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BARRETT: Finals, free agency up in the air as four clubs sweat on Coniglio's knee

The 10: round 17's best moments Incredible cliffhangers and a bit of bravado headlines the action from the weekend

QUESTIONS.

There are so many spinning off the knee injury suffered by Stephen Coniglio in the opening seconds of GWS's loss to Richmond at the MCG on Sunday.

Scans in the next 24 hours will determine the severity of the injury, but as of Sunday night, there were genuine fears significant anterior cruciate ligament damage had been sustained. 

 

In no particular order, the questions are: why was that knee strapped so heavily in preparation for the Tigers' game, and was more damage sustained to it than first realised in a knock last week against Brisbane? 

A heavily strapped Coniglio walks on to the MCG ahead of Saturday's game. Picture: AFL Photos

If the injury is season-ending, can the Giants actually fall out of the finals? What would a bad diagnosis mean for Coniglio as he ponders his own future with his free agent status? 

THE RUN HOME How the race to September is shaping up

Might Carlton second-guess its massive offer? Might Hawthorn actually pull its offer off the table? Might St Kilda double-down with its deal? Might he now feel compelled to stay? 

Coniglio's impact on the Giants stretches far deeper than his extraordinary ability, and if he does stay, he will be captain next year.

There won't be a more awaited medical report this season than the one the Giants will get Monday. 

Will there be a Queensland fairytale?

In a season in which anything seems possible, Brisbane can win the flag.

Two massive, consecutive Sunday twilight fixture wins against finals contenders, the latest a mauling of Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, is proof of the Lions' credentials.

Incredibly, the team which won five matches in each of the past two seasons, finds itself in third place on the ladder after 17 rounds with 11 wins after another blistering performance led by Dayne Zorko, Charlie Cameron, Mitch Robinson and Jarryd Lyons. 

 

There is something very powerful about this Lions surge. The first seven goals of the game against Port were as big a statement made by any club this season.

When Carlton beat the Lions in round 12, Brisbane's hopes of serious impact in 2019 seemed dashed, but four consecutive wins have left it just 2.4 percentage points behind Collingwood in second place.

Its round 23 match against Richmond is already looming appealingly and a win there might even propel Brisbane into a home qualifying final. 

Chris Fagan is looming as the story of the year.

Watch out, Bont

As a 19-year-old in 2016, Josh Dunkley was the second-youngest player on the ground in the Grand Final.

While his numbers on the day were modest, he fully belonged and he had compiled a very good finals series.

Dunkley tackles Isaac Heeney in the 2016 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Fast forward to 2019, and Dunkley has transformed from a forward to a gun midfielder. Against Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, he accumulated 24 contested possessions among 39 disposals, along with 15 tackles, nine clearances and two goals.

FANTASY FORM WATCH Pig, Piglet, rage trades and your questions

Marcus Bontempelli and Aaron Naughton are the two most important Bulldogs players in their push to finals. Dunkley might be the third, with a bullet. 

How to deal with an on-field disaster, Freo-style

Jeff Kennett has the status as the AFL's greatest deflector, always prepared to throw in a curveball media bite in the hope the real and more important issue is lost. 

NINE THINGS WE LEARNED No excuses for Dockers' collapse

Ross Lyon is probably second to him. Not surprisingly, he wanted to focus on opposition treatment of his Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe after Lyon had coached his Dockers to a fourth consecutive loss against Hawthorn in Launceston on Saturday. 

Lyon said Fremantle might have to take the treatment of Fyfe "into our own hands". Effectively, it was a veiled threat that the next time Fyfe was unfairly dealt with off the ball, there would be team retaliation. 

The Dockers have gone from 7-5 to 7-9. Jeff would've been proud of Ross on Saturday night. 

Credit where credit's due, Woosha

After round 10, Essendon was 4-6.

The club's season – and its coach's future with it – seemed bleak. 

Five wins from six matches since, including the past three, with Saturday's courageous win against North Melbourne propelling the Bombers into the eight, have breathed life into 2019 as well as John Worsfold. 

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti with coach John Worsfold after the win. Picture: Dylan Burns, AFL Photos 

Worsfold's public demeanour rarely deviates, be it coaching West Coast to consecutive Grand Finals (2005-06) or taking it to a wooden spoon (2010).

If he was to have privately allowed himself a little fist pump on Saturday night, he would have been more than entitled.

This season's Essendon destiny is back in the club's control. If it can return from Adelaide on Friday night with a 10th win for the season, with a match against Gold Coast the following weekend, no reason the Bombers can’t stay in the eight. 

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti was outstanding again, again, in a Bombers win. Four goals against the Roos, including the brilliant matchwinner in the final 30 seconds, took to 24 the number of goals he has kicked in Essendon's nine wins this year. He's kicked just one in its seven losses. 

 
Who'd bet against Buckley's men?

Collingwood's ability to cover for star players nearly took it to a miracle premiership last year.

With All Australian-contending defender Darcy Moore suffering another hamstring injury, and captain Scott Pendlebury requiring surgery to a finger, the Magpies are clearly again going to have work through to a Grand Final the hard way. 

The Pies are already without Jaidyn Stephenson for the remainder of the home-and-away season, and Dayne Beams for the entire season. 

AROUND THE STATE LEAGUES Star Pie returns, slick Eagle sizzles

Their win against West Coast in Perth on Friday night was arguably as good as any under Nathan Buckley's eight-season watch, though since the victory against Adelaide in round four last season, we've got plenty to choose from in that category.

 
It's going to be a long six weeks for the Suns

Twelve consecutive losses and a looming inaugural wooden spoon.

This wasn't part of the AFL's plans for the ninth season of life in the top flight for the Suns.

There is no quick fix for their mess, and disturbingly, no guarantee that it actually can be fixed. 

The problems of 2019 relate mostly to lack of quality players, and an inability to appeal as a destination point for free agents and out-of-contract big names.

But the bigger picture problem can be traced back to the questionable manner in which the AFL, then under CEO reign of Andrew Demetriou, pitchforked itself into the region when North Melbourne rejected the overtures in 2008. 

The Suns' past two losses have been by 95 points, to Adelaide at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night, and by 92 points at the same venue to Richmond in round 16. 

NO LAUGHING MATTER Dew stung by second successive thrashing

 

The bottom has fallen out of 2019, with six very long weeks remaining.

Priority draft selections are not the answer, either, to the problems. 

Twitter: @barrettdamian

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