Round 8 was the last ‘normal’ round before the AFL begins its Football Fiesta with at least one game a day for the next 20 days.
There’s nothing ‘normal’ about this season really, but the next four rounds will be something we’ve never seen before as the AFL attempts to pump out as many games as possible to get ahead of the schedule.
Anyway, back to round 8 and the GWS Giants earned a much-needed win in the 2019 Grand Final rematch while the West Coast Eagles showed they could be the team to beat in 2020 with the performance of the year.
Gold Coast Suns 6.10 (46) lost to Western Bulldogs 7.9 (51)
This was the Suns’ first time on primetime television, and they put up a good fight but were unable to come away with the victory in wet conditions.
They looked likely to kick the winning goal as they had all the momentum late in the match and plenty of ball inside their 50 but the Bulldogs defence stood up.
The Suns ended the match with 10 more inside 50s than the Dogs and, despite the loss, they should be pleased they can match against the good teams.
The Dogs had a fight on their hands all night against the plucky Suns side but found enough resolve to fight them off late.
Jack Macrae was outstanding in the middle of the field racking up 29 disposals while Caleb Daniel and Bailey Smith continue their outstanding seasons.
GWS Giants 9.8 (62) defeated Richmond Tigers 6.14 (50)
This was a hugely important win for the Giants and they had to work hard for it with the undermanned Tigers never backing down.
The Giants led by 27 points during the third quarter until a fightback by the Tigers saw them reduce it to just 8 points at the start of the fourth quarter but the Giants defence held strong.
They kept the Tigers goalless in the final quarter despite the ball being camped in their forward line, with Nick Haynes once again their star down back.
Toby Greene was the best player on the field booting five goals after missing last week while Josh Kelly played his best match of the season and finished with 26 disposals and a goal.
The issue for the Giants all year has been their lack of inside 50s and again they were well beaten in that department, losing the count 46-32. It was a great win for the club but there is still plenty to work on.
The Tigers had their chances to win the match but shot themselves in the foot with some inaccurate kicking.
They had 20 scoring shots compared to 17 for the Giants but lacked a bit of polish in front of goals.
They have a quick turnaround against the Bulldogs on Wednesday night but could be boosted by the return of captain Trent Cotchin.
North Melbourne Kangaroos 9.3 (57) lost to Carlton Blues 9.10 (64)
The rain was absolutely teeming down for much of this match and despite a fightback from the Roos, it was the Blues who came away with the win.
After blowing a golden opportunity the week before against the Power, it looked like the Blues might give away another late lead but they held firm.
The Blues have now been involved in five matches decided by seven points or less, so despite their fans ageing rapidly, the players should be getting good at these close finishes.
The Kangaroos have now lost six straight matches but this performance showed there is still some fight in this team.
They trailed 31-8 at quarter time and were staring down the barrel of another heavy defeat until they found some spark through young Bailey Scott who kicked three goals.
They face the Crows next week so hopefully then can get back on track with a win.
Sydney Swans 9.6 (60) defeated Hawthorn Hawks 7.11 (53)
Both teams came into the match with recent poor form, but it was the young Swans side that proved too good for the Hawks.
The Swans fell behind early, but then changed their game plan to use the corridor more often and it paid dividends as they split open the Hawks defence in the third quarter.
Dane Rampe was unbelievably good for the Swans and showed how much heart he has after playing most of the match with a broken hand.
He repelled many Hawk attacks while also providing some attack for the Swans with 25 disposals.
Tom Papley was the other standout for the Swans, booting four goals to keep him atop the Coleman medal leaderboard. He plays with such enthusiasm and the way he celebrates goals is a joy to watch.
The Hawks are now 15th on the ladder and with one of the oldest lists in the AFL, it might be time for a full rebuild.
If they do go for a rebuild, the question is whether or not Alistair Clarkson is the right man for the job, or if after 16 seasons as head coach of the Hawks, he even wants to go through that process.
At the moment he seems hellbent on deflecting from his team’s poor performances and after this game turned his attention to the umpires and Tom Papley ‘milking’ free kicks.
Port Adelaide Power 6.8 (44) lost to St Kilda Saints 12.1 (73)
This was a huge win for a Saints side on the rise as they claimed the scalp of the ladder-leading Power on their home turf.
The Saints had not won a match at Adelaide Oval before they beat the Crows there last Monday and then they recorded their second win just five days later in a sign that they are top four contenders.
The Saints went into the last quarter leading by just one point but dominated the final quarter to pull away with the victory in front of a hostile crowd.
It was a frustrating performance from the Power because every time they start to look like premiership contenders, they come up with a performance that makes them look more like pretenders.
Power had every chance to win this match, but when the game was on the line, they failed to come up with the goods.
They still sit on top of the ladder with a healthy percentage, but they need to show more consistent performances to really prove they deserve to be there.
Adelaide Crows 8.11 (59) lost to Essendon Bombers 9.8 (62)
You had to feel for the Crows after this one as they came up just short of their first win of the season.
They ended up with more scoring shots than the Bombers and looked like finding the winner late in the match with plenty of opportunities, but they just could not find the front.
It was a heart-breaking loss in front of their home fans, but the performance showed they have improved considerably in the past two matches and a win must be just around the corner.
The Bombers were well below their best, but they did well to hold on for a lucky escape.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti looked dangerous up forward while Zach Merrett racked up 33 disposals in the midfield.
The Bombers will welcome back Dylan Shiel next week but will need an improved effort across the board to beat the Lions.
West Coast Eagles 18.3 (111) defeated Collingwood Magpies 6.9 (45)
The Eagles just delivered the best performance of the year and sent a warning shot to the rest of the competition with an emphatic win over the Pies.
Their midfield was sublime with Nic Naitanui winning his battle with Brodie Grundy while Tim Kelly, Andrew Gaff, Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey showed they can be the best midfield combination on their day.
The other positive for the Eagles has been the return to form of star forward Josh Kennedy who booted the biggest bag of goals all year, with seven. Many were writing him off only a few weeks ago but now he sits just one goal behind Papley on the Coleman leaderboard.
The Pies lost captain Scott Pendlebury right before the first bounce and he added to their list of outs that included stars Jeremy Howe, Steele Sidebottom and Jordan De Goey.
They are four extremely important players for the Pies, but they would still be disappointed with that effort, especially allowing 111 points which is the biggest total of any team this season.
It would be foolish to write of the Pies after one bad performance, but they would be a little bit worried if they had to face the Eagles in Perth during the finals, and perhaps even in a Grand Final.
Melbourne Demons 7.7 (49) lost to Brisbane Lions 7.11 (53)
This was an opportunity gone begging for the Demons as their fourth quarter comeback landed just short.
They came back from 18 points down at three quarter time and had one last foray forward that ended in disaster.
With under two minutes to go on the clock, Mitch Hannan received the ball just outside 50 but his kick to Bailey Fritsch went out on the full. Then Fritsch failed to give the ball back quickly enough and gave away a 50 metre penalty and the Lions iced the game after that.
It would have been a huge scalp for the improved Demons but instead it leaves them in 13th spot and in a dog fight to play finals.
The Lions would be breathing a sigh of relief after that one, but the important thing is they got the win and are still 2nd on the ladder.
Charlie Cameron remains a dangerous threat up forward for the Lions but if you were to pick a hole in their side, it would be their key forwards.
Eric Hipwood and Daniel McStay have both been hit and miss this year and are yet to prove they are reliable targets.
It’s only a small concern at this stage for a side that is as well placed as any to go deep into the finals.
Fremantle Dockers 2.4 (16) lost to Geelong Cats 6.12 (48)
Yet another game played in wet conditions and while it was a pretty boring game, it was the Cats who were far too good.
They controlled the territory battle for the entire match and once they were a few goals ahead, they never looked troubled.
They won the inside 50s 47-27 and while they had trouble converting that dominance on the scoreboard, they did enough to get the four points and put themselves in 3rd spot on the ladder ahead of a big clash against the Eagles next round.
The Dockers were simply outmatched by the Cats in conditions that suited their bigger bodies.
The midfield looks a little undersized without their skipper Nat Fyfe in there and in really tricky conditions, they lost the contested possession count 166-135.