Main content

Nine things we learned from round 21

The Tigers failed in their big test against Geelong on Saturday We countdown the best highlights from the weekend, what is number one?

1. You can't rely on the Tigers
Although the Tigers have made significant improvement this season, the loss to Geelong at Simonds Stadium allowed the questions to linger. Richmond could argue it's tough to beat Geelong when you lose a player, in this case Josh Caddy, before quarter-time playing in hostile territory. But this was another chance for the Tigers to be taken seriously, and they failed. Geelong was without its skipper, its most important forward and its third-best midfielder and were on the ropes when Richmond drew within a goal early in the last quarter. But the Tigers could not make them pay. Now we must wait until finals to see if the Tigers are better than they have been before. Until then they will remain an afterthought in premiership discussions. - Peter Ryan

The run home: Your club's road to September

2. Crows make a Giant statement
Greater Western Sydney has shaken off its mid-season funk over the past two rounds, its imposing wins over Melbourne and last year's premiers, the Western Bulldogs, suggesting it's getting its act together for a widely anticipated tilt at this year's flag. But if the Giants' wins over the Demons and Dogs were statements to the rest of the competition, Adelaide has responded quickly and emphatically. First, there was last round's 84-point mauling of cross-town rival Port Adelaide and, on Saturday night, the Crows outclassed another finals contender in Essendon. Adelaide stamped its authority early with a five-goal first quarter where it simply did not allow the Bombers to get their hands on the ball. Essendon did not give up and continued to take the challenge to the Crows. But when the Dons hit the front 10 minutes into the second term, Adelaide responded with seven goals in a row. And when the Bombers surged in the third and fourth quarters, the Crows always found the answers to keep them at bay. Don Pyke's men blew a top-four spot last year with a shock loss to West Coast at home in round 23. But Saturday night's win practically guarantees them a top-two spot and a home qualifying final. More importantly, the past two rounds suggest the Crows will rise to any challenges thrown at them in the remainder of the season. - Nick Bowen


3. Kurt Tippett looks up for the fight
A lingering ankle injury and some patchy form has limited the Sydney ruckman to just seven games for the season and saw him spelled to the NEAFL, but the 30-year-old has shown signs in the past fortnight that he could be more than handy come finals time. Tippett was solid in his senior return against Geelong, but was even more effective against Fremantle on Saturday. Always a threat in the air at his best, the big man clunked a season-high seven marks, four of those inside 50 – three of them contested – and booted two goals, but was also outstanding defensively for the Swans. Tippett laid eight tackles, the most of any player on the ground, making him extremely valuable as a ruck-forward option for coach John Longmire. He's still got a way to go, but it was an encouraging performance. He was the third-best ruck option behind Sam Naismith and Callum Sinclair two weeks ago, but an injury for Naismith opened the door, and right now Tippett is at the head of the queue. - Adam Curley

Fantasy form watch: Hero one week, zero the next

4. The Saints are not ready to play finals
Five weeks ago St Kilda sat seventh with a 9-6 record and a form-line that suggested they could compete for a top-four finish. They had produced one of the most breath-taking performances of the season in beating Richmond by 67 points, but five weeks later they are faced with the reality that they are not yet where they want to be. The Saints butchered the football against Melbourne to fall 40 points behind in the second quarter, and when they fought back in the third quarter they butchered opportunities, kicking 4.7 for the term. Conversion has been a running issue for the Saints, kicking more behinds than every team bar the Western Bulldogs. They convert shots on goal at a rate of 45 per cent (ranked No.16) and improving that aspect of their game will be focus ahead of 2018. If it improves, the Saints have the ingredients of a finals team. Right now they don't. - Nathan Schmook    

After the siren: Richo's Saints need to get moving

5. Reid shows he can be focal point of Magpies' attack
It's been a disappointing season overall for Collingwood, but their past month of football has given fans reason for optimism for next year. One of those is the emergence of premiership-winning defender Ben Reid as a key forward. The 28-year-old was outstanding for the Magpies against the Power at Adelaide Oval on Sunday night, booting four goals and taking several contested marks. He was extremely strong overhead and physically dominant against the Power defenders. Reid playing as the deep forward with Darcy Moore higher up the ground will present headaches over every team in the competition. - Lee Gaskin

6. The Giants could face tough decisions on Johnson and Deledio
Greater Western Sydney is starting to flex its muscles and looks set to enter the finals in strong form after excellent wins over Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs in the past two weeks. But the club's selection committee could have some difficult calls to make on two of its veterans given the quiet form of Johnson and Deledio. Both players managed 13 disposals in the win over the Dogs on Friday night, but had little influence on the game. Johnson is set to be rested for next week's West Coast clash, and Deledio is only two weeks back at AFL level after a long stint on the sidelines with injury, so should build in form. But with the finals only two weeks away and some important Giants to return from injury, Leon Cameron will have some big decisions when settling on his finals side. - Callum Twomey 

Forecast the road to the flag with the AFL Ladder and Finals Predictor

7. New faces, same Hawks
Alastair Clarkson has been busily working on his next Hawthorn masterpiece during 2017 – both through continuing to revamp the club's playing list and, according to assistant coach Brett Ratten, by re-working their preferred style of play. But despite the continued emergence of next-generation stars like Ryan Burton, James Sicily and Daniel Howe in Launceston on Sunday, the Hawks were able to roll out the old blueprint and do what they've done so well in recent premiership seasons by maintaining possession, expertly moving the ball and making the most of their forward entries by regularly hitting the scoreboard. As wins go, Sunday's appeared relatively comfortable – especially given the way Hawthorn was able to clear out to a five-goal lead during a second term where North struggled to apply enough pressure to knock the Hawks off their stride. - Stu Warren


8. The Eagles still need Matt Priddis' pressure
He is no longer the influential stoppage specialist he was in his pomp but the retiring Brownlow medallist still delivers in one key area in which his Eagles teammates are struggling – laying tackles. West Coast averages the fourth-fewest in the competition and was again outhunted by Carlton on Saturday night, with the Blues swarming to pressure the home side and wrapping up opponents 65 times, compared to the Eagles' 45. Incredibly, 10 of those tackles were laid by Priddis, who was brought back after two games on the sidelines following his decision to hang up the boots. A series of issues have plagued West Coast this season – leg speed, clearances, contested ball, lack of inside 50s – and tackles is just one of them. The Eagles only just overcame Carlton purely on talent and experience, but if they can't shackle free-scoring and fast top-two teams GWS and Adelaide in the next two rounds then their season will be over. - Travis King

Around the state leagues: Who starred in your club's twos?

9. Dayne Beams is back to his All Australian form
After two seasons ruined by shoulder and knee problems, Dayne Beams is back to his best. In the midst of a terrific season already, the Lions skipper delivered a masterpiece against Gold Coast. When his team was treading water in a sloppy first quarter, Beams took the initiative and slotted a difficult goal to keep the Lions in it, before exploding in the second term. He kicked another goal from 50m, set up others for his brother Claye and forward Josh Walker, and finished with 32 touches, four goals and 13 score involvements in a sublime showing. Chris Fagan backed Beams to take over the captaincy this year and the 27-year-old has risen to the occasion. He won't make the All Australian team in 2017, but an injury-free Beams has shown once again he's one of the most complete midfielders in the competition. - Michael Whiting

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs