AFL 2020 Round 18 Review and a re-made All-Australian team

With one spot on the line in the final round of the abridged 2020 season, numerous teams watched on desperately as they longed for results to fall their way. The Bulldogs came out victorious, setting up a tantalising week of first-up finals matches.

ROUND 18

North Melbourne 4.10 (34) defeated by West Coast 7.7 (49)

A last hurrah

It’s safe to say this game didn’t live up to any heights. In fact, North Melbourne played the best they have for a long time – their application deserved more than a valiant loss. If they had kicked straighter, 11 careers might have been saved.

What followed was crazy – the next day the Roos delisted 11; plenty of them played against the Eagles. Ben Brown was sent to the trade table, with Shaun Higgins and Jared Polec waiting in the wings for potential deals out of Arden Street. All of this took the limelight away from the Eagles, who are in shocking form ahead of their return to Optus Stadium for their elimination final against the Pies.

Verdict: A season to forget for the Roos, yet it may be an important one in the club’s history. The Eagles have done enough all season, but must lift if they are to avoid an upset.

St Kilda 12.10 (82) defeated GWS 3.12 (30)

Sealing fate

The Saints had it easy – win and they were a lock for finals. The Giants had to do the same if they were to have a chance. In the end, GWS’ dismal season collapsed in a heap.

There’ll be questions arising the dropping of Stephen Coniglio last week, as well as the pre-emptive decision to resign Leon Cameron despite their fall from grace. Will Jeremy Cameron stay?

The Saints ran all over the Giants to confirm their finals spot (Image by Michael Klein/ News Corp Australia)

On the other hand, St Kilda now host the Dogs in a clutch final. They have rejuvenated themselves terrifically – now, how far can the Saints go in finals football? With Jack Steele firing in a wonderful season, who knows.

Verdict: The Saints deserved this after a great season. GWS are in a silent crisis.

Essendon 7.7 (49) defeated by Melbourne 10.8 (68)

Giving themselves a chance

It was a well-known equation for the Dees – win and stay in the race for eighth. Halfway through the game they looked on track to do so, with Christian Petracca and Jayden Hunt torching the Bombers.

With nothing to lose, Essendon tried to send off John Worsfold in style. They barrelled home, sending daggers of fear into Melbourne hearts as they cut the margin to within a goal. In a tight finish, Essendon didn’t quite have the drive to get over the line. Melbourne escaped, and set up a nervous Sunday night watching the Dogs.

Verdict: Essendon have an interesting off-season ahead of them, while Melbourne can take some positives out of a tough year.

Adelaide 4.9 (33) defeated by Richmond 12.5 (77)

No upset

The Crows, after a stunning September revival, looked to finish off an arduous season with one last win. Coming up against the flag favourite Tigers, they started off strong but couldn’t keep up.

It’s not all negative for Adelaide – Lachie Sholl got his Rising Star nomination after performing strongly against the reigning premiers, while Taylor Walker passed Tony Modra as Adelaide’s leading goalkicker. Richmond did what they have to do – they were their usual selves. Now, they get to cast back to 2019 with another qualifying final up at the Gabba.

Verdict: Thank god for Adelaide’s September. Richmond will be licking their lips at how the finals fixture has fallen their way.

The Tigers managed to pull in the Crows and end their winning streak (Richmond FC)

Brisbane 11.12 (78) defeated Carlton 10.1 (61)

No fairytale for Kade

There was one goal in mind for the Blues – win for Kade Simpson. The stalwart has had to play in so many losses that he deserved an upset. Brisbane weren’t willing to give it to him; Lachie Neale and Jarryd Lyons continued to control the centre and it resulted in an early barrage of goals to Lincoln McCarthy.

But the Blues came storming back, thanks to Harry McKay’s presence up forward. In a tight finish, even Simpson got on the board, but the bridge was too far for Carlton.

Verdict: The Lions continue to grind out wins at home, while Carlton now must focus on improvement in 20201.

Hawthorn 17.6 (108) defeated Gold Coast 8.9 (57)

Celebration day

One thing about Hawthorn is certain – they know how to send off their heroes well. Last year, Jarryd Roughead finished with a bang against the Suns. This season, Paul Puopolo shone one last time and Ben Stratton slammed home a rare goal to finish their careers in style.

It was Hawthorn’s day as Ben Stratton slotted a rare goal (AFL Photos)

Gold Coast looked tired after a long year for their young list. They have definitely come along, but need a summer of resting and preparing if they are to have a chance at playing finals footy in 2021. Hawthorn will no doubt enter a new phase of bringing in young guns as their premiership stars steadily wrap up their careers.

Verdict: Hawthorn still have plenty of positives, while the Suns will hopefully come back firing next year.

Sydney 9.9 (63) defeated by Geelong 10.9 (69)

Young chargers give the Cats a fright

To secure a top four spot, Geelong just had to continue performing. Yet Sydney’s second half of 2020 has been superb, and they kicked off the game quickly. Their young guns continued to fire, and pushed Geelong into lifting a gear.

The match went down to the wire, with Tom Papley constantly proving a threat to Geelong’s secure defence. But Tom Hawkins and Patrick Dangerfield created a tantalising dynamic duo up forward, and it gave Geelong enough of a score to win this one.

Verdict: Sydney will enter 2021 very confident of returning to finals action. Geelong needed this; now, they must build for a big qualifying final.

Fremantle 6.8 (44) defeated by Western Bulldogs 11.8 (74)

Win or go home

Many teams eyed this match – if the Dogs lost, Melbourne would rejoice. Collingwood wouldn’t have hated it either.

Fremantle fought hard to make this game a scrap. In greasy conditions, Caleb Serong and Nat Fyfe elevated to make it hard for the Dogs’ midfielders to win the footy. But in the second half the tides turned, and the Bulldogs found themselves dominating. Jack Macrae was unstoppable alongside Marcus Bontempelli, and the Dogs eased themselves into an elimination final.

The Dogs held firm to book a date with the Saints (SportsNews)

Verdict: The Dockers will also look for higher honours in 2021, while the Dogs have earnt their chance to fight for a flag.

Collingwood 7.3 (45) defeated by Port Adelaide 9.7 (61)

Clinching top spot

This turned out to be a telling match. Collingwood finished in eighth, yet threaten to disturb many sides in finals football. They were left disappointed by the loss, which sent them over to West Coast for a dreaded elimination final. Port’s win made sure they avoid playing Richmond in week one of finals, which is a handy bonus.

Taylor Adams continued to star in Scott Pendlebury’s milestone match for the Pies. Darcy Moore had an enticing battle with Charlie Dixon, while Travis Boak and Tom Rockliff bullied Collingwood in the middle to clinch this tie. In the end, the Power were too strong all over, and will enter the finals full of confidence.

Verdict: A hard loss for the Pies, but they could trouble the Eagles. The Power finished off a wonderful season.

All-Australian Team

During the week the AA team was announced out of the squad of 40, with some controversial decisions. Due to the poor decisions made, here is my attempt at an improved AA side that gives more credit to small forwards, defenders and wingmen.

FB       Brayden Maynard                Harris Andrews                    Brad Sheppard

HB      Caleb Daniel                          Darcy Moore                         Darcy Byrne-Jones

C         Jack Macrae                          Travis Boak (VC)                  Sam Menegola

HF      Patrick Dangerfield              Charlie Dixon                        Christian Petracca

FF       Dan Butler                             Tom Hawkins                        Tom Papley

FOL    Nic Naitanui                          Jack Steele                             Lachie Neale ( C )

INT     Liam Ryan                 Jacob Weitering        Taylor Adams           Jarryd Lyons

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