but they’re not a side you’d want to play if your fate depends on it. The Hawks have won nine of their past 11 matches against North Melbourne. The two sides will meet at University of Tasmania Stadium and a win here will lighten up everyone’s eyes. The Hawks also won their previous eight matches against the Bulldogs prior to when the sides met in the 2016 finals series, but Hawthorn hasn’t lost in the last game of the season since they last missed the finals in 2009. It isn’t too far-fetched, the Hawks are a genuine finals chance.
2018 it is
St Kilda’s Round 13 win against North Melbourne this season was the first time they had beaten the Kangas in six years, which means the Saints haven’t beaten North twice in the same season since 2011 (which was only the second time they achieved this feat since 2004). For added interest into this Round 22 clash, the two sides are locked at 77-2-77 overall head-to-head. The Saints must also finish the year at the MCG when they tackle a Richmond side likely to need to win to retain a spot in the top four. Despite St Kilda’s 67-point drubbing of the Tigers earlier this season, the Saints had only beaten the Tigers once in their past five matches at the MCG. St Kilda’s last two wins at the MCG against Richmond were also by single digits, so a finals berth isn’t a given.
Year of the Tiger
It’s been WLWLWLW in the last seven games played between Round 22 opponents Fremantle and Richmond. Neither of these two teams have actually won consecutively against each other since 2013, and the Tigers are the ones on track to win this encounter, reversing the heartache they felt in Round 8 when David Mundy won the game with the last kick of the day. Richmond’s last two wins against the Dockers were actually played in Subiaco.