SNAPSHOT OF AFL ROUND 22
THEY SAID IT: “The huge curve ball in this year’s finals series is that bye after round 23 … I don’t really know where we want to finish. But all I do know, in history, top four has been the best spot. So that’s what we’re going for.” – Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson
STAT THAT MATTERS: North Melbourne’s defeat to Sydney by nine points on Saturday is their eighth successive loss against finals-bound opponents. With a record like that, it’s almost worth considering a top-seven format for this year’s finals.
MAN OF THE ROUND: Eddie Betts, for better and worse. The superstar celebrated his 250th game with a spectacular five-goal effort in a Showdown victory. But the indigenous player unwillingly found himself at the centre of a racism row after a Port Adelaide fan threw a banana at him following his fifth goal. The Power condemned the act and cancelled her membership indefinitely.
TALKING POINT: This season’s finals could be about survival of the fittest. Hawthorn’s first-choice ruck Jonathon Ceglar and West Coast superstar Nic Naitanui suffered season-ending ACL injuries in the same game, and may not play again until 2018. In Hobart on Saturday, Sydney’s Lance Franklin played through a hip scare. And just when you thought the Bulldogs’ injury woes couldn’t get any worse, stand-in captain Easton Wood left the ground on crutches after a leg injury. The poor, poor Bulldogs.
TRIBUNAL WATCH: Adelaide superstar Rory Sloane is among the players sweating on the match review panel’s findings after drawing blood when he whacked the face of Port Adelaide’s Brad Ebert in a clumsy attempt to spoil. An incident involving Hawthorn veteran Jordan Lewis and West Coast ruckman Scott Lycett is also likely to be reviewed.
KEY INJURIES: N Naitanui (West Coast, knee), J Ceglar (Hawthorn, knee), S Thompson (North Melbourne, groin), P McCartin (St Kilda, collarbone), D Moore (Collingwood, hamstring), S Lemmens (Gold Coast, concussion), B Smith (Adelaide, concussion), E Curnow (Carlton, knee), E Wood (Western Bulldogs, leg).
WHAT’S NEXT: Adelaide will lock up a top-two spot if they can hold off the fast-finishing West Coast on Friday night. North Melbourne host Greater Western Sydney on Saturday night in what could be a preview of an elimination final, while Sydney will claim the minor premiership.