I’m hoping like hell that Fremantle beat West Coast on Sunday and St Kilda roll the Swans at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.

But while football will be the winner, I won’t be tipping either of those sides to win, though.

If the Eagles clip the Dockers and Sydney get over St Kilda, who have been asked to handle two consecutive six-day travelling breaks, then we may well have settled a top eight by the end of round nine.

And that is not good for the competition. That’s too much of a gulf between the haves and the have-nots.

Of the sides currently out of the top eight, I can see Geelong as the only side to play finals. If Fremantle fail on Sunday in the derby, they go out and Geelong — providing they beat the Western Bulldogs — jump in.

The vagaries of tipping make it hazardous to call Fremantle’s fate after round nine, but we need to rethink games which may have been pencilled in as victories at the start of the season.

Adelaide and Essendon (both at Patersons) and Richmond at the MCG are no longer regarded as games that Fremantle should win, as they were three months ago, because all those sides have improved dramatically.

If the Dockers lose to West Coast, it gets to the stage where every game, no matter who the opposition, becomes vital. Dropping a game against an inferior side, such as North Melbourne at Etihad in round 23, could be disastrous.

Eight sides — the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Richmond, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney, Gold Coast and Melbourne — can’t make the finals.

It’s down to 10 sides for eight finals spots, and to my mind, there is one vacancy.

West Coast, Adelaide, Essendon, Sydney, Collingwood, Hawthorn and Carlton — not necessarily in that order — should slot into the seven of the top eight places. The remaining spot will be taken by Geelong, Fremantle or St Kilda.

Suddenly, though, the season has become a whole lot more difficult for the Dockers to go through into September.

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