Welcome back to the Power Rankings.
There are two big movers in this week’s rankings, though one of them has an issue that could bring them back down. Plus how good is Carlton, really?
What are the Power Rankings? This is our attempt to rank every AFL club from best to worst. We take wins and losses into account, but also the quality of opposition faced and whether teams are likely to get healthier or improve going forward. It’s a little bit ‘who’s hot and who’s not’; part predictive, part analysis of what’s happened. If Team A is above Team B, we’d probably tip A to win if they’re playing this weekend.
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1. MELBOURNE (9-0, 159%)
Last week’s ranking: 1
It’s weird how the AFL just gave Melbourne two extra bye weeks this year, hey? Sounds like the first one went pretty well, a few of the boys went over to Perth and kicked the pill around with some local guys who are hoping to play at their level some day. Always great to see clubs giving back. (Check back after the Kangaroos game for some actual analysis.)
Next game: North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, Saturday twilight
2. BRISBANE LIONS (8-1, 151.8%)
Last week’s ranking: 2
No Daniher and no McStay? No worries, we’ll just go and score 100 points anyway. Jeez this Brisbane attack is scary good. It was a real Queenslanders helping Queenslanders weekend, because Gold Coast’s upset win over Fremantle has given the Lions a bit of breathing room in the race for second. They may soon need it, since you’d expect the Dockers (Round 12) and Demons (Round 15) will be better at exploiting any flaws than Adelaide was. With a game and percentage lead, the Lions could probably afford to drop one or both of those blockbusters and still be the favourite to host the second-third qualifying final.
Next game: Hawthorn at UTAS Stadium, Sunday afternoon
3. FREMANTLE (7-2, 139.4%)
Last week’s ranking: 3
One bad day isn’t going to see us drop off the Dockers bandwagon, because while Melbourne looks impenetrable and Brisbane could probably kick 15 goals against the Bulldogs’ flood defence of 2000, everyone else still behind Fremantle on the ladder still has flaws. Carlton’s percentage is well behind theirs; Sydney lost to Gold Coast too, and at home; St Kilda just lost arguably its most important player for two months (Fremantle has been without their all year); Geelong keeps losing. With the Magpies starting to fade out after their fast start to the year we’re expecting a strong return to form from Justin Longmuir’s men this Sunday.
Next game: Collingwood at Optus Stadium, Sunday twilight
4. ST KILDA (6-3, 116.7%)
Last week’s ranking: 6
The Saints’ impressive win was made even more so when we learned the extent of Jack Steele’s shoulder injury – the fact he played through it, given he’ll need to miss up to two months, was brave to say the least. But bravery doesn’t give you premiership points over the period without him, and given Steele’s importance to this side, it’s not a stretch to say his absence could swing upcoming games against Brisbane (Round 13), Sydney (Round 15), Carlton (Round 16) and Fremantle (Round 17). We’re confident in the Saints still playing finals, especially with the Marshall-Ryder duo back in action – they should probably be 8-3 heading into the bye. But a few losses across June and early July would probably be the difference between the top four and an elimination final, given St Kilda plays Geelong, Brisbane (again) and Sydney (again) to end the season.
Next game: Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval, Saturday night
5. SYDNEY SWANS (6-3, 125.7%)
Last week’s ranking: 5
Hard to find a flaw in Sydney’s performance against the Bombers on Saturday night, but we think that’s more about the losers than the winners. We know the Swans can play at that brutally brilliant level, dissecting teams by foot, we just need to see it more to believe in them as a true premiership contender. They may have the highest ceiling of the second-tier contenders behind Melbourne and Brisbane, but also the lowest floor, which we saw against North Melbourne and Gold Coast. They’ve gotten through a relatively simple patch of their fixture, having only played one real contender in the last six weeks (Brisbane), and we’re extremely keen to see how they stack up against Carlton – and indeed against Richmond, Melbourne, Port Adelaide and St Kilda in the four games after this. Given the Cats’ issues and Jack Steele’s injury, you could argue the winner on Friday night is the frontrunner for fourth.
Next game: Carlton at Marvel Stadium, Friday night
6. GEELONG CATS (5-4, 121.4%)
Last week’s ranking: 4
Every time we talk up Geelong they lose, jeez. They’ve been a bit unlucky over the last five weeks, losing three games by two goals or less, which has put the Cats in a weird position. Quite often in the home and away season they’re the team that just banks wins, partially because of their home ground advantage, but most believe (correctly, it turns out) their ladder position overstates their chances of winning it all. This year, having already lost four times, they don’t have that advantage – last year, they had 10 wins before suffering their fourth loss. To be fair this week is just their third game of the season at GMHBA Stadium, and including Saturday they’ve got seven left. So the wins should come. But if they don’t, the Cats’ top four hopes are gone.
Next game: Port Adelaide at GMHBA Stadium, Saturday afternoon
7. CARLTON (7-2, 114.3%)
Last week’s ranking: 7
We bought into Carlton a bit too hard early in the season, so we’re taking our time buying into them again. But there has been clear improvement, particularly defensively, over the last month. From Rounds 1 to 5, the Blues ranked 16th in the AFL for opposition scores per inside 50, and 15th for turnovers becoming an opposition score. Since then, they rank seventh and sixth respectively – not elite, but much better. Now admittedly they’ve played North Melbourne, Adelaide and GWS in that period, but it’s still growth. They’ve banked wins and they’d probably have to go 4-9 (or worse) to miss the finals from here; that’s one box ticked. Are they a legit top four team, as the ladder suggests? We’re yet to be convinced, but if they beat Sydney plus teams like Richmond, Fremantle (in Melbourne) and St Kilda across Rounds 14 to 16, they’ll have both proven it and likely won enough games to ensure it.
Next game: Sydney Swans at Marvel Stadium, Friday night
8. RICHMOND (5-4, 117.5%)
Last week’s ranking: 8
Tick, tick, tick. Three weeks in a row Richmond has looked impressive, first easily accounting for West Coast, then having it relatively simple against Collingwood and Hawthorn. It feels as if the Magpies and Hawks are sliding, so maybe those wins aren’t as good as they would’ve been a month ago, but you can’t criticise the Tigers for that. Assuming they get past an ailing Essendon – though the last time the Bombers copped this much criticism all week, they stormed home to win – things get a lot tougher for Damien Hardwick’s men, with Sydney, Port Adelaide, Carlton and Geelong on the docket. That’s four games against the teams around them – four games that will dictate the pecking order as we head towards the season’s final months.
Next game: Essendon at the MCG, Saturday night
9. PORT ADELAIDE (4-5, 108.8%)
Last week’s ranking: 9
Now comes the tricky part. Over the last month, the Power rank first in the AFL for points against and opposition scores per inside 50, second for points against from turnovers, and fourth for defending ball movement. That steady defence has Port’s season is back on track, and a finals charge is clearly possible – though a top four berth remains highly unlikely – but they’ve got tricky games over the coming weeks. Remember, if the usual minimum to make the eight is a record of 12-10, Ken Hinkley’s side can probably afford five more losses. Well, they’ve still got seven games left against the top eight – two meetings with both Geelong and Richmond, plus Sydney at home in Round 14, Fremantle in WA in Round 16 and Melbourne in Alice Springs in Round 18. If they’re gonna play finals, they’re gonna deserve it.
Next game: Geelong Cats at GMHBA Stadium, Saturday afternoon
10. WESTERN BULLDOGS (4-5, 109.3%)
Last week’s ranking: 10
It was nice to see the Bulldogs’ offence working against a not-terrible defence – though Collingwood’s isn’t exactly a peak Ross Lyon backline, based on recent performances – and a good sign for their future. As they get players back they’re likely to improve, and as long as they avoid a suddenly dangerous pothole against Gold Coast (and last time we assumed the Dogs would win in Ballarat, they didn’t), they should be OK. But like we said with Port Adelaide above, it’s a numbers game now. They can afford five more losses and look at this run from Round 16 to 21: Brisbane away, Sydney away, St Kilda, Melbourne, Geelong away, Fremantle. They do not have margin for error.
Next game: Gold Coast Suns at Mars Stadium, Saturday afternoon
11. GOLD COAST SUNS (4-5, 95.2%)
Last week’s ranking: 13
It’s hard to ignore a resume that includes wins over the teams sitting third, fourth and fifth on the ladder – the Suns’ is one of the best in the AFL at this point. Plus, their only truly bad loss of the season against Brisbane wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the margin suggested. So why aren’t they even higher in the rankings? Well, as Dennis Denuto said, it’s the vibe of the thing. If Gold Coast is to make finals from here, it would be Essendon-in-2021 style, probably before their time and because of a kind fixture. (That may be harsh because those Bombers never beat a trio of the calibre of the Dockers, Blues and Swans.) As we wrote about on Sunday night, the Suns have seven games left against teams in the bottom six, so there’s a relatively clear path to 12 wins and September here. They just need to stay steady through the middle of the season, something which has historically eluded them.
Next game: Western Bulldogs at Mars Stadium, Saturday afternoon
12. COLLINGWOOD (4-5, 98.4%)
Last week’s ranking: 11
Their win over Gold Coast a few weeks ago is now looking better, but otherwise the Magpies haven’t had the greatest month. We’d be very surprised if any of the teams at 3-6 or worse played finals from here, and among the 4-5 teams, we’d have to put Collingwood as the least impressive and least likely to make the eight. That’s fine; a finals appearance would be well before their time. But there has been a definite drop-off in most areas of the ground, and you’d typically expect a young team to get better over the course of a season as they figure things out, not worse. Just slightly odd.
Next game: Fremantle at Optus Stadium, Sunday twilight
13. HAWTHORN (3-6, 91%)
Last week’s ranking: 12
We would love to know how Sam Mitchell and the Hawthorn list management crew really feel about their current position, having lost four in a row. To a degree, Mitchell would love to be winning, because winning is more fun. But we’re one of the cheerleaders for the ‘it’s better to be bad than just below average’ movement – it should be better for the Hawks’ future if they go into the next draft with, say, pick 4 instead of pick 10. And the way Mitchell is rotating the squad – he’s made three or more changes most weeks – is only going to help them in the future. Not just because it keeps players healthy, or gives younger members of the list opportunities, but they’re not just locked into a best 22 to try their absolute hardest to win every game.
Next game: Brisbane Lions at UTAS Stadium, Sunday afternoon
14. GWS GIANTS (2-7, 78.8%)
Last week’s ranking: 14
In a bit of a mirror mode match-up, given their sides’ respective reliances on stoppage scoring, the Giants’ midfield just couldn’t do it for long enough against Carlton’s strong crew, despite their ruck advantage with Braydon Preuss against Tom De Koning. Leon Cameron deserves plaudits for how competitive he has kept this club, and winning finals in almost every year is bloody impressive, but we’ve felt for a while that GWS’ system needed a revamp. In fact, as Leigh Montagna explained on First Crack on Sunday night, a new coach coming in and refining the talent could have the same impact Michael Voss has had on the Blues. This isn’t the Giants’ year, but they’re not going to be down for too long.
Next game: West Coast Eagles at Giants Stadium, Sunday early
15. ESSENDON (2-7, 74.5%)
Last week’s ranking: 15
Given their defensive woes, and given that Sydney has an ability like few other clubs to tear a defence apart by foot, Saturday night’s match-up wasn’t an ideal one for Ben Rutten’s side. The tackle count is more a description of what happened than truly worth analysing, but laying just 30 of them – the second-fewest in the 18-club era – is embarrassing. This is a full-team, playing-system-wide problem that needs to be sorted out by Rutten and his assistants, because their attack can’t possibly be good enough to make up for the problems at the other end of the ground.
Next game: Richmond at the MCG, Saturday night
16. ADELAIDE CROWS (3-6, 80.5%)
Last week’s ranking: 16
Hard to be too upset with the loss to Brisbane, given they held a 15-point lead late in the second term which few would’ve expected, though giving up 16 goals to a team down its top two key forwards (given that Eric Hipwood was playing his first game back he gets downgraded slightly) is reasonably concerning. Let’s see if the Crows can repeat last year’s Round 10, when they welcomed a rising contender to Adelaide Oval and under lights on Saturday pulled the upset. A Jack Steele-less St Kilda should be more gettable than last year’s Melbourne…
Next game: St Kilda at Adelaide Oval, Saturday night
17. WEST COAST EAGLES (1-8, 49.9%)
Last week’s ranking: 17
Next game: GWS Giants at Giants Stadium, Sunday early
18. NORTH MELBOURNE (1-8, 53.7%)
Last week’s ranking: 18
Next game: Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, Saturday twilight
The Kangaroos and Eagles are equally terrible – we haven’t seen percentages this bad since the early days of the Giants – but it comes down to this: who can make the better excuses? Adam Simpson can point to his extensive injury list, and the psychological damage falling from contention to the bottom of the ladder does to a playing group; it’s understandable if players can’t give 100 per cent all the time right now, because it won’t be the difference between winning and losing like it used to be. But David Noble’s group is simply worse than it should be, at a time when you want to see at least gradual improvement. For us, that keeps North Melbourne in 18th.