Adelaide’s hard-fought win over Melbourne has created a logjam in the top eight of the AFL ladder that promises an enthralling run to the finals.
The Crows joined a group of six teams with a 10-4 win loss record after round 15, with second-placed Geelong and seventh-placed North Melbourne separated by percentage only.
The AFL’s meandering run of bye rounds ends this week with some mouthwatering clashes between top-eight sides in the first full round of matches in nearly a month.
The Cats host fourth-placed Sydney at Simonds Stadium on Friday night and the Kangaroos travel to Perth to take on West Coast, currently eighth, on Sunday in a pair of games that will help shape the top four.
“It’s a really even comp … that’s the challenge each week,” Adelaide coach Don Pyke said after his side’s 22-point win at the MCG.
“There’s no easy games.
“The sides that are at the top are capable of playing some good footy but if you don’t get it on your terms you’ve got to find a way at times.
“The evenness of the comp really means each week you’ve got to keep getting the wins and pushing yourself forward.”
Port Adelaide appear to be the only side capable of breaking into the eight after they effectively ended Richmond’s finals chances with a 38-point win on Friday night.
The ninth-placed Power are two games behind the Eagles and simply must find a way to knock off the ladder-leading Hawks when they kick round 16 off on Thursday night at Adelaide Oval.
The Western Bulldogs moved into sixth spot with a stunning come-from-behind win over Sydney at the SCG in an otherwise largely forgettable round of football.
“It’s been a happy hunting ground the last two years, a couple of incredible wins and tonight is worth about 10 (wins) I think,” Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.
“They showed a lot of grit our boys … it was just a brilliant victory.”
In remaining round 15 matches, West Coast were big winners over Essendon, Gold Coast continued St Kilda’s road woes and Collingwood ground out a 12-point win against Carlton.
On the injury front, the Blues confirmed Irishman Ciaran Byrne will miss a year with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and the Saints will ponder the immediate future of young star Paddy McCartin after he suffered his third concussion of the season.