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The run home: Cats' grip on top spot starts to slip

The 10: round 20's best moments Soccer specials, huge hangers and massive upsets in this week's cream of the crop
BROUGHT TO YOU BY
1. Geelong

56 points (14 wins, five losses), 130.5 per cent
Four losses in the past seven games has loosened the Cats' grip on a top-two spot and right now they don't even look like a top-four quality outfit. There could be some nervous moments on the run home, with a never-say-die North Melbourne and high-flying Brisbane at the Gabba to come, before they host the Blues in round 23, when Geelong might need to win to host a qualifying final. Chris Scott has a few headaches to sort out before finals. - Travis King

The run home
R21: North Melbourne @ GMHBA Stadium
R22: Brisbane @ Gabba
R23: Carlton @ GMHBA Stadium

 

2. West Coast

56 points (14 wins, five losses), 117.3 per cent
Given you would back West Coast at home on most occasions, its hopes of a minor premiership and a top-two finish will likely come down to two factors. Firstly, the results of Geelong, Brisbane and Richmond throughout the final month of the season. Secondly, a clash against the Tigers at the MCG that could act as a potential Grand Final preview. Three wins from three would almost guarantee the Eagles a home qualifying final. It could also ensure they enter the finals on top of the ladder and well and truly the team to beat. - Riley Beveridge

The run home
R21: Adelaide @ Optus Stadium
R22: Richmond @ MCG
R23: Hawthorn @ Optus Stadium

3. Brisbane

56 points (14 wins, five losses), 116.5 per cent
The Lions' 18-point triumph over the Bulldogs on Sunday evening strengthened their chances of a top-four finish at the end of the season, but they still have plenty of work to do if they want to earn a top-two spot and claim a home final in the first week of September. They should be able to further enhance their position inside the top four when they host the Suns next round, but face a challenging final two rounds against fellow double-chance aspirants Geelong and Richmond. - Jonathan Healy

The run home
R21: Gold Coast @ Gabba
R22: Geelong @ Gabba
R23: Richmond @ MCG

4. Richmond

52 points (13 wins, six losses), 111.3 per cent
It's going to be tough to toss the Tigers. They've won six on the trot and finish the home and away season with three more games at their MCG stronghold. A clash with Carlton shouldn't pose too many problems, after which they would also be heavily favoured to account for fellow premiership contenders West Coast and Brisbane. A top-two spot is a very real possibility. - Ben Collins

The run home
R21: Carlton @ MCG
R22: West Coast @ MCG
R23: Brisbane @ MCG

 
5. Greater Western Sydney

48 points (12 wins, seven losses), 121.5 per cent
The Giants' third win in a row sets them up beautifully for a crack at the top four over the next three weeks. They face Hawthorn in Canberra next Friday night, before hosting the Western Bulldogs at Giants Stadium, and will be favourites to win both. They finish with a road trip to Metricon Stadium to take on Gold Coast and will likely finish with 15 wins. With a good percentage that might be enough for a double chance if one of the teams above them slips up. - Adam Curley

The run home
R21: Hawthorn @ UNSW Canberra Oval
R22: Western Bulldogs @ Giants Stadium
R23: Gold Coast @ Metricon Stadium

 
6. Collingwood

48 points (12 wins, seven losses), 113.2 per cent
The Pies are still a chance at making the top four after their percentage-boosting win against Gold Coast on Sunday. They're a game off fourth-placed Richmond, but should win next week against Melbourne and will consider themselves a good chance against Adelaide in round 22, despite it being away from the MCG. It could come down to the final round against Essendon on Friday night. Collingwood can all but lock in a top-six spot with a win over the Dees. - Callum Twomey

The run home
R21: Melbourne @ MCG
R22: Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval
R23: Essendon @ MCG

 
7. Essendon

44 points (11 wins, eight losses), 100.1 per cent
Two games from the top four, yet two games from slipping outside the eight, the Bombers can start preparing for an elimination final. But who they face remains up in the air. Just one victory from their remaining three games will likely ensure the Bombers a spot in the finals picture, though they have a tough road trip to Western Australia and a clash with arch-rivals Collingwood to finish the season. That Friday night match at the MCG will likely act as a September warm-up – and it could come against a side who they later meet in September. - Riley Beveridge

NINE THINGS WE LEARNED Dons' stop-gap spearhead doesn't cut it

The run home
R21: Western Bulldogs @ Marvel Stadium
R22: Fremantle @ Optus Stadium
R23: Collingwood @ MCG

8. Adelaide

40 points (10 wins, nine losses), 108.7 per cent
Saturday night's win against St Kilda has kept the Crows in eighth place, but with a couple of challengers for the last place in the finals breathing down their neck. The next fortnight against last year's Grand Finalists – West Coast in Perth and Collingwood at home – will be a massive test, but it could all come down to the round 23 encounter with the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat. Key defender Alex Keath is expected to return from an ankle injury for the clash with the Eagles. - Lee Gaskin

The run home
R21: West Coast @ Optus Stadium
R22: Collingwood @ Adelaide Oval
R23: Western Bulldogs @ Mars Stadium

 

9. Port Adelaide

36 points (nine wins, 10 losses), 106.1 per cent
Victory on Saturday keeps Port Adelaide's season alive. However, it will still have to rely on arch-rivals Adelaide slipping up at least once throughout its remaining three games. There are promising signs for Port Adelaide, though. The margin of its victory over Essendon resulted in a significant percentage boost, while it faces three sides unlikely to play finals in its last three games. Two of those clashes are at home as well. Take care of business in those three matches and we could be seeing Ken Hinkley's team feature in September. - Riley Beveridge

The run home
R21: Sydney @ Adelaide Oval
R22: North Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium
R23: Fremantle @ Adelaide Oval 

 
10. Western Bulldogs

36 points (nine wins, 10 losses), 95.8 per cent
The Dogs failed to stay in touch with eighth-placed Adelaide when they fell to a disappointing 18-point loss to Brisbane on Sunday and they now have the task ahead of them to qualify for September action. It's likely they will have to win all their remaining three matches if they want to see the post-season and each one of those games is against teams currently occupying spots in the top eight. - Jonathan Healy

The run home
R21: Essendon @ Marvel Stadium
R22: Greater Western Sydney @ Giants Stadium
R23: Adelaide @ Mars Stadium

 
11. Fremantle

36 points (nine wins, 10 losses), 95.8 per cent
After another tough week off the field the Dockers stunned Geelong to keep their finals hopes alive, and the looming clash with St Kilda shapes as a must-win game. Fremantle might have to win all three of its remaining games against fellow finals hopefuls to get there, but two could be enough if results fell the Dockers' way. Given the quality of their personnel on the sidelines it's tough to see happening, but after upsetting the Cats they can't be written off yet. - Travis King

The run home
R21: St Kilda @ Marvel Stadium
R22: Essendon @ Optus Stadium
R23: Port Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval

 
12. Hawthorn

32 points (eight wins, 11 losses), 98.4 per cent
The Hawks' 22-point loss to North Melbourne on Friday night means it's going to be hard for Alastair Clarkson's side to play finals this season. They currently sit two wins and percentage behind eighth-placed Adelaide and would need to win their remaining three contests to have any chance of sneaking in. Given they have away matches against the Giants and Eagles among those three, it's almost curtains for the Hawks in 2019. - Jonathan Healy

AROUND THE STATE LEAGUES Flag hero hurt, forgotten Cat returns

The run home
R21: Greater Western Sydney @ UNSW Canberra Oval
R22: Gold Coast @ Marvel Stadium
R23: West Coast @ Optus Stadium

 
13. North Melbourne

32 points (eight wins, 11 losses), 97.2 per cent
North fans hoping to book holidays for September will have to wait at least another week, after the Kangas stayed in the hunt for finals in 2019 with a gritty come-from-behind 22-point victory over the Hawks on Friday night. They are still going to find it hard to qualify for September action, with a trip down the highway to take on Geelong a must-win for their next assignment. If they can prevail there, they would then face fellow finals aspirant Port Adelaide in what could loom as a mini elimination final, before a winnable final-round contest against the Demons in Tasmania. - Jonathan Healy

The run home
R21: Geelong @ GMHBA Stadium
R22: Port Adelaide @ Marvel Stadium
R23: Melbourne @ Blundstone Arena

 

14. St Kilda

32 points (eight wins, 11 losses), 84.5 per cent
The faint sniff the Saints had of reaching the finals for the first time since 2011 has been all but extinguished after Saturday night's loss to Adelaide. The Saints would need to win their remaining three games – against sides all outside the top eight – and hope other results go their way. It's not impossible, but extremely unlikely. In any case, the Saints have shown plenty of positive signs under interim coach Brett Ratten in the past three weeks and will look to build into 2020. Dan Hannebery (illness), Blake Acres (shoulder) and Jimmy Webster (hand and back) could be available next week. - Lee Gaskin

The run home
R21: Fremantle @ Marvel Stadium
R22: Carlton @ MCG
R23: Sydney @ SCG

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